They call Greg Hill a numbers guy. That might be an understatement. This year, the Canadian ski mountaineer is attempting to ski two million vertical feet under his own power. That’s the equivalent of climbing Everest 86 times. Now, 7.5 months in, he’s already notched 1.2 million feet of vert in South America and the Canadian Rockies around his home in Revelstoke. He’s in the homestretch, if you can call it that, but he’s still got 800,000 feet left to climb and ski before the new year.
Where did the idea come from?
I have always loved pushing and pushing myself to see where my tether ends. I have toured 30-40 and finally 50 thousand feet in 24 hours, all in the effort of seeing how far I can go. I know I have a lot of determination, drive, and energy but I wanted to quantify that and see what my limit really was. I asked myself: in one calendar year, if I dedicated myself to climbing and skiing off mountains, how many feet could I climb and how many mountains would I stand on top of? And here I am, 7.5 months in and 1.2 million feet done. I’m seven days behind schedule, but staying steady.
I've also developed a way to share what I do with people, I began with still photography but then evolved into film and now I can document and share this mission with people.
Where have you been so far, and where are you heading next?
I spent the majority of the winter in Revelstoke, skiing off the endless mountains around there. Then in May I headed up to the St. Elias and climbed Canada’s 5th highest mountain. In June I headed to Chile and spent a month and a half there and the came to Argentina. I will remain in Chile and Argentina till end of October when I will hopefully return home to finish my quest out of Revelstoke.
What is the route and how did you plan it?
Familiarity is key, so most of my time has and will be spent in and around Revelstoke, which has endless summits to climb and ski, as well as the most consistent snow. Then the plan was to come to Chile where it snows earlier than Argentina and ski some of their volcanoes, which I did. Now I am in Argentina and liking Bariloche but I will need to move on soon. Time to head to the bigger Andes and try to climb and ski some bigger mountains.
Any roadblocks so far?
Well, the motivation needed for this challenge ebbs and flows, so trying to keep it flowing is key. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the size of this quest. Each day is so critical to the overall average that I have to go for small goals and focus on them. I need to average just under 5500 feet everyday, so to take days off and spend some quality time with my family I have to do much larger days. Luckily I can. But it’s huge. I am hitting 1.2 million tomorrow (Monday, August 16), which should feel great but it means I still have 800,000 to go. Damn.
What about challenges you didn’t foresee?
In Revelstoke I can always hide from the weather and get good skiing in the trees, but in Chile the winds were unbelievable, unrelenting, and there was nowhere to hide from them. So going out and suffering was the flavor of Chile. One of the biggest challenges is not getting sick or injuring myself. I am 7 days behind schedule right now and if I got sick or hurt myself and fell 3 weeks behind it would take a massive effort to get back, maybe impossible. So staying fit and healthy is the key.
What’s been your favorite ascent so far?
I have climbed and skied off 52 summits, but my favorites have been those I had never climbed and skied before.
What about least favorite?
My second worst descent of my life was off Villarrica Volcano in Chile. It was terrible, all frozen chicken heads that threatened to vibrate my body into pieces.
What are you most excited about in the months to come?
I look forward to the next two months in Argentina and Chile, exploring the higher mountains and summiting new peaks. But I will be really excited when I return home at the end of October. It’ll be nice to be back in my comfort zone and know there is only two months left.