What Climbing Mt. Elbert Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

The Highest Peak in the Rockies

I remember my dad’s 40th birthday. We celebrated with black “over the hill” balloons and cake. My sister turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. She decided on an unconventional celebration and persuaded all of her siblings to accompany her to Colorado for an epic siblings vacation.

It’s my sister, plus two brothers, and me. We were all very much game. We love Colorado.

My brothers regularly trek out to Colorado, along with my husband and several other guys, for an annual hike up a 14,000 foot peak. There are 53 total 14-ers in Colorado. Mt. Elbert sits the highest at 14,440 feet.

None of us had attempted Mt. Elbert. So for my sister’s 40th birthday, we made a plan to hike Colorado’s tallest peak.

If you’ve never hiked in elevation, you’ve probably never experienced the difficulty of breathing thin, oxygen-deprived air. The higher you climb, you often experience shortness of breath, dizziness, tiredness, headache, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. Sounds fun, right?

Needless to say, hiking in elevation isn’t always easy. Throw tired muscles, sore feet, and the potential for volatile weather into the mix and you’ve got yourself an accomplished day of hiking in the mountains.

So as I climbed Mt. Elbert with my sister and two brothers, I started thinking about how my hike up the mountain can so easily be compared to entrepreneurship. (When you hike for nine straight hours in one day, you have plenty of time to think).

Make A Plan

To prepare for a major hike like Mt. Elbert, you have to make a plan. That plan should include good sleep the night before, proper gear, a pre-planned route, and nourishment for the trip. An entrepreneur must lay out a plan before embarking on the journey.

Timing Is Everything

Proper timing should be a part of any well-thought-out plan. Hikers typically have to climb mountains earlier in the day because storms often roll in during the afternoon time. As a hiker, the last thing you want to do is get caught in a storm at 14,000 feet, well above tree-line with nowhere to hide. Entrepreneurs need to think about timing too. It’s always a shame when an entrepreneur has a great idea and even plans everything out well, only to discount the importance of proper timing.

Take It One Step At A Time

Mt. Elbert isn’t so much a technically difficult hike as it is a very long one. Persistence counts. We couldn’t let the enormity of the task in front of us prevent us from taking our first steps. Neither can an entrepreneur look to the end goal and give up before he or she has even begun. As Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) from the What About Bob movie instructs, “baby steps”. One foot in front of the other.

Don't Give Up

Sometimes, you just have to push through the pain on a long hike like Elbert. If your hiking boots are rubbing a hot spot on your feet, stop and put moleskin or some other remedy on the hotspot and keep going. If your knees are aching, try using trekking poles to ease the strain on your back. The point is, as an entrepreneur, you are going to have to work hard and push through the rough parts to find success on the other side.

Only Take Necessary Breaks With The End Goal In Mind

When the hike up Mt. Elbert got especially steep or rocky, we had to slow our pace, but kept moving nonetheless. Slow and steady was our mantra. We continued moving toward our end goal of the 14,440 feet summit. Entrepreneurs cannot stop moving. Even when the pace gets slower (and it will get slower), entrepreneurs have to keep on moving.

This doesn’t mean breaks aren’t sometimes needed. I never would have made it to the top of the peak if I hadn’t taken breaks. Sometimes, I needed to catch my breath. Other times, I needed to wait for one of my siblings to catch up. There were even times I simply needed to stop and eat something or drink water to keep me hydrated. Entrepreneurs are prime candidates for burnout. So if a break is needed, take it.

Follow The Plan

It is so important as a hiker to stay the course. We planned our route up Elbert before we even started. There were no shortcuts, no straying off the path. If you stray off the path as a hiker, you could lose your way or find yourself in a dangerous spot. Entrepreneurs should also stay the course. Make a plan and follow that plan.

Help Others Along The Way

Enjoy the company. Encourage others. Meet new people. I hiked Elbert with my three siblings. We encouraged and helped one another, shared food and water, and chatted as the hours passed. We also met others along the way who were hiking to the peak like we were or were on their way down from already summiting. We exchanged stories and shared encouragement.

I am a solopreneur. We met some solo hikers throughout our day. Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean you don’t meet others along the way and offer or accept help when it’s needed. There are other solopreneurs who are trekking along the same path I am. It’s always good to acknowledge, encourage, and root for one another along the way. We should hope we all get to the top and find success.

Take Time to Enjoy The Experience

My favorite part of hiking a 14,000 foot peak? The view. And not just the view from the top. Climbing up a mountain in Colorado offers beautiful scenery, sometimes even breathtaking. As entrepreneurs, we should take time to enjoy the views. After all, why are we even pursuing our goals in the first place?

After my siblings and I hiked for nine straight hours, up to the peak of Mt. Elbert, then back down again, we rewarded ourselves with a big Mexican dinner in Buena Vista. As entrepreneurs, once we reach a big goal, it’s certainly worthy of a celebration! Then it’s onto the next peak….