If ice climbing is an art form then in my opinion there is no finer living artist then Will Gadd. Will constantly reminds me of the following quote from another artist who spent a lot of days hanging upside down “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” - Michaelangelo who painted a little something called the Sistine Chapel.
Last week I had the honor and pleasure of climbing and working with my mentor and friend Will Gadd. Over the years I've been fortunate to learn the craft of ice climbing from some of the finest minds ever to tackle the sport (or art form) but Will is different. He has a vision and style that is to be respected. Yes, Will climbs at the very highest level one can possible reach, but he does so in a way that makes it look easy. It's not just that Gadd climbing is better then the rest but he displays what he calls "honest competency" on and off the mountain. I recall Will competing in the 2012 Bozeman Ice Fest. All the other competitors were so psyched out and then out trots will drinking a Red Bull all smiles and laughs, having a good time. He destroyed the field and won by a huge margin.
Training with Will and his climbing partner Sarah Hueniken (who is the strongest female climber on planet earth) I quickly got to see that their "honest competency" is anything but easy. They earn every milestone they achieve through the hardest of work, the toughest mental approach and a love for climbing that is unmistakable. Climbing with Will in Canmore Alberta is like hanging out with Yoda on planet Dagobah. Gadd can see things in ice technique that no one else can and I'm very lucky he has the care for me as a friend and climber to call me out and make me better.
After a training day Will, Sarah Hueniken and I along with a few of the Canmore ice crew went out for dinner at an Indian restaurant. Will challenged me to order the hottest chicken vindaloo on the menu and of course I'm not one to back down from a challenge, so I accepted. The waitress warned me that "most people regret this order". I grew up in Buffalo New York home of some of the hottest wings out there so I felt confident and charged on, assuring her that "I had this thing in the bag". When the vindaloo came out it was glowing like a nuclear isotope but I got on the sharp end of my fork and sent my first piece of chicken. Was it hot? Heck yeah! After three pieces I was starting to feel good, I knew I could win the challenge but then Will called over the waitress and ordered a plate of indian green chillies and onions. He said "add one chili and an onion to each bite of vindaloo." Now the dish became biblical, sweat poured down my face but as I finished the entire thing Will yelled "never weaken!" It was his reminder that no matter how far we may have set the bar for ourselves there is always more we can do.
If you're climbing WI5 load up a pack full of ice and go up and down climb five laps, suddenly that WI5 doesn't seem so big and tough after you've done it with a 50lb. pack on. No matter where you are, own your honest competency and find a way to push the line further. Just beyond your limits is a great adventure.