Natalie Berryman

Photo: Engagement photo with now-husband Samuel Dye

The SPIRIT of adventure

by Emma Ahmed

What started out as a casual coffee conversation among friends in Colorado turned into a group quest to hike to Mount Everest’s south base camp in Nepal.

Natalie Berryman, a production engineer in the company’s Niobrara asset, has a passion for adventure. Born and raised in Colorado, she received a degree in environmental and chemical engineering from University of Colorado Boulder. She started her career at ConocoPhillips as an intern and joined the team full time nearly six years ago.

Growing up around the Rocky Mountains, Natalie is an avid hiker; one of her favorite expeditions was a three-day backpacking trip across Iceland. But she was eager for her next adventure, so she and a couple of friends started discussing a potential trip to Nepal. What started as a pipe dream turned into a once-in-a-lifetime, 15-day adventure for 10 friends.

One mountain, two peaks: Kangtega, known as the Snow Saddle, is a major Himalayan peak in Nepal, with a summit of 22,251 feet. The nearest town is Dingboche, located at 14,468 feet.

The group covered the gamut of ConocoPhillips SPIRIT Values — Safety, People, Integrity, Responsibility, Innovation and Teamwork — as they underwent their adventure.

Safety: Hiking to the base camp at 17,500 feet over 15 days required a lot of prior planning to ensure they had all the necessary supplies and equipment to safely complete their journey.

People: The team stayed in local tea houses (bed-and-breakfasts) along their route, immersing themselves in the Nepalese culture and making friends with the locals.

Integrity: Everyone agreed they would start together and finish together. Not only did they stick to their plan, but they were all still friends at the end of the trip!

Responsibility: Since some members of the team had less hiking experience than others, they all took responsibility for one another to ensure everyone was feeling OK and keeping up.

Innovation: Over the 15-day hike, the team used rope and other materials on hand to fix broken backpack straps and found creative ways to dry their rain jackets in the tea houses overnight, despite the fact the houses had no heating and typically had temperatures below freezing.

Teamwork: Instead of hiring a Sherpa – a local guide – the group opted to forge their own path. With a range of hiking experience among the 10 friends, they leaned on each other for support and encouragement on a trail that at times could be very challenging.

Not only did she and her friends enjoy the adventure, but Natalie and her fiancé took their engagement photos at Everest Base Camp. Natalie is in the process of relocating from Colorado to Alaska to support the company’s Kuparuk operations. However, she is already looking for her next hiking adventure, and with the move to Alaska, both Denali and Mount Rainier are in her sights.

Everest base camp hiking group