Pascal – Executive Management Trainee
Since joining HSBC, there have been plenty of moments where I’ve asked myself: “how on earth did I get into this situation?”. One of those was during the final ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro with some fellow graduates, where people were dropping off with temporary blindness, swollen brains, and hallucinating under the influence of altitude sickness (boulders turning into dancing pigs?)
The Stairway to Hell charity challenge – where people climb up 38 floors (950 steps!) of our HQ as fast as they can – was another one of those absurd moments, but for all the right reasons. Impeccably organised by Hui, an Executive Management Trainee and GCC member, and coordinated by other GCC members, 120 sweaty entrants clad in jogging gear descended upon the tower and its slightly confused and concerned security guards for a 5th instalment of the challenge.
Sitting next to the former female record holder (8 minutes and 12 seconds), and working with a former Executive Trainee who climbed the stairs last year in a Tweety Pie costume, there was plenty of hype leading up to the event. I wanted to push myself to set a fast time; I used to be able to scramble up 4 flights of stairs in 12 seconds when I was 10 years old (yes I timed myself), so that must mean I was destined to be a Stairway to Hell record breaker… While sober colleagues warned me that some people don’t even make it to the top, I blissfully ignored them. Success would be mine.
After convincing the 8CS security guards and reception that I’m not a hoodie in a tracksuit but in fact a maniac intent on climbing stairs, I was in. I dumped my coat in the gym changing rooms and I was soon in the basement, through the sombre concrete and metal guts of the building, to where the challenge began…
Sandeep, another GCC member, was the friendly face at the foot of the stairs, and the Holder of the Stopwatch. Offering water, banter, a numbered sheet so they know which entrant you are (so that they can identify you…), and enthusiasm, this was a great start to the climb to calm the nerves. What’s the worst that could happen?
It all started right as rain, two steps at a time, knees high, Weetabix for breakfast, stiff upper lip, it’ll all be over before Christmas. And so I chirpily sprung forth. 4 flights in (ground floor! progress!), I realised I would have to run it one step at a time. 20 flights in, as my lungs began to burn, I realised I’d have to start walking.
Climbing the stairs of 8CS is actually quite a solitary and monotonous experience. Every floor looks the same, and there are few landmarks or people to punctuate the journey. Save for the level numbers on the walls, there were no other clues to say that this wasn’t a bad dream, or that I’d somehow entered the Matrix and was stuck in a repeating computer programme (or something).
I was expecting to see a friend’s smug gloating face on Level 25 (“it’s your own fault mate! keep going!”) but he was slacking helping at reception. As walking up the stairs gradually turned into a desperate crawl clinging to the banister, I knew it wasn’t going well when an old man casually transferring floors and clutching a latté was going faster than me. The Level 31 stairway was populated by a crazy German colleague with a bobbly hat, who was the only spectator for this sick sport. With words reminiscent of the final push to the top of Kilimanjaro (“just a few more steps! you’re nearly there!”) I was given the energy to sprint up two more steps and then decide I was actually happy walking, thanks.
The current Chair of the GCC, Nik, was there to greet the entrants at the end. More climbers arrived one by one at their destination. A bunch of us collected in a puddle of sweat, sprawled on the stairs of Level 34, as people in suits going about their normal days had to step over our wheezing bodies to get where they were going.
It ended with me and other colleagues in our sweaty gym gear wandering around the shirts, ties and lattés of Level 34, dizzy, exhausted, confused, and little bit lost - we ended up accidentally getting a lift *upwards* after that, with people in the lift pointing at us going "THEY'RE CHEATING! THEY'RE CHEATING!".
It is important for each of us to view HSBC’s widespread community involvement as an opportunity for engagement, personal development, and to genuinely help charity - not as a platform for self-promotion. As a fellow graduate has been known to say; be a “yes” person. You never know what experiences you might have. I may not have broken any records, but after Kilimanjaro and Stairway to Hell, I think I’ve done enough climbing of things. Maybe now it’s time for one of those skydives or bungee jumps…