Right now I am heading into a total unfamiliar culture, one that appears scary from our north American perspective. I am in Pakistan about to climb and ski off a remote mountain. It’s a place I have dreamed of visiting since I was a young kid reading National Geographic magazines. An Islamic culture that differs greatly from our own. I am nervous, for sure, it’s the unknown. But I have a huge trust in humanity.
Ptor Spricenieks, a legendary canadian ski mountaineer, invited me on a trip to Pakistan to climb and ski off a virgin summit. This is not an invite to refuse, Ptor’s magical personality is one that invites adventure and exploration. He is working with Salomon to create a movie on his perspective and progression in the mountains. I am along to shred with him while he gets filmed by Bjarne and Daniel. It should be a great team, 2 eccentric canadians, being filmed and captured by two wild Swedes.
So here we are about to take off, all I have is a photo of the mountain. No other information, as the mystery is part of the trip. Ptor was here 8 years ago and made it part way up the peak and vowed to come back and savour the steep glacial flanks on the north side. So we are here and about to leave Islamabad and venture north into the Himalayas. No internet or anything so I leave you with all I have to go on.
A picture from 8 years ago, a dream waiting.
Its often the question that people ask me. Why? Why would I do all these feats?
As with everything there are lots of reasons.
As a young kid with 3 older brothers and two older sisters, I was bugged a normal amount. Young and insecure I yearned for acceptance. At some point I realized that if I did crazy things they would notice me. I obviously enjoyed the crazy things I was doing but I was also rewarded from them. I gained acceptance through these acts.
Also as I overcame these challenges and obstacles I gained confidence in myself. Learning my limits and pushing them I recognized my worth and battled my insecurities. The confidence learned in my activities transferred into my life, socially, and emotionally and all aspects.
One of the bigger reasons I love a life of adventure stems from book reading as a child. I was fully into all kinds of adventure books, from Tolkien, to Piers Anthony, to any fantasy style book. Any book where the main characters spent the whole book training, conquering and fighting against some evil. When I read I usually become the characters in the books and live through their adventures. Living vicariously through them I slayed dragons, climbed over mountain ranges, flew on eagles backs. Each time I would close a book and look around and realize that there was nothing like that in my reality. Looking around I diligently searched for the same emotions and challenges I saw in my books. I yearned for some senseii to come and pick me out of a group, to teach me the ways of Musashi. Or to discover that animals could talk. So I created a make believe world where my friends and I challenged the world, fighting against unknown evils, building nun-chucks, fighting with Bo sticks.
Slowly in my teens the magic of life started fading. Santa Claus did not exist, animals are just animals, rainbows didn’t have pots of gold at the bottom. It was a slow realization that life was or at least could be mundane. The demands of social life, conventional society were not enough for me. I needed all the excitement and adventures I had read about and grown up on. Luckily I began finding these in the mountains around my home, climbing small rocks, ascending small hills. Finding quests that required me to train, to focus and to work hard to realize them.
I loosely call it “hero syndrome”. Its true for me at least, I idolized superman, batman, actually wolverine really was my favorite. I can’t become them, as I mentioned in the last days of march, but I can find my niche and push the limits. Becoming a “hero” sounds very vain and egotistical, but it placates my insecurities and allows me to feel better about who I am and what I am doing with my life. Really that is one of the main goals in life. I guess I just want to be special, not one of the masses. That is what all those books are about; special people living their lives.
My mother says I am trying to de-mistifie these heroes, but I am not. I am just trying to live a life that is wild, and worth living. I will never be Robert Langdon, piecing together cryptic clues and saving the world. But just maybe I can be the hero in my story and be the adventurer I have always dreamed of being.
As I write this I realize that as a child I was able to meld together the fantasy stories with National geographic magazines. I started to see the people in Nat geo as modern day adventurers, and the physical world as my Narnia. In a week I get to fulfill one dream, to visit Pakistan and wander around their fantastic mountains, hopefully skiing and summitting. It has its hazards and unknowns, but more importantly it has uncertainty, and adventure.
Its funny yesterday morning was poring rain. It was pelting down onto the windshield as I drove to eagle pass guides meeting. My partners for the day were waffling and it really looked like a doozy of a day. I had looked at the weather forecast and it was supposed to get better. But as huge raindrops bounced off my windshield I wondered?
I knew that once I was done it was going to be sunny and nice for a few days. The eagerly awaited sun, that never really came for me all month, was going to show up once I no longer needed it. But at least give me a banger of a last day.
Eagle Pass Heli-skiing was going to drop us in the alpine so we could get some great footage with Sherpas cinema and Bruno long could get some good finishing photos. Which would make it a challenge to get my 10 grand in but also document the end of this madness. We flew up into the clouds and managed a high drop near where I was hopeing to shred. It appeared that Danyelle was having issues closing the compartment door on the back of the heli, so I went around, precariously stood on the skid and reached up and closed the latches. I gave the pilot the “OK” and he flew off. As he flew off, I realized the issue was not in closing the latches but in opening the door. So he flew away with Brunos, touring gear and more importantly his camera gear. Not a good start if you want to document the day!
The clouds stayed thick and heavy on the mountain so I banged off a few thousand feet of short runs, getting a little footage, and once the heli flew back, with the camera bag, a shot or two. But the whole time I was dreaming of this line.
Over ten years ago, Dan Treadway came to town for a magazine article on this sleepy town called Revelstoke. Scott Newsome and I took them up and dropped Dan off on top of this line. It was his first ski run in Revelstoke and he shredded it. I have wanted to lay some turns down it forever.
The weather began to break and we headed directly to this line, and shredded it. My instagram greg_hill_ski has a few seconds of the fun I had carving down this face.
With that run in the bag and the skin track back up, it was session time. Over the next 5 hours, I lapped this north facing ridge a total of 6 times. From wide open ramps, to sketchy rock entrances under huge cornices. It was all there and the skiing was off the hook deep.
The clouds rolled in and out all day and finally cleared completely for the last up of this March Madness. To hit 100 km I neeeded to tour a 10 000 foot day. So at 5:23 pm I hiked my final feet
to watch my number
And bamm I had successfully completed the biggest human powered powder month ever. 328,000 ft of effort, a 100 vertical km of wild powder skiing.
Leo, of Sherpas cinema asked me for some wise words. My first were ” judge me by my actions and not my words, but eventually I had a few words of wisdom.(maybe)
The biggest thing is that uncertainty in life is a good thing, not knowing what can happen is important. Trying to do things that you may not succeed at, digging deep and really finding out what you can do. I was full of doubt this whole mission, but I was also full of belief that if I worked hard, really hard, I possibly could achieve my goal.
Its another totally pointless greg hill goal, yet its the challenge that is important, the desire for more and the willingness to work hard towards something.