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Kilimanjaro challenge

Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands, 02 January 2012 Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and one of the Seven Summits the highest mountains on each of the seven continents has long been a challenge to climbers and adventurers since it was first conquered by Europeans in the latter part of the nineteenth century.


On his third attempt in 1889, Hans Meyer, a German geology professor, accompanied by the celebrated Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller, led his team of two local headmen, nine porters, a cook and a guide in the first successful ascent. On the centenary of this first ascent, posthumous certificates were awarded to the African porter-guides who had accompanied Meyer and Purtscheller.


Kilimanjaro, in northern Tanzania, is now a major trekking destination. There are six official trekking routes up the mountain Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame and more than one thousand climbers reach the summit every year.


The conditions of high elevation, low temperature and occasional high winds mean that Kilimanjaro is not an easy walk, but neither is it a technical climb. This makes it an accessible but demanding challenge. It does not require specialist climbing expertise but it does require considered research, detailed planning to ensure that all participants are both properly equipped and physically capable and careful execution.


It is also a challenge which, for many, may lead to disappointment. Statistics suggest that only 30% of trekkers actually reach the Uhuru summit with the majority turning around at or before Gilman’s Point, 200 metres short of Uhuru. Acclimatisation is essential and even the most experienced trekkers may suffer some degree of altitude sickness. Many trekkers will suffer considerable discomfort typically shortage of breath, hypothermia and headaches.

It is the ideal leadership and team building challenge which has recently been accepted and successfully completed by an international group of women MBA students from Erasmus University.



The Kilimanjaro MBA Leadership Project was planned and executed by a group of 14 women students from the MBA Programme at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) at Erasmus University in The Netherlands. The women who ranged in age from 28 to 50 and represented 12 different nationalities set off on their climb, via the Rongai route, on 21 September and completed the round trip in 7 days. The team was led by Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to climb Everest and the highest mountain on every continent.


Hyva, one of the project’s sponsors, provided clothing for the expedition. All of the women succeeded in taking up and completing the team challenge – all reached the high base camp at Kibo Hut (5,000 meters), 10 got to Gillman’s Point (5681 meters) and 5 reached the summit at Uhuru Peak (5895 meters).


The inspiration for the project, which is now a recognized elective in the MBA Programme, came from research conducted by Dr Dianne Bevelander, Associate Dean MBA Programmes at RSM. She found that in many organisations women were under represented in senior management positions and often had few opportunities to network and work in teams with other women. And, in many instances, they were underperforming, especially in decision making and risk scenarios, when compared to their male peers. 




In response to these findings, and to create an environment where women can help other women, Dr Bevelander decided to set up an ‘experiential’ challenge with an element of risk and a need for planning and especially implementation. Kilimanjaro was selected the mountain as a metaphor for the challenges, risk sharing and decision making required in leading teams in companies.


“The success of the project has exceeded our expectations,” said Dr Dianne Bevelander. “The students have all reported positive and enriching experiences. It has been a great experience for them to share the endurances, laughs, fears and successes in a restricted and challenging environment. I am sure that they will all have developed their leadership and networking capabilities.”


This conclusion was supported by Karen de Lathouder, one of the MBA students, “I am an experienced climber and reached the summit. However, the experience made me realise that my success was not defined by being the first at the summit but by sharing my experience, influencing and empowering the other women in the group and being part of everyone’s success.”


While in Tanzania, the students met with a group of women from the King’Ori community and observed the advances which have been made in healthcare and girls’ education through Worldvision programmes which have been running since 1998. Several women from the MBA group are now ‘giving back’ through financial contributions and sponsorship of children in this community.


Eveline Maas, another of the MBA students, who also reached the summit said, “The challenge was irresistible and ultimately very enriching. It was important to me that I did reach the summit. However, the reward was more than that to plan and execute the climb with a group of women from different cultures and countries was a great learning experience.”


The Kilimanjaro MBA Leadership Project will continue next year when it will run with two groups, each with a mix of MBA students and company executives.

About Hyva Group


Hyva Group is a leading global provider of innovative and highly efficient transport solutions for the commercial vehicle and environmental service industries. The company is committed to the development, production, marketing and distribution of components used in hydraulic loading and unloading systems on trucks and trailers. Its products are used worldwide across a range of sectors including transport, construction, mining, materials handling and environmental services providers.


Hyva produces the strongest front end hydraulic telescopic cylinder in the world, double acting cylinders, mobile and static compactors and waste collection units. Hyva’s portfolio comprises: Hydraulics (cylinders and tipping gear), Container Handling Systems (hook and skip loaders), Floors (horizontal unloading/loading floors) and Cranes (fixed and rolling). These products are designed and marketed under several well respected brands: Hyva, Kennis, F.lli Ferrari and AmcoVeba. Hyva is also a distributor of high value components.


Founded in 1979, the company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn in The Netherlands and has significant manufacturing facilities in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy and The Netherlands. Operating in more than 130 countries the company has more than 2,400 employees around the world, encompassing 36 subsidiaries and 13 production facilities. Hyva has more than 25,000 customers.


For further information, visit www.hyva.com


About Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, is consistently ranked amongst the top 10 business schools in Europe. It is located in the international port city of Rotterdam where core Dutch values of openness, flexibility and acceptance of diversity have attracted businesses on a global scale. Our emphasis is on ground-breaking research and practices relevant to business; our primary focus is on developing business leaders who carry their innovative ideas into a sustainable future. Our portfolio includes a broad array of bachelor, master, doctoral, MBA and executive education programmes.


For further information, visit www.rsm.nl

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