Episode 10: Making Adventure More Sustainable – Part 1 with Greg Hill
Backcountry ski racer, athlete, and ski guide Greg Hill talks about what it takes to make adventure more sustainable for us. In this episode Greg Shares the secrets to how he was able to keep himself motivated so that he could climb 2 million vertical feet in a single year while backcountry skiing, and much more…
Being Sustainable Includes: Maintaining our mental, emotional, and physical well being. It also includes managing our time wisely and keeping our relationships healthy.
Protecting Relationships: To maintain relationships, everyone should adopt an Adventurer’s Pact. This is where everyone accepts that things can go wrong – even if they have someone guiding them.
Setting Attainable Goals: If our goals are not attainable, we will likely just give up.
We get what we measure: Setting goals and tracking our progress is a good way to keep us motivated.
Look back to keep you moving forward: It is helpful to look back at how far we have come and consider what we achieved instead of always looking forward at the obstacles that lay ahead of us.
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Photo credits: Angela Percival / Arcteryx
[00:00:00] Greg Hill: For sure. There was lots of days. I remember March was shitty. I remember not wanting to go out cause there was a stormy day and just going out and doing laps and kind of rain and yeah, I mean, I remember calling my buddy Joey and that day he’s like, Greg, you know, like kind of signed up for this and keep going.
And, and for sure there was some low points, but yeah. And, but I, I wanted.
[00:00:28] Chris Kaipio: This is Delivering Adventure. Welcome to the podcast that explores what it really takes to share adventure like a pro with your friends, your family, and as a profession. My name is Chris Kaipio, and I’m coming to you from Whistler, British Columbia.
[00:00:49] Jordy Shepherd: And I’m Jordy Shepard, recording from Canmore, Alberta. After a lifetime of working extensively in different parts of the adventure guiding industry, Chris and I have teamed up to launch this podcast.
In each episode, you’ll hear top adventure guides, managers, marketers, and athletes share their best stories, advice, and trade secrets. The goal of this podcast is to share how you can take yourself and others farther from the mountains to the office and beyond.
[00:01:17] Chris Kaipio: In this episode, we talk with Greg Hill about how we can make adventure more sustainable mentally, physically, and environmentally.
Greg is an athlete, guide and filmmaker that specializes in backcountry ski touring. Greg’s long list of accomplishments include climbing and descending over 2 million vertical feet on skis in a single year. That was in 2010. He’s also won numerous random, a ski races, sets ski touring time and vertical feet climbed records, and he is also planted over 1 million trees.
Greg Hill is a certified ACMG ski guide. Jordy, I believe you know Greg pretty well.
[00:01:56] Jordy Shepherd: Is that right? Yeah, Chris, uh, Greg and I, uh, did a, a number of training courses together in the past when he and I were going through our ski guide training. Uh, exams and I also lived in Rebel Stoke for a number of years where Greg still resides.
So yeah, we’ve, uh, we’ve known each other for quite a few years. Okay.
[00:02:15] Chris Kaipio: That’s awesome. Well, I can’t wait to hear what Greg has to say. Let’s bring him into the DA studio now. Just a quick note for our listeners. This is the first of two parts as it turned out that Greg had a lot to say.
[00:02:28] Jordy Shepherd: So today we’ve got Greg Hill on the show.
Thanks for coming on the show.
[00:02:33] Greg Hill: No problem Jordy. It’s exciting to help out and have a good chat. So, where are you located right now? I’m sitting in my basement in Rebel Stoke, British Columbia. Beautiful. Sunny day. And I’m just midway through some, uh, house renovations. It’s called Reno Stoke to those that have lived here.
I’m sure you remember that.
[00:02:50] Jordy Shepherd: Yep. I’ve been there. So tell us something, uh, about yourself that most people don’t know. You’re, you’re fairly well known, uh, through everything you’ve done, but uh, yeah. Is there anything, uh, you can throw it as a tidbit. That’s the, the Greg that we don’t know well.
[00:03:06] Greg Hill: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people wonder why there’s always the why, and I often wonder why.
Um, but I think one of the reasons I started being more adventurous is that I was sort of the sixth child with some stepbrothers in there, and the youngest so. Um, to be noticed in a family that size, you kind of had to start doing crazy things like what have you, climbing trees or, you know, just, just being a little bit wilder than the rest, so you could be noticed.
And I think that’s sort of what got me onto this adventurous life is just, just being young and wanting to Yeah, just be noticed by your older brothers and sisters. So, you know, who’s the guy climbing that cliff? Oh, it’s Greg. Oh, they actually know who I am and that sort of thing. So, um, yeah, I think it probably all started just that.
Thing that we’re all looking for is acceptance. And as a young kid, I wanted my brothers and sisters to a notice me, because then they’d maybe accept me. So that’s why I started doing wild things.
[00:03:59] Jordy Shepherd: How, how did you come to, uh, to like what you’re doing and, uh, and get into this industry and, uh, and be doing, doing what you’re doing?
Where was your base?
[00:04:10] Greg Hill: Yeah, I mean, I mentioned my family. I grew up in southern Quebec, right near the Vermont border in a town called. and we lived in the country. I mean, our nearest neighbor was a kilometer away. You know, we lived on either my, my mom’s was 80 acres, or my dad’s was like 300 acres. So, I just had this forest in my backyard at all times to just go and play.
And especially in those days when one, I wasn’t allowed to watch tv. Uh, we didn’t have, well we had a video game thing, but we were only allowed maybe a half an hour. I can’t even remember what the rules were, but there was a lot of time spent out there just running around the bush jungle running or what have.
Um, I think that’s really where I got it. We did go work on family camping trips and stuff and then skiing was a big deal for our family. We skied every year. Um, I remember in grade three as I skied 60 days that year and I was super excited because I got 60 days to skiing. But, um, I think one of the reasons I really picked a skiing particularly is that I would often skip school and go skiing with my.
And so that was just something we did. If it was 20 centimeters, we’d go and ski. And I think for me in a little bit is that it always feels like I’m skipping school. I’m just, I, you know, I’m not taking life too seriously. I’m just enjoying it. And I think that’s what makes skiing special, although it’s very serious in the mountains and what have you, but there’s this small percentage of me that always feels like I’m just skipping school and having a good time.
[00:05:35] Jordy Shepherd: It’s the getting away from it all.
[00:05:37] Greg Hill: Yeah, exactly. But no, I mean, for me, I adventure like we did, We can’t, we canoed, we did all sorts of stuff. I mean, we canoed on the pond in front of my house too, but, but skiing became special that way and for me, the true, my true mountain career kind of began with rock climbing.
You know, I did a lot of peace skiing. But um, around 15 I started rock climbing at a gym out of my school or a wall. And uh, that was really kind of, Gateway That got me really into mountains and adventure because rock climbing. I just, I loved it. I love the challenges. I loved it that it seemed like there was, it was endless.
No matter how good you got, there was always more to progress. And I think that that really captivated me was like, this is endless. I’m going to, Sure, I’m climbing five 10 now and this five eleven’s hard, but I know at some point I’ll get that. And then it just keeps going and, and yeah, just that kind of challenge slash reward was, is very obvious in climbing and failure and all that.
So I think. Climbing was definitely the gateway. Um, and it’s what kind of, definitely what got me passionate in the Mount Mountains. You know, I traveled after high school, I traveled around the states for six months climbing. Um, then I tra I was in Australia climbing and then I tried to go to university, but all I was doing was climbing.
So really it was climbing that got me out, because eventually I was like, okay, I’m done with biology. I’m going to go and live in Canmore and Ice climb next. and learned to climb mountains because mountains have ice, so I should go to Canmore. So it kind of basically got started from there and kept going. We do have icy mountains
[00:07:09] Jordy Shepherd: here in
[00:07:10] Greg Hill: Canmore.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I climbed for from 16 or whatever it was, 15 till 24 ish and then I dislocated my shoulder and um, I was just young and climbing way too steep and climbing too hard without warming. As we do when we’re young. And, and it was quite a moment because all of a sudden it was tough to trust my body, to believe in my, my skill because I couldn’t trust that my shoulder would stay in and, and I’d just started ski touring the year before at Sunshine and around, around bff and then I was like, Oh, maybe I could switch that because I could see that it had that same sort of challenge and then it had these great rewards.
And it was, it was quite a moment because I lost a total passion of mine, although I still climb a bunch now, but I, I lost it for quite a few years cause my shoulder. But I was able to, to direct it into this new passion that, that really was quite fortunate because, um, I seemed to have a lot of energy. It, it fit quite well for me and it probably kept me off from free soloing and killing myself as a 24 year old.
So that’s true.
[00:08:11] Jordy Shepherd: I recall a number of years ago, uh, you and I doing some guide training together when, when, uh, we’re getting into the program with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Uh, but, uh, tell us, uh, tell our listeners here, what, uh, made you want to become a guide. Where did that start?
[00:08:29] Greg Hill: Well, I, we took a, my stepdad turned 50 and he wanted to go hail skiing at West, and then he, he.
What heli skiing was all about. And he realized that he probably liked backcountry skiing better. So we ended up, he said, If you could save up half the money for this trip, we’ll go to sell Kirk Mountain experience and spend a week ski tour. Um, and, and I, this is when I was at university and I saved up the money and we went and there was this incredible week of wild skiing up at South Kirk Mountain experience.
And, and I do remember looking at Rudy and totally blown away by the confidence he had guiding people in the mountains and he had. Newbies, we were all from Quebec and here we were in these wild mountains and, and he was taking us around safely. And, and I got a journal entry that I wrote about it that just was just kind of blown away by Yeah.
Everything he was doing and just his comfort and, and, um, at the time I remember thinking, there’s no way I’m ever going to have the skills, the knowledge, or the comfort to do that. And so it wasn’t on my radar at. . And then when I, when I was talking about, you know, starting to really get into ski tour and after my shoulder dislocated, I started realizing in Whistler I was, that’s the year I was staying in Whistler.
I was going out solo and skiing all sorts of things. And I, I realized that I had a lot of energy and a lot of drive, but I also realized that I was like, I knew nothing. So the first thing I was trying to figure out how to learn something and, you know, I took my avalanche level one professional course.
So that was a week. But I, it felt, I dunno, it was very structured. It felt very much for. Becoming a ski patrol and I wanted to learn more about moving in the mountains because I figured that’s what, that’s what I needed to learn. And um, I ended up looking up the Canadian Ski Guide CSGA and God, I, I took their first level one course just as an intro to learn more because I just needed to keep myself and my friends safe.
So I took that course and then I also spent a bunch of time, um, at Rudy’s, first at Elkert Mountain Experience for another, like 20 days of just tail guiding up there, trying to learn from him. I basically started taking these guides courses to learn Mountain Sense and, and then that slowly started, you know, I was always taking people out, always guiding people, um, just because I’m a bit of a domineering personality at times.
So I was definitely guiding people and my mom would come out for two weeks every year and I, I’d guide them and eventually I started realizing that I was finally getting to a point where I had enough comfort to. Guiding people and kind of gaining that perspective of, wow, I’m kind of, you know, I’m comfortable enough to take these people out here and, and start enjoying the mountains with them.
And, and it, it was a slow process for me because I was starting to really do those ski mountaineering races and I was doing a bunch of other things, but I also realized that I really was enjoying the guiding. So I, it was like a very slow process. I don’t think the ACMG would let me take as long as I did.
Um, but yeah, I really, right off the bat, my first interest in the guiding was just to learn. And I did the Canadian Ski Guide course and then I, a couple years later, I did the, uh, or I tried the assistant, um, ski guide with the ACMG and I failed that. But it was really, it was all just a learning curve and just trying to develop my own mountain sense along.
[00:11:42] Jordy Shepherd: How did you get into guiding? How did I get into guiding? I was, uh, reverse. Again, I was more, I was born more into the mountain parks side of things as my grandfather being a park warden, and so I, I always knew it was an option and, and he encouraged my, my father and, and his brothers, my uncles to ski.
Actually at one point, um, they were living in Lake Louise, my grandfather’s a park warden there, and he gave them the opportunity to, to choose if they wanted to play hockey or ski, because those are the two Canadian sports. And, uh, in being in a place that has perpetual winter essentially. And, uh, they were quite surprised because they, they never got a choice usually.
And, uh, yeah, then he said, Well, if you, if you ski, I’ll pay for. If you play hockey, it’s on your own dime. So they all skied. So my father became a, yeah, a ski racer and uh, and actually represented Canada in the gr Noble Olympics in 68. And, Where’s Jean-Claude Keeley cleaned up anyways, uh, but he was can at Canada’s top downhiller at one point there.
And so I kind of grew up in, in the park system, national park system. My father worked for, for national parks in Ja, in Jasper. And so I became a park warden, uh, knowing that it was, uh, an option. So firefighting into being a ranger and then a park warden. And then, uh, I told myself when I became a park warden that within a couple years I was going to be moving towards the rescue specialist side of.
Which meant that you had to become a guide. So, um mm-hmm. . Yeah. So I moved into the guide courses from there.
Yeah, good question. Hadn’t relive that in a little while. So, as a backcountry skier, you obviously have done a lot of that. Uh, we do have some listeners that probably aren’t as familiar with backcountry skiing. So just, you know, from the, from your perspective and, and somewhat from the lay person perspective, describe what that is, What, what that entails.
You know, everything from the gear to the planning, to the safety, to the, Yeah. Talk us through a a day of ski touring.
[00:13:48] Greg Hill: Yeah. I mean, back country skiing is by far the easiest way to travel around the mountains because one, you kind of cross country ski your way up, so you’re able to kind of wind your way up the mountains.
And then once you’re at the top of whatever objective you’re going for, be it a mellow slope or a mountaintop or whatever, the second you want to head back to your car. You get to slide down, which is phenomenal because most of my mountain stuff started off with the skiing and I love the descent. And then I started doing summer stuff and then you get to the top of something and you look down and you realize you’ve got hours of hiking down.
Whereas in the winter you get to slide down. But um, but yeah, back into your skiing. Essentially that’s what it is, is you’ve got this incredible equipment that’s evolved quite a bit during my time, since 95 backcountry. Um, but basically the gear is like cross country gear. You put this skin on the bottom of your ski that it’s like, it sticks on there.
And, and it’s basically like hair. If you rub your hair one way, it slides. If you rub it the other way, it grips and you, so you put these pelts underneath your skis and they kind of allow you to kind of go on a mellow, mellow angle and, and, and cross country ski your way up and around the mountains. And then when you get to the top, the gear’s amazing as it all converts.
You pull off that pel, you fold it up, you put it in your. And you switch your bins around and your boots also go from a walking boot into a ski boot. They convert just through a couple clips and what have you. So then you’ve gone up in this cross country gear. You get to the top, you do all these conversions, and all of a sudden you’re locked into a downhill setup and it’s this phenomenal conversion because once you’re in your downhill setup, you just can ski fast and have fun and, and it’s really gotten to the point where the gear is, it’s walking gear for the up and then converts to ski gear.
And it’s, it’s really quite phenomenal. Um, there’s a lot of layers to back country skiing. because you’re walking on snow. So right off that kind of introduces all the snow hazards that come with winter, be it temperatures, you know, freezing cold or winds and, but it also brings into avalanche hazards or the whole time you have to be, you know, paying attention to the avalanche hazard.
You have to have spent days or where weeks just reading up on it, seeing, know what Avalanche Canada’s saying, and just really keeping your finger on the pulse so that when you’re out there, you understand what the snow layers are. and that out kind of allows you to figure out your way up the safer way up the mountains.
And it is just, for me, it’s this, it’s a very complex sport because you’ve got this physical side, which is got, you’ve got to get up the mountain, but then you’ve got a mental side, which is try to figure out how to do it safely because those hazards I was just mentioning and cliffs and just group dynamics as you’ve got this all, you’ve got this other layer.
And then there’s also the mountains are incredible in the winter with the way the sun is on them and the snow and the wind, and it’s like, it’s a very kind of at peace place for me, although it’s wild at times. I just really love being at kind of the mercy of whatever mother nature’s going to throw at you.
So there’s just, there’s just lots of different layers to it. To me that makes it this incredible sport that I dedicated my life to, to getting good at. And then just spending my time out there. I mean, then yeah, then there’s more gear. There’s all your avalanche gear, there’s all your, your first aid gear.
It’s, it’s very multilayered. I don’t know if that’s going to help anybody that hasn’t backed your skied, but just know that it’s this, it’s, it’s a very challenging sport because you’ve got to hike up the mountain, but it’s also very rewarding in many ways. And, and when you finally point your tips down and you get to enjoy an untracked slope, it’ll, it’ll all make.
um, because from the exterior it doesn’t make sense at all. You’ll spend 90% of your day hiking up for probably 10% of your day going down and, and from the outside the math doesn’t make any sense. But once you do it a few times, you’ll recognize that it’s kind of, kind of pretty amazing.
[00:17:30] Jordy Shepherd: And if people were to go with a guide, as long as they have a, a basis for, you know, being a, a blue to maybe black diamond skier at the ski, Uh, they, they can actually make a go of it, right?
And actually, because the, they’re capable of doing the walking part, they just don’t really understand the, you know, how the equipment works or the, uh, the safety aspects of it. But if you go with a guide that kind of gets taken care for you and you, you get to focus on just your own physical challenge at that point, getting up the mountain.
[00:18:00] Greg Hill: Yeah. And, and I mean, the benefits of the guide is that they can help you with their technique and really make it the easy. Easiest it can be, although it’s still going to be hard, we can make it much more smooth and and easy. Um, this past winter, an old friend from 20 odd years ago emailed me and was like, Oh, I’d love to come out and try backcountry skiing.
He’d never backcountry skied before. And it turned out he’d never really downhill skied much before . But quickly, we spent four days and within four days, somebody that was a total new. We got some incredible skiing. We summited Young’s Peak and like the, the training that a guy goes through really can just help empower these people to go to places that they really like.
He had never expected, Eric had never expected to get up there. And, and yeah, it was just, it was pretty amazing. Um, the guiding thing’s interesting, I think because from a guide’s perspective, it’s tough to really understand the benefits of a guide. . But about eight years ago, we went to go caving in Nakimu Caves, which of the caves in, in Roger’s Pass here.
And we found, we got Eric Defo, who’s like the most experienced caver there, and we got him to guide us. And for me, that was a really neat moment for me because it, it gave me that perspective of what a guide does for his clients. And I literally like, this is a crazy cave experience, you know, where you’re going through these 12 inches and squeezing yourself and rolling over and crawling and, and, and I would’ve been terrified on my own.
But because we had Eric there, I was able to basically take all my worries and, and nerves for the day, Pat and just throw them away because I fully trusted his experience. Cause I knew he was the most experienced person we could find. And by. By one for having him there. It allowed the rest of us to just have a really easy, great time, non-stressful because we knew he knew what he was doing.
We let him make all the decisions, and we were able to really enjoy it more. Instead of, say if we’d taken Erica or the picture and there was the four of us friends, there would’ve been this whole like decision making process, all these challenges that we wouldn’t have really been able to overcome because none of us had.
And we would’ve not known what decision was right or what have you. But by bringing along this ex most experienced person, it was just this great moment for me where I was like, here, take it all. And I realized right then. Then I was like, well, that’s what I guess I do for clients in the winter is they, they’re able to just have the best day possible and to let all the decisions, everything be made, and they can just kind of embrace the moment much more than they could if they were trying to do it on.
Although eventually you do want to empower them to be able to do it on their own, but there’s this kind of, this level, there’s this area where you can, as a guide, you can just really help
[00:20:52] Jordy Shepherd: people. Yeah, we’re guides, but we’re also instructors. And so if people want that, we can start off by guiding them and then we can, through our instructional capability, we can move them through the progression so they can actually go do this stuff on their own.
[00:21:08] Greg Hill: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s the most empowering is. Your clients and teaching them more and kind of increasing their levels. So one, they’re, they’re clients and they’re getting better on their own, but they’re also become better partners for us out there as as guides. Because I think especially now that we’re, although yes we are the most experienced, I think the decision making is happening more as a group and we’re being much more vocal about it.
Just to, one, to teach our clients more and also bring them into the decisions and just make sure that, you know, we’re doing it just for them also, not just our. . Yeah.
[00:21:43] Jordy Shepherd: Everybody’s gotta understand what’s going on out there and we’re kind of all in it together. Even, even if there is, there always has to be a leader in any group.
Mm-hmm. . But, um, yeah, we all have to have group discussions about risk, risk acceptance and uh, and, you know, just personal challenge and where, when you’ve hit the wall mm-hmm. and be, be
[00:22:03] Greg Hill: upfront about that. Well, yeah. You kind of just triggered something that I think about a lot. , the adventurer is packed or something.
I kind of feel like there is sometimes with people this idea that when you have a guide or what have you when you’re in the mountains, that they’re not going to be dangerous. And I think all of us should have a pact once you start a venturing, whatever level you’re at, is that you should have this pact that you understand that things can go wrong and that you’re, you’re doing it for that gray zone, for this bit of an unknown.
But you should, we should also accept that there are consequences. It’s pretty easy to notice. People are a bit oblivious to it and they, there is, Oh, I’ve got a guy, we’re going to be safe. And um, to me it became quite clear, I was on Mount Manaslu, the eighth highest peak in the world, and we witnessed this avalanche that caught 30 people sleeping in their tents.
And quite a few people passed away, and 12 people passed away that day. But what I really, what really hit home for me that day is that I felt like a lot of them had not understood that they’re being risky and that they are. Taking risks. And I kind of feel like, to me, I always clarify that like, if there’s adventure, adventure has risk, and if there’s risks, there’s consequences.
And we have to kind of accept them. As hard as it is on our family and everybody else, we, you, you do have to accept that there’s going to be risks in any adventure.
[00:23:23] Chris Kaipio: It could be hard for, for some people though, to imagine that because they don’t, you know, first of all, they don’t have any experience in that, and second of all, they.
They just can’t imagine that something is going to happen.
[00:23:37] Greg Hill: Happen. Yeah. It always happens to others, not to them, but no, I think, and then we’re talking about the conversation with your clients, and I think that is great that we’re at a point now where we’re conversing a lot more about that and trying to make it clear to us, to them and ourselves that it can happen.
[00:23:56] Jordy Shepherd: A lot of the preparation that goes in, in behind the scenes to be prepared for that hopeful thing that never happens. The bad thing, Um, and the, the emergency event. But, uh, that we as professionals are very, very prepared, trained constantly for it, and but also hoping that we’ll never actually have to
[00:24:16] Greg Hill: pull those tools.
Yeah, no, I absolutely. And, um, another misadventure of mine, , I had a, I broke my leg in an avalanche in Pakistan, and, and my group really didn’t have the necessary first aid skills and stuff I did, but I ended up being the guy help, like trying to tell them how to put traction onto my leg. and it really made me realize how valuable it is to have partners and or guides, friends, what have you, that have first aid and have taken courses and have kind of put more of those tools in their toolbox.
Because that, you know, I was at 20,000 feet, massive avalanche, broken leg and I’m sitting there kind of doing first aid to myself, you know, and if, you know, you were talking about the guide, if there, if there had been another guide around or what have you, it would’ve been. Easier to just have them do everything
[00:25:13] Jordy Shepherd: And along with that comes, uh, the training and equipment, but also communications. It’s really nice to be able to call out and let somebody else in the outside world know that you’re having an issue and hopefully they can start to come your way. Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. Yeah. So, speaking of challenges and uh, and hardship and.
Personal, personal hardship. Uh, you’ve, you’ve done quite a bit, uh, over the years of pushing yourself and yeah, we just wanted to kind of move into that for, for a short bit here. Uh, tell us about your, uh, your world records and, uh, kind of that process of, of, uh, climbing a lot on your skis and then getting to descend of course, as well.
[00:26:01] Greg Hill: Yeah, a lot of it doesn’t make sense to me. Now, I can tell you that it made a lot of sense at the time, but as we changed, things don’t make sense. But yeah, for many years I, when I came into back skiing, there was kind of, I was right at a point where the gear was changing, so all of a sudden there was kind of these tech bindings that would be used more, and those boots that worked with them, that skied better and walked better and, and skis got a little lighter.
So all of a sudden there was this change in gear. That change in gear kind of opened up that we could do more. Um, and because all of a sudden the gear was lighter and it worked better. And, and, and so this what had been done to a point was incredible. That, you know, the level was great and, but yet all of a sudden with this new gear there was sort of like there was more potential and I had spent years tree planting.
It’s how I paid for skiing for years is I tree plant and tree planting. And you fixate on numbers and. So I started fixating on numbers with ski touring and I remember, you know, my first 5,000 foot day, it was hard, it was challenging and it was as much as I could do. But then as I got better, as the gear got better and I got, I figured out how to walk better, skin better, I slowly was, did a 7,000-foot day.
And then I remember doing a 10,000 foot day and I started really obsessing about these numbers because to me they quantified how much, how great my day. I could go out for 10,000 feet or 3000 meters of powder skiing. That’s an incredible day. And it was hard and challenging and I kind of, for some reason along the way in my life I started to really enjoy kind of digging deep and kind of seeing what I could do and, and I think it was mostly due to tree planning, because tree planning, you’re out there to make money in every second count.
So I took that work ethic and took it to ski tour and. I remember Scott Davis had done a 20,000-foot day around Rebel Stok. So when I first moved here, that was kind of like the benchmark I’d heard of this 20,000 foot day. And, and it was not within my grass, but all. And then as, as my, as my spent time on the skin tracks and got better and better, all of a sudden, I was like, Oh, I think I can do 20,000 feet.
And um, you know, it was really fun. I went out and did a 20,000 foot day in, in the past and I remember I actually changed parking lots because I was. Look at as many different places in the past that day. And that was just this great, amazing day out the mountains. And I, I ended up speak to 20,000 feet and I remember at the end I was on top of the dome glacier here and I was like, You know what, I’ve hit 20 but I’ve still got energy.
And so then, and that kind of was like, Oh, if 20 is possible, maybe I could do more. And so then I went tree planning that next year and all summer I was like, Well, I did 20, I think I can do 30. And I sort. would, in the off season, I’d focus on my goal for the next winter, and then that winter I’d train up and I’d go for it.
And so that the next winter I did 30,000 feet in a day, which, um, like I said, none of this makes sense now, but it really made sense at the time. But next time you’re on an airplane, look out the window. That’s about 30,000 feet. And um, somehow, you know, I did 15 runs on grizzly shoulder that day, and it was this crazy powder day.
I had these huge skis on and I was just shredding. Having to blast and then pushing myself and it was sort of a 15-hour day. Um, yeah. And I just kind of, I really got into this and part of it, part of it was probably to prove to my dad or my brother, you know, that I was doing something of value, something of, you know, if I was doing something nobody had done before, then I must be at least excelling at what I’m doing.
Because I hadn’t finished university. My brother was a multimillionaire. Super successful. Easily compared to as an insecure, younger brother. So for me, I just kind of wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t just wasting my life and also that I was kind of, I’d found something that had made sense and that I could push at and that I really enjoyed.
And, um, so it kind of, it answered a couple things, you know, it overcame my insecurities. It helped me kind of, I don’t know, not stake my claim, but just helped me progress the sport and just see what the potential was, my potential and the potential. Everything I’ve done has been beaten now, which is amazing because the level just keeps getting better.
But, but yeah, for probably eight years, I, I focused 10 years. I focused pretty much on vertical, how much I could do in a day, how much I could do in a year, you know, and it was, for a while, it was just about the day because I, I, I wanted this year I wanted to see how much I could do in a year to see my personal potential.
But I definitely focused on the day because I realized that you have to max your days out to max a year out. . Um, yeah, I, I ended up going to this race in Colorado that they kind of organized for me to set a new record. And it’s a little vague. I, at the time there was a bunch of articles that said I set a world record, but me and this, this guy Jimmy, I was in lead for the first 17 hours and about just after 17 hours, some guy caught up to me and I was middle of the night and I was like, What the hell?
And it was this guy, Jimmy and Jimmy and I had never really, we’d never met, and we spent the. Six and a half hours skinning together and setting a record of 50,000 feet in a day up, um, which was like 35 laps of this ski hill or what have you. But um, but yeah, it was really neat. Jimmy and I connected, We had these great chats.
We pushed each other and then we set a record together and I’ve never seen him since. But, um, at the time. At the time, yeah, there were these bunch of articles that came out that said it was a world record. But a few years ago I read something else that said maybe some European had done more. Whatever In the end, it, it doesn’t matter in the end.
For me it was just kind of like I, like I said, each summer I dream about it. I went 10, 20, 30, 40 and then 50,000 feet in a day. And I mean, the focus it took, the training for that was definitely something that I don’t have the energy for now, but it was just really neat to push to really see what I could do.
And you know, that was 23 and a half hours of non-stop. Um, with my wife and our six-month-old daughter at the bottom pit crewing for me. But um, but yeah, I basically started to just see what I could do vertically and, and I evolved this. There was this 2-million-foot idea that when I did, started doing my ski tour in 99, I was on black comb and we were at ski touring and I did 5,500 feet and just like tree planning, I was like, Oh, I’ll do some more.
I realized that 5,500 feet or 1700 meters, if you did that every day for the whole year, would be 2 million feet. And that was 1999. Y2K was coming. You guys remember all the pressures and all the things about y2k and whoa, it was a year 2000. And although we’re 22 years later, um, for me, there was this idea.
I was like, Wow, 2 million feet in the year. 2000, That’d be so cool. And I didn’t have any of the experience that I’ve just talked about. I was at the beginnings of my career. I didn’t even come close, you know, I don’t even know if I did 200,000 feet that year, but there was this idea and so those days, those individual days were all in my mind.
Were like, Oh yeah, I’m kind of trying to figure this out. And um, then I spent a few years trying to do back to back big days. So I started to do 10,000 foot days just to see, because I knew that if I was going to do 2 million feet, I needed to do a lot of 10,000 foot days. So I ended up doing a million feet in a season in 2005.
And the season ended until May 19th, so it ended up being like seven and a half months. So it was nowhere near what I needed for my 2 million feet dream, which I hadn’t told anybody about. It was just kind of something in the back of my head. So eventually I did a bunch more 10,000-foot days. One year I did 80, 80 10,000-foot days just to kind of give you consecutive days and really just drive it and see a lot of great skiing.
And then I realized I was finally, I was like, Okay, I’m getting close. I kept on being chicken because committing to a year long challenge with very little sponsorship and very little money. It didn’t really make any sense, but it was kind of a dream that had been festering for not eight years, 2008, but I didn’t do it in 2008, then 2009 game.
And I remember dreaming that I was going to do it that year and then I chickened out and then finally December 2009, I was like, Okay, I think it’s time. I, I don’t have any money. Save. I don’t really have any sponsorship for this, but I’m going to do it. I’m going to try to ski 2 million feet in the year 2010. And I literally hadn’t told anybody.
I told my wife that December, you know, it wasn’t, I’ve never liked talk about things until I’ve done them. I think the importance is, is such a personal thing that I just never wanted to put that pressure on. So finally, 2010, I just started this little challenge. It’s right here. My old watch. , you can see it.
It’s dead. Doesn’t mean anything now. But for that entire year, I, I watched a little number on there and I just focused on trying to do that 5,500 feet a day every day and just trying to do 2 million feet and it, and it was the ultimate goal. It was 10 years of dreaming about it and it really was like, it was something I’ve been wanting to do forever and it, they had a lot of value and, but I really wanted to adventure because to me the adventure is key.
Um, and that’s what that year was. It was like the best year of adventure ever. I skied all around the states, mostly Canada. We went up to the Yukon, which was a waste of a month. We, I went and then I went and spent four months in Chile in Argentina with my family skiing. And it was this incredible year where I summited 77 mountains.
I did tons of firsts for myself that I’d never skied, and, and it was just like this incredible year of adventure and kind of learned, earned me the nickname Two Mill Hill. Midway through, I did finally find some sponsorship money to help with it. I still lost, I still ended up going to debt, I’m sure from it, at least 20 grand in debt.
But you got passions, you kind of got to follow it. But yeah, in two mil, so basically 2010, I, I did 2 million feet of uphill climbing to get 2 million feet of skiing down. And yeah, it was the best year of my life for sure. It was. My wife doesn’t like talking about it too much, but it is incredible . Um, There are always sacrifices.
[00:36:05] Jordy Shepherd: There are sacrifices for sure.
[00:36:07] Greg Hill: Yeah, there’s lots of sacrifices. I’ll just quickly touch on that, but for sure. You know, my wife, you know, I did the best I could, but as much as I could do, I was gone for a month. So the you gone or what have you, and now I always say there’s a great woman behind every man and, and for sure I’ve got some great support there.
[00:36:22] Jordy Shepherd: Uh, how, how did you motivate yourself?
[00:36:25] Greg Hill: Yeah. To me, the motivation comes from the fact that I’m not doing these goals for anybody but myself. And so it’s like, you know, I wasn’t going out to make money. I wasn’t going to, I was going out to prove something to myself, and, and I needed, and that was enough because it was basically came from me, I think, and that, and that helps me motivate for sure.
There was lots of days I. March was shitty. I remember not wanting to go out because there was a stormy day and just going out and doing laps and kind of rain or rain or whatever you call it. And yeah, I mean I remember calling my buddy Joey and that day he’s like, Greg, you know, like you kind of signed up for this and you got to keep going.
And, and for sure there was some low points, but I think because the goal was mine and, and I, and I was never too far away. I think at one point I fell about it’s two weeks, about 50,000 feet behind, but it was always somewhat tangible. Um, but yeah, and, but I, I wanted it right. I dreamt about it for 10 years.
That desire for most of my goals, the desire builds up for quite a while so that once I’m finally actually activating them, I, there’s been all this time of focus and dreaming that then give me the energy and the drive to keep going. To me, that’s a huge part of any goal is, is the time before the mental training to build that desire.
You know, it’s much like if I was going to go run a marathon, I’d start daydreaming about it, I’d start training for it, but there, there would be months of preparation wanting that end goal. And it was just kind of the same thing with this. It was, I’d spent years dreaming about it 10 years and, and, and that desire was there.
Oh yeah. And there was some really tough. But I kind of, I guess acceptance is what I was, what it, what it’s all about. Once, once I’ve started a challenge and I’ve dreamt about it, and I’ve actually started it, I’ve accepted that there’s going to be some hardships and, and that by accepting it, I smile through these things because I’ve, I’ve signed up for them.
Um, I don’t sign up for things I don’t want to do, but I think accepting that it’s going to be hard, acceptance of a lot of things really helps free yourself.
[00:38:43] Jordy Shepherd: Well, I think that laid it out, uh, quite nicely for, for everybody.
[00:38:47] Greg Hill: Thanks. Yeah, I just think it’s easy. It’s just like I had a challenge in, in the spearhead in the spring here, and we filmed it, but it’s kind of boring for the filmers because Andrew and I both knew the challenge was going to be about 20 hours.
We both accepted the hard. We didn’t have, we just kind of hit this point of acceptance and drive. That doesn’t go down because we’re fully invested and we know what it’s going to be like. And it’s kind of boring for the filmers because we didn’t, we didn’t crash, we didn’t go low. We just kind of, Mm. And that’s kind of sucks
Great challenge though. But really it is. It’s ever, it’s it. Yeah, I guess when you, when you see people struggling through things, it’s because they haven’t accepted it and they’re still trying to fight with the acceptance. And if you can just accept that it’s going to be shitty, it’s a lot easier to deal with the shit.
[00:39:39] Jordy Shepherd: And it’s not like you just walked out the door and decided, okay, I’m doing 2 million this year, kind of thing, starting now. Right. This was a whole process of planning and preparation and trial and tribulation, you know, to, to, uh, to get to that point where you said, Okay, now it’s, now it’s time to actually pull the trigger on this.
[00:39:55] Greg Hill: Yeah, exactly. And there’s a lot of, a lot of that training, mental training to get to that point. It doesn’t, you can’t, like, you know, say I want to run a hundred, a hundred kilometers, which I’ve never. It’s going to take a while to build that all up and get prepared for it and get to the point where you’re ready and then you’re accepting it and then trying it, you know?
But I’m not just going to do a hundred kilometers tomorrow. I wouldn’t do well.
[00:40:20] Jordy Shepherd: Or if you did, if you did, you just wouldn’t walk for a few days after that. . Yeah.
[00:40:27] Chris Kaipio: We’re going to pause here for now so that we can recap some of the excellent points that Greg has made. So, We’ll pick up the rest of Greg’s conversation in our next episode.
If you are looking to learn more about Greg in the meantime, please visit his website, greg hill.ca.com. That’s greg hill.ca. Okay. Jordy, when it comes to making sure that adventurous, sustainable, what were some of your key takeaways or things that jumped out at you from what Greg had to say? So,
[00:41:00] Jordy Shepherd: Well, Chris, uh, one thing, uh, we’re we’re talking about sustainability here.
Uh, and that’s, you know, environmental stewardship absolutely, um, is a huge part of that, and that’s a big, uh, part of what Greg does. But there’s also all these other ways that we need to be sustainable in our, in our careers as guides, instructors, trainers, teachers, coaches, and uh, and that’s mental, emotional, physical.
Um, including the environment, uh, um, as well as we talked about not wasting time. Um, you know, and, and that’s a, that’s a big one, right? Because we all have limited time and that needs to be sustainable. And then in our relationships we need to, uh, make all of this, uh, what we do sustainable. And so, um, I think, I think Greg, you know, by, by being a leader in, uh, environmental sustainability, um, he’s also helping.
All pay more attention to these other sides of things in our industries that need to be sustainable. And then in terms of time, really the sustainability piece that I’ve already alluded to on that, uh, you know, doing things like, like enlisting the help of someone else. And that’s where we come in as, as guides and professionals, uh, to bring people through these adventures and deliver adventure.
Hiring a professional guide really helps to make the most of a client’s valuable time. Um, and so we can, we can really facilitate them having a great adventure and having really good use of their time. I’ve guided clients from all over the world and sometimes they’re, you know, they, they just come in and they just want to hit the highlights and then off they go to whatever they’re next doing in their life.
And so, uh, we can do that by making the most out of their time. I. Greg referenced, for example, being in a cave near Roger’s Pass with a caving guide. And so Greg is a guide himself, but he also got huge value out of that by having someone help reduce decision makings, take him into issue, a less familiar environment.
Um, even though he’s very good when he’s outside the cave, um, on skis, uh, not necessarily so much inside the cave. And I’ve experienced this myself too. Uh, I think I’ve said this before, the idea of sea kayaking. I’m. You know, a huge ocean person and tides go up and down and, uh, and I don’t always know what’s going on with that.
So, I’ve hired c kayaking guides and I got amazing value out of that for my time spent. Jody,
[00:43:34] Chris Kaipio: those are two really good points. I’m going to pick up on something that you, uh, mentioned, uh, to start with there about relationships. And one of the things that Greg, uh, mentioned that, that really struck me is the idea of that adventurers pack.
Everyone involved. Accepts that things can go wrong. And often when we set out to do our, our trips, you know, or activities, we aren’t thinking about how things can go wrong and how we might, uh, want to react, uh, to that after the fact. And so the point that, um, Greg was making is that if you can have that adventurous packed beforehand where you accept.
And visualize and take some responsibility yourself, uh, when things go wrong, that you’re not necessarily going to, you know, lash out and blame others, and you are getting yourself ready so that you’re prepared to deal with those situations beforehand. They can take pressure off of the relationships that you have with the other people that you’re with.
Should things start to go, uh, sideways? There were three other points that I just wanted to highlight here that I thought were really good. One was, uh, setting attainable goals. And so if we set goals that are, are way beyond what we can actually achieve, uh, we’re not going to get there. And so, Greg worked up to 2 million vertical feet.
Uh, he didn’t say Next year I’m going to do it. It was a two, three-year plan, uh, to get there. Uh, he also tracked his progress, which helped to keep him motivated. It’s important to look back at what you’ve done instead of always looking forward. So he was able to track his successes, uh, in the past, which helped to keep him motivated to keep pushing forward.
And that last point I just wanted to, to bring up was acknowledging that there will be a period of suffering or discomfort. And it, and I think he, he phrased it as being that the idea of accepting. It’s going to be shitty for a certain amount of time, but that time isn’t going to be infinite. You know, the example that you can use is if, you know, if you have to climb a thousand feet, you know, at the start of your start of your trip, well that’s going to take you about an hour.
And so, for that hour, uh, it’s going to be a little bit tougher going and you’re going to have to put your head down. But you know that once that hour has elapsed, things are, things are going to get better. And so being able to. Recognize that and accept that that period of, of suffering or discomfort or challenge isn’t infinite. It’s a short amount of time.
Now, let’s turn it over to you, the listener. What were your takeaways? What stood out to you? You can share your thoughts, stories, or insights with us via our social media feeds or by emailing us. You can find all of our contact information at delivering Adventure dot. We have also posted our contact info in the show notes as well as a link to Greg’s website.
Also, please don’t forget to follow or subscribe to this podcast through your favorite streaming service, and if you can please share this with your like-minded friends. This is how you can help to make this podcast sustainable. In our next episode, we hear more from Greg on how you can be more physically and environmentally sustain.
Thanks for listening.