It started as a seemingly impossible challenge that only became more daunting along the way. Four coworkers from CIB, hanging from one of the most mythical mountains for climbers in Spain, exhausted and nearly frozen. Three of them had never climbed before. The easiest way out was to turn around, but they didn’t quit.
The Naranjo de Bulnes, a peak in the central mountain range of Picos de Europa, is one of the most famous peaks for mountain climbers in Spain. At first glance, this didn’t seem like the best choice for Horacio, Juan, Juan Manuel, and Ricardo—coworkers in CIB BBVA—since only Horacio had any climbing experience.
"It was an exciting challenge,” Horacio said. “It was a team challenge, and we were ready to take it on. We were looking for something that pushed the limits of what could be done by someone who had never rock climbed before. We wanted to rappel, not a hike in the mountains. We wanted to live the experience of hanging on the face of a mountain."
It was an exciting challenge: something that pushed the limits of what could be done by someone who had never rock climbed before"
The first obstacle came from their desire to make the climb even more challenging. The most common route is a four-hour walk to the base camp to get used to the equipment and conditions before climbing the next day. However, they preferred to attack the mountain straight from the hostel where they were staying, which meant adding an additional eight hours of physical effort to the climb.
The hazards did not end there. "We had chosen the main route for the climb.” “But when we reached a lateral path, we found that a lot of water was falling because it had not snowed the week before, which is not normal in Picos de Europa at that time of year.”
That most dangerous moment came when they were hanging on the face of the mountain, separated into two different rope teams—two men in each group, plus a guide—and they didn’t know what lay ahead. However, "at no time did anyone consider turning around. Nobody looked around to see if anyone else had doubts." Despite knowing that another group that went before them had turned around, they decided to forge ahead, although they would have to take a much more complicated route to the summit.
The result was a 16-hour experience, from 7 in the morning to 11 at night, which covered the 15-mile journey to the summit at 9,842 feet above sea level. All in just one day. Despite the exhaustion and fear they felt at certain moments, they came away exhilarated: "As soon as we got back to the car, we started to think about what our next challenge would be".
"As soon as we got back to the car, we started to think about what our next challenge would be"
They came up with the idea when the BBVA Values were made public in June, explains Ricardo. "We said we had to do something that showed that the challenge of changing the bank was possible. We had to do something daunting that could be achieved by working as a team and thinking big.”
They wanted to make the Values tangible, "to set an example of taking risks in the decisions we make, to go down new paths and explore things we are not familiar with together.”
It was a situation that is scary as an individual, but looks doable with the support of your team"
Doing it together was important, because if there is a word that they repeat constantly, it’s team. "When you’re up there, you can’t do anything if you don’t trust your team. It was a situation that is scary as an individual, but looks doable with the support of your team."
They say that the experience has totally changed the way they work and relate to other people. "Teams go through cycles, and so do people. We experienced that here for a few hours. Being aware of what each person is going through, to understand them better, is a great learning experience.”