Mountaineers were studied for their Mental Toughness following a terrible tragedy. The results match the CRUSH Method.
On April 25th 2015, an earthquake struck Nepal, triggering avalanches in the Himalayan mountains. The most deadly avalanche descended from Pumori mountain and barreled into the Mount Everest Base Camp. In total, 22 climbers died and over 60 were badly injured- making it the deadliest disaster in the history of climbing Mount Everest.
In 2016, researchers Christian Swann, Lee Crust and Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson studied ten mountaineers who were on expeditions during the earthquake, and examined the role of mental toughness in coping with- and responding to- disasters.
These mountaineers experienced a truly, extraordinarily horrifying event. One mountaineer- interviewed by Swann, Crust and Allen- recalled:
"We started feeling the ground rumbling...And we thought: “That’s a big avalanche”...The whole ground under us is just moving from side to side...And we realised, “Shit, this is an earthquake.”...And then from behind us, the Pumori avalanched...the whole top of the mountain fell off...and started a shockwave...We turned around and we’re seeing this white wall, as high as you can see and as wide as you can see, just coming at us," (p 12).
Imagine the terror. The shock. The sheer outright piss in your pants gravity of this moment. Another mountaineer said: "All of us thought we were gone, without a doubt...A most sickening feeling of fear I have ever, ever had. It’s just like the pit for your stomach...It’s like nothing I have ever experienced. But there’s a sense of no control, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide but you can hear it coming towards you in this big open valley," (p 13).
After the earthquake and the ravaging avalanches stopped, the survivors experienced a scene of devastation that "resembled a plane crash, with tents buried under ice, equipment and bodies of dead and injured climbers strewn all around," (p 13).
In the aftermath, search and recovery efforts were launched immediately, along with medical triage. In these moments- and in the following days where they were still trapped on the mountain- the role of mental toughness- and stamina in the CRUSH Model- became abundantly clear.
One mountaineer said:
"I could see two patterns: people that were familiar with this type of accidents like doctors, medical personnel or experienced guides...they were more calm and useful to help other people; and people that I would consider inexperienced or weaker because of their personality...They were in shock, they were just sitting around...they were just like in a daze...I would say that they were just like numb,"(p 17).
Mental toughness, then, allowed some climbers to quickly regain emotional control, remain calm, and focus on immediate needs. Accordingly, the S in the CRUSH Model focuses on Stamina, which says that you must exert total control in high pressure situations...and use that control to make hard decisions.
One climber said: "People that are mentally tough can take all the ups and downs with more calm because I think we act in a more rational way..and I think that keeps us from not getting carried away...We see the bigger picture,” (p 18). In the CRUSH Model, the importance of maintaining control of emotions is stressed, as well as tempering any feelings that don't contribute to success. One way of accomplishing this is simply by focusing on the immediate task at hand. Do not dwell. Do not allow your emotions or anxieties get in the way of your goal.
Pick yourself up and get busy. Cross just one item off your To-Do List. And then another one. You will instantly feel more in control.
And then- get back at it. Every single one of the survivors interviewed in Swann, Crust & Allen-Collinson's research study returned to climbing shortly after the disaster. They reported it was a way of regaining control (and confidence) rather than dwelling and ruminating upon events (p 24).
This is precisely what the S in the CRUSH Method is all about. Take control- even when shit is exploding around you. Then use that control to move forward- instead of being paralyzed. You absolutely must take action.
Keep pushing on. Crush it.
Swann, C., Crust, L., & Allen-Collinson, J. (2016). Surviving the 2015 Mount Everest disaster: A phenomenological exploration into lived experience and the role of mental toughness. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 27, 157–167. https://doi.org/ 10.1016/j.psychsport.2016.08.012