Episode 6: How to Avoid Misadventure – Part 2 with Will Gadd
Pro athlete, ACMG Alpine Guide and adventure influencer Will Gadd continues to share his philosophies risk taking. Will reflects on experiences from climbing Niagara Falls, a near misadventure with Sara Hueniken and a funny story from an adventure in the Cirque of the Unclimbables.
Reflecting on the decision-making process: Focus on the quality of the decision-making process instead of solely focussing on the outcomes. A good outcome is not always the result of a good decision.
Gaining experience by learning from mistakes: Every situation we experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. Experience is only good if you can learn from it.
Managing risk by lowering the consequences: One of the keys to avoiding misadventure is to take steps to lower the consequences if something were to go wrong.
Identifying risk tolerance beforehand: Everyone needs to determine in advance the level of risk they are comfortable taking. Helping people through this process is extremely important for anyone that finds themselves guiding others.
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[00:00:00] Will Gadd: Now I’m a professional athlete, so I’m flying my paraglider, you know, in Baff Island with polar bears everywhere. How can I lower this? The consequences. If my motor goes out and I land with the polar bears, I’m going to carry like a lot of bear flares and I’m going to carry a shotgun, not so much to shoot the bears.
Like then I can lower the consequences, and that’s what I do when I’m. Can I just throw this piece in here and throw the rope through it in case I screw up? What? What can I do to lower those consequences?
[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 Capo and I’m coming to you from Whistler, British Columbia. And I’m Jordy Shepherd.
[00:00:49] Jordy Shepherd: Recording from Canmore, Alberta after 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
[00:01:15] Chris Kaipio: beyond. In this episode, we continue our conversation with wheel.
Will is an ACMG Alpine guide sponsored athlete with Red Bull. He has ice climb, Niagara Falls, Helmcken Falls, the last glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as icebergs and many other places. Most of those places he had first ascents. In this episode, we continue to hear what Will has to say when it comes to avoiding Misadventure.
This is the second part of our two-part series with Will Now Jordy, can you give us some context to some of Will’s accomplishments? Well,
[00:01:52] Jordy Shepherd: Chris, in the last episode, uh, Part one with Will. Uh, we did talk about quite a bit, quite a few of his accomplishments. Uh, and really what, what, uh, some of the more amazing side of things are incredibly amazing side, in addition to his accomplishments are his, his ability to think about this stuff.
And so you’ll, you’ll hear will, uh, and you’ll see on his social media feeds that he actually will throw out there when, you know, he’s, he’s actually made a. He has that kind of humility piece, even though he’s, uh, he’s quite an amazing athlete and, and guide and yeah, that’s, that’s not a, that’s not an easy thing for a lot of people to do is to, to say when they did something wrong or had a close call or a near miss.
Uh, so that’s, that’s a big one. And then on, on the other side of it, he is, He’s a risk manager and he’s more than willing to talk to anybody and all of us about, about risk management. He, he, he operates often kind of on the edge of, of risk, um, you know, at a very high level. And he’s done a lot of thinking about it.
So, um, yeah, it’s some really good take home messages there, uh, about risk manage.
[00:03:09] Chris Kaipio: Okay. Those are some great points about Will. So, um, yeah, let’s hear straight from him. Let’s bring him back into the DA studio. So will you just finished highlighting how important it is for us to be able to reflect on our mistakes if we want to become better at managing risk.
I’ve been doing a lot of work in the resort skiing industry in Whistler, specifically within the snow school and training instructors on risk management and decision. One of the areas that I’ve been working on is culture. For many years, it’s been kind of accepted that instructors get hurt at work. This has resulted in a normalization of risk-taking behaviors at work that aren’t that healthy for the instructors, their clients, or the organization.
What myself and some of my colleagues have been working to change is the idea that it’s not normal to go to work and come home with a broken leg, knee injury, or a concussion. My dentist certainly doesn’t worry about that at work. Of course, instruction and guiding mountain sports is not like most jobs.
Still snow Sports instructors are what I also refer to as front country ski and snowboard guides have a super high accident rate that really needs to come down. The good news is that it is, and I’m really fortunate to be working for a very progressive organization that has a lot of great people doing really good things.
However, it’s still. For guides and instructors. Our job isn’t to avoid risk, it is to expose people to it. Risk lies at the core of what an adventure is. So Will, what do you think we can do to balance between that fine line of taking enough risk to push ourselves without going too far across the line and becoming reckless?
Do you think that there is a way for us to spot this before it?
[00:05:10] Will Gadd: Yeah, that’s, I mean, that’s a good question. And it happens both professionally and, and personally, you know, and, and so it’s a, uh, Well, you know, I’m curious about what you’ve done inside the, the Snow School at Whistler to, to encourage that. I bet you’ve got a good answer to that for, for your teams because it’s, it’s super important.
I mean, what have you done to, to do that? And then I’m, I’m just curious because I, one thing I’ve learned is that a lot of industrial applications, and I’ve put potentially the Snow School into that, they’re better at managing this than a lot of us who are. Recreational risk taking of one kind of another are.
So I’ll bet you’ve got a good, I want to ask you that question. Could I ask you that? Or is that allow, or do I have to
[00:05:46] Chris Kaipio: ask? Well, yeah. Of . Yeah, of course. You could definitely ask questions. Thanks man. . So what’d you do? How’d you fix it? Right. It’s making sure people have the tools to. Be able to make the right decisions.
And I, and I think that you, you know, you sort of answered this earlier, and it starts with defining what success is. Success isn’t, you know, isn’t getting to the top or pushing it to the max. Success is, is getting back down to the bottom and better shaped than when you started and. If that means taking a little less risk or taking a little more time to prepare or, or those sorts of things, then that’s what you have to do.
But I know one of the things that I try to implement here in, in the Snow School is to, is to create, uh, sort of a simple message that an instructor would use before they decide to take on an elevated risk. And, and that was to ask yourself, you know, ask yourself two questions, you know, do you need to do.
And if, and if you don’t need to do it, then don’t do it. And if you do need to do it, then what can you do to give yourself the biggest chance of, of success? And you know, going back to that, that first one, you know, I was driving back from, um, Lake Louise last fall and, and we’re near Rebel Stok. And this guy’s driving down Highway one and as you know, a super big mountain highway were come along, double Yellow line.
Guy behind us decides to pass us. and. 20 minutes later, he’s one car ahead of you in a solid line of traffic, and you’re thinking like, did you need to take that risk? Like, and if you needed to get ahead of us, then why didn’t you just wait for a little longer till you got to a passing lane and do all those sorts of things?
And so, I guess, yeah, from, from my perspective, that that’s, that’s kind of one way that we can try to remind our ourselves what do you do, you know, before you’re taking these risks to, to try to prevent yourself from crossing that.
[00:07:53] Will Gadd: Well, I like that tactic and what you just said is really important. It’s like, do you need to do this? And, and for me it’s kind of a balance thing. Like I’ve got no problem with somebody doing something really dangerous if they really do understand the consequences and that’s what they want to do. Like if somebody wants to huck a hundred foot, you know, gap on their bike and they’re stoked and they’ve picked up after two or three people that have failed to, to make a hundred foot gap, so they really understand what that looks like when it goes bad and they want to fire it up then, right On the, the problem is when people don’t have a realistic appreciation of the, of the negative outcomes and they just want to do something, they’re like, This would be rad to do X, but they don’t understand what the.
Sort of potential outcomes are of that. So the risk is unbalanced and, and they don’t know, um, what it looks like when you’re in a hospital for a month, cuz you, you, you broke, you know, both your arms or whatever, and they haven’t picked up after that. And so I, I, I try to give a realistic appreciation of what the consequences are, even in on a smaller level to my guests and then to myself.
It’s like, as you said, is this necessary and is it, , you know, I want to run this waterfall in my kayak. I’m kayaking a lot this year cause I got all about tendonitis cause I’m out and bike too much Anyhow, so, and I’m out paddling and I’m like, do I need to do, I want to do this? , you know, and, and what’s, what’s the outcome?
Am I okay with that? You know, do you know if I run this waterfall and it goes bad, it’s a pool, they’ll pick me up. We’re all good. But if it’s like, Wow, if I’m off my line by like 30 centimeters, I’m going to get taken out by that rock on either side, and I’m going to break my elbows minimum. And do I still feel good about it?
Yeah. The approach is solid. I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m willing to take that risk cause it’s so cool. But if it’s not, then maybe I back it down, you know? And, and, I think having a realistic appreciation of the poor outcomes and an, and an honesty about your own skill levels is really, really important. And, and an attitude of somewhat some degree of like, the knowledge that you can get it wrong, that’s really, really important.
And the higher the consequence gets, are you still comfortable with, with that or not? And, uh, and also an appreciation for how great it is to be able to do this stuff. You know, I, the only broken bone I’ve had in. 30 years was mountain biking last fall, and I, I was on a machine-made path and I ripped over this hill was you do on a machine-made path and this little thunderstorm had ripped out part of the trail.
And all of a sudden, I’m in like, you know, suitcase size blocks with no trail and I broke my ankle. And, you know, was I going too fast? Maybe? Was I having a hell of a lot of fun? Yeah. Was that a realistic outcome? Yeah. I don’t blame the rocks of the thunderstorm. It’s like, shit happened and that’s a realistic outcome, but I was okay with that consequence.
I might feel better or worse if the really worst outcome had happened, you know, and, and we all have to draw the line somewhere that, you know, it could have been hurt a lot worse, is how I kind of look at it, you know? So I, I, I try to operate. With enough margin and to understand when I don’t know enough to even define the margin.
You know, if I’m flying sail planes, I’m learning how to fly sail planes, I don’t even know enough to know what’s reasonable or not. It all seems reasonable. I’m not a sail plane that goes a hundred kilometers an hour at glide. That’s like three times as fast as my paraglider. This is wicked. I could do anything.
You know, my instructor’s like, no, that’s a bad idea. So, you know, understanding the consequences and, and being humble enough to admit that you don’t really know what they are. Super important. I don’t want to riff on this too, on, but Alex Hon had an awesome quote. I did this, I did this inner thing with him a couple days ago, and he goes, Yeah, everybody thinks they’re making great decisions right up until they have an accident or die.
And I think that’s really useful to remember that we all think we’re making great decisions. We all think we know our limits and those other people are crazy, right? I would never do that. I’d never make that error. We’re making great decision. But I’ve responded to a lot of s in the mountains now and I’ve never had anybody go.
We knew we were going to get destroyed, but we went for it. Well, maybe once, but most people are like, We didn’t see that coming and it went bad. You know?
[00:12:09] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. We mostly get positive feedback. Yeah. We feel it’s positive feedback. Right. You know, the day is ended, it’s, it’s all good. Nothing bad happened, or it was like little bits of misadventure.
But nothing, nothing that was, you know, huge injury or, or fatalities or anything. Right. That’s the bulk of what we do. And then, but the reality is it’s actually, most of the time it’s neutral feedback that we’re getting. We’re not, it’s not positive nor negative, and then we do get the negative feedback at times, Right?
Which is the backhand of God slapping us down and telling us, we crossed the. And so, but there’s this, this misconception that, you know, that day was the best day ever. Uh, and that was positive feedback, but it, it traps
[00:12:55] Will Gadd: us. Yeah. Yeah. Those false, false positive feedback loops and stuff. And there’s a whole academic and intellectual side to all of this.
And, and I’m really into that. Like, how, how, you know, I read a lot about that. I’ve thought a lot. And then you’re out there and you’re making decisions and, and we’re trying to remember that this could be a false positive feedback loop, or it could be the Swiss cheese model, or it could be X, Y, Z, whatever.
But we’re trying to make decisions out there and it’s, it’s, it’s tricky to, to remember that and, and to not be your last good decision, but your, your next bad decision. You know? And I guess I’m focusing personally a lot more on the quality of what I hope is the quality of my decision. Did I do it? Did I actually look at many of the variables?
Did I understand the environment And no matter what the outcome is, then I, you know, my kind of academic exercise is, did I make good decisions today or not? And, and if I did great, or sometimes I’m like, Wow, I don’t even know if that was a good decision. The outcome was good, but it was actually a pretty shitty decision.
I made it really fast and wow, it worked out. We went down that face with two guests and nobody got hit by a rock. I’m. . No, that was a really shitty decision. I didn’t even know where I was going. What the fuck was I thinking? You know, And, and I do that personally and professionally, less, less to that level, um, professionally than, you know, I did.
But, um, yeah, it’s, yeah, I think that willingness to examine your decisions is really, really important. That’s what makes for better decisions in the future. And, and when you have a successful. Did you make good decisions or not? And, and you, You know, I, I often go through my log. I have a really detailed log on what I did.
Uh, it’s not super detailed, but it’s like, what did I do? And then I look back through that log and I’m like, that was five years ago. I really thought I was kind of killing it. And, you know, maybe, maybe I would think about that differently today. That’s useful.
[00:14:47] Jordy Shepherd: You’ve experienced adventure in a lot of sports.
With all these different activities that you do, do you feel there’s some activities that are, have more risk and more chance? Going poorly and why?
[00:15:00] Will Gadd: Yeah. Um, so for starters, anytime we go into the mountains, probably even driving, we’re taking a, a greater than daily life risk most of the time. That that’s a, that to me, you know, people are like, Oh, we’re going to, The driving isn’t very dangerous, you know, it’s the mountain, you know, Are people often say, you know, the most dangerous part of our day is the driving and this is bullshit.
It’s, it’s not, You know, I’ve, I’ve lost 30 some friends in the mountains now and one of them died driving. That’s it. The rest of ’em got killed in the mountain. So when we go into the mountains, we are taking a larger than daily life risk. And this is why insurance. Um, have tables and they’re like, Wow, you go climbing 20 days a year at altitude, we’re not going to insure you because the last 10 people we did that, you know, three of them died.
they’re not idiots. They’re just looking at the numbers and trying to parse it in some way. That makes sense. So, when we go into the mountains, we’re taking a larger than than daily life risk. And I think one thing we’ve done a relatively poor job of sometimes as professionals is admitting that, cuz we don’t want to admit that.
We’re like, we’re really good at this. We’re going to keep you. No, we’re just going to make it somewhat less dangerous that if you were doing this on your own, but it’s still a really hazardous place. So I start with that and then for me, it, and whether I’m riding motorcycles or, or flying my paraglider or quitting base jumping because I thought it was too dangerous.
It’s that consequence complexity line. Where are you on that line? You know, if you’re sport climbing in the gym, it’s, you know, broken leg train. Most of the time, even if your partner drops, you not marry. Nobody dies doing that. You know, if you’re, if you’re skiing the bunny hill, you get a broken leg, but I don’t think.
You’re generally going to be okay there, and now you’re bumping it up and you’re, you’re, you know, you’re, you’re skiing in a area with low knowledge of the snow pack and you’ve decided to ski something really steep and you’re with your bunch of buddies that charge hard. Now you’re in high complexity, high consequence, low knowledge, terrain, and.
You know, you kind of just want to choose consciously where you want to be on that complexity, consequence, probability spectrum and, you know, ice climbing’s about the same as, as, uh, riding a motorcycle to me. And statistically when I do the research of that, you know, and you can find all kinds of things on that.
It’s, it’s about the same face jumping, pretty much everybody dies, who stays at it long. You know, and, and that’s true for the mountains. You spend enough time there, you’re going to die there. But hopefully you, you, you know, you, you pick the point you’re comfortable with and, and get a good long time there before that happens.
So, base jumping, I quit. I was like, I’m not going to last very long at this. This is not how, I’m not very detail oriented. And you want to be really detail oriented and really, really methodical. And, and that is not unfortunately me. And, and so I quit. Just felt like I was going to get killed really quickly. So I was out and I, you know, I gave up riding motorcycles in the street 25 years ago for the same reason.
I, I didn’t need that amount of risk plus the other sports that I do in my life. But it’s, and I think we talked about this more and, and. It’s like, what’s your level Laris, dude? It’s like, well, I ride a motorcycle to work as fast as I can five days a week, and I base jump on the weekends and I enjoy, you know, orgs with like, like, Okay dude, we’re not going to do this together.
or I love he send you to my other friend, I gotta send you to Jordy. He’s going to manage this better than me as a guide or whatever in life, you know? And, and getting those people, That’s a big part of it is your, is your group where are. Risk tolerances, Do they, you know, do they like to ride motorcycles really fast every day?
Then right on, You’re in the right group, baby, if that’s what you want to do. But, um, for me, that’s not, not where I am. And it’s not a long answer to a short question, but does that make sense? Yeah, yeah, it totally
[00:18:44] Jordy Shepherd: does. And along with that, do you have any specific advice? I think you’ve already given some, but some, any specific advice for other guides and instructors in terms of managing risk?
Any bullet points to throw out there?
[00:18:59] Will Gadd: Well, I, I think, you know, I think we’ve talked about a lot of them. Um, but I, I do think for me as just professionally speaking, and it’s relatively intellectual, I am much more interested in consequences. I think I’m relatively good at, at evaluating consequences, and I’m less good at evaluating probability.
I used to think I was pretty good at evaluating probability and I’m, I’m not horrible at it, but I’m, I’m most comfortable operating with. Consequences and doing everything I can to lower the the consequences. That’s been something that’s been professionally helpful. And now I’m a professional athlete, so I’m flying my paraglider, you know, in Baff Island with polar bears everywhere.
How can I lower this? The consequences. If my motor goes out and I land with the polar bears, I’m going to carry like a lot of bear flares and I’m going to carry a shotgun, not so much to shoot the bears. Like then I can lower the consequences. And that’s what I do when I’m. Can I just throw this piece in here and throw the rope through it in case I screw up?
What? What can I do to lower those consequences with the understanding that it has to be effective? I see a lot of risk mitigation that does nothing but slow people down. You know, don’t put the rope on unless it’s attached to something in one way or another. We push those limits as guides sometimes, but I think that’s probably the biggest change for me personally that might be useful for other professionals is just trying to limit consequences.
And realize that we’re flawed in our probability perspective. Does that make sense to you guys?
[00:20:28] Jordy Shepherd: Or, I had a hel, I had a he ski client who, uh, he was used to skiing in, you know, Canadian terrain, under Canadian guides, where I, I’d say we’re, we’re fairly risk averse. We do ski steep stuff and we ski and glaciated terrain and, you know, rocky terrain and all that kind of stuff.
But, um, it seems like to me in Alaska there, it’s just big terrain and, and you don’t actually have a lot of control over your guests when they’re not actually attached to you. Right. Uh, in, in the heli ski environment. And so this guest told me he went hell skiing in Alaska and he said it was, it was kind of a scary experience, but he, he said he felt pretty good, uh, about them putting a harness.
And he skied with a harness and he, cuz he’d never skied with a harness on before. And I said, Oh yeah, was, was there a rope attached to you, ? And he said, No, . I said, Well, that, that just makes it easier to recover your carcass down in the, in the Berk run at the bottom of the run . Cause it’s not actually preventing you from falling or the bad thing happened.
Yeah. I think that’s a really good, but, but he had this. His perspective was that, well, this made me safer. Interesting. Yeah. I’m like, Well, no, no, Just more
[00:21:37] Will Gadd: recoverable. Yeah. It makes people coming after you safer, but yeah, it doesn’t, Yeah, that’s a Absolutely. That’s a really interesting, Yeah. Things like that.
So I, you know, we often get focused on mitigation, but does it do anything and, and then what are, what do we want to do? And yeah. Examples, like, That’s a great example. You should do a podcast on this, eh.
[00:21:57] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah, we should probably .
[00:21:59] Will Gadd: No, I, I think these are all really, I mean, I love this stuff and, and the intellectual side of it’s really good, but it’s, I think we all understand this stuff intellectually, and I’ve seen all, I’ve read a lot of really intellectual risk management engagement pieces and I, I think the, a big part of it though is that when you’re out there in the field, it’s not intellectual.
It needs to. You know, it’s mostly about your own brain and, and, and are you actually making good decisions here and are you, what are, what are your priorities? And um, you know, the exterior stuff, like people tend to focus on like systems. They’re like, Oh, I know how to use my beacon really well, and that is important.
Do not screw that up. You gotta practice those systems, but it’s your ability to avoid using your beacon. ultimately that helps save your life. You know, that keeps you in there game after, you know, day after day. I think the other thing I would say, I mean, I think a lot of rec people say rec, recreational, I kind of try to use the word personal because some of ’em are pretty serious about it.
But the, a lot of, I mean, the one thing I would say to kind of personal climbers, paddlers, paraglider, pilots, whatever, um, it is to get professional level. For many, many years I did these sports and I’d taken some avalanche courses and even some of the early versions of the professionally young ones when I was younger, but I’m much, much better in the mountains because of the guide training I took when I was older that you’re always in a professional environment when you’re in the mountains.
You know, you don’t get to play like LeBron James in basketball when you, you know, unless you’re like on a really, really good team. But when you go into the mountains, you’re up against like LeBron. And, and everybody else. You are in a professional stadium when you walk in there. So you, you, I think it’s pretty important to get high level professional training.
I don’t think everybody needs to be a guide, but I think it’d be pretty cool if everybody could go through that process because that’s what you’re doing is you’re learning how to understand the environment, manage your own brain and, and try to get the outcomes that you want. You know, I’d love to go through ski instructor training cause it’s professional level training and that’d be a better.
and, but we’re all, you know, and people will like do some of that. They’ll take an As s T one, but you’re in a pro environment, an ASS T one’s useful. What are the professionals thinking and how are they operating and what can we learn from that? And I guess that’s what this podcast is about. So we’re on the same page again,
But it’s cool. Like what can you, can you get on those courses, you know, and can you do them? And if I never guided another day in my life, I’d still think the guide training I had was some of the most valuable time I’ve ever had in the mountains. And I know how to use my beacon a hell of a lot better.
Thanks to you, Jor. So I appreciate. Oh yeah, it was good. My pleasure.
[00:24:47] Jordy Shepherd: So, one, one thing that I think we, we miss in the guiding world, uh, we miss the mark on is that we do call ourselves guides more than we call ourselves instructors. And I, I, I encourage anyone who wants to get better at being in the mountains and safer and better with risk management and decision making, hire a guide.
But don’t hire a guide to just have them drag you around the mountains and, and tell you where to stand and, and tell you to go faster at certain times. That sort of thing. Right? And when to eat lunch. It’s, uh, which is never, you’re always just crazy as you go. But, uh, it’s, it’s more for. You know, what, what do you want to get outta this day or this week, or this series of years that you spend with me as a client so that you can be better out doing these?
I agree that the personal days, maybe recreational has a negative connotation to it. Um, like it’s sort of haphazard. Um, but the, you know, these personal days that you want to go, do I, I’ll help prepare you for it so that you don’t have to pay me anymore. Uh, and it’s a progression that we can go through. Um, I’m, I’m a big fan of that, and so we are guides and we are
[00:25:57] Will Gadd: also instructors.
Yeah, I’d, I’d even, I love that idea. I’d take it even one step further and say that a lot of times what we, what we’re trained to do is guides in some ways I is to, um, you know, tell people what to do or teach them skills, but I think as I’ve, as I’ve, you know, my, my guiding career in some ways started with that Boys and Girls Club 40 years ago.
What I’m, what I’m really trying to do with that now is to educate and I think that’s, that’s, that’s very much what you mean by instruction. And, and some of my guests, they want to know about in today’s day and age, you know, you’re walking along into the ice column. I’m like, So what do you see right now?
And we’ll talk about it. And I’ll be like, you know, I spend a lot of time with my people. It’s like, well, the things that I see right now is this really windy up high. And you can see the snow transport. Have you clued into that yet? And, and maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. And, but that’s the most important thing I’ve given them.
Now they’re going to be looking around. I can teach ’em how to kick the crampons, better swing and ice tool, whatever. But the thing that’s going to like really, really help is that situational awareness of the environment and that education about how these mountains work. This book I’m working on, and I’m going to interview you about it for sure.
Jordy is, is, is basically how to understand the mountains and that’s the deep education that often will help people survive. I. And, and so I’m, I’m chewing through that. It’s like how do we understand how these things that we go into work, you know, from the snow perspective and also from the, the sun and the stuff all goes together.
And so that’s, that’s my current kind of book project I’m chewing on. And it’s, it’s not going super well cause it’s really hard, but it’s, it’s fascinating and that education and instruction piece is super, super critical. I’m with you.
[00:27:39] Chris Kaipio: We can learn a lot from YouTube. You can, you can actually learn how to, uh, how to launch your own PO podcast actually.
Um, but you know, the one thing that, uh, that I’ve learned over time is there’s no substitute for proper. Sort of formal outdoor education and something that comes in a structured Yeah. You know, environment where you’re dealing and learning with what the professional level and standard, uh, is. And we see a lot of people out there that don’t have the opportunity or, or don’t see the value in, in doing that, now you have an advantage will in that you live.
A pro athlete, and you know, what, what is that like for you?
[00:28:25] Will Gadd: Well, I, I assume you’re talking about I’m Sarah Huddick and my, my wonderful partner here and, uh, yeah, the . Yeah, she’s awesome. But she’s also a really good educator and, and works on the various guide programs and runs women’s camps and, um, does a lot of, of instruction, teaching, education and all those things.
Super important, but, uh, but she’s great. She has a, she, we, you know, and, and her risk tolerance is honestly are, are lower than mine and she’s usually right. So we spend a lot of time in the mountains together and, and we jokingly call her her the voice of reason. You know, I’m, I’m like the ad squirrel. I’m like, ice climb.
Hey , let’s go play with it. And she’s like, Well, what about it? And I think that’s one of the reasons I really like traveling in the mountains with her is that. He sees things that I don’t and generally has a lower risk tolerance than I do, and that’s why we’ve gotten up a lot of stuff safely. You know, if there are two of me out there all the time, that’s not the strongest way to roll and, uh, we can get some things done.
But, uh, with Sarah, I can do them often with a, with a higher margin than than I would otherwise. You know, plus she’s fun to go out with. She’s, she’s having a good time out there too. And, and we do some fun things together for sure. And, uh, but no, I’m fairly certain that I’m alive, at least partly due to her voice of reason.
I’m more than what, and I hear it even when she’s not around. I hear her voice. I’m like, so, you know? And, and, uh, it’s off to the good voice of, of pulley be back. So, yeah, she’s awesome. And we’re both pro athletes. We’re sponsored athletes and, and we have different obligations as well for that. It doesn’t change the fact that when we get back and forth and, and
[00:30:05] Jordy Shepherd: both guides and Yeah, both guides and instructors too.
Yeah. It’s an interesting match.
[00:30:10] Will Gadd: And given all that, we managed to almost like really hurt ourselves. Sport, climate. So , everybody has these moments where like, could, could we do, could we have done that better? And uh, you know, one of the things I love her about her is that. We talk about it and it’s like, Wow, we, we didn’t really nail that.
And here’s why and what were you thinking? And she’s like, Oh, we were trying to get more roots in. And that’s kind, I was wanted, I wanted to go quickly. And I was like, Yeah, I did too. Cause we only had two hours before the sun went down. So we’re hammering and yeah. And then we
[00:30:38] Jordy Shepherd: talk about it, one of the most dangerous things in the mountains is to have a group of guides together.
Mm. Uh, because they are sometimes unguided.
[00:30:47] Will Gadd: That’s a really interesting, Yeah, it’s, I think I’ve been part of that phenomenon a couple times. ,
[00:30:54] Jordy Shepherd: like, like ski touring for example. You go out with a group of guides and there’s, you know, five guides and there’s five up tracks put in. Yeah. Cause everybody thinks that they have the way they know the way.
And it’s like, why don’t you just maybe just take a backseat here for a second here and we. Just break one trail. Well, I
[00:31:11] Will Gadd: think that’s one of the really big pitfalls that you’ve just identified with being a guide is we do have to have a high level of confidence in our judgements, right? We do. Or we’re, we’re paralyzed into inaction.
We have to make the decision that we can go and do whatever it is, at least at the start of the day and and modify as need be. But we’re going to go out there and we’re going to do something that’s has significant hazard and we have to believe in our judgments, and at the same time, we have to keep those judgments mall.
and, and, and not believe our own hype. You know, it’s like, is it the Ice Ice Cube song? Don’t believe the hype. Like it, it really applies to, to us as well. But we still have to be confident enough to do this and not be like, Well, I don’t know, like, it’s, it, it’s a fired light between, and I fear is what tool I use.
One of my favorite quotes is, uh, I think it was Richard Fineman. He said this, he’s a famous physicist and he said, um, the first principle. Is that, um, how did this go exactly. It’s a great quote. I’ll probably just totally murder it, but, um, the, the, the first principle is don’t fool yourself. And the second is that you’re the easiest to fool.
And he was talking about physics research, but it applies to everything. Like I fooled myself many times into thinking that cloud wasn’t an issue.
So having, having some degree of both confidence and that enough humil. Yeah, recognize that things are going not going well, and I think that’d be the fine line too. It relates to what you said earlier between if you’re clued in to this adventure is not going well, you know, you, you can change it, but you have to be willing to go, it’s not going well, and, and, and change it and fix it.
And that takes some degree of either humility or in, in more, in my case, having been hit between the eyes so many times with a baseball bat that I listen. It’s like, so now I’m, I try to be really clued in. It’s like, well, this, it’s 11 o’clock and we’re supposed to be here by 12, and that gully comes into the sun at, you know, 12, 15, and I’m standing in the middle of it.
What am I doing? You know, and, and I, and rather than continuing to push up it, but it does take some degree of humility and, and willingness to change fast.
[00:33:26] Chris Kaipio: Well, we’re approaching the end here. What are some pieces of equipment that you can recommend to our listeners?
[00:33:33] Will Gadd: Well, I think the first one is your brain, you know, like, and, and how you, how you know yourself, like self knowledge.
So that’s, that’s a piece of equipment that is the most important piece of equipment. You can do anything with anything if your brain will, will figure out how to do it, right? Like Conrad King guided all these mountains with like a chunk of hemp broke and a cigar, and we’re out there with all this stuff and, and we’re often not getting up the roots.
He. You know, a long time ago. So it’s not that. I think that one of the key realizations is not the equipment that determines the outcome, it’s you and how you use what you have. So people are often very equipment focused. They’re like, or BLA focused. They want to like, I know how to tie a blade 15 different ways with a Cote, well that’s great, but if you’re going to load the blade like that, you kind of screwed up.
So it doesn’t matter. The systems and stuff are important, but it’s your brain and how you approach it that matters way more than. So, but you asked a really legitimate question and I went sideways. So the, to get back, I think having good calms, if you’re out of, if you’re in the back country, you need to have good calms in case things go sideways and whatever equipment that you have, you have to know how.
To use it, it matters less whether you know exactly what rope or exactly what Beacon, but you better know how to use that equipment and know its limitations and, and be dialed on it. And I, I, you know, I fall down on that sometimes for sure, but I, I do work pretty hard to actually understand my gear and nav.
What I hope is a professional level, um, of knowledge about it and the standards different. When I’m guiding, it’s like I spend the night before. It’s like, here’s my bag and is my inReach charged? Is my radio working? Here’s my route plan If I sent it to my guests so that they have it too, cuz when my phone dies, they have it.
And I do that all the time. Like, you know, have I done all these steps and personal, it’s, it’s often a little bit again because if at the end of the day, if I’m guiding and there is an. I can look at it and say, Did I make good decisions or not? The outcome maybe was, wasn’t what I thought it would be, but did I spend the time and do my diligence and, and, and I, and I miss something?
And that’s the way the ball balances. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s a lot easier to look at yourself in the mirror when you’ve made the proper preparations and, and you’re, you know, your equipment and you have the right equipment and you’ve done the right diligence, then you then it’s a lot easier to live your yourself when it, when it, when it goes sideways.
In my experience. I think that’s important. Whatever equipment you have, know how to use it, at least have calms whether you’re pro or not. . Yeah,
[00:35:59] Chris Kaipio: that was a perfect answer. Uh, and you, I mean, you raised an excellent, you know, an excellent point, that accountability piece, right? At the end of the day, you know, We are going to be the ones going over and over and over.
Those decisions if things go sideways, especially if it led to you ending up on the couch or in the hospital or whatnot. And, and we’re going to be the ones, you know, thinking, Oh, why did I do that? Right? And, you know, hopefully in, Instead it’s, it’s like, Oh, I’m so glad I did that. I’m so glad I did, you know, this and this and this and this.
That helped to make sure that that situation wasn’t so much worse or allowed me to not be in that situation at all.
[00:36:47] Will Gadd: Yeah, I think that that’s, I just, just to riff on that for one second, cause I think it’s really important. If you do enough things right, then you have a higher tolerance when things go wrong.
So maybe you got caught in a class one. because you did something wrong, but you didn’t get caught by the Class four in the train trap cuz you did enough things. Right? And, and so I think that’s what you just said. Super
[00:37:10] Chris Kaipio: important. Well, Will, we’re going to let you go here. That was amazing. Thanks so much for this.
If you want to find out more about Will, you can visit his firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s Will W W I L L G A D d.com. That is where you can get his contact information, find links to his latest projects, exploits, filmography, and see some of his coaching tips. And you can also find out how you can hire him to be your guide or guest speaker.
Okay. Jordy, when it comes to avoiding a misadventure, what were your takeaways from this episode?
[00:37:50] Jordy Shepherd: Well, one of them was, uh, looking at gaining experience by learning from mistakes. And I think I’ve said this before, but. Some of the best mistakes to learn from are other peoples, uh, rather than your own. And so, uh, if you made a mistake and you get the chance to learn from it, do.
If you see somebody else making a mistake and you get a chance to learn from it, definitely take advantage of that. Uh, experience is really only good if you can learn from it. Uh, reflecting on, uh, decision making process is also important, uh, and, and will spoken to us about that. Focusing on the quality of the decision-making process, using information that you have available to, to you.
And we have a lot of information available to us nowadays to help with decision making, uh, instead of just focusing on the outcomes, uh, and being just goal oriented. Uh, so a good decision and a good outcome are not necessarily the same thing. It’s really important, uh, to make good decisions and that will lead to good
[00:38:50] Chris Kaipio: outcome.
Yeah, that is such a good point that he made that, you know, a good decision and a good G outcome are not always the same thing. And, and we often, you know, think of things in terms of, uh, well that worked out, so it must have been a good idea. And in fact, you know, looking at, at how we arrived at that decision, um, and realizing that, you know, our.
Decision making, uh, process and the information that we used was flawed. And, and learning from that and the future is, is super powerful, uh, as you pointed out. So that’s a really good one. Jordy, the things that kind of stood out to me when I listened to that, and there were a lot again, is that idea of.
Managing risk by lowering the consequences. And you know, so often we think of, of managing risk or reducing risk as just not doing something. But what if we just did it in a way that allowed for a buffer in case things were to go wrong? And an example I can give you is, you know what, if you’re skiing through an Alpine bowl, That’s got low visibility and you know, there’s avalanche debris in that.
What if you were to go slower instead of faster? And so if you hit a piece of debris and you’re going slower, obviously consequences are going to be much, much lower. Now it’s easy to turn around and say, Well, why would you do that? Why would you ski through that Alpine bowl? When there’s low visibility and there’s avalanche debris?
Well, sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we have to do that. That’s just something that’s, that’s there. And so Will’s point. The idea of lowering our risk by lowering the consequences, taking away the, the worst case scenario. And so he mentioned, you know, putting in ice screws so that if you do fall, you don’t fall as far.
And so if we can take those steps, we can reduce the chances of something going, uh, really wrong if it were to happen. Uh, the other thing he pointed out that I really liked was. That idea of identifying risk tolerances beforehand and to continue to evaluate and, you know, through the course of a day, our risk tolerance can change.
We can feel better about taking on more risk, uh, as we gain confidence. We can also feel like we should be taking on less risk as we get more, uh, tired or, you know, or, or we realize that, you know, maybe we’re over our, our heads. Uh, I’ll share a quick story with you, Jor. I was running a, a hiking multi-sport tour in the Canyon Rockies for many years, and as part of the trip our.
Guests would, uh, go and spend an afternoon rafting on the kicking horse river. And there was one trip in particular, the start of a season, um, where our guests went out and, and the company had four rafts out on the river. And three of the four actually flipped multiple times. One of our guests ended up in the water, uh, for over two kilometers.
Um, we had to take her to Baff to get checked out. For secondary drowning. Um, which, you know, luckily she, she didn’t have any signs of, of, of that. And so it turned out well, but afterwards, we really had to revaluate our, our risk. Um, our boss, uh, Peter, who will actually be interviewing in another, uh, episode to come, uh, called up the company and, and, you know, asked, Hey, like, what, what happened here?
And their response was, You know what, Maybe this is too much risk for you. And, and in. It was actually, you know, Peter reevaluated our relationship with that company and took our business to another company, um, which had a much, uh, different philosophy when it came to risk taking and, and management. And so that’s something that I think we all have to do is we’ll, uh, you know, outlined is figure out what we are willing to do and what we.
Noted that he’d given up base jumping and high performance, you know, motorcycling and, and things like that. And so that’s an important thing for all of us to consider. Now let’s turn it over to you, the listener. What were your takeaways? You can share your thoughts, stories, or insights with us via our social media feeds or by emailing us.
You can find our contact email@example.com. We’ve also posted our contact information in the show notes as well as links to Will Gads website. Well, that’s almost it for this episode. 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.
We need your help to grow this podcast’s audience so that Jordy and I can keep this. Besides the best adventures are the ones we have shared with others. Before we finish though, we’re going to hear one last story from Will. Thanks for listening. .
[00:43:58] Will Gadd: Oh, bad. I don’t know. So somebody, Fuds are story. So many stories are funny in, uh, in retrospect, you know, it’s like that type one, two, and three fund and, and you get into the type two fund where it’s only fun and good when you’re back at home remembering it.
I think the, the trip that I screwed up worse than any other was, was a few years ago. I went into climb in the circle of the Unables in, in the Northwest Territories and, and I’m fired up. I’ve got a film crew, It’s like one of my first gigs and I’m like just so stoked. And we go in there and it snows for two weeks and we’re in the circ.
We climb very close to. And in my genius, I decided the thing to do was to paddle out from the circuit the unli wolves down a creek that nobody had ever run to the Han and then out to civilization. It was going to be awesome. Best idea ever. Unfortunately our food got food bag got flown out from our cash by accident.
They took the hall bag with the food and left us the hall bag with the gear. So we show up to start paddling out after two weeks in the snow. And we have like 14 snicker. And, and a, uh, large thing of coffee for the next three days, . And so we’re going down there and we, we decided to fish, which is awesome.
So we we’re catching fish. Things are pretty good in the creek except we didn’t have any bear spray cuz we didn’t. And that night the grizzly came and took all of our fish. So we’re like trying to like wave our kayak paddles this grizzly to get ’em off and you just deal with our fish, which we really want, and that, and then it starts raining.
And we, in our genuine wisdom, we’ve taken. Giant tarp, which my friend of mine is like, it weighs nothing. It’s the bomb. This tarp will be great. Forget sleeping, be, you know, forget. So we’re lying there and it starts leaking and there’s sea lines every like 16 inches and our shoulders are like 20 inches or whatever.
So it’s raining on us. And I’m like, Dude, where’d you get this tarp? And he’s like, Well, It’s actually a light diffuser from an Antonio Banderas film I was working on. Wasn’t even at dark round, like so now we’re out of food. Our grizzly bear is stole at our fish and we get down to the river and it’s raining in like four degrees.
So we’re totally hypothermic and we have no calories and, and so we paddle until we were like, I we’re probably going to get arrested for this. But we paddle until we were so cold, we couldn’t think. And all we had actually was a lot of white. So we’d pour white gas at a, at a log jab, throw the lighter at it, like, and then, and then it would go up, and then we’d strip naked and, and get warm.
And this was the only way we could actually get warm, at which 0.1 of these commercial. No ha canoe trips would show up. Hey. And, uh, and so we’d run naked toward the canoe trip, say, Hey, do you have any fair spare food? We’re starving. And they’d like throw stuff that’s just to get us from coming any closer.
Uh, you know, day, day six of this, we, we did finally reach civilization, but uh, yeah, that was where I learned to plan a little bit better about what we were doing. And maybe mark the bag that gets flown out a little more clearly. And, uh, the whole trip was like that, . And yeah, we survived. But that was a serious misadventure.
Don’t do that.