It's one thing to brag about big vertical amassed via lifts. It's quite another to ski two million vertical feet in a year by human power.
Greg Hill, a 35-year-old from Revelstoke, B.C., spent 2010 chasing the goal of skiing two million vertical feet by ski touring. He climbed every vertical foot of the two million he descended--no lifts, no snowcats, no helicopters. He gained every bit of vertical by hiking with skins or on foot and sometimes boot-packing ultra-steep routes.
OnTheSnow caught up with Hill by phone as he skinned up Mt. Begbie near Revelstoke, honing in on the last 70,000 of vertical before the end of the year. "It looks like the challenge will last right up until last moment," he said. "I'll need to ski 9,000-10,000 feet every day until the end."
Let's put Hill's quest into perspective. Two million vertical feet is the equivalent of climbing and skiing down Mt. Everest 69 times-from the summit to sea level. His adventure has taken him to slopes in Canada, the U.S., Argentina, and Chile, totaling about 270 days of skiing for the year. He climbed 71 different summits and skied 8-10 first descents.
But achieving the goal wasn't all powder skiing and blue skies.
"A year-long challenge has a lot of ups and downs," Hill said. "I'd be super psyched one day and the next day battling winds and weather and doubted whether it was really going to happen."
His year started in cruise mode cresting the wave of doing something new. "The early part was really exciting for the first two months," he said. "Then I realized, wait a second, this is going to be really hard." He ended up battling not just wicked weather, high winds, and crummy snow conditions, but sickness and fatigue.
Going for two million vertical required a mental game of concentrating on the minute at hand rather than the number of steps left to reach the end goal. His August 30 journal entry summed up how he learned "to focus on the small while not letting the large goal out of sight. Each up counts towards the total, each day, each week. During the course of each day, I focus on each part of it, and use the small steps to stay psyched."
The worst happened during a month in Chile as he struggled to reach the first million vertical feet. "I was two weeks behind schedule, and I needed a car to get to trailheads," explained Hill. "The guy kept waffling on the car deal and wouldn't give it to me. Plus, it was blowing with 60-80 mph winds. Trying to get to the first million feet was arduous."
The road to two million did have plenty of ups, too, including summit ascents and powder turns. He shared the company of friends, family members, and supporters who joined him on ski tours.
Hill spent his last day of the year skinning and skiing Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Friends and family joined him for his final steps and descent to cross the two million vertical mark.
So with the quest over, what does Hill plan to do? There's no hesitation in his answer: "I'm looking forward to sleeping in for a few days."
Here's a bit of what Hill's adventures were like around the 1.6 million vertical mark from YouTube: