Cutting the Rope! Decision making under pressure

Simon Yates and Joe Simpson’s harrowing expedition gives us a glimpse of the impact of critical decision-making. Have you got what it takes to make the tough calls?

Have you got what it takes to make the tough calls?

Simon Yates, perhaps one of the world’s great mountaineers, has climbed from the Arctic to Antarctic, Alaska to Central Asia during an exhilarating high-altitude career that includes the first-time ascent of the Siula Grande, the scene of this story captured so eloquently in the book, Touching the Void, written by Joe Simpson.

We take a look into this world of mountaineers where split-second, high-pressure decisions are being made all the time, where the stakes are almost always life and death.

In 1985, in what was to be their first climb together, Simon Yates and Joe Simpson, respectively 22 and 25 years old at the time, set out to conquer the 6334 metres West face of Siula Grande, which had never been summited before. Their approach to climbing was to be a minimalist one – the major drawback of this approach being that if something goes wrong, there’s no chance of rescue… you’re on your own. There would be absolutely no margin for error. They set off in beautiful weather with the idea to reach the summit in one long push. It was 2 and a half days later that they reached the summit.

Then, in an instant, the situation changed. On the descent, Joe realised that he was falling. He felt bones split and shatter. He could see his knee was broken but couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was ruptured, twisted, crushed. Simon made the first impactful decision – to not leave his climbing partner and instead, with frost-bitten fingers, to carry out a heroic rescue in the middle of a bitterly cold blizzard. 

They were in a classic high-performance flow state: a high hard goal of getting down safely; incremental clear goals of 150 feet at a time; progress and small success upon small success. They were on their 10th abseil down the mountain when Joe felt himself sail over the edge of an overhanging cliff, and Simon had to make another vital decision. Hang on and get pulled over the cliff, or cut the rope?

In this case study, you will see how Simon Yates, when confronted by extreme situations, had to make one impactful decision after another – from planning a climb to rescue to survival. Join us as we engage in conversations that unlock the insights and lessons from this story – lessons that could benefit you and your teams’ ability to make the good decisions under extreme pressure.

Ignite team and leadership conversations

How might I lead to align teams, ensure proper planning for difficult unforeseen circumstances, and make decisions under extreme pressure?

Courageous effort

  • Would you do whatever it takes, despite pressure from others?


Extreme decision-making

  • Do you have the time to consider all the alternatives before making a decision under pressure?
  • Would you take the worst possible risk more than once?


Extreme decision-making

  • Being the ones to make the tough calls can leave us changed. Are you willing to make the tough calls? Are you willing to cut the rope?

Format and Approach

Engage your teams in highly participative, inspiring, soulful and practical lessons, delivered as a media-rich virtual experience – a facilitator-led conversation on Zoom, supported with moderated conversations in breakout rooms (hosted by our team of Pod Coaches), to ignite teams to think differently about performance.


This case study is available in a 90-minute or 180-minute online (Zoom) format.

How does it work?

  • Contact us to let us know that you want LRMG to share this case study with your team
  • We will work with you to design or customise key conversation and reflection questions
  • Participants will get a link to a pre-case study primer to complete prior to the presentation and conversation
  • Your team will receive our Survival Toolkit as a take-away to ignite further learning and reflection after the case study

“I suppose the trick is to anticipate all the possible consequences of what you set out to do so that, if things do go wrong, you are better able to stay in control.”

– Joe Simpson

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