Expedition Mindset: When “Showing Up” Means More than Physically Arriving

Adventure 54

The anticipation and physical preparation have been exhausting. The iron has been pumped. You have been ripping up stair sets for breakfast. Every precious ounce of your kit is honed. But have you stretched your expedition mindset?

An expedition is much more than the physical climb of a single mountain. For several weeks you will travel in a community with many unique, talented, motivated, and curious people with different habits and expectations. You may depart with lifelong friends, but just like the mountains, great things are often sculpted by friction. This social challenge can be surprising, frustrating even. Embrace the following three qualities of a community-oriented expedition mindset to smoothly acclimate to expedition life.

CommunicativeThree circle venn diagram. The three circles each have one of the following words: communicative, adaptable, generous

Ask for what you need from your team. Listen actively, contribute actively.  Each person, including you, brings a wealth of experience to the trip. Letting small blisters or interpersonal tensions fester can threaten the travel of groups in the mountains. This requires a vulnerability that we can avoid in the frontcountry. There is no where else to go, except one another. So, be the support that others need and receive their support in return.


Gusts of 70mph rip at the walls of your tent. The walls shudder and the poles bend at impossible angles no yogi could replicate. You’ve spent the last 12 hours traveling and just set up camp, but conditions require you to stay awake for the next 17 hours just to keep camp upright. As mountaineers, we flex according to the dynamic environment of the mountains. Rather than trying to fight the challenge, give the “calm balm” a try.

The calm balm is about taking a moment to assess the challenge in front of you and think before acting. Either literally (remember: slow it down!) or figuratively pull out your lip balm and apply. You could likely use the additional SPF. Take a moment to absorb the situation and approach the stressor with mental flexibility. This technique will build your resilience and build your confidence to handle unexpected circumstances.


A gift given is also a gift received. In a place of limited resources, our backcountry communities thrive on resource sharing. The simple acts of sharing snacks or extra hot water, or filling another team member’s water bottle are gifts. This is more than simple kindness. Resource guarding threatens our ability to rely on one another, and reinforces the solo-mentality that can be so dangerous in the mountains. This travel is inherently interdependent. Small actions build cA glowing green The North Face VE 25 stands out among a starry sky in Patagonia..onfidence in your community…which is so beneficial when on a rope team together or sharing a stove to cook dinner.

These qualities of an expedition mindset weave the fabric of a mountain community. That community may form for a three-day summit bid or a three-week expedition. May you travel well and carry these qualities back into your life in the frontcountry.

Maddie Gavigan Martin, Operations Staff

Cover photo – sharing morning mate in view of the Andes. Photos by Oscar Manguy.


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