In the crevices of heuristic traps, in the mountains and in change

Thinking is exhausting. Our brain is constantly subject to stimuli of different sorts and has to respond quickly and specifically. It would be a massive waste of energy for it to access all of its resources in every moment of the day in order to react.  

And, so, it doesn’t. It takes shortcuts.

It relies on assumptions based not on information and logical analysis, but on pre-existing ideas and preconceptions. The Greeks called it heuristics, a word whose origin means “to find”: to find the simplest solution, not necessarily the most effective. 

We didn’t hear this word between the walls of a university classroom, but in the Methodos offices, during a preparation meeting with the Milan CAI. The title of meeting was “Safety in the Mountains” – promising - but the subtitle read, “No such thing as zero risk”. And it’s exactly these heuristic shortcuts that we had to consider. 


We know that our journey has to include this awareness – we’ve already discovered it.  We know that we can’t eliminate risk in the mountains, just as we can’t in life. 

In the end it also wouldn’t make sense to eliminate it completely. What would happen to the challenge then? We’re able to bring out our strength exactly in those moments of panic, when our heart rate increases and adrenaline comes into play. It’s that feeling that ends up being addictive for extreme sport lovers. 

But it’s also part of the most critical moment. Because the real risk isn’t always objective, like the cold, wind, or an unexpected crevice. The dangers that sneak up on you are the subjective ones: the so called “human factor”.

And this is true as much in everyday life as it is in the mountains. 

We’ve evolved to use “mental shortcuts” (or heuristics) that are useful for making complex decisions in our day-to-day lives. A fundamental heritage from times where danger was constant, where the risk of a sabre-toothed tiger jumping out of a bush was real. Our instinctual response time, in those cases, was the difference between life and death. 

“Heuristic shortcuts”, then, are those cognitive strategies that allow us to quickly elaborate decisions, make social judgements, and understand concepts. Fundamentals if you find yourself in front of that tiger. 

But now that it’s extinct? In both the city and the mountains, we risk falling into “heuristic traps”; a subjective danger to be feared. 

This is why physical training isn’t enough: we need to develop critical thinking and the capacity to analyse situations. But, also, awareness of these traps, the so-called “human factor” or subjective risk. 

For example, to get to the top of the Mont Blanc, just as to be successful in Change Management, we can’t limit ourselves by blindly trusting an external person, as trustworthy as they may be. 

If this person were to make the wrong decision, for example falling into the heuristic trap of the search for leadership, we would follow them into the same crevice that they promise to help us avoid. We’d be victims of herd mentality: we’d be sheep. 

In the most complex moments, if the person deciding isn’t an expert, or isn’t fully aware of the situation, their choice would be as efficient as the toss of a coin.

Fifty - fifty. The same percentage as change. 

In the same way, if we never question others’ decisions and stop thinking about alternative solutions in work, leaving the responsibility for our company to those higher up, we’d be nothing but numbers. We’d become gears in a mechanism in the hands of others, not resources. 

And in this way, the companies that operate in a competitive market - this applies also for alpine expeditions – aren’t successful without the contribution of the whole group. 

“We’ve always done it this way, what do you expect?”

“We’ve gotten this far, we need to go through with it.”

“These are the ideal conditions, what can go wrong?”

These are phrases that we could be heard saying as much in the mountains as in the comfort – and safety – of our offices. 

They could be uttered as easily by a colleague, expert in the mountains, as by a company manager. 

And they’re clues: typical prints left in the snow by heuristic traps. 

Anyone can fall for them: novice or expert, wise or foolish. 

The only defence is to recognise them – to recognise prejudice when it’s masked as a logical decision.

So how do we defend ourselves, then? How to avoid not only objective risks, but also subjective ones?

Heuristic traps have only one weak point, a sort of mathematic formula to defuse them: they are inversely proportionate to experience. 

This is why our meeting with the CAI was very important. 

This is why we are dedicating two years to this journey of preparation and learning about alpinism and about ourselves: because climbing the Mont Blanc doesn’t mean diligently following the person in front of us, but managing to understand if that person is heading the wrong way. 

Because it’s not a mountain hike, but a Change Management journey.

We manage the change. 

We fight the heuristic traps daily: we fight that “We’ve always done it this way, this is the best way.”

The Mont Blanc is an important choice, a great change, to be faced with awareness. 


The journey




Mont Fallère

Methodos - M4810 - Mont Fallère

It is the first peak over 3.000m of our project

Mont Fallère is found in the Grand Combin Alps in the Aosta Valley.

Found between the Gran San Bernardo Valley and the Valdigne, it’s a great introduction to the magical world of the 3000s. Mont Fallère, situated in the heart of the Aosta valley, proposes a 360° panorama of all the Aosta valley peaks. Its layout is not the be underestimated, but overall it doesn’t present great difficulties, even if we need to be really careful in the final part of the ridge.

We go up in two stages: the first day up to the Fallère Hut; the second day we arrive at the summit and then we go down to the valley.

Read the story :)




Pointe Lechaud

Our first alpinistic climb to a summit

Pointe Léchaud (3.128m) is located along the borderline between Italy (Valle d'Aosta) and France (Savoy).

It is located south of the Col de la Seigne (2.512m) between the Veny Valley and the Savoy Valley of the Glaciers.

We climb in two stages: on the first day we walk from La Visaille to the Elisabetta Soldini Hut (2.195m); on the second day up to the top and back to La Visaille.

From the hut we go up to the Col Chavannes (2.603m); from the hill we have to leave the marked path that begins to descend into the Chavannes valley, following a path on the right that crosses the very steep eastern slope of Mount Lechaud. The trail continues on the right, again not far from the crest of Mount Lechaud and crosses a small valley of stones or snow, reaching the wide basin where the Chavannes Glacier is located. Once we have put on crampons, we set foot on the glacier going diagonally to the left. From this point we gradually turn to the right pointing directly to the top, which can be reached by overcoming some easy rocky steps. What we see is a vast and spectacular panorama on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.




Vallée Blanche

Methodos - M4810 - Vallée Blanche

Crossing the Gigante glacier towards the Aiguille du Midi

Although it may seems like a "scenic walk", the Vallée Blanche should not be underestimated, as it is an itinerary that involves crossing the Gigante glacier. It is always necessary to be accompanied by an Alpine Guide who knows the itinerary very well and knows how to avoid the dangers.

We go up by cable car to Punta Helbronner (3.462m), we wear harnesses and crampons and we tie ourselves together.

The first section makes us lose altitude and then we start to climb towards the Aiguille du Midi. The last section includes the ascent of the snow-covered ridge of the Aiguille du Midi, reaching 3.842m.

The return is with the panoramic cable car which takes us back to Punta Helbronner.




Monte Rosa

Methodos - M4810 - Monte Rosa

2 full-immersion days of technical alpine skill training on Monte Rosa

The Monte Rosa is a mountain range that is found in the Pennine Alps, along the watershed line between Italy (on the border of the Aosta valley and Piedmont) and Switzerland. It gives name to the Monte Rosa Alps supergroup, which in turn is composed of various important groups and subgroups, east of the Cervino and south-east of the Mischabel range. It is the most extended range in the Alps, and second in height after the Mont Blanc. It is the highest mountain in Switzerland and the second in Italy, and has the highest average height, containing 9 of the 20 highest peaks of the chain.




Gran Paradiso

Methodos - M4810 - Gran Paradiso

The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory

The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory. A classic and fascinating climb: after a first part on ice, to be able to reach the peak marked by a statue of the Virgin Mary, you must pass some simple rocky crossings.




Monte Bianco

Methodos - M4810 - Monte Bianco

Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian) is a mountain situated in the North-occidental Alps, in the Graian Alp range, on the watershed line between the Aosta valley (val Veny and val Ferret in Italy), and Haute-Savoie (the Arve valley in France), in the territories of Courmayeur and Chamonix, which give name to the Mont Blanc Massif, belonging to the subsection of the Mont Blanc Alps.

It’s 4808,72m (the last official measure was taken September 13, 2017) make it the highest mountain in the Alps, in Italy, in France, and in general in Europe if we exclude the Caucuses. This is why it’s called the King of the Alps. It shared a spot on the list of the highest Seven Summits with Mount Elbrus in the Caucuses.

Primarily granite full of peaks and crests, cut by deep glacial valleys, it is internationally renowned for its climbing and, from a historical point of view, the birth of mountaineering coincides with its first ascent: August 8, 1786.