Monday, February 10, 2014

The Importance of Teamwork

As both are about climbing Annapurna, I inevitably found myself comparing Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna and Arlene Blum’s Annapurna: A Woman’s Place. One of the most compelling differences for me was the difference in emphasis on teamwork. Although Herzog continually stresses that they are climbing Annapurna “for France!” he does not focus very much on teamwork. Arlene Blum, on the other hand, gives great emphasis to the importance of teamwork. From the very beginning she lets us know of the importance of teamwork, as she explains that as part of the preparation for the trip, amongst organizing gear and budgeting for food, the whole expedition went to a psychologist. Once they reach Annapurna, this emphasis is continued. Arlene describes that so many “otherwise strong and healthy people have internal altitude barriers above which they cannot adjust” (89). She states her belief that the reason her team does not hit these barriers because of “our slow rate of altitude gain, our schedule of working two days and resting one day, and the lack of competition among the climbers” (89). Clearly, as far as Blum is concerned, teamwork/lack of individual competitiveness is just as important of a factor in mountaineering as conditioning, rest days, and other physical concerns. This emphasis on the importance of teamwork to the expedition is also reflected in how Blum includes the journal entries of her fellow expedition members, rather than merely giving her impressions and account of events. She continues the emphasis until the very end of the book, and therefore the climb, as she explains “We had survived the hardest physical and psychological stresses and found that as a team we could do great things. Each woman had contributed her abilities and effort in full measure, and each was rewarded with the knowledge that her contribution had helped us attain our goal” (224). I appreciated this emphasis Blum gave to teamwork, mostly because it explored what Blum (and I agree) thought was an imperative component of mountaineering expeditions. In addition I appreciated it, because honestly, it made her novel much more interesting and compelling for me.

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