PRESS RELEASE: Researchers go to Mount Everest to study decision-making


Researchers go to Mount Everest to study decision-making

On March 25th, researchers from Extreme Environments – Everyday Decisions (Triple ED), a project based at the Umeå School of Business and Economics in Sweden, will depart from Stanford University on an American Alpine Club endorsed research expedition into the Himalayas to track the mountaineers attempting to summit the highest mountains in the world: Mount Everest (29,029 ft). TripleED will study how clients, guides, organizers, and local staff work together to ascend to the summit as safely as possible. The purpose is to document the decisions that determine the paths of these expeditions.

TripleED project leader Markus Hällgren, PhD., is an Associate Professor at the Umeå School of Business and Economics in Sweden, and a visiting researcher in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. “Over the past two decades, climbing the world’s highest mountain has become more and more commercialized. Each season you can read in the media how climbers get killed or left to their fate. Unlike media attention, and most of the research, we will not focus on the accidents, but on how everyday life is organized and how decisions are made,” says Dr. Hällgren.

The research team will be trekking through Nepal to the South Base Camp of Mount Everest, where Hällgren and Andrew Peterman, (Stanford University), and Virpi Turkulainen (Aalto University in Finland) will observe the initial phase of operations of climbing expeditions in April. Researchers Jacob Gomez and Susannah Poland (both graduates of Stanford University) will remain at base camp until early June to continue conducting participant observation and ethnographic interviews with expedition team members. Hari Mix, (Stanford University) doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Earth System Science, will collect similar data from the upper parts of Mount Everest and its neighbor, Lhotse.

The data from this unprecedented research will be used by TripleED to develop theories about how teamwork, decision-making and leadership in temporary organizations function under dangerous and volatile conditions. “Hazardous environments are ideal to get an understanding of how groups and individuals make decisions and organize themselves. Making the wrong decision during an expedition may eventually lead to someone’s injury or even death,” says Markus Hällgren.“In a dangerous environment, decisions and options must therefore be considered carefully. In this consideration process, everyday worries are reduced and behaviors reinforced. Based on this, we can for example understand behavior concerning time and goals in common projects in a different, clearer way.”

To learn more about this project or follow its progress, please visit or email Markus Hällgren at .

Press contact: Markus Hällgren, 650-451-8602 (cell),

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