K2: Brotherhood of the Rope (a)

25 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2009

See all articles by James G. Clawson

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


Chris Warner led a team of experienced mountain climbers on an expedition to reach the summit of K2—the second-highest in the world. After failing to succeed on their first few attempts, Warner and his team brought together other teams hoping to reach the summit, and representing eight different countries, to work together for success. Their story is a narrative full of examples, where in some instances, a leadership point of view was taken, and other times it was not. The successes and failures of the expedition's approach makes for a story bursting with real-world examples and offers an exciting framework to house theoretical concepts about team-building and leadership. Although grounded in the written cases, the series also includes an optional a multimedia supplement offers compelling photos and video for students and instructors. The A case presents a challenging moment in the climbers' trek: After the tragic death of another team's Sherpa, Warner must decide case whether his team should abandon its summit push or continue forward. A video supplement is available to enhance student learning.



Nov. 14, 2008

K2: Brotherhood of the Rope (A)

On Friday, July 20, 2007, Chris Warner was standing in the Bottleneck at 27,000 feet above sea level on a narrow 300-meter-tall, 50-degree ice sheet on K2, wondering what to do next. A moment before, he had watched in horror as a member of the Korean climbing team slid down an ice slope and fell 9,000 feet to his death. The remaining members of that team were 100 meters above him, and strung out along the summit route were members from 10 other international teams. Warner had met with the loose confederation of climbing teams the night before to organize the summit attempt, and he believed he needed to make a decision about what his team should do.

K2 had twice tested the strength of experienced mountaineer Chris Warner, an entrepreneur and expedition leader from Columbia, Maryland. He had attempted to summit the notoriously tough mountain, located in a remote area between Pakistan and China, in 2002 and 2005 with no success. Based on his previous experience, Warner had deliberately chosen a team and carefully crafted a strategy to achieve his goal in the summer of 2007.

Since arriving at the Base Camp of K2, his team had spent 70 demanding days exploring unclimbed routes and seeking to summit—failing to reach their target five times. Dodging rock debris, falling into crevasses, and being partially buried by an avalanche were only some of the difficulties they had faced. Gusty winds, dangerously cold temperatures, and complete snow whiteouts left the climbers facing raw elements, often without protection. Now, after 69 days on the desolate mountain struggling to get to the top, they were on the Bottleneck portion of the Abruzzi Route—their highest point yet. They were less than 600 meters from the top when tragedy struck. Nema Norbu, a skilled mountaineer and Sherpa from the Korean expedition, had slipped and fallen to his death. With climbers spread out over the side of the mountain, a decision had to be made. Should Warner's team abandon its summit push or continue forward?

. . .

Keywords: teamwork, trust, risk taking, leadership, resonance, teams, dysfunctional, discipline, strategy, decision making, goals, data analysis, multicultural

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G. and Yemen, Gerry, K2: Brotherhood of the Rope (a). Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0961. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1421623

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/clawson.htm

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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