Photo credits: Christian Pondella
National Geographic’s 2015 Adventurer of the year, Will Gadd, isn’t fearless—he notices the power of our planet, respects it, and explores it in extreme ways. Born in Canada, Gadd is a prominent Canadian ice climber, mixed climber, and paraglider pilot. He has held the paragliding world distance record—with a flight of 423 km—won the US and Canadian Paragliding Nationals, flew over the Grand Canyon, climbed icebergs off the coast of Labrador, won three gold medals at the X Games, and ice climbed in underground mines in Sweden. He has also become the first person to execute a one-day solo ascent of the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson.
When not high above the ground, Will has hosted a Discovery Channel docuseries, Fearless Planet, in which he educated viewers about Earth’s geology and the ways in which some natural structures are created.
Recently, Gadd was named a Mountain Hero as part of the UN Environment’s partnership with the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. This initiative selects extraordinary athletes from around the world who dedicate their time to raising awareness of environmental issues, particularly mountain protection efforts, where early indicators of the effects of climate change are already apparent.
Through his chat with FtC, we get a glimpse into what it takes to be an extreme athlete as Gadd shares his mountain philosophy; the ways in which different environments inspire him; and why we need to think about others, vote, and act now to help redirect climate change.
You were born into a lifestyle full of adventure and outdoor sports. How have your early days exploring the mountains and backpacking with your family helped to shape your perspective of nature and life?
“All the time outdoors as a kid made me, not surprisingly, really comfortable outdoors, and also gave me a base-understanding of how the mountains work. I find a lot of people are strong technical climbers or skiers, but to succeed in genuine exploration you also have to be comfortable living in wild places, and know how to not get killed. A lot of the time, the climbing is the easy part of exploration.“