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Mountain Climber Retrospective

Scale new heights with your team

mountain climber retrospective

What is a Mountain Climber retrospective?

This retrospective requires a bit of imagination, as it asks team members to imagine themselves at a great height looking down on the sprint or project from a new perspective.

After all, the best part of a hike is reaching the top and getting to look back down at the distance you traversed. No matter the difficulty of the journey, standing at the peak invokes pride—you made it to the top!

Encourage your team to harness that pride sense of accomplishment to reflect on how they got there.  

The Mountain Climber retrospective was originally created by Parabol.

What are the Mountain Climber retrospective prompts?

Here’s how the various aspects break down into a retro template:

Ropes 🪢

Yeah, this is a rope kind of hike. Things in this category assisted your team, and they can be anything from a lucky break in the market affecting your business, or a new workflow you adopted. 

Example: That new workflow helped us release much more quickly!

Boulders 🪨

This category can include the unforeseen obstacles that fell down into your path, and/or the ones that stood in your way and that you had to navigate around. 

Example: The mid-sprint hotfix from support really slowed me down


Technically you can hike in any weather, but a storm is obviously going to be harder to hike in than a beautiful sunny day. This category represents both your team’s mood and feelings about the project, as well as any other things outside of your control.

Example: The end goal of the video project felt foggy to me – I needed more clarity

First Aid

This is the forward-looking category. For the next hike, what are the things you’d take with you to make it a walk in the park? 

Example: Next time I’d like to craft more detailed acceptance criteria to help me know when to move to the next task

When should you do a Mountain Climber retro?

Even a light hike can be strenuous, but that strain is often what inspires reflection. That’s why this is a good retro to do after big projects.

Here are some other scenarios where this retro template might be useful:

For Long Hikes

Try running a Mountain Climber retro after a particularly tricky sprint or project ends. Maybe you had a project that spanned multiple sprints, or you shipped a product that your team spent months preparing for. Looking back down the path to spot the boulders (things that blocked your team) could remind your team of their strengths in adversity. Meanwhile, looking back at the ropes (things that helped your team succeed) could help remind them of the tools they already have that help them succeed. 

At project or sprint milestones

You could also treat the Mountain Climber retro like a continuous hike, with multiple peaks that need scaling. You could run this retro multiple times in a short period to continually recalibrate. Imagine a base camp at each peak, where you can stop, rest, reflect and resupply. This is where the first aid category really comes into play, as you reassess what your team needs to start the next hike.

How to run a Mountain Climber retrospective with Parabol

The easiest way to run a Mountain Climber retrospective is with Parabol’s pre-built template!

Select the Mountain Climber template in Parabol

Press the Add Meeting button in Parabol to get started and select your team. Then select Retro Meeting with the arrows, then use the dropdown to select the Mountain Climber retro template. 

The mountain climber retrospective template in Parabol

Start your retro with an icebreaker

The icebreaker box is checked on by default. You don’t have to do one, but we recommend it. They offer a chance to break the ice and get everyone in a chatty mood that encourages active participation. 

When you’ve made your choices, hit that Start Meeting to kick things off!

If you’re doing an icebreaker, you’ll have a random question to answer. You can refresh it if you want another option, or create your own. Maybe something about the best trails your team has hiked?

Icebreakers in Parabol

Reflect, group, and discuss based on the Mountain Climber retrospective prompts

After the icebreaker you’ll move on to the reflect stage. This is where you get into the principles of the Mountain Climber retro discussed above. 

Remember, Parabol is remote-friendly, enabling you to work asynchronously with your team. They can all leave comments together, or do it at a time that works for them. Also, reflections are anonymous, and no one can see them until you’re done working on them.

After the reflect phase, you’ll vote on issues to discuss, talk about the most voted on items, and then get a summary of the retro when you’re done. Make sure to review our guide for tips on running a retrospective smoothly

Mountain Climber retrospective in progress

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