A: Still, J.C. LaFaille eventually died on Makalu, another 8,000-meter peak. Do you think that getting away with risky climbs can produce a false sense of confidence?
EV: Absolutely. You never hear about the near misses in the mountains. I’ve seen a lot of them. And people walk away and say, I made it. Well, what’s the full story? They don’t want to admit that they barely made it down. Those are the stories you never hear about and a lot of those folks will say, Well, I did it, I’ll do it again. Then you become complacent about risks.
A: It’s also easy to take risks when everyone else is. That’s certainly what happened on Wall Street.
EV: It’s called groupthink. And the same phenomenon happens in the mountains. Climbers say, Oh, 30 people are going for the summit today, it must be OK. Well, that doesn’t mean it’s OK. If you don’t feel it’s OK, you should not be sucked along with the group mentality. You shouldn’t doubt yourself for hanging back when others press on.
A: Climbing and trading are both risky. Do they attract a similar personality?
EV: Probably. They’re both exciting. And both involve a fair amount of analysis. It’s not like we’re obliviously climbing these mountains. There’s a lot of thinking involved. Logistics. Contemplation. Planning. If you want to succeed and survive it gets pretty detailed. For the guys on Wall Street, it’s like a chess game. They know there’s risk involved, but there’s also big paybacks. But on Wall Street, you may lose money. In the mountains, we lose our lives. Perhaps that’s why climbers tend to be more conservative.
A: Is there any mountaineering advice that would get us out of this economic mess?
EV: It’s going to take a while. But we’re almost down at base camp again and we’re going to have to start climbing. It’s going to be a slippery slope, but we just have to stay positive. We can always climb back out. We just have to stick together. And plug away. And work hard— like we always do.