Backcountry.com’s Interview with 2-Mill Greg Hill
by Jason Grant Whitehouse
You could say Greg Hill is a numbers guy. The Canadian ski mountaineer just vanquished the ridiculously daunting goal of ski-touring 2-million feet of vertical in a single year. For you visual learners, that's the equivalent of 36 trips up and down Mt. Everest. Now, consider the fact that Greg was only counting the feet on his way uphill, and you have a new appreciation for this man’s dedication. We recently got a chance to talk to Greg post 2-Mill, and the dude is in high spirits. We recommend you read the whole interview–Greg’s stoke is contagious.
What motivated you to get up every morning? Well, I like adventure, and pushing myself–I guess that’s really the goal of life: to live life to the fullest. And that was my goal for the year–to do the most backcountry skiing ever–and that’s exactly what it was.
At what point did you realize that you were going to reach your goal?
I never let up on it really. There were points that I felt close, but even when there was 8500ft to go in a realistic timeframe, there are still so
many variables and factors that could keep it from happening. You twist an ankle with seven thousand feet to go and have to take 4 days off and
then BAM, the goal is out of site. It was really down to the wire because of that fact, I mean, no matter what you could slip on the ice when
you’re getting your grocery bags and you’re out.
I believed it the whole time, though I did go through periods of doubt, but I constantly believed in the fact that I could accomplish this goal and that is what really made it happen.
What was the non-geographical highpoint of your 2 million foot journey? It was really just watching my watch tick over the 2-million mile mark. I was so involved for so many years building up to that that one little number was my high-point. Hitting that number essentially was my emotional highpoint.
What was the low point? I guess it was a few times when I was behind. And times when weather was terrible–I couldn’t take rest day, there was nothing to do but get up there. The most challenging part was to stay even.
How often were you skinning/touring solo? What are your guidelines for touring solo?
I’d throw out the number of 50% pretty easily. There were tons of days where I’d do extra runs at the end of the day, or like in Chile I’d have
partners for some of it, but for most of it I was just running around the mountains solo.
I’ve always gone on adventures alone, and the guideline to that is you have to have knowledge of the terrain and everything to be confident in it. I’ve spent years just getting to the point that my mountain sense is developed enough to be out there on my own and to know that I can trust my judgment out there on my own.
How do you plan your ski days? How do you assess safety conditions? Each and every day has its own weather and avy conditions. No matter how much I plan before, it really all starts on the day-of. I wake up and take a quick look on the Web–see where the winds have been, what the temps are, and if there’s new snow or not. This all dictates whether or not it’s safe to go into the alpine, or whether we should stick to tree runs and the safer side of the mountain. Even driving up, we’re still assessing and assessing, and double checking to make sure it makes sense. It’s really what’s under my skis and around me that tells me exactly where to go.
Do you have any memorable walk-aways?
I met up with an American Donny Ross in Chile–and he’d been dreaming about skiing this mountain in Chile for years, but he had never had a partner
who was keen on it. It was the first real mountain down there that I really wanted to get up–it was bigger and badder than anything around it for
hundreds of kilometers so it just had this appeal. I saw it right away when I got to Chile and marked it on Google maps as ‘cool peak must check out’
and three months later finally met up with Donny in Chile. All he wanted to do was take a look at it, and figure out how to get there.
Anyway, we got there under a wild line off the highest peak, and he was really keen. I was looking up at hours of boot packing in an exposed area, I mean you’d be there for a long time, and in looking around the conditions were kinda telling me this wasn’t the time or the place. So we looked up and looked up, and I just told Donny “this is it we gotta turn around and find a better way up this mountain because this is not the way” and we backed off that day. So we took a rest day and came up a few days later. We went up around on the other side and managed to go up a much safer, easier way that got us on top of that line. Skiing it from the top down… it was just an amazing line.
You have to feel good about where you’re going. And you have to make the correct calls–because you can only make the calls once. If you make the wrong call in the wrong place that’s the end of it really–especially on that kind of line.
Favorite piece(s) of gear? What item could you have not gone without?
Dynafit bindings, no question.
Weight was a big factor, but it’s mostly Dynafit’s pivot–it has this natural pivot that allows you to walk comfortably.
What are your plans for the upcoming year? For the most part here, I’m working on the movie aspect of the journey–I wanna hammer down something really good that will inspire and people to get into the backcountry. I carried a professional P2 camera that I carry everywhere–it went to every peak with me.
Tell me about the Bag of Commitment. At the end for me, the Cliff Bars, and the Gels and Blocks and all that stuff became really important for me to make my goal happen. And because it was such amazing skiing and the powder was deep I wanted to push my partners too, so I thought up this bag full of all sorts of Cliff stuff called the Bag of Commitment. Basically, the deeper my partners grabbed into the Bag of Commitment, the more vertical they’d have to climb that day. They were all stoked on the idea that they were just grabbing more energy for the day because we were going for it.
Did you have any injuries over the course of your journey? Early on in the season I crashed and cracked some ribs. That’s one of those injuries that you can’t really do anything for so basically for the next five weeks every time I bent down to lock down my bindings and boots it was painful. At that point I was getting into it, and I was committing to it, and the pain wasn’t so debilitating that it would shut me down. It was just those 15-30 seconds it takes to do up your boot I’d grin and bear it and then I’d be fine, and then the next lap it’d be the same thing– 15-30 seconds of grinning and bearing it, but luckily it was the kind of injury that you could look beyond.
How do you train in the off-season? This training is really 90% mental–it’s your mind that really drives the engine. I’ve had years of giv’n’er and figuring out how to move fast and quick and put consecutive big days together so I had this mental confidence to know that my body and mind were used to it. For me that’s the biggest training–you have to believe in what you’re doing. Even if you’re super fit, if you don’t believe, it’s not going to happen. Really it’s the mental preparation that pays off.Have a comment to share? Type it a here.