Rotterdam school of management

Erasmus University.


Triumphs, Time, Teams and Tears

Posted by in Kilimanjaro 2014

What an exceptional project, what an exceptional group of women, what an exceptional experience.

Coming into the project I had certain expectations and some apprehensions. What would my experience be like joining a group of  women that I didn’t know? Would they welcome me? Would they see me as the corporate that just ‘dropped in’? What would ‘living and climbing’ with a group of twenty women be like? Would natural collaboration come to the fore or would those competitive and often destructive behaviours so often seen in corporate settings set the tone for the project?

I think like many of the other women who undertook this project, initially my focus was on the climb itself. How high would it be? How hard would it be? How much do I have to train? However, as the project unfolded the focus of the journey became the realisation so much more than the climb itself.

Every woman that made it to Tanzania had already triumphed in her own way before even stepping foot onto the mountain. Many had left partners and children behind, a number had overcome financial challenges to get there, others had conquered injuries and a couple had beaten their fear of flying. Each challenge was personal, and in the most part private to begin with, but as the team bonded and friendships were forged, these challenges were shared, acknowledged and celebrated.

Ironically as the climb began, the luxury of ‘having time’ began. Without the demands of the outside world intruding, time was created for new friendships to be developed, for barriers to broken down; time was available to reflect, rest and to regenerate. Some used this time to rebalance their perspectives and reconfirm that they were in control. Others learned that we are all equal and that by listening and sharing with others there is no rationale for believing that anyone is less inferior to others – colour, creed, gender or status should not differentiate the power within each of us.

By the time summit night came, it was clear that ‘getting to the top’ wasn’t the main objective rather how one went about trying to achieve it was. We started as a team and we finished as a team and that’s what became important. Some made it to Uhuru, others to Gilman’s, some nearly to Gilman’s, and for those that couldn’t through illness or otherwise made the effort to greet the team on their arrival back – all with warm hearts and heads held high! The team aspect on summit night is what shone brightly for me, the Guides who wanted you to make it, their help and advice and care and encouragement got us up that mountain. The shared respect by each woman for each woman was clear, a word of encouragement, a shared chocolate bar or sip of water, a hug and even the just the plain old ‘You doing OK?’ question was appreciated. We became a team on that mountain, not only with the goal of getting to the summit, but ensuring that everyone was OK in the process!

Personally for me the debrief session was the highlight to the project. Not being a touchy feely type of person, I was apprehensive as to what this session would hold. What I witnessed was an amazing group of women sharing their own personal learnings in an environment that was safe and caring.

There was laughter and fun but there were also tears, tears of celebration, frustration, relief and happiness. What resonated for me about this session was that everyone was actively listening and learning – no one was trying to outdo each other, there was no pressure to hold back or to have a different agenda – it was just an exhibit of true feelings and emotion being expressed with the sole goal of learning – So I’ll leave you with a question – how much value could this create in a corporate environment if this spirit could be encapsulated? Invaluable I believe. My next challenge will be how I can achieve this within an organisation.

An outstanding project with an outstanding group of women – thank you for letting me be a part of it!





About Gina Jardine

I am an Australian who has lived in London for the last 5 and a half years. I am 46 years old, married to Phil and a mum to an eleven year old son Kyler. I work for Rio Tinto a Global Mining company and have been granted the unique opportuntiy to climb Kilimanjaro with a group of very talented MBA students from RSM. Apart from fulfilling a personal goal of climbing Kili, I aim to raise money for the African foundation that I sit on the board of and in addition I hope to learn from and give back to the women I climb with !

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  1. Anne van de Graaf, November 4, 2014:

    hear, hear!

  2. Cristina da Silva Joaquim, November 4, 2014:

    So nice to read, Gina. Very true that a big question is how to take a little bit of the “magic” of Kili into the corporate real life… Please share should you succeed! 🙂

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