How I Climbed a Mountain Using Exploratory Software Testing
Whew, what a trip it was! Above 9,000 ft and lifelong dreams being fulfilled with, of all things, a sprinkling of software testing thrown in there. I had the amazing opportunity to climb  Mt. Shuksan, a 9,127’ mountain in Washington State. Before the trip took place there was a fair amount of “you are going to do what?!?” and “hmmm, I don’t think so” thrown my way, usually followed up with the “please come back alive.” What do you know, I did make it back alive and by now the blisters have healed, the soreness is gone and the gear is cleaned/stowed--I’d say it’s about time for some reflection! 


My climbing adventure took place on the slopes of the beautiful Mount Shuksan. Shuksan was a great next stepping stone for my new mountaineering hobby. After turning around at 12,000’ on Mount Rainier a few years back, I needed a new challenge. While Shuksan does not quite have the extreme elevations of Everest at 29,029’ or Rainier at 14,409’ you are still getting above the tree line at 9,127’. In the end, it took 4 days to complete this trip including a day of ascending to base camp, one day of training, summit day and a final day for descending back to the trailhead.

Getting up to base camp was definitely the most challenging for me physically. Carrying a 50 pound pack up thousands of feet paired unusually warm September weather definitely made things interesting. We made it though were rewarded with spectacular views. The next day was dedicated to getting on the glacier around camp, get acquainted with the gear we hauled up, and learn any techniques to safely make a summit attempt the next morning. How to put on and walk in crampons, what to do when falling, and climbing as a team roped together were among some of the core skills that were covered. As I’d done some of this training on Rainier before, this day was a great refresher course. Next would be summit day where we would be putting those skills to the test. We would be starting early in the AM; we were looking at  a 10+ hr summit day to include our return back to camp.


Due to weather and accommodating other climbers, we got to sleep in to a comfortable 5 AM! When it’s early, cold and dark what is it one thinks about when climbing with nothing but your headlight guiding the rope in front of you? My goal was to have an extreme focus, right down to each and every step I was making. I was making a conscious effort to survey the ground before me, scouting a good foot placement, and placing my foot, adjusting as needed for the next step.That’s when it clicked. Was I just using Exploratory Software Testing techniques to climb a mountain? I think I was. There definitely was a Learn > Design > Execute component all within the same motion of a single foot placement. After a few hours on the glacier we came to the crux of the climb which is called the Summit Pyramid: a few hours of vertical rock ascension to the summit. I couldn’t help but snicker when I started climbing up each pitch. Here I was at 9,000 ft and I am test planning the next climbing move in my head. There is a good spot, let’s reach for it, nope, ok there is another one. I couldn’t believe it but there I was software testing my way up a mountain. I guess that is a side effect and/or testament to how that style of testing incorporates into everyday life.  


Section by section we made our way up the Summit Pyramid until that final rock, when you push your way onto the Summit. Standing up, I took a deep breath and gazed around. From that vantage point we could see Canada in the North, Mt Baker to the west and remote parts of the North Cascade Mountain Range, an area that can normally only be seen by air traffic. Because of the great weather, we were able to spend some time on the summit and savor every moment. Unfortunately, what goes up must go down. Next we begin what sometimes is thought of as the more dangerous part to climbing, the descent. Being tired and losing the focus after summiting can make for a very dangerous climb down. Just as much focus is needed to descend safely as going up. By late afternoon, we made our victorious return back to base camp for some well deserved rest and revelation in the moment that is a successful summit attempt. Months of training finally reaching its pinnacle--quite literally in this case. I found it difficult to not to smile that evening. 


After a sound sleep and semi-lazy morning we broke down camp and began to make the long trek back down the mountain. One would think that the descent with a lighter pack would be relatively easy. Not the case!! It ends up being a lot of pounding on the knees. Plus your toes are continuously being smashed into the front of your boots. A fews hours of that and going back up the mountain doesn’t seem so bad. The relief of a successful summit and the anticipation of getting back to a hot shower, food and beer doesn’t help speed things up either.


In the end, I am very thankful that the BizStream culture is one that not only allows, but encourages employees to pursue their dreams in both their professional and personal lives.


Oh...and yeah the views each night were not too bad either.

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Photo of the author, Josh Trench

About the author

Josh hails from the early days of BizStream. Josh was brought back to drive developers crazy with endless screen captures and loads of constructive criticism. When he's not finding software bugs, you will most likely find him running around, making sure our building is in prime condition. Outside of work, Josh can be found, exploring the Grand Rapids scene with his wife, Rori. He also enjoys backpacking, restoring estate pipes, practicing surfing, and finessing his mountaineering skills.

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