In 2014, Madison led the first successfully guided ascent of K2, arguably the hardest and most dangerous mountain in the world. He reached the summit with two clients and three Sherpas on July 27, 2014. Four years later on July 22, 2018, a team of eight clients, three guides, and 15 Sherpas reached K2’s summit. Madison regularly guides first ascents on unclimbed peaks as well as “Seven Summits” expeditions, which include Mount Vinson, Carstensz Pyramid, Mount Elbrus, Aconcagua, and Kilimanjaro.
As an Emmy award-winning producer, Madison works as a consultant on Everest and other big mountain film productions, including Sports Illustrated’s Capturing Everest. He’s been featured on CNBC, ESPN, and The Today Show, in addition to Outside and People magazines. Madison assists with product testing for Mountain Hardwear and speaks professionally about his mountaineering experiences. Despite all these accomplishments, Madison still cites his biggest achievement as zero climber deaths during his 20 guided expeditions to 8,000-meter peaks. Having observed hundreds of climbers in challenging situations before, during, and after major expeditions, Madison knows how to plan, pack, and prepare for success. Below is his best advice for a successful climbing expedition.
2 EXPEDITION STRATEGY: Once on the mountain, I believe strategy is key for success. An expedition team with good leadership, ample resources, and competent climbers will have the highest level of success. This includes the comforts of basecamp that allow recovery between rotations, such as fresh and nutritious food, spacious personal tents, and hot showers. The oxygen system, communications, weather forecasting, acclimatization process, and Sherpa and guide support are all essential parts of the equation.
3 CLIMBING AS A TEAM: Time after time up high on Everest, I’ve seen teams that are able to climb to the summit together, and make it down safely, whereas individuals not climbing as part of a cohesive team often run into trouble and turn around, or worse, they don’t make it down. When we climb as part of a true team where we support each other, work together to solve problems, and continue moving toward our goal, we are much more effective. When we are climbing as individuals, the chances are much higher that we will end up turning around when faced with an obstacle like high winds, precipitation, or an uncertain route. Sometimes climbers join a ‘team’ in the sense that they share an expedition permit, a basecamp, some high camps, and Sherpa support, but on summit day they don’t climb together or look out for one another. These are the climbers that have a much higher chance of dying on Everest, which I’ve seen firsthand. A notable example of this happened on May 19, 2012, when four climbers from other teams didn’t make it down to Camp 4 because they were too tired or ran out of oxygen, and no one was around to help them.