Spaceman: Greg Hill’s March Odyssey

“I hiked to outer space and skied back down in a month,” Greg Hill said over the phone as he boarded a Revelstoke gondola last week. “That’s pretty rad.” Hill, who is known for vertical challenges like climbing and skiing 2-million feet in a season (2010) or 50,000 feet in a day, set out to climb the distance to outer space and back in March. More specifically, that’s 100,000 meters or 328,000 feet…climbing up and skiing down.

So how does Greg Hill recover after logging 100,000 vertical meters in a single month? He goes skiing—with his two young children. I spoke with Greg last week between Revelstoke pow lap…lift-served pow laps, that is.

Greg Hill, walking on the moon. [Photo] Bruno Long

Greg Hill, walking on the moon. [Photo] Bruno Long

Tyler Cohen: Can you give me a quick rundown of the numbers?

Greg Hill: The one that’s most interesting is 183 hours of uphill skinning. It’s like seven-and-a-half days nonstop. And if you’re ever to see me on the up, it’s like full-on aerobic. Seven-and-a-half days of full-on aerobics.

TC: Did you ski every single day for the entire month?

GH: No, no. I took five days off. The idea was to average 10,500 feet a day, and if I did four days at 13,000 feet, I would earn a day off. That worked quite well right up until the 19th or something, and then I started falling off the 13,000-foot bandwagon. I had to average 11,500 for the last eight days in a row and there was no leeway.

TC: What was a typical day like?

GH: Some days I would drive for 45 mins and sled for half an hour, and then start touring and tour a 10-hour day and then sled back and drive back—12 hours from home to home. [I was] absolutely crushed every night. Right now, I’m starting to realize how sore everything is. It’s just from the consecutive nature of crushing it [everyday] like that. Every night I’d get home, have a huge smoothie, eat dinner and I’d pretty much lie on the carpet. I’d try to stretch everything out if I had the energy, but quite often I’d just lie there.

 TC: What were your biggest challenges?

GH: Our avalanche hazard in March is typically really good, but this year it went through the roof. We had bigger slides than we’ve had in like 30 years. I had five days when I didn’t see anything and things were feeling amazing—skiing off of summits and all aspects—and then BAM, one day there was a huge slide that we remotely set off. Going to new places and staying safe the whole time proved to be the bigger challenge.

TC: Where there any major low points during the month?

GH: Right off the bat, during the first major avalanche cycle, it was really warm. I was skiing the trees a lot. I’d get stuck in a small zone, doing 900-foot or 1,000-foot laps, trail breaking through heavy, wet stuff. I was yelling at myself for attempting such a goal. Then, luckily, a few days later it cleared and I was able to start tagging summits and skiing some great lines.

That ain't no low point. [Photo] Bruno Long

That ain’t no low point. [Photo] Bruno Long

TC: Tell me about your final day.

GH: There was this line that I had been looking at for years. Dan Treadway skied it a long time ago and made it look incredible. He just tore it up, and ever since then I’ve been like, “I can’t wait to ski that thing.” Now I realize that I can see it from my house. I was pretty excited to tag that line that I’d been looking at for a long time…it was a really cool last day. It was such an intense thing with so much stress then BAM…over.

TC: You have a wife and two young kids. How do these challenges affect you family?

GH: For sure it was hard on my family. I was crushed every day, but on days off the kids and I would go to the rec center—they would play around and I would get my hot tub. The kids joined me for their first summit ever, Mt. Mackenzie, a 900-foot bootpack. I carried their skis, ’cause they’re only seven and eight. They were really crushed and digging deep. Then Charley got so excited right near the last little bit that she ran to the peak. For me, sharing that passion with them is so important.

TC: Why set big, numerical goals like you do?

GH: Everyone is always like, “Why the hell would you do that?” Life gets really busy and, at times, you just have to set yourself up to do the things you love. Even though I’m a professional athlete, things get in the way. I just like to set a time apart and that was what March was all about. It was like, “OK, let’s go. Let’s giver.” In all of these goals of mine, the number is just something to fixate on. It gives me something to dig toward. It’s a line to cross and it always feels good to cross the finish line.

For more of Greg Hill’s musings from his March Madness challenge, visit greghill.ca.

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