- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Gillette admits that he has never been the strongest, fittest or most talented outdoorsman on his expeditions. "My whole life has been getting things done, but just barely getting things done," he says. "I barely won that time trial, barely made the Olympic team, succeeded on a one-day ascent of Mount McKinley after failing once. The thing is, though, ever since that afternoon at Holder-ness, I have gotten things done."
Gillette had recently graduated from Dartmouth College when he was one of the last two persons chosen for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Nordic ski team that would compete in Grenoble. "The Games taught me something else about myself: that I had wanderlust—bad. I had been doing well with my skiing, but just before the Games I had an opportunity to go off and ski in Norway. I knew I should stay and train, but I just couldn't pass up Norway. Then, when I was there, I had to see Norway, really see it. And because of that, I absolutely screwed up my chances at the Olympics." Gillette was skiing so poorly that the U.S. coaches did not enter him in any events.
Following the Olympics, Gillette underwent, in his own words, "a brief flirtation with being a serious person." International Paper hired him, and for nearly a year and a half he was in a management training program. Then, in 1972, he entered business school at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He exited 24 hours later.
Maybe it was the proximity of the Rockies, but during that day in Boulder, Gillette's head was aswim with images from Alaska's Brooks Range, where he had participated in a 30-day ski expedition the previous April. That's where he should be, he decided, not at a desk interpreting flow charts. He wanted to be on the summit of McKinley, or skiing around Everest, or skiing down the Mountains of the Moon on the border between Uganda and Zaire, or making the first Telemark descent of 22,834-foot Aconcagua in Argentina, or ski-traversing the Karakoram Range, or being among the first Americans in 48 years to climb in China by summiting—and skiing off—24,757-foot Muztagata in the Xinjiang Uygur region.
So he left Boulder and did all of those things.
He used Yosemite National Park as a base. "I was an eastern preppie Ivy Leaguer, but at Yosemite I ricocheted off in another direction," says Gillette. "I started doing things, saying things, smoking things, thinking things that were totally new to me. I opened my eyes to life as an adventure. I've always thought, if you have a solid upbringing, it allows you to be crazy by election thereafter."
Gillette's parents felt that their son's life had taken a decidedly weird turn, and they questioned the "solid upbringing" they had provided. "Then the first article [about Gillette] came out in National Geographic," says Gillette. "Suddenly they realized I wasn't just screwing around. They saw the plan."
The plan, as Gillette describes it, was to "adventure through life by living within my means, keeping my emotional and economic overhead low. I wanted to go my own way and to find a formula that would make these adventures possible."
Over the years, Gillette adhered to the personal aspects of his plan, bouncing from relationship to relationship, as well as from continent to continent. Then, this past summer, there occurred a serious divergence. In a ceremony at the Roundhouse restaurant on Sun Valley, Idaho's Bald Mountain, on Aug. 18, Gillette and former U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Susie Patterson were married. "I wouldn't call it settling down," says Gillette. "Since Susie is new to this adventuring stuff, she's even more gung-ho than I am. We've already been skiing together above 20,000 feet in Tibet, and she's quite psyched about the camel trip. I look at it this way: Now I can bring my home life with me."
As for the business side of the plan, it turned out to be "very simple," says Gillette. "I found that there were two main things: You've got to differentiate yourself from others in the field, and you've got to always remember to say thank you to the guys who sent you."