Greg Hill.ca

Just visiting….

How is my recovery going? Its been 9 months since surgery and where am I in terms of healing. People see me out and about in the mountains and they think that I am back. But I am not. I am just visiting…

What I mean by this is that I can ski tour, I can summit mountains. I can dig deep and suffer as well as before. But I am not a 100%, not by a long shot. There are many different ways that my injury affects me. The worst is when survival skiing, when my leg needs to respond quickly, or needs to reflexively react. It doesn’t do that well, its awkward and slow. When i am powder skiing its fine, but with all the variable (i.e. shitty) skiing we have right now I get wrecked. Side slipping for thousands of feet down hard snow, rattles me and tires me out a tonne. But I can hiked thousands of feet and summit things, so life is good.

I can’t complain at being where I am, and will not. I will continue to work out, and focus on getting back to 100%. I will get there, just not immediately. I feel by the one year mark I will be pretty good and then by next winter, strong again.

On the topic of “just visiting” I went to Japan a few weeks ago. I received a text on Wednesday from Arc’teryx asking if I could go the next day. In less than 24 hours I was driving to the airport and on my way to Niseko Japan. Part of me has hated the social media #japow and how amazing it is. I didn’t want to buy in to the whole idea of the amazing powder over there. But once I got there and experienced it I realized it was as good as all the media was portraying.

To me Japan, has always been a magical place, where samurais lived and ninjas were born. One of my favourite books has been “Musashi”, an epic novel about a samurais journey through life.Throughout the book Musashi, develops and hones a two sword technique. I thought it apt that I was traveling to Japan to help hone my own two ski technique. A daydream of mine has been to go live with training samurais and learn their ways while skiing through their magical trees and deep snow. This reality was halfway there…

Our goal was to get photos of Arc’teryx clothing for 2016, and Angela Percival was our talented photographer, always willing to work hard and get the shot.

Peta Gunderson, a norwegian shredder, was there to style out the girls gear while I was there to hopefully do the same for the men’s clothing.

My first day I spent a few hours riding this crazy solo chair on Niseko mountain.

We were super lucky as black diamond tours co-ordinated everything for us. Luckily since they had every thing dialled, and understood our needs. Which were fairly simple, deep cold snow and cool trees to ski around.

Without Black Diamond and our trusty driver/co-ordinater Matt we would not have had a simple trip. It’s not the easiest place to get around, since there is no english signage or anything to make it easier for us, non japanese speaking tourists. There are so many interesting things that they do there, and you can see that they deal with a lot of snow. So much that the snowblowers that people have out huge, almost tank like. Also since there are so many storms while driving they have developed these arrows that point out the edge of the road. So that while blinded by the storm you can still stay on the road.

As a powder snob, I always thought the snow would be coastal and not the silky stuff I really love. But somehow, although almost parallel with Oregon, it gets cold fluffy snow. There is some Siberian cold air that flows down and meets that pacific moisture and just dumps incredible snow.

Snow that is so good its worth a visit. Put this place on your bucket list… its a must visit. There was so much culture that I did not see, so many temples and old villages that I missed out on. Having only a week we were teased by the place, and I will return. Not only for the heated toilet seats, with built in bidet.

But also for the chaos of tokyo.

As for now I am training, healing and getting stronger so I can not only visit but have a “come back”…..

Rehab’in

I cannot complain about my rehab, although i always want more. Its been a long process but luckily for me there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have never expected anything but a full recovery, which is testimony to my optimism. I expect my body to respond properly and heal it self so we can continue to have fun in the mountains.

Since my injury I have met people who had similar injuries and a longer healing time. So i consider myself lucky. I am also pretty diligent with my exercises and like I said I expect to come back from this.

On Dec 3, I went skiing. I assumed since I have been biking a lot that skiing would be fairly easy. But I left that day almost in tears. I was unable to bear lots of weight on my left leg, much less carve and be able to respond to the mountain. I ended up painfully sideslipping my way down the run and watching my kids shred away from me.

Since then I have spent many days on the green runs, re-learning how to ski. The groomers are the best for weighting my ankle and getting the angulation and movements dialled. Its humbling to have to practice on the green runs but I have been feeling the gains.

Now I am able to carve up the blues, not non-stop but with strength. Carving my left ski and gaining reflex strength. In a way I am re-teaching my muscles how to ski, how to anticipate, respond and basically shred.

I have back country skied a few times. The first was an absolute crusher. I toured a couple of thousand feet and felt ok until I skied down and then it got bad…. things went really dark… the terrible lower elevation skiing had me screaming at my legs. Urging them to keep responding. It got to the point where I could not snow-plow, I could not go straight. I couldn’t do anything… It was F@$%ed…. My good leg was so tired it couldn’t hold me up, my weak leg was useless. I was useless…. eventually it ended…thankfully.

Over the holidays I worked out, skied a bunch with the kids and slowly improved. Then a few days ago we toured up Avalanche crest with the family. The climb felt great and I was able to do an extra lap at the top with my sister Jesse. It felt so great to be gaining strength and getting back after it. Only 4000 ft but still uphill strength felt ok.


It was pretty awesome to be up there with this group, Graham, Don, Jesse,Adrian and Jeremy.

We then proceeded to shred down Avalanche Crest. I can’t say I was the best guide since my legs were tired and I just wanted to get down. The skiing was great and we had some fun turns. Graham was looking the wrong way when Jesse slashed her way to us.

Avalanche Crests is such an incredible run, 3300 ft of non stop, top to bottom skiing. So nice to be out. My legs were cherished by the bottom and I was mostly skiing on my good leg, but hey I did mess up months ago and barely survived the avalanche. So the fact that I am almost back at it 7 months later is pretty positive.

More touring ahead.

Lost friends

A week ago I learned that a friend of mine Basti had been swept off a mountain in Nepal.
Basti was a wild Austrian who loved to push his limits in the high mountains. I remember discussing him dying in the mountains and he was OK with it. He had no kids, wife or any dependents who would be affected so much by his death. So he didn’t mind pushing it in the mountains. I recall having differing opinions on safety protocols in the mountains but we both respected each others ways.

A few days ago i heard about that Andreas Fransson was swept off a mountain side in Chile. I was with Andreas in France just over a week ago and now he is gone. I loved his wildness, his ability to ski lines that are too extreme for most extreme skiers. He risk tolerance was a lot higher than mine but he seemed to understand that and was prepared to die for what he loved. It came as no surprise to me that he died skiing in the mountains.

With all these deaths happening my Mom asked me the other day what I would expect from them should I die? There would be no consolation for them or the rest of my family. No doubt that is true but I feel we place too much importance on ourselves. Of course life is all about me, because its mine and it should be. But in the grand scheme of things we are simply grains of sand. Our existence so meaningless. Right now there are 7 billion people on earth, if I were to die, nothing changes. For a few people something will be missing but for the rest nothing changes. How many people die everyday on earth? I am going to google this and see. ( small pause while I search up this number) 154,889 people die every day. Of those 154 889 people how many were really living the lives they wanted? How many were really happy? For sure in the last week over 1 084 223 people have died but how many of them lived lives like Andreas Fransson, Basti, JP Auclair and Liz dailey

Of course if I die there will be little consolation for those that I leave behind, but at least we shared this short time on earth and enjoyed each other. What more can I really say but that I hope to encourage people to live loudly. To fight against insecurities and unhappiness and find their calling in life. To find what makes them happy and satisfied. That is lifes only true journey. I know that Andreas, JP and Basti all loved the lives they were living and had incredible moments right up to the end.

I have been trying to figure out how to justify living the life I live. How to find an analogy that helps make people understand. If you had the two glasses. One was twice the size of the other and filled with city water. The other was half the size and filled with the tastiest alcohol ever. Which would you prefer? I know most people would take the smaller glass. Imagine life like that. To live a long and unfulfilling life or one half as long that is so engrossing and powerful that every day is savoured.

Your choice.

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