Pro athlete, ACMG Alpine Guide and adventure influencer Will Gadd shares his thoughts on adventure, misadventure and the line in between. Will has ice climbed Niagara Falls and Helmcken Falls, the last glacier on Mt Kilamjaro, as well as icebergs and many other places.
Avoiding misadventure takes preparation: High risk-taking endeavors like ice climbing Niagara Falls can look reckless, but there is actually a lot of preparation that true professionals put into doing them that makes them much safer than many people may realize.
Harnessing the positive power of negative thinking: Another way to avoid misadventure is to always ask ourselves; What can go wrong and can we deal with that or not?
Listening to your fear: It is normal for a client to be stressed, but the guide / leader shouldn’t be that stressed. If they are, they may be taking too much risk, they may have missed something or they haven’t prepared enough.
You can find more about Will Gadd at willgadd.com
Watch Will Gadd climbing Niagara Falls: Here
Follow or Subscribe
Make sure to follow or subscribe to the show. Thanks!
Share & Social Links
And I had about 15 minutes from that warning to.[: [:
After a lifetime of working extensively in different parts of the adventure guiding industry, Chris and I have teamed up to launch this podcast. In each episode, you'll hear top adventure guides, managers, marketers, and athletes share their best stories, advice, and trade secrets. The goal of this podcast is to share how you can take yourself and others farther from the mountains to the office and beyond.[:
We're going to ask him to explain what ice climbing is, why people should do it, and then we are going to explore some of his philosophies around managing risk. Will has a lot to share. And this is another episode where we have decided to go with two parts to ensure that none of his best insights are lost.
Now Jordy, you know, Will pretty well,[:
And, uh, yeah, he's very, um, very prolific, very intense person, uh, personality who, uh, likes getting stuff done at a high. We also have, uh, Sarah Will's partner, uh, who's an accomplished guide and climber. Uh, she'll be featured on an episode later this season. Will is a multi-sport athlete at an incredibly high level.
He's set world records in paragliding, competed internationally in sport and ice climbing and climbed ice and mixed roots at world class level for quite a long time. And actually that's one of the big things is Will, has been doing this for a long time at a very high sustained. Great.[: [:
Hi, Will, thanks for joining us. That's a lot of territory, .[: [: [:
So we've, we've covered Western Canada here and good to go.[: [:
Absolutely. How do, how do you make it work?[: [:
Whew. Probably with my dad. Um, you know, when I was a little kid, we lived in Calgary and we would go into the mountains every weekend and usually there would be adventure. Whether I was up for that or not, there was going to be adventure. So it was sort of involuntary adventure and I thought that was normal.
I thought all kids were dragged into the mountains every weekend. And, and it wasn't until I was much older that I realized this was somewhere between awesome and borderline child abuse and. You know, I, I remember being out there with my dad and how he approached the mountains, and I don't think I've ever, I don't think I've really realized how much that shaped me until I was older.
He had a very surprisingly humble attitude toward being out in the mountains. And I, and I've, I've tried to operate with that. You know, I've done some things in life, but I do try to emulate that attitude of, I'm really. This is a really complicated place, and no matter how much I know, I, I actually know only a very thin sliver of what's going on out there.
And that's why my dad, you know, succeeded. And he's still around, I think, is he, he went into the mountains with that attitude, not of domination, but it's like with careful coexistence. We'll get out of this today. It's like dancing with grizzly bears. You don't want to make any sudden moves. And, uh, you know, that rubbed off of me.
So those were my earliest. Adventure and, and looking at risk, and then just how awesome it was to be out there when you're, I remember being eight years old and jumping over a CVAs on the way up Mount Athabasca and thinking, Wow, that's really deep. I definitely don't want to go down there. And that's why we're using the rope, I guess.
And then being on the summit as a little kid, like I was eight on top of Mount Athabasca. . That is not something I do with my own kids today, . But it was reasonable for him. And, and that was just my, that was just my life growing up. I really didn't, you know, people sometimes get into adventure later and they're like, How does that work?
But I think we're all having adventures all the time and also have the adventures as a kid in like Bon as Park, we found a dead person. That was, you know, like that kind of stuff is full on Right. As a little kid and, and we're all having adventures. It isn't like life is adventures. The rest of it that kind of gets in the way.[:
Uh, but as feel as people are more and more city based, I think there is a chance of losing that connectivity. Uh, so that's where us as guides, um, and professionals in the industry, we have that opportunity to introduce people to that if they aren't. Elsewhere. And if they are getting it elsewhere, like say from their parents or whatever, hopefully, uh, they have some better tools in their toolbox to deliver adventure to their, to their kids.
So that's, that brings us on to what, what was your earliest memory of delivering adventure where you were actually the one not just experiencing it, the delivering.[:
Right. And I was living at Jasper. My parents had moved up there. I was 15 and I was given 10 kids between the ages of like eight and 12, which when you're 15 isn't really a lot younger than you. And I was like, do some, I was told to do something with them. That was my job description, do something. And there were older people, but they were involved in other things.
I'm, I'm running these kids. And so I was like, What am I going to do with 'em? And, and so we went hiking and built fires and threw axes and, um, you know, I'm, I'm 15 and I worked at that job for a couple years. I'm 15 or 16, and I'm, I've, I've got all these kids I'm responsible for, and I'm a kid. And, and often I had an adult leader along, but often I didn't.
And, and it was magic. It was, it was wonderful taking people out. I took them climbing, you know, and I used some tactics for that, that I wouldn't use today. Like we were, we were bling back then. Everybody's on a hip. And so my system at the time was atrocious, but it was effective. I had to have one kid laying on a hip laying, and the other, the other kid's job was to hit him if he took his break hand off the rope.
And it worked really well. They never took the break hand off the rope. Yeah, you can't do that. But I was like, 50 boy, you know? It's like this is a solution and it's working. There's no issues here. But anyhow, I did learn a lot more. Um, and, and some of the mentors in that group, um, when they were coming out with me, I learned.
I learned some really important things about just being outside and being comfortable teaching people things and, and learning that my, you know, many things, like my break hand system was really probably not the way forward as an educator. Um, but I was, you know, I didn't, I think that's one thing is just a repeated story of my career is every Ted years I realized how little I actually knew 10 years earlier and maybe, but if you live to a thousand, maybe you'd know enough to really feel like you know what you were doing.
Yeah, it's, it's continual learning always. But yeah, I didn't mess those kids up too badly. We had a great time. I only lost Joey once. Joey went sideways and I had to go find Joey. But in general, it was a, it was, it was great and I loved it. And that's still what I'm doing today, is taking people out into the mountains and, you know, not only as a.
As a guide, but also as a paragliding teacher. And, and I taught whitewater kayaking and bunch of different stuff. It's, uh, I love[:
Yeah. Which we'll talk more about later here. Um, so now we want to, we want to focus a little bit here on ice. Uh, it's, it's a bit of a foreign don't thing. It to a lot of people[: [: [:
I spend a lot of days out there teaching people how to ice climb. And, and for those who maybe aren't clued into the ice climbing world, like, you know, it's our practic. Second winter national sport in Canada after ice hockey or something. But you go out and you climb float frozen waterfalls and it's ridiculous and awesome.
And it's beautiful that the substance that you curse when you're driving or walking around in the city, you, you can walk up to a frozen waterfall climate and that, that magic still fires me up And I like to share it with people cause it fires them up. And if. You're outside with fired up people, then life's usually pretty good in my experience.
So yeah, I spend a lot of time teaching ice climbing, guiding ice climbing, um, sort of the same really. Um, and then I write about it. So I've written a book about it. I'm rewriting my ice climbing book and. do try also on my social media to, to make at least some of my social media useful rather than just, I sent it and it was sick to quote our earlier conversation.
Um, I do some of that too. I, I do like sending it, It is sick, It's fun. But, um, try to give a little bit more perspective on maybe some things people could be thinking about. And, and that's why I'm here today with you is I, I am really interested in how people think about adventure in the outdoors and trying to give people a few tools anyhow, that I wish I'd known when I was.
When I was younger.[: [:
And you can climb this frozen, you know, kind of mysterious substance that you know is, is dangerous and its ice. Climbing's not safe. It's a larger than daily life risk, but it sure is fun. And you get to smash up all this crystal. And I'm not going to make the noises here for fear. I'll blow your, your, your ears out.
But that's the best part of it. You're swinging your ice tools into the ice and things are breaking and it's just interesting and, and unusual. No matter how many times I do it, it still blows me away that it works. It's like this form of magic where you walk up and you can climb floor with some waterfall.
It's completely unbelievable. Yet it works and it's not that hard. Anybody can do it. I've taken people in their eighties ice climbing and took my kids when they were, you know, five or six years old. So it's a lifelong sport as, as all these sports are. That's what's cool about 'em. You know, I'm 55. I'm still climbing a lot and pretty stoked on.
And, uh, you can do these sports as opposed to like, you need a football team to play football, but you can go to the mountains and go climbing. So ice climbing sounds of crystal breaking claws on your hands and feet, Medieval weaponry. It's, it's great. Everybody should not do it. , I mean, it's, it's a ridiculous sport, but it's so cool[:
But, uh, it also has a lot of differences too, right? You know, you have this blank slate in front of you, you know, on the, the lesser technical climbs, right? Where, you know, the more technical climbs, maybe there's only one way to go and one way to do it, uh, for ice climbing. But, uh, you know, in the steeper it gets, but on the, the less technical climbs, there's, you can kind of go anywhere.
Just choose your own adventure too, and you can put in protection anywhere on a fat ice bulge. It's, it's pretty freeing at the same time. And we used to climb a lot with leashes and we would feel like overly connected to our tools and like, like you didn't want to put in pro because it would be this huge effort, uh, to try and deal with your leashes and tools.
And there's all kinds of different clippy ways to get out of them and or using your teeth to pull on. Pull on the leashes or whatever, you know, popping your, you know, dentist loved it, uh, doing damage to your teeth kind of thing. But, uh, yeah, I, I've always found it's, it's interesting at how it's a birthy sport, but it also is very freeing because you, you know, when you rock climbing, you have to pretty much use the hold that exists there.
Uh, to a certain extent. Maybe there's multiple hold and multiple ways to climb it, but, uh, in ice climbing, like it's. You can be pretty artistic with it the way, the way you ascend.[:
Okay. But the, the, the ice climbing and movement when you're doing it well is really beautiful. It is more like skiing or dancing or something. It's a flow sport. A little bit more sometimes than, than, uh, than rock climbing is. You're, you're moving, you can move quickly and with security. It's just fun. So yeah, everything you said, Yes, I'm in.
I like it. I mean, it's a bad idea that, you know, but it is very different than rock climbing and that the hazards are, uh, the hazards are sometimes less obvious. You know, for sure an ice climb is going to fall down every year for starters. So you, you do have to kind of approach it with that attitude of, um, this is not a permanent medium.
Um, rock climbs generally when I go back to them year in, year out, you know, there's more chalk, there's another bolt part fell off, whatever, but it's the same rig usually. Whereas ice climbing it, it often really isn't. They form completely differently. They're, they're, uh, they're , you know, the pillars for differently, the ice[:
Sometimes we, we go for a decade without a root even forming, and then it's back in, in a particular,[:
Finally, were like, aha, we'll climb the rock with our ice tools winter to get to that ice. And all of a sudden you have this new sport called kn climbing where you get to climb on rock and use that gymnastic movement and then swing around on this IIC and space. And, and uh, that fired me up and I pursued that really heavily for 20 years basically of my life because it was so much.
Still fired up to do it just a little bit differently now, but yeah, it's ice climbing's different there, there are less, You know, I kind of look at any, any outdoor sport and, and I rank the risk and so on from sort of complexity least complex to most complex and, and consequence from lowest to highest.
And that's kind of my scale for judging what I'm doing. Is it really complicated or is it really simple? Like a climbing gym's as simple as it gets and ice climbs about halfway along the complexity and consequence scale, and then you get to. You know, um, skiing 60 plus degree lines in the Himalaya at night, you know, , whatever your like most complicated out there thing is that you could think of.
And, and ice climbing's about halfway along that line of, of complexity. And you can make it more complex. You start ice climbing an avalanche terrain, and then you have to make judgements about snow. You can reduce the complexity by going to little gorges that don't have avalanche hazard and aren't very high.
You know, people tend not to die in those low complexity, low consequence environments, but as things get more complex and you add variables, and I think that's what my good, my dad was really good at. Going back to the opening statement is he was very good at, at, at using train when we were on skis and, and knowing what he didn't know, um, when we were moving into new sports or new environments to keep the complexity and consequences, most of the time, Athabasca accepted relatively, relatively,[: [:
And, and so you do, you do go through that. But I, I think that is helpful to people is to recognize, when I started climbing, it was all climbing. It didn't matter whether it was ice climbing, rock climbing, alpine climbing. It was all climbing. And, and as I've gotten older, you can choose where you want to be and, and also recognize that, you know, personally, maybe I don't have the competence to make.
Um, you know, I wouldn't feel competent at all making heli ski decisions back country skiing. I can be like, Yeah, this is, this is for me. Um, I, I'm, I'm comfortable with the train limitation that I put in, but I'm not going to make those really fine judgements for groups of people in snow, Um, for instance, because I know I'm not, I'm, I'm not like you or, or many of my other guiding friends who have that background.
Um, and I'm willing to, to step it down, but understanding where you are in that complexity and how much you actually know is, is to me pretty much essential. It's like that's. Whenever I'm low competence in something, I'm like, Yeah, that's not so good. And I operate in those environments a lot, unfortunately.
And, and I tend to try and I don't have to try, actually it comes pretty naturally. Cause I've had my ass kicked so many times. I, I, I get humble pretty quick. I'm like, well, I'm probably not actually that good at this. So we're going underneath the Greenland ice sheet today and I don't know shit about this.
So, we're going to figure it out. , make it up as you go. It's, uh, who does though? You know, that's, that's for me where it gets interesting. Is to how do you manage these more complicated environments, and especially when you don't know very much about them. That's, it's both really interesting and, and really hard.[:
Was it actually relatively safe? You know, was it, uh, you know, good for the media side of things, you know, how, how did that go?[:
I was working with, you know, two different national. And, and state park organizations and all these levels of government bureaucracy, and they all didn't like what I was proposing, which was to climb Niagara Falls. I thought it was a great idea and, and for unfortunately nobody else did. So how do you figure out what the problems are and, and what their fears are?
And you know, I spent a lot of time just listening to people and understanding what their issues were and then addressing them. It's the same thing you do as a guide. If somebody's afraid, you ask what's going on. , you know, and you, you work it through. You don't just say, Oh, this isn't a problem, , you know, it's like, you're afraid.
Why? How can we fix this? So we, we had discussions and, and it took an an incredible amount of time. I think I went to Buffalo, like, I don't know a lot, about a dozen times. I went to Buffalo, New York and met with every level of government before. Finally, they were comfortable that, you know, I was a nutcase, but not one that was just out to go over the falls in a barrel.
I actually had a plan and, and I'd done this before and I could show them some video and say, Yes, I think I can do this because I've done things that are similar. And, uh, it, it took a long time to get organized. And then again, it's an unknown environment. Like who knew that the water level at Niagara Falls can fluctuate up to a.
And if you're the little ice climber on the side of Niagara Falls and the, and the water goes up a meter, you get taken out. So then how do you, how do you deal with that? Like, here's a problem. Can we do anything about it? Well, yeah, we can call the power companies. You know, I had one person's job whose only function was to monitor the dam releases in that affect the water levels going over in Niagara Falls.
And I had about 15 minutes from that warning to get out and their schedules and stuff. But they don't always follow those schedules. So again, all these different problems and, and trying to figure out what would happen if the water levels changed. Could I get the crew out of there fast enough or not? And if you know, how are we going to do that?
Do we need fixed lines to move them out of the way? How about my camera person on the edge? And it was just this incredible layering of logistical nightmare. And the ice climbing was honestly the, the relatively easy part. Like I know how to do that, I've done it a lot, but like, how do you deal with five different helicopter operations that all want to rescue you?
You get an air traffic controller, you know, like this, this is just, and, and all these different problems, you know, And a lot of it was working with the state police. They don't work on ice. And so I spent some days working with them to give them training. How to move on ice so they can go and get people off the ice when they, when they go over the falls and Yeah.
You know, there's a lot of bad things that happen there. So it was a, it was a very, it was basically a two year project to, to climb for three hours that it was worth it and it was very cool, but it was, You know, it was an unknown environment. There's the old Donald Rumsfeld quote, which I'm probably going to not do very good justice, but I think about it a lot.
You know, there's the things we know, the things we know we don't know, and then the things that we don't know that we don't know. And I first heard that quote and I'm like, That man is an idiot. And as I've gotten older, I've realized that's one of the smartest things I've ever heard, because it's, it's the things that we don't know, that we don't know that are the.
that, that tend to get us. We're like, It's this way. And it's like, Oh, we haven't thought about that. So, I spent a lot of time thinking really negatively, and, and I jokingly call this the positive power of negative thinking, but it saved the life of, of myself and, and the people that I'm working with a lot.
It's like, what can we go wrong and can we deal with that outcome? Or, you know, what can go wrong and can we deal with that or not? And just because we've recognized the problem doesn't mean we've done anything about it. Maybe it's still a really bad idea. You know, I, I fail at least 50% of the time when I'm working on film projects in terms of my goal, you know, we, we fail a lot, but my main goal is always to survive.
And, and that puts the other goals in, in order, right? I walk out the door and I'd like to be, you know, back in the bar by six is a pretty hard rule for me. , that's, that's my main risk management strategy. Is this stupid? Will it get me back at the bar by six or not, or will it have an impact? And if it does, then, then we modify.
But that, yeah, positive power, negative thinking, um, Agri Falls is super complicated, but that's what makes it interesting. If we're easy, like what's the point? I think if[:
Faced with those decisions, if you fast forward to the point where the bad thing has happened, make that happen in your mind. It, it really will prepare you for if the bad thing happens, or it might actually make, dissuade you from doing that activity or doing exactly that activity or going that far because you, you fast forwarded to, Oh, the bad thing has happened and I, I don't want to even be[:
Yeah. I think that's a really good one, and that's a tool I use when teaching a fair amount. It's like, You know, we don't think this is going to happen, but if it did and we're all sitting around, would we think we made good decisions that day or not? And, and it's, it's a pretty helpful tool to analyze what you're doing.
And, and my threshold has changed a lot. When I was younger, 99% seemed like a really good ratio. Like if somebody told you you had 99% chance of, you know, hucking yourself across the canyon and making it, most people will go. But the, the thing is, we're out there, like, maybe not. I would, I certainly, I'd be like, Yeah, dude, fire it up.
Um, but, uh, and, and for those people who are listening and not watching, I could see their faces or there's sub disagreement or laughing. Anyhow, the, uh, 99% seem pretty good. But the thing is, if you're a professional, or even if you want to do this a whole, your whole life as a, as a, for your own personal stoke, and you're going to do it a thousand days, if it's 99% sure thing, you die.
So 99% is not even that good. It's, it's actually a pretty bad number that assures you're going to have 10 outcomes and that's assuming that you guess the probability. Right? And, and what I've seen with myself and others is most of us are pretty good at understanding the consequences of something happening, but we're not very good at understanding the probability.
So I tend to define what I'm doing a lot more by consequences. Like the bad thing is, Am I comfortable with it? You know, is it one in 10,000? Like am I any good at making that decision about how likely it is? Or do I really need to just go ski trees with my kids? Cause I, I, I don't know about this. Like, it seems solid, My pit was good, but I got my kids and I can't handle that consequence, so we're going to go over here, or whatever it is.
So that's a long answer, but, uh, or a long point I guess. But hopefully that, Does that make sense to you or. Yeah,[:
And, you know, I've, one of the tools I use to, to prepare guests that I take out and I send 'em a letter saying I'm really, you know, pretty experienced at this. I've done it a lot and I want to come back at the end of the day, but I screw. That's the reality and how we're going to work together is, um, you know, I, I I want you to be involved in this discussion and if you see me doing something western, like speak up, that's great.
You know, I'm never upset when somebody says, Did you mean to tie or not like that ? Because no I didn't. You just save my life. This is great. We're working together. This is awesome. And, and that is also, they engage more and they ask questions. And there is the expectation of error. And I think when I was younger, I had the expectation of, of success, and, and now I really don't.
I have the expectation that I will make mistakes, and if we work together we'll, we'll do better. So I think that starts even before you go out the doors, recognizing your own fill ability and engaging the people you're supposed to be delivering adventure to in that process. Are you ever[:
Side side of things. Are you ever nervous and, and also not when the camera's rolling, but just, you know, when you're, when you're, uh, with your clients or friends out there like Yeah. Or are you, you pretty much, yeah. Stone cold as ice[:
I'm afraid a lot. Um, it's, uh, no, I, that fear to me is really important. If I'm afraid out there, I don't feel good. And again, my baseline assumption is like I'm going into a really hazardous place and, and I'm going to be like, heads up out there. And yeah, I'm good at it. I've done it a lot. Okay. But my basic assumption is that there are things going on that I don't understand, and my job is to discover them that.
A really big part of my job, maybe even more important than the quality of day I give my guests is like, I have to be switched on and listening to that environment. And if I start to feel afraid, then usually that's because I'm missing something. Right? I, I don't actually, I haven't clued into something and, and, you know, I'm, I'm getting nervous, you know, maybe my brain has noticed that there's some snowballs over there, but my conscious mind hasn't gone, Gee, that's a really big slope, but we're, we're actually exposed even though we're 50 meters up the hillside or whatever.
You know, it's, And so that fear, when I feel it is, uh, is a clue, is a clue to focus in and, and ask questions. And if one, somebody in my group says, I'm, I'm uncomfortable, then yeah, I'm going to listen to that really fast and be like, Okay, what's going on? What are you. And I encourage people to speak up, whether it's, they're on the teams that I'm leading for film projects or in my guiding groups.
I really encourage them to speak up and it goes back to that letter, but it goes into our time out there. You know, I want to talk about it. Maybe they've noticed. If nothing else, it's a good opportunity. If they say, Why are we here? Well, that's an excellent question. You know, let's talk about it. Or I'm, you know, I'm, I'm not, I feel like we might not get back at the bar by six.
We're blowing it. I'm like, you know, you're, They might be, in fact, they often are. And, and I'm just so fired up. I'm like, I'm going to get you to the summit. We're going to, it's going to be rad, you know, and, and they have a point. So, um, I think listening to that fear is super important and then addressing it, usually that which we avoid gets bigger and nastier.
And if we do that long enough in the mountains, then it tends to get us for like it's all good and then it's probably not. So I think listening to that fear and addressing it, whether it's in yourself or. is, is really, really important. It's if I'm afraid, I'm kind of doing something wrong. Right? Yep.[: [:
Yeah. And, and sometimes it just means stopping, you know, and, and having a look around. It's like, well, yeah, this is okay, but you know, maybe let's pay more attention to this. Or, you know, And, and then there's, then there, there, you know, when I'm, when I'm, for example, my fear levels, if my fear levels start spiking, it's probably a bad sign.
I should be worried, you know, concerned in every stick. I'm like, is it good? Every time I swing my ice tool into the ice, even after doing it for 40 years now, I'm still like, Is that good? And if it's not, then I swing again. People will sometimes heckle to me, they like, you sw eight times and I'm like, Yeah, and I'm going to swing four more.
You know, I don't care. This is, I'm not dying today and this is how I'm going to do it. And, and occasionally I still get it wrong and, and what I'm doing is not safe. And, and I think it's important also to go out the door with no illusions about that. If we go out the door with the attitude of, again, this place is trying to kill us and we've gotta do some things right.
And we're not coming. Then we'll set ourselves up for safety. But if we go out and we're like, It's all good, dude, send it, then we're going to get killed sooner. And that would suck. Cause this is pretty fun.[:
Don't the pure ice environment.[:
But again, it's that attitude of today I'm going to try and not have that happen. So I'll swing as many times as I need to get a good placement and I will be careful with my feet. And I will, you know, assume that I can make that error. Because if you fall off ice climbing, you tend to break your leg about half the time or some other part that you might want, you know, head, neck, whatever.
People break stuff about half the time they fall off ice climbing and then, and you know, that can be fatal. A broken ankle's, no big thing at when you're sport climbing in the summer, but you, you break your leg at four o'clock in the winter, you're not getting rescued until the next day. So that could be a fatal injury.
Just something really basic and. Setting your parameters around that is, is pretty important. You know, I, I try to try to get good sticks and, and not fall off, but it's not just ice climbing, you know, I, I try to do that with most things that I'm doing, especially when I'm, when I'm taking care of other people.
My bars significantly lower when I'm taking care of other people than it is on my own. Although they're getting closer and closer as I get older, they're not as different as they used to be. The, the gap[: [:
You know, and so a lot of, unfortunately, because a lot of the times what I'm doing for difficult stuff is I'm on shoots or something and I fly in someplace and we get out of the machine and we're like, What do we do now? ? You know, it's an unknown thing. So we have to go back to that basic checklist of what are the consequences?
Can we mitigate them? What do we think's going on here? Are we okay with those, those odds? Do we know enough to even set the. And, and break it down. Um, I mean, some really basic things when I'm climbing locally, key bits of information are like, what's the avalanche forecast? So, you know, I look at that and there's pro versions of that and, and public versions of it.
And I look at both every day starting with the first Snowflake anywhere, and I, and I track it all, all winter long because more ice climbers die in avalanches than they do from falling off. So, you know, that's a big deal is my climb in Avalanche train. And by that I mean is there enough snow to Avalanche?
That's the bar I. And if so, do I want to go there? Is this a reasonable thing? You know, what's the forecast? What's what's happening? But um, and that's, and even with that, you know, I can still get it wrong, but I, I try to, I do my best to make a good judgment and then we go there and we, we manage all the other hat we, you know, I don't, I don't use the word risk management all that much anymore.
I use the word risk engagement personally, because that's what we're going to do when we go out and do something in the mountains. We're going and we're going to engage with some risk. You know, we're going to go wrestle grizzly bears and how are we going to do that so that we favor the outcomes that we want. That, that's what I'm really interested in.
Um, so for ice climbing, avalanche forecast and then some basic things, I, you know, I'm still surprised in a lot of the sports I do that people often don't have calms. You know, I've, I've seen a few broken femurs and I've never seen anybody who was like, I'm a purist, I'm an alpine purist. I don't want the helicopter.
It's like, no, they want the helicopter right away. So do, do you have calms? Like, do you have an in reach? You know, and, and do you know how to use it? And, and you know, some basic things like that and some basic first aid or, or parameters that go into that. And then you go out there and you do something really cool and beautiful and get home and dissect it.
It's like, did we make good decisions? You know, or do we just get away with it? Because we were lucky and sometimes I've had a lot of good luck. Let's not pretend like I've had some, had some good luck when I needed it. I'd just like to not rely on that as much as I did when I was younger.[:
But you don't want to rely on it.[:
My level of planning and engagement goes up a lot and, uh, but you can never plan for everything. You still gotta get out there and figure it out and, and have fun. If you're not having fun, if you're just afraid and it's shitty, then go home. Yeah. You know, You know, it's just, I don't enjoy. Never have actually.
No, no,[: [: [:
Well, you could probably define that anyway, but I, a mis adventure to me would be something that's not going according to. . So you, you have a plan. You know, I, we all drop our root plans, or, Or even if they're just, Dude, what do you think? Yeah, we're good. Let's go. Right. Okay. We've made a root plan, even though we've made some kind of plan here, we get out there and if things aren't going according to plan, That's okay.
They usually don't and, and I expect that, my expectation is that the plan's probably going to fall apart at some point during the day. And it's the rare day where I got home and it went perfectly to plan . Like, I don't know about you guys, but that's not normal. Normal is the plan doesn't work and you're into mis aven zone, I guess, where it becomes either dangerous or really uncomfortable, or you do start relying on luck for.
That's kind of when you're, where you're in the misadventure zone to me, when, when any of those three things happen, um, yeah, you, you've, you've kinda lost the plot on the, on the fun at, at good side of adventure and those can be really meaningful and deep experiences. Um, if you survive, it's pretty awesome, you know, and, and, and you might have a misadventure, I have mis adventures with my kids where we go out and it doesn't.
And, and it's like the bar is still pretty low. What we didn't get done what we wanted to do, which is great. It's still kind of a misadventure, but until there's more hazard or, or higher consequences than you're comfortable with, you know, you're still, you're still, you're still in the box. It's when the misadventure becomes, turns into like, you're, you're relying on luck.
And that's kind of where it becomes not, not fun or I don't want to play anymore when it's like, Yeah, this is not working. And then you should get home and analyze that. That's probably the biggest thing I see with people is both with those I coach and then you, you know, you read on Facebook and it's always the same guy.
Oh, I had another forced bivy and damn, it was a great adventure. It's like if you're having forced bis and things are going sideways a lot, you need to look at that and, and, and figure out what's going on. There's usually, you know, before people have accents or it's, it's usually like a series. Gee, I think this is great.
You know, we went out to climb that face and there was tremendous rock fall and we had to sit out out there all night and, but we lived because we're, you know, it's like, no, that was a, in my view, and I don't know if you can use profanity, but like that was a serious fuck up. And, and so you should go home and like sit in the basement, drink a shitload of coffee until you could figure out why you sucked and how you're going to do it better next time.
Because you sucked. When that happens, when that misadventure comes to the point where, You're coming close to either getting killed or, or only a little bit of luck separated from that. It's like that reflection piece is really, really important to me. And I spend probably almost as much time thinking about what I did as what I'm going to do.
I, I think that's really, especially when I was younger, I was like, Wow, I survived rad onward. Now I'm like, God, I almost died. Why? And, and then I want answers to that because it's, I. So a lot of reflection, and if you have a misadventure at the bare minimum, sub reflect on why would be in. I'm fired up on this stuff.
I think about it a lot, . So you're asking questions I care about, so thank you. I'm sorry if I'm going[: [:
You can do something an awful lot and not learn very much about it. I've done that many times. It's that reflection where you learn, as you say, I go. and adventures are great. You can, you know, just because it didn't go according to plan. That's, that's not really a misadventure yet. It's, it's more when you're like sitting there going, Wow, how many toes am I going to lose?
Now we're like solidly into the misadventure portion. You know, It's like if you went up there to climb peak A and it sucks because there's rock fall or whatever. You go up peak B like, okay, not exactly according to plan. You've had a little bit of misadventure, but that's normal. That's good, that's good management.
It's just when things start to kind of get Western and you're going, hm. It says not going the way I thought it should. What did I, What do I do to make it safe and or safer? It's not safe, but safer and why? Then you go home and you drink beer and you're like, Wow. It's very seldom that I get back from a day of guiding or my personal sports or whatever, and I'm not like, I never think, Wow, I kneeled everything today, like miss two or three things today, and write 'em down and try and do better.[: [:
Um, a recent one, relatively recent one I had, I, I, uh, went climbing with my, my partner Sarah, who is like super solid, and we go up to this sport climbing area and the start's like, I don't know, It's five eight maybe five seven, and she climbs five 12 and she never falls off. She's locked on. She's like the human tick up there.
She's, that's a, I shouldn't compare my partner to a tick, but anyway, the, you get the idea, she doesn't fall off and we got this little ledge, you know, it's, it's pretty good size ledge. Like if you just were to jump off, it'd be fine. And it's just kind of a rubbly 45 degree thing down for like another, you know, It's 20, 30 feet.
It's no big thing. And if I were there, like with somebody who's less competent, I might be like, you know, it's sport climbing, but let's just stick clip this thing. But it's Sarah. She does not fall off. But I still give her a spot. Cause the ledge is a little bit small. And she goes up and she falls off and she comes backwards at me.
Her, her, her hand slipped, so she rotated over backwards. And this ledge on is not that big. Hay. Like all of a sudden I'm like, Wow, I've, I've actually screwed up pretty good. And she's about to go rattling down this hillside, which is covered in boulder's Best case scenario. It's like bumps and bruises, but it could be a lot worse and, and I gotta like stop her.
And all it would've taken to prevent that was using the stick clip that was 30 feet away to the side. I'm a dumb ass, but it's Sarah and it's easy and we're good and fuck that. We're going for it, man. Like what a jello head move thing to do. But it seemed reasonable at time and I could probably do it a hundred more times and it would be.
Okay, so I, I grab her outta the air and I fall down on the ledge and I realized that I'm going over, you know, I, I've screwed up. We're both going to go rattling down this, and, and we both sort of grab things and it all stops and everything's fine. But we've been much more enthusiastic about stick clips in any sort of environment sets there.
You know, it's just a stupid little thing, right? Like this is the easiest form of climbing out there. It's sport climbing, you knows nobody dies. Sport climbing. Very few people do any. Low complexity, relatively low consequence. And I don't think we would've both died or, but we certainly could have both gotten some pretty heavy injuries.
Right? It would've hurt a lot. So that's just one recent misadventure and you know, that happens regularly enough and I'm trying to change the culture a little bit, so I, I share my errors a lot more than when I was young. Cause I, I do think we need to start talking and sharing about the things we do wrong or, or.
Collectively we're not going to learn as much. So even though I'm meant to be sort of good at this stuff, I still try to share my own screw ups regularly with, with people. And you know, I share like one at a hundred , like this is, it happens a lot. So I don't know if that's a big enough admi adventure, but it was in this super safe environment and there I was contemplating the wisdom of my decisions.[: [: [:
And, and she said, Well, what happens if you fall? And I said, Well, I'm not going to fall. She's like, Well, what happens if you fall? And then you makes me stop and think. Really bad stuff because we're roped together with nothing attaching us to the mountain. Good point. .[:
We got lucky and so, but I, I, I think by sharing these stories and we as professionals, we we're sometimes like, well we're pros at this. You know, like, this is what we do. And, and so we don't want to sometimes honestly admit to the, to. Um, errors. It's like, wow, that guy's pretty embarrassed. Like how embarrassing would that be to get like helicoptered off the side of the sport climbing area,
But if we don't talk about it and we don't open that culture up more, then, you know, I think those of us who are the quote pros do need to do a better job of talking about our near misses and, and hopefully that open, You know, I've seen some change of that in the last few years in the mountain cultures.
People are talking more. there, there are problems and uh, I've got a good one. Yeah, I've had a few more since then. That was, that was a little while ago. But, you know, these things happen and if you've done enough things right, you know, I was giving Sarah a spot and I had thought, okay, if she does just slip, I'll just push her onto the ledge here and we'll be fine.
And, and it is doing enough things right so that when you screw up that one thing you did wrong, It doesn't get yet. So put in more gear with your wife, , or you had to, you had that rope just tossed around the horn and she pitched and it worked out. Like you gotta do enough things right. So that when you screw up, it hopefully doesn't get you.
But that's, Yeah. I've, I've been there. Too bad. I'm with you.[:
That's two L's and two d's will gad.com. That's where you can get his contact info, find links to his latest projects, exploits and filmography, see some of its coaching tips, and to find out how you can hire him to be your guide or speaker. Okay. Chris, when it comes to avoiding a misadventure, what were your takeaways?
And it does underline how important it is to get. Good role models and people out there to give you coaching and to show you what it is like to be able to have these experiences and hopefully to how these have these experiences happen the right way. And so coaching parents, Plays such a big role, but it's not just limited to parents having good coaches, instructors, friends, colleagues and that sort of thing.
And so Will was very, uh, fortunate to be able to have that, which he highlighted. The other thing he highlighted was how much preparation it takes to pull off some of these high-risk endeavors. And I think a lot of people look at what some of. These risk-taking
sports involve and the people that, that do it at the highest level and think that somehow these athletes just come in and, and pull it off without any preparation whatsoever.
And Will's story about having spent two years getting ready to do that three hour climb on egg or falls really highlights how much preparation goes into getting ready for these types of events. And that preparation is used to think. What can be done to minimize the risk and, and to look ahead at, at what would happen if things were to go wrong.
Jordy, what stuck out to[:
Scuba diving. And so if you actively move ahead in your thought process to, because you're hopefully not going to have a bad thing happen, um, but as part of your preparation, uh, like you were just talking about, fast forward to that's happened. And now go back to where you are currently in your preparation and say, Have I prepared enough?
Am I ready for this? Am I physically ready for this? So I have the equipment I. Have I told people that I'm going to do this stuff and now something's gone wrong and I, and they have no idea that something's gone wrong for me and I can't call for help. So the po, the positive power of negative thinking is really, uh, a good way to, to look at it.
Then the other, the other part was, uh, that he spoke about was listening to your fear. And we're kidding ourselves if we all say we don't have any fears. Everybody does. Um, and often it's that people who seem to be the least fearful, the reason why they appear to be the least fearful is because they actually are afraid all the time of stuff and concerned about it.
But you can use that positively too. So we'll noted that when he feels afraid, it's often because he feels like he's missing something or might not know he is missing something, but he just feels afraid and. It's normal for somebody to be stressed. Um, I guessed for example, you know, a client of yours, somebody on a course.
Uh, but the guide really should try not to operate in a stressed zone. If you are stressed, you probably should do a little bit more planning. Preparation, uh, like we've already talked about here. Um, you, if you're stressed, you might be on the edge of your risk, comfort level. Then think about your guest. If you feel like what you're doing as an experienced professional is risky or, or a high-end recreational.
If you feel it's risky, the other people around you, they might have no aware, no awareness of how risky it is, but they are definitely at risk at that point. Um, so really try and think why you were feeling stressed and do everything you can to try and alleviate that. And that might mean turning around.
It might. Dialing back your activity. Uh, it might mean having a discussion about it as a group and trying to figure out is this perceived risk or is this real risk, or is this perceived fear or real fear?[:
You can find our contact email@example.com. We've also posted our contact information in the show notes as well as links to Will Gads website. Well, that's it for this web. Well, that's it for this episode. You can hear more of our conversation with Will in our next. Before you go though, please don't forget to follow or subscribe to this podcast through your favorite streaming service, and if you can please share this with your like-minded friends.
If you found it entertaining, they probably will too. Besides, we need your help to grow this podcast audience so that Jordy and I can keep this. Thanks for listening. Your time is important and we really appreciate it.