- Buyer's Guide
Greg Hill :: After the March Madness
Man of action, adrenaline adventure seeker, renowned ski mountaineer…all fitting descriptions for Greg Hill. He has summitted and skied more than 190 mountains and judging by his impressive list of accomplishments it’s safe to say he loves what he does and isn’t looking to slow down any time soon. We recently caught up with him following the completion of his March Madness challenge – to find out how far he could push himself physically and mentally in 31 days, the goal being 100 vertical kilometers or 328,000 feet…
You’ve just finished your March Madness challenge and skied 100 vertical kilometers (328,000 feet). Can you tell us about why you challenged yourself with such a feat?
Over the years I have challenged myself with personal goals. Pushing my limits lets me know that I am progressing in my sport. I know my daily limit, 50 000 feet, my yearly 2 million feet and now I know what I can do in a month, 328 000 feet. I feel that life slips by really quickly and I need to maximize my life.
How did this challenge compare to your previous challenges?
Each challenge has its “challenges”…this one was an intense daily average. There was no time to fall behind, and no way to get ahead, I just needed to fight as hard as I could daily and stay on par.
How did you prepare?
I was really busy right up to the starting date, so most of the preparation was in the years leading up to it. In terms of knowing how to do big days in the mountains, how to move safely around the avalanche hazards, what to eat…but in reality I wanted some fat on my body so that I would have some extra to burn off.
What were the highlights?
Amazing skiing for most of the challenge.
High avalanche hazard, crazy deep snow.
Any injuries? How did you manage them?
Not allowed any…
What were the greatest challenges you faced?
Really, it was to move safely around the mountains, with them falling apart all around me.
What gear did you carry and why?
The essential avalanche gear:
– extra clothing
And a Khamski 38. It has a nice kangaroo pocket that is perfect for my shovel, probe, and snow science equipment. Plus some space to put my skins in on the way down. Everything else goes in the main compartment, which has a side zip that allows me to access everything without unpacking every time.
All in all, very minimalist, but effective gear.
What’s important when it comes to mountaineering carry?
It must be designed perfectly for its use and hopefully multiple uses. When every extra bit of weight means less energy for your adventures, every detail has to be well thought through. If it is on my bag I have to need it and use it regularly, otherwise the energy I use to carry that piece around is wasted.
What makes a great ski mountaineer?
Someone who has their head up, and is very observant. Also someone who understands that the mountains will be there tomorrow and success can wait.
Any guiding philosophies you live by?
I believe that we should maximize our lives, live with passion and search for happiness.
Do you have a favorite saying that you draw on for inspiration?
I used to really use “breathe and believe”, just to be calm and persistent.
How do you train for such a challenge?
Years of always pushing myself, well beyond what I want to do. Then what was impossible becomes possible and slowly barriers move.
Who else is doing rad things in the world of ski mountaineering and why?
There are so many people who are pushing the boundaries of this sport, from Andreas Fransson’s wild descents, to quiet boys who send big lines in remote places.
Being that you spend the majority of your time in sub-zero temps and ice-bound, what does that environment demand from your gear?
Fabrics that are durable, water-resistant and yet also flexible and easy to use.
What’s important design-wise?
Moisture management is huge. It needs to never become part of the system; if it does problems will arise. My clothing has to keep me warm yet not hot. So my layers have to work really well, the base layer needs to move moisture away from my body so that it can be evaporated elsewhere. If it stayed on my body it would cool me down and even keep me cold, which in the harsh mountains could be dangerous. So the layer needs to keep me warm yet move moisture quickly.
I was a big fan of merino wool, and I still am as long as I am not really running around. The merino absorbs too much water and once you stop your cardio ski uphill it will cool you down and then stay cold. A good base layer will move the moisture away and almost be dry when you stop running uphill.
What do you look for when choosing what to ski?
The nuances of snow are hard to explain but a lot of it comes down to intuition. Which is a learned trait. But I always like skiing the biggest best line I can for the given conditions.
What makes for a perfect run?
Consistent angle, great snow and untracked.
What sends off warning bells and what do you try to avoid?
In March the biggest hazard was shallow rocky areas, where you could trigger massive slides into the deeper snow.
Is there anything that present ski gear doesn’t cater for?
The ultimate dream is lightness without compromising performance, and we are always treading that line. With new materials being created these dreams will become more and more feasible.
Have you ever had to modify any of your gear to suit you?
If something is not working I modify a little but typically I like to test the same gear as an end user. That being said, the prototypes usually incorporate modifications I have dreamed up. For example there was the size of the cuff on the Alpha SV gloves. This cuff size came from some welder gloves I had that fit well over all my layers and seemed perfect for the Alpha gloves. Mike Blenkarn agreed and the cuff has been perfect ever since.
Are there any features from other carry products (messengers, roller luggage, etc.) that would be beneficial to you, that aren’t being utilized in what is currently out there for your specialized gear carry? For example, telescoping handles, 360 rolling wheels, etc.
I really do like 360 rolling wheels but I really just need duffel bags, since they go from car to airport to helicopter to mule. The bag needs to be as light as possible so I can max out the equipment inside.
So, you’ve traveled the world skiing and I’m sure you’ve logged some serious travel time. So what have you learnt about the best ways to travel?
I always plan my flights with some breathing space, so that there is no stress to make the connections. I watch people all the time who are so unhappy because they tried to make the trip as short as possible. We need to remember when it took 80 days to go around the world. It’s okay if the trip takes a while.
Any favorite tips or habits for traveling better?
Enjoy the downtime, get things done that you needed to and enjoy some movies.
What challenges do you face carrying ski gear through airports?
I have a pretty dialled system. One ski bag on rollers, weighing in at 50lbs, a small carry-on and a bigger checked bag. I really like being free of all my bags once I have checked in. Just a little Switchblade computer bag and that’s it.
Any nightmare travel stories?
I had a seventy-year-old man go through multiple seizures, throwing up red wine all over himself. For hours he teetered between life and death. I had to console his wife for the entire trip, assuring her that she was not losing her husband on that flight.
Had any run-ins with hostile customs officers?
Customs has always been easy enough for me, thankfully. Though saying that, I am worrying about my upcoming trip to Pakistan…
What do you personally look for in good carry?
In a good carry-on I like it to be inside the regulations by a lot, so that it is easily stored. Instead of one that is right on the line and always a hassle to put in the overhead bins.
What’s your go-to travel bag?
Arc’teryx Covert case C/O combined with the new Arc duffels, I really like its simplicity. It’s secure, stylish, well thought out and perfect for their applications.
What single skiing moment has given you the biggest smile?
The freedom of a great powder turn.
And the diciest moment you’ve ever endured?
Living a life of adventure, there have been many moments that were dicey. Many…
What’s next for Greg Hill?
I just finished my ski guides exam in the ACMG and now I am getting geared up for a trip to Pakistan.
If you weren’t a ski mountaineer, and all-round rad dude, what profession would you be doing now?
I imagine it would still be sport related, maybe physiotherapist…I was leaning towards that at university but ended up leaving for the mountains.
Anything you’d like to mention that I’ve missed?
You kidding me? That was a ton of questions!
*Note: All of this rad photography was courtesy of Bruno Long Photography.