“Certainly one of the adventure highlights of my life… it was a fantastic achievement to pull this off in the style that we did.”
That’s how Ray White Queenstown Principal Director Bas Smith described summiting Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America.
The unforgiving Denali, with a summit elevation of more than 6,100 metres claimed the lives of 96 climbers between 1903 and 2006, and was the next step on what has been an adventurous ladder for Mr Smith.
“I’ve been mountaineering for many years and carried out some of the more serious climbs in my 20s, but becoming a dad, my adventures became more focused on adventure racing at a high level and shorter local explorations,” he said.
“Through Ray White and real estate, I met British mountaineer and former SAS member Harry Taylor, and it was through discussions around our love for mountain biking that Denali came up as a topic.
“Harry’s somewhat of a high-altitude mountaineering icon and is still incredibly strong. He was the second Brit to climb Everest without oxygen and led the first team to traverse the three peaks of Everest.
“I got a call from him one day saying he and another ex-British Special Forces chap Bill Freear were climbing Denali and he asked if I’d like to join. I don’t think I even took a breath before saying yes!
“My wife and two children know how adventurous I am and we’re an active family, so their support was immediate – and it actually worked out well because they would be away in Europe at the time.”
Not only did Mr Smith and his team summit Denali, it is no exaggeration to say they did so in double-quick time.
“We summited Denali in 10 days, where normal expeditions take 20-24 days, with the mountain climbable for only a two-month period between May to early July,” he said.
“There were a bunch of hotshot teams on the mountain at the same time but we were the only team to summit, that day. Conditions on top were clear, -28 degrees centigrade, with only a little wind and huge views, so we made good calls.”
Mr Smith went on to explain how experience, excellent quality kit and some good old ‘grit the teeth and get the job done’ mentality worked for this incredibly hard mission.
“I thought a lot about life and leadership during the climb,” he said. “My intention had been to ski from the summit, but conditions were not safe for that and the team came first. I’m aware that I’m more comfortable to make confident decisions in situations like the above than I often am in normal business.
“Something resonated about creating correct environments which allow for successful leadership to flourish.
“I love that Ray White advocates for people in their global team, who are willing to grow their leadership skills, to have the ability to take time out during their day to have a clear view of their goals.It’s easy to talk about but much harder to do.
“Health and wellness, and being able to visualise and revisit your goals is something we must make time for.”
Ray White Group Managing Director Dan White praised Bas Smith for his efforts and described his achievement as ‘mind-blowing.’
“This is an incredible story of courage and achievement… to call Bas a tough guy would be such an understatement,” Mr White said.
“He should feel very proud of what he and his team have achieved, and there must’ve been a lot of learning throughout.”