S2.E09: How to Communicate Risk with Will Gadd

At the heart of every adventure, is a degree of risk taking. Being able to communicate the level of risk that people can expect to be exposed to is an important component of delivering adventure to others recreationally and professionally.

There is nothing worse than exposing someone to a situation that has an elevated level of risk or challenge and having them turn around and tell us that this is not what they expected. When this happens, the blame almost always lands on the leader.

Helping us to examine how we can communicate risk more effectively, is friend of the show, Will Gadd. Will is a world class climbing, paragliding and white-water kayaking athlete. In addition to undertaking many adventures around the world as a professional athlete, Will also guides others professionally and is a certified ACMG Alpine Guide.

In this episode we explore why it’s important to communicate risk and discuss some of the strategies GST allow us to do it more effectively.

Guest Bio:

Will Gadd is a world class climbing, paragliding and white-water kayaking athlete. In addition to undertaking many adventures around the world as a professional athlete, Will also guides others professionally and is a certified ACMG Alpine Guide.

Some of Will’s career highlights include:

  • Establishing the hardest mixed ice climbing lines in the world.
  • Setting the world distance record for paragliding. Twice. 423 km (263 miles) the second time.
  • Kayaking down dozens of first ascents across North America.
  • Winning the Canadian National Sport-Climbing Championships. Four times.
  • Winning three gold medals at the X Games.

Will has also been recognized as a mountain hero by the United Nations for his efforts to raise awareness for environmental issues including how climate change is affecting the mountain environment.

Guest Links:

Contact Will to be your Guide, Instructor or Speaker: https://willgadd.com/

Instagram: @realwillgadd

The Last Ascent, Kilimanjaro: https://www.redbull.com/ca-en/films/the-last-ascent-will-gadds-return-to-kilimanjaro

A Fun Ted Talk: Three Simple Tools to Manage Risk, Fear and Children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTdFkPTTnsA

Key Takeaways:

The role of risk communication is to: Inform everyone of what to expect, so that people know what can happen, how likely it is and how risks will be managed, can provide the leader with informed consent.

Getting informed consent: Getting informed consent involves communicating the risks that will be faced in a way that people can understand and process accurately.  Only when people have an understanding of what can happen to them, can they give informed consent to undertake that activity. 

The challenge with getting informed consent is that in some circumstances it can be difficult and even impossible to inform people effectively. 

When it comes to communicating risk: Do it at the start, end and during an event. You should be informing people any time you are going to be taking on an increased level of risk or you are about to do something that is completely new to them.

Involving people in the decision-making process: Anytime there is going to be an elevated level of risk, or there is a new situation that people have not encountered, leader should probably consider involving their group in the decision-making process. 

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Photos by Christian Pondella

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1 comment
  • Hey Chris, I just finished the latest episode with Will Gad. I found a very interesting informative and well done. A lot of parallels between the consent that I have to obtain for surgery and what you guys do. Assessing risk and explaining that in a way that makes it real is often very challenging. I found it helpful. Hope you guys are well. All is good here. Definitely made me appreciate the care you take and curating our days and challenging us.

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