As he climbs up Everest, Malcolm Walker says success is all about determination and luck.
There can be few less enjoyable experiences in life than seeing your treasured possessions driven over a cliff (unless your mother-in-law is behind the wheel of your new Ferrari at the time).
It’s happened to me twice, now. Most recently when one of the two lorries laden with our Everest kit veered off the road in a thunderstorm and plunged down a ravine, smashing it into the sort of splintered mess you only see in films and think that the special effects people have gone completely over the top.
Luckily the three people in the cab all jumped clear in time.
We’d packed everything into the plastic barrels that will ultimately take our supplies by yak to Advanced Base Camp. These seemed quite resilient. And, of course, there was only a 50% chance that my own stuff would be on the wrecked truck.
But with the sort of good fortune I suppose you should expect if you sit 13 people down at your farewell lunch, one of my personal barrels turned out to be squashed flat under the lorry’s wheels.
The amazing thing, when we finally got it out, is that nothing inside was too badly damaged. I certainly fared better than other blokes who had their stuff drenched in kerosene.
It was one of the nicest surprises I have had since I came back to Iceland in 2005, after the business I founded had also been pretty much driven over a cliff. I gradually realised that it could not only be turned around - which seemed pretty unlikely at the outset - but taken to new heights.
The principles we followed to do that were straightforward: simplification, focus, accepting reality and hopefully having some fun.
I’m trying to approach Everest in the same spirit, though fun has been in short supply since we crossed the oxymoronically named Friendship Bridge from Nepal into Tibet. Here you consider yourself in luck if you don’t have to share your freezing hotel room with a rat, and the pure Himalayan air is rendered so acrid by burning yak dung that facemasks are de rigueur.
As well as continuing our acclimatisation to high altitude, this is helping to toughen up those members of the expedition who have grown used to the finer things in life - me, basically. The experienced climbers in the party seem to get a kick out of roughing it.
So far my highest summit has been 4,400 metres, which seemed a long way up to me but is still only half the height of Everest.
Iceland keeps climbing up the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ table, reaching number six this year. None of the big food retailers even features. Whether in business or the Himalayas, we are unashamedly aiming for the top.
I’ve heard rumours that Landsbanki are putting its Iceland shares up for sale while I am away (in the internet cafes of Tibet, they talk of little else). But if Graham Kirkham can close the sale of DFS from the North Pole, being up Everest should present no problem.
I’m just focusing on getting as high as I can and raising that £1m we have pledged for research into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a truly great cause and we’re currently just 3% of the way there, so do pay us a visit at www.icelandeverest.org.uk and press the ‘donate’ button.
Malcolm Walker is chief executive of Iceland.