For the month of April, Greg Hill biked to work. So did many other people in Revelstoke, so what’s the big deal? Well, the professional ski mountaineer put in 400 kilometres of cycling over the course of the month, towing his ski gear behind him. Through it all, he summited nine peaks in the Revelstoke area, including Mt. Begbie and Frenchman’s Cap.
Hill, famous for his two-million vertical feet of ski mountaineering in 2010, made it his latest mission to go green – that is, go skiing without the use of any carbon emissions. As he first pitched the idea, he would go from April to September without driving, getting to all his destinations with his bike, canoe and skis and two feet.
“Initially it was an environmental idea to see how much I could do without using my vehicle,” he said. “I tried to influence my partners to also bike to these missions and make them as [carbon-free] as we could.”
It didn’t work out quite as planned. April was a warm, rainy month with less than ideal weather for ski touring and the dangers of the Trans-Canada Highway has made him reconsider his plan to bike to the Rocky Mountains.
“As I organized, I realized I barely offset the carbon usage for making the bike,” he noted. According to an article by Brian Palmer on Slate.com, the manufacture of a typical bicycle produces about 530 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. It takes about 400 kilometres of cycling to offset those emissions.
So, what did Hill accomplish? One day, he summited Mt. Begbie, biking an hour from town to the trail head while his friends drove out and snowmobiled 2,000 feet up the mountain on logging roads. He caught up with them 5,000 feet later on Begbie Glacier and together they skied two lines off the summit before parting ways. Hill skied down to the highway and his friends skied back to the sled.
On April 9, Hill skinned up Mt. Begbie again while five friends got in a helicopter. They joined up on the Mulvehill group, after Hill had climbed for 10 kilometres and 9,000 feet. Five peaks and 5,000 more feet of skinning later, they skied out to Highway 23 south, and Hill got on his bike and rode home.
On April 21, he summited Frenchman’s Cap with eight friends. It took 50 kilometres of cycling, a canoe trip across Revelstoke Lake and 7,600 vertical feet of hiking, skinning and scrambling. All that to reach the Matterhorn of the Monashees.
His last big mission was Albert Peak, which at 9,990 feet, is just shy of the magic 10,000 foot mark. It was another epic mission, starting from town at 2 a.m., cycling 12 kilometres to Greeley Road, another 4 kilometres up some logging roads and then a sketchy creek crossing and some hiking before the skis went on.
After 11 hours he and his companions stood and skied off the summit – a first ski descent he believes. 16.5 hours after leaving, he was back home.
I asked Hill what the biggest challenge was for him. He said it was convincing his friends to join him. “They realized how silly it was,” he said.
Still, he said the month-long mission made him realize what could be reached from home without using a vehicle. The bike rides to the mission gave him a chance to admire what he’s about to ski. He also hopes people follow his lead, even if his friends didn’t.
“To me, it showed me what we can do. Environmentally, I don’t think it was much of a mission but it showed the potential of what we can do,” he said. “I don’t expect people to go do Mulvehill, but hopefully people will go do Macpherson and Begbie.”
Hill will be ‘unemployed’ when Bike to Work Week comes around. “I’ll take what I learned from this and make it a bike everywhere week,” he said.
This is the second in a series of four articles leading up to Bike to Work Week, which takes place from May 28 to June 3. Register your work place at www.biketowork.ca/revelstoke.