Hardly a thrill seeker, climber soars to summit

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What really drove Will Travis, president of Attik, close to the edge of the Earth started with a 2001 game of darts at the cozy Pelican Inn nestled between the Pacific Ocean and a Northern California redwood forest.

There, over a few Guinnesses, the 36-year-old Brit made a bet with one of his clients, explorer and consultant Jamie Clarke. If Mr. Clarke won the dart game, he could stay a week at Mr. Travis' Muir Beach home. But if Mr. Travis won, he would go on Mr. Clarke's next adventure in his quest to climb the highest peaks on each continent. Mr. Travis won, and by the end of 2001, Mr. Travis had joined Mr. Clarke on his ascent of Europe's highest peak, Mount Elbrus.

Summit conquered, more than three years would pass before Mr. Travis decided he needed a new "jolt." This time, it would come from climbing the Vinson Massif in Antarctica's Ellsworth Mountains where temperatures can reach minus 122 Fahrenheit and the 24-hour bright daylight threatens snow blindness and intense sunburn, as he put it, "everywhere."

In early 2005, Mr. Travis began a training regimen ranging from yoga for mental toughness to 15-minute dips in a bath with 10 buckets of ice at a Russian spa in New York's financial district to get used to cold temperatures. He also drank four liters of water a day, had acupuncture, and ate greens and "good proteins." The strenuous discipline was exacerbated by the day-to-day demands of opening Attik's New York studio (he opened the Attik San Francisco office in 1996).

Then, Mr. Travis accepted an invitation to speak at a Las Vegas event just a week before his expected departure date.

Despite Las Vegas' ad claims, not everything in Vegas stays there. Mr. Travis returned with a virulent flu that threatened to scuttle his journey.

As he was recovering from the flu, he was also engaged in last-minute work for America Online's Internet Messenger rebranding.

Not even packing was easy. To keep his load under 50 pounds, he came up with a different take on the concept of sharing a book-by tearing it in half. As mountain climbing goes, all went well until day 10. Then, the winds changed. Goggles iced. "Would I get off this mountain?" Mr. Travis, the father of two girls, realized he didn't want to die. "I am not a thrill seeker. I am an explorer."

He went, he said, in part because he wanted to be a different kind of leader, one his employees will realize is "somebody not just sitting behind the desk."

In the white world that is the Antarctic, Mr. Travis also appreciated the multiple ways of looking as the same thing. "Never judge something just by what you heard or have seen," he said. He learned to "let go of stigma," particularly related to people. "There is no hierarchy, no authority on your survival," he said. When the weather cleared, the expedition reached its destiny with exhilaration. At the summit, "the body feels light, light- headed," said Mr. Travis. The emotion is as intense as the birth of a child. Laughter and cries become one. "It was such a mind-blowing experience," he said. When the plane landed back in Chile, Mr. Travis settled at a bar with a pint of Guinness, "the best pint of Guinness I ever had."

Advertising Age is revamping its People & Players page by devoting space to the varied activities of marketer, media and agency people outside their office lives with the beginning of a new feature, Off Hours. Devoted to a worthy cause? Have a secret fishing hideaway? Rabid about participatory sports? Ad Age is looking for interesting Off Hours stories from marketer world executives. If you have a fascinating Off Hours activity, describe your passion in an email to Mike Ryan at mryan@crain.com.

Will Travis

President of Attik at the top of Vinson Massif.

The Seven Summits:

Big-name climbs like K2 and the Matterhorn have their proponents but mountain climbers also go for the view from the highest peaks on multiple continents.

1. Mount Everest

Asia (8,850 m)

2. Aconcagua

S. Amer. (6,959 m)

3. Mount McKinley (Denali)

N. Amer. (6,194 m)

4. Kilimanjaro

Africa (5,895 m)

5. Mount Elbrus

Europe (5,642 m)

6. Vinson Massif

Antarctica (4,897 m)

7. Mount Kosciuszko

Australia (2,228 m)

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