In the world of professional ski mountaineering, Caroline Gleich is one of the fastest rising stars. She has skied some of the steepest mountains in the world including those of the Mont Blanc Mastif and the glacial slopes of the 20,000-foot Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador, and she has graced the covers of Ski Magazine and Powder Magazine. When it’s not snowing, you might find her repelling down slot-canyons in southern Utah, or scaling the Wasatch Mountains in her backyard. One might assume athletes of this caliber lack the fear mechanism which prevent most normal people from participating in these types of activities; however, this is not the case with Caroline. I had a chance to talk with her about recent adventures and how she embraces fear to build confidence.
Caroline Gleich Interview
Mountain Weekly News: What draws you to the mountains?
Caroline Gleich: I grew up in Minnesota, and the landscape there is as flat as flat can be. The tallest structures are water towers and buildings. My family loved to travel and from a young age, I remember Jackson and Utah were some of my favorite places to visit. I was always inspired by alpine environments. I’m drawn to the mountains now for the same aesthetics. To me, they represents freedom and escape—there is a romantic fantasy that I still find very appealing.
MWN: It appears heights do not bother you the least bit, but do you ever experience fear when climbing a new route or skiing a new line?
Caroline Gleich: I actually am really scared of heights! That’s why I’ve taken so much time to train myself in safety for skiing and climbing and mountaineering. I often experience fear, sometimes it’s a wave that comes over me and passes, other times it stays with me like an annoying imaginary friend throughout the day. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the difference between fear and intuition. Just the other day, I was projecting a hard route at the rock climbing gym (which is one of the safest environments because it has the least objective hazard—i.e. no rockfall, no lightning, more elements in your control) and I was hanging on my rope from a draw near the top of the route and I had this wave of fear, what if my harness broke? It’s sometimes good to envision the worst case scenario in order to manage risk, but then, when it’s send time, you have to quiet your mind and channel 100% confidence.
MWN: What do you consider some of your biggest accomplishments to date?
Caroline Gleich: My biggest accomplishments include being on the cover of Powder Magazine, 3 Ski Magazine covers, climbing and skiing the three highest peaks in Ecuador in one week, summiting the 20 highest peaks in the Wasatch and skiing all the 3 star lines in Andrew McLean’s guidebook, The Chuting Gallery. My Cham project was also a huge accomplishment – I climbed and skied some incredibly steep and technical lines throughout the Mont Blanc massif.
MWN: Mountaineering and backcountry skiing are not exactly activities anyone can just jump into. Do you have any advice for people (young or older) who want to try these sports?
Caroline Gleich: It is so difficult to get in to mountaineering and backcountry skiing, especially if you don’t have a parent or other figure to teach you. My advice is to find a mentor. Take it slow. Take classes if you can afford them. Check out local climbing and skiing clubs. Get the word out on social media and on sites like meetup.com. Read, and educate yourself so you’ll be a strong partner to others. Keep fit. Run up hills.
MWN: Are there any sports you are not good at?
Caroline Gleich: When I was growing up, basketball was the most popular sport at my school. All the girls were way into basketball. No matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t good at it. I wasn’t meant to be a basketball star.
MWN: Where is your next big adventure planned?
Caroline Gleich: I’m itching for a fall ski mountaineering trip! Possible objectives: New Zealand or Southern Chile!
MWN: Where can people go to find out more about you and what you are up to?
Caroline Gleich: I’m best at updating my Instagram regularly.