Climbing for Those
Who Can't

by Dorian Breakspear-Coyle · RSM, Distribution · United Arab Emirates


I was asked if I wanted to climb Russia and Europe's highest mountain!

I enjoy extreme sports. My hobbies are desert motocross, boxing, I've tried mountain biking down Ben Nevis, skydiving and I even learnt how to escape from a submerged helicopter. But I was not sure I was up for this challenge. A strong factor in saying yes was my friend and colleague Chris Khouri, who sustained a spinal cord injury in a motocross accident. He is a great inspiration because he faces so many challenges every day and never gives up.

My goal was clear, climb Russia's and Europe's highest mountain for those who can't... but how? I was going to be part of a team but didn't want to be the weakest rope!

I had no real prior climbing experience so I needed a bulletproof plan with clear targets and deadlines, much as we do at Cisco. I had to start connecting with experts to acquire the tools and knowledge in order to achieve my goals and that of the team.

I started by getting the best advice from experienced climbers, a sports doctor and even a cardiologist. Training at the gym every day and setting myself goals really helped me stay focused. The final part of my training was spent climbing and acclimatizing.

‘Ask the expert’ with Denis, the climb lead at the start of our journey.

Finally the day of the climb arrived. We started out at 3 a.m. in pitch darkness and made it to the summit at approximately 8 a.m. The feeling of elation at hitting the summit was incredible and being in a great team magnified that. The next four hours were spent coming back down almost vertically over ice and deep snow, with the added challenge of ice crevasse fields. At 3,700 meters we rested overnight before tackling the boulder fields and steep tracks down to where we had started.

You are only as strong as your weakest rope!
Keep to your plan but be prepared to change, quickly.
We made it! We climbed Elbrus for those who can't.

Completing this challenge with the support of my family, friends and even people I didn't know, to help those who have sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury was amazing. We raised awareness for Wings for Life and almost US$20,000, of which US$4,000 was matched by Cisco.

This is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done, a real test of endurance, discipline and emotions. In my darkest moments when I thought I couldn't continue, I was able to dig deep and push on. This experience has helped me to be a true example of our values at Cisco, caring for each other and changing the world for the better. This should be what we do everyday without even thinking about it.

What did I learn on my journey?

  • To achieve any kind of success you need a plan with clear goals and measurements, all of which need to be able to change, rapidly!
  • Lose the unimportant stuff, expect the unexpected and know when to ask for help.
  • Be preparedfuel your body and your mind, take time to sharpen your ice axe, when there is no oxygen it becomes precious...don't take ANYTHING for granted.
  • Climbing down is harder than climbing higher...take your pick!

I kept my promise to Wings for Life and if I can do this anyone can, the hardest part is starting! Whether it's about taking a leap, going large or being bold you need that plan!

Pick something YOU want to achievebuild a bulletproof plan, share, consult, agree then go and do it!

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