Caroline Gleich has been quietly moving through the mountains, climbing and skiing some serious lines while ascending through the ranks of the ski world. We caught up with the budding ski mountaineer to see what she got up to this summer and what she plans for the upcoming winter.
On the phone:
Hey Caroline, how are you?
Hi, I’m good—just chillin’. Went for a long hike yesterday.
Where’d you go?
Up Big Cottonwood [Canyon] to the Broad’s Fork Twin Peaks and then did the south ridgeline of Little Cottonwood all the way to Monte Cristo and Superior.
Caroline shreds at Snowbird, UT. Photo by Erik Hostetler. Portrait below by Brent Benson.
How has your summer been? A lot of hiking?
Good. Last summer I traveled everywhere, but this summer I’ve been keeping it kind of local. I like exploring the backyard. I’ve been doing a lot of hiking and training so I can get better at moving faster in the mountains. I want to get used to longer mileage and bigger days so it’s easier to accomplish some of my goals next winter.
Can’t blame you there. That’s a great backyard. What are those goals you’ve been training for?
A lot of my objectives are local because our Salt Lake City skyline is so epic. Last winter, I got more into ski mountaineering and just kind of moving faster and lighter in the mountains. I definitely want to go back to Lone Peak and do some more stuff up there. I like doing link ups too. Instead of just doing one line, doing a couple of different lines off summits in an area.
What initially drew you to ski mountaineering?
Before I wanted to be a pro skier, I wanted to be a pro climber. I love climbing mountains. I grew up in the lowlands of Minnesota, so when I moved to Utah, I was always drawn to the mountain scenery and wanted to get to the highest peaks.
With last year being your first season of ski mountaineering, what would you say you were most proud of accomplishing?
I skied all the three-star lines from Andrew McLean’s book The Chuting Gallery.
That’s a pretty solid start. Who did you do that with?
I had a couple different people that I would ski with. I probably had 15 different partners throughout the project.
What do you look for in a good ski partner?
Good communication and someone that moves at a similar speed because it sucks when your partner is way behind you or way ahead of you. And then, also, it’s nice to have someone who has complementary skills so you can push each other. Oh, and a good attitude. Somebody who’s positive and can last through a really long, painful day.
Nobody likes a debbie downer in the backcountry.
Yeah, and it’s nice to have someone who also brings extra food and snacks that they can share too. [laughs]
Did you have any missions last winter where you wrestled with the decision to turn around for one reason or another?
One of the last things I did was on the Middle Teton in Jackson. The weather was super clear in the morning, but this little storm cell rolled in and affected the warming of the snow. So instead of dropping into a really gnarly, exposed line that probably would’ve been pretty icy, we decided to turn back. That one was really hard to turn back on because it was our last chance to do it for the season, and it takes so long to get to the top of the Middle Teton. To go all that way only to turn around and not get to ski the line that you want—I don’t know, I like to have success, but it’s also nice to have something to look forward to. If you fail, then you’re like, “Well I’m gonna go back, and here’s what we’re gonna do different.” It forces you to take a step back and reevaluate and try again.
Turning around is never easy. I think I saw some photos of that day on your Instagram account [@carolinegleich]. You do a pretty good job of documenting your adventures on there. Who do you stalk for inspiration?
Are you doing any filming this upcoming winter?
I’d love to be part of something with Lynsey [Dyer] for Pretty Faces because I think that having an all-girls ski movie is an awesome idea. I don’t have anything solidified though. I’m trying to work with my sponsors and figure that out. Do you have any advice for me on that? [laughs] It seems really hard to get a movie part.
I’ll see if I can pull some strings for you.
I also want to work on doing more with my GoPro footage and putting together a self-edit. Especially because on a lot of these missions, I don’t think—well, a photographer could come, but I don’t know if they’d be able to keep up. [laughs] I’m always creating my own content too, and so I like to be working on that whether it’s an Instagram collage, a Facebook post or a GoPro edit. It’s amazing what you can create yourself.
Hometown: SLC, UT
Sponsors: Clif Bar, Leki, Nordica, Patagonia, Sanuk, Thule, Zeal Optics
This article originally appeared in the 2013 October issue of Freeskier, Volume 16.2. The October issue is available on newsstands beginning 9/17/13. Freeskier Magazine is also available via the iTunes newsstand.