Cross the Grand Canyon in less than a day. For those that have been to this beautiful national park, this can seem like a daunting goal. However, for several SEI’ers, this bucket list item became a reality. It also showcased what makes SEI special: the ability for a team dedicated to success to achieve a seemingly impossible goal.
What started as an ostensibly innocuous message on our collaboration portal, soon turned into a year of intense training, strict diets, and spending a small fortune on hiking gear. Our colleague organizing this excursion made it clear that the hike would challenge each of us both mentally and physically, but would be a beautiful and life changing experience. She sent out links to accommodations, articles about training, what to buy, what to expect, animals and creatures we may encounter, how to filter creek water if necessary, information about heat exhaustion and altitude sickness, and other attractions around the Grand Canyon. Her wealth of knowledge was a blessing to all of us, and most surprisingly, it would be her first time hiking the Grand Canyon as well. It was important that we all committed to support each other in this year long journey.
Just like at the beginning of every client engagement, we assess the challenges and risks for success. It was no different here. The hike’s picturesque views framed the high altitude (with an elevation change of 10000 feet) and the high heat in a low humidity desert climate (with temperature swings of 50+ degrees) reminded us of the possibility of dehydration or worse, heat stroke. In addition to the climate and altitude, the 25 miles of changing and unstable trail conditions at an average grade of 30% would have us doing the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building 3.46 times. The Grand Canyon National Park Ranger said it best: “It is optional to hike down into the park, but mandatory to hike back out of the park.”
On June 2, 2017, nine SEI’ers and five friends woke up at 3:45am to complete the “Rim to Rim” hike in Grand Canyon National Park. Four of our eight offices were represented which included the Phoenix, Dallas, Cincinnati, and Atlanta locations. As the hike went on, true collaboration helped us overcome each challenge. We would keep tabs on one another to ensure none of us were in danger of running out of water, hurt, or in need of assistance from someone on the team or a Ranger. This worked beautifully as we checked in at the top of each hour, and was especially helpful when our team was “in the box” (the hottest part of the canyon that is boxed in on all four sides and offers little shade, breeze or water) and toward the end of the hike as the sun began to set. We also had an SEI’er in a support role; not hiking, but shuttling luggage from the South to North Rims and ensuring we had everything we needed pre-and post-hike and our colleagues across our offices posting words of encouragement on social media, text messages, and communicating with our loved ones that we’d made it out of the Canyon safely.
Several of us were worried about this hike. We had read how mentally and physically demanding it could be. However, when we each signed up, we knew we wouldn’t be doing it alone. In fact, that’s why several of us signed up. We knew we could accomplish the difficult, the unknown, the near impossible, with each other. We do this at the client every day; what chance does the Grand Canyon have? We now have set an annual tradition of this hike for both veteran and newbie SEI’ers and are looking for the next near impossible task we can conquer…together.