The senior managers of Timbuk2, a San
Francisco-based manufacturer of messenger bags, gathered on a gently
sloping granite ledge at an altitude of 12,000 feet, overlooking the
blue-gray shimmer of one of the dozen or so Ice Lakes, slopes of stubby
pine trees, and beyond onto ragged peaks. It was the middle of June,
but snow still mounded on the ground. A thunderstorm had just skirted
the campsite and the wind screamed constantly, cold and fierce.
These four men and two women lead a growing company of 70 employees
back at sea level, where they’d typically be worrying about things like
financing, brand management, e-commerce, and retail sales. But for the
past four days they’d been in the backcountry, and their concerns had
been somewhat more basic: Would that small blister turn into a
festering sore? Would those dark clouds bring rain? Does that bear paw
print in the mud mean there’s an actual bear nearby?
The group was halfway through a seven-day backpacking trip organized
by the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS. Accompanying them
were two NOLS instructors and me; I’d tagged along to see what would
happen. It had been nearly 100 hours since any of us had had a shower,
or used a flushing toilet, cradled a cell phone to our ear, or run our
fingers across a keyboard. As the sun started to set, the temperature,
which had hit the high 80s when we’d set out from the town of Lander,
Wyoming, just four days before, was hovering just above freezing.
To read the story, click here.