Adventurers of the Year 2005

Greg Hill: Ski Mountaineer

Greg Hill skis mountains the sovereign way: no lifts, no helicopters; only the power from within. Using skins on his skis for traction, the forester and ski guide climbs a peak only to ski back down it. In 1999, his first year of serious backcountry skiing, 4,000 or 6,000 feet (1,219 or 1,828 meters) of vertical gain and loss would have been a big day.

But that was just a start.

"Ruedi Beglinger [a famous guide in the Canadian Rockies] claimed to have skied nearly a million verts in a year, and that made it one of those benchmark deals," says Hill. "Nobody had done it, and nobody was expecting anybody
to do it. So I started trying for it."

Last year, Hill, 30, a native of British Columbia, did 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) under his own power in a single day. (It would take a slower, shuttle-dependent heli-skier two days to match that number.) Over this year, Hill summited 40 separate peaks in central B.C. and put in 37 days of 10,000 or more feet (3,048 meters).

He got "pushed around a couple of times by avalanches," but reciting the mantra "Breathe and believe," he kept going. On May 19, in the MacKenzie Mountains, after 145 days of skiing, he got the millionth foot (304,800th meter). He was tired, but, he says, "I was sorry it was over."