Deri Llewellyn-Davies, Founder at BGI Strategy Partners, presents F*** The Fear, It’s Not Real Anyway! at TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh Conference Transcript.
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Courage. What is it anyway? Are you born with it? Do you acquire it over time? I propose today that it’s a myth. And what we’ve got to get to is its source: fear. Because if you can truly face that, you can be free and it’s not real.
11:56 a.m. 25th of April. Not many of you will remember that minute and what you were doing. But that minute was going to change my life. I was in the Rombak valley on the North Face of Everest, 6,300 meters up. That is really bloody high. And the Rombak valley is the final spine as you go to the North Face and it comes down in a massive bowl and up into the center comes a ridge, a spine ridge. And you can see me climbing it just in the background there, and that rock is terminal moraine.
We’ve been climbing for four hours. It’s one of the most brutal high-altitude climbs in the world before you hit the North Col. And we had another four hours to go. I’m smiling, but what that masking is I cannot breathe right there. But it was a beautiful day. That valley is also framed by ice pinnacles called ice penitentes. That’s me 10 minutes before and that’s me 10 minutes after. So you can see the size of those ice pinnacles, the only place on earth they actually occur.
And as I was walking — I was alone by the way – I’d separated from my team, I had a moment of isolation in the mountain. I took my pack off, placed it on the floor and the floor winter there. And then it went back again. And that’s when I hit the deck and held onto the rock with my bare hands until I drew blood. I rode a bucking bronco and the bucking bronco was Everest itself. That was one thing I know for sure. That mountain is not meant to move. It’s kind of stable.
So then after it stopped, it went totally silent. And I thought I got mental high-altitude pulmonary edema, swelling of the brain. That’s what happens up there. I thought it was my turn, and you’ll see why in a little while. But then the biggest fear for mountaineer is avalanche. When you have an avalanche you hear boom first. You’ve got about 20 seconds to put your pants before it hits you, because there’s nothing else you can do.
And in this moment, it wasn’t one avalanche, the entire Rombak Valley avalanche: boom, boom, boom. And then the ice pinnacles started to crack and crash all around, 100 foot-high ice pinnacles crashing. I sat there in the palm of God and I watched Armageddon unleashed all around me. And I was safe. If you ever want to do an adventure come with me, because I’m really lucky.
But that’s not the story, it was what happened next. And I’ll just put into context you might have seen the earthquake in the Pole. We were in the middle of an 8.1 earthquake. I didn’t know anything about earthquakes. That’s a really big one by the way. And we were right in the epicenter. And what you saw on the south side on the news where the avalanche came and ultimately killed a lot of my colleagues, that was below the red helicopter.