Where are you from and where do you currently live?
I’m from the Rocky Mountains, and continue to live there in Canmore, Alberta.
How did you get interested in ice climbing and how has that developed over the years?
My dad was an ice climber, but I got into it on my own in high school and then really made it a big part of life when I was 30 and done competitive rock climbing and world record paragliding. It just took over because it’s wildly interesting and always fresh!
You were recently named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year - congratulations! You love to explore new places around the world - what are some of your favorite places you have been and why?
I’ve been working on new routes and an adventure travel show in China a lot lately, that country is fascinating to me because of what it was, what it is, and the mirrors it holds up to our own future. Amazing place that is with you all the time in the form of the products we buy from there, but also in our global politics and pollution. It was the centre of the world and is again I think. And the climbing is really good too :).
You have said "I would squeeze into places no human had ever been all because it was wildly interesting and scratched the raw itch of curiosity." What has driven you over the years? Where do you think this drive comes from?
I can’t help wanting to push farther, so I guess it’s just genetics meeting or creating opportunity. The drive to do new things is great when it’s expressed in positive ways, but it’s a real bear when I can’t find interesting things to do. I tend to create less healthy version of exploration when I’m bored, so I try to keep things interesting in a positive way.
Can you discuss Beneath the Ice - how did this project get started and what was the goal of it?
It got started as a simple, “What’s under all that ice?” and then grew a lot! Now I get to work with some of the top researchers in the world on very interesting projects about how the Greenland Ice Cap is moving toward the ocean, and what climate change might do to that process. Plus it’s wildly interesting!
"There are moments in life where you know you couldn’t possibly be living any more than you are in that moment. This is one of them for me." Can you explain what you mean in this quote - how does ice climbing and adventure help you achieve living in the moment?
When you’re so wrapped up in something absolutely amazing that nothing else exists then to me that’s really great living. I love that moment where there are no other moments. That feeling for me has been there since I was a little kid riding my bike off to explore on Saturday morning, and it’s a big part of what makes living worthwhile for me.
How does caving, in your sense, capture the true feeling of exploration?
There are no maps to caves, no real clues, just a rip in the fabric of the earth waiting to be found. It’s one of the only true forms of exploration left in the world. A lot of my climbing and flying projects are significant in the sense of a sporting accomplishment, but they aren’t exploration. Caving is, and i love that.
Do you ever experience fear while ice climbing or in small spaces (asking out of personal interest - claustrophobic here!)?
For sure! But that’s also part of the game. Walking with fear instead of the bullshit “conquering” of it, learning to exist in scary places that are scary for good reason, and understanding how our minds work. That’s the really interesting stuff to me, where you find out what makes you tick and why.
If you could bring along any three people (living or dead) on the road with you - who would it be and why?
Me at 20, me at 70, and any of my regular traveling buds. I’ve got some stuff to tell the 20 year old, and likely some stuff to learn from the 70 year old, and good friends are my favour people to travel with.