Adam Campbell is a Canadian mountain athlete living in Squamish, BC. He was one of my first inspirations in my early years as an aspiring pro trail runner. He’s had an amazing career as an athlete but in the last several years, Adam has endured a few very heavy life experiences. In 2016, Adam had a near death fall in the mountains and in 2020, Adam lost his wife in a backcountry skiing accident. In this conversation, we talk about how Adam has dealt with the grief and guilt from the accident and how we can grow from overwhelming sadness.
- Adam’s podcast with Billy Yang
- Follow Adam Campbell on IG
- Read Adam’s blog
- How Pro Athletes Become the Hardest Working Creators on the Internet
- Use code Freetrail15 for 15% off Speedland footwear
- Use code freetrail15 for 15% off Gnarly Nutrition products
Dylan Bowman: Hey fam, welcome back to the show. I am broadcasting looking out a window at beautiful sunny blue, California skies needed a little change of scenery and, uh, it was just with the doctor ordered, but welcome back to the free trail podcast. Of course, I'm Dylan Bowman. Thank you guys for being here. Always appreciate your attention. Adam Campbell is our guest today. The great Canadian mountain athlete, who really was one of my earliest inspirations as a young aspiring trail runner. Um, and he has been a veteran in the circuit for many, many years, many strong performances to his name over the past decade, decade and a half, probably at this point. But Adam's story is much bigger than winning races and being a great athlete. Um, Adam has really been through some stuff. He has been through some indescribable overwhelming hardship in the past several years. Uh, many of you I'm sure will know that back in 2016, Adam sustained life threatening injuries in an accident while he was out in the mountains on a long traverse of a mountain range in the Canadian Rockies with Dakota Jones and Nick ELs.
Dylan Bowman: And then a few years later after healing from that trauma and slowly returning to health, Adam tragically lost his wife, Laura Sakowski to an avalanche in a back country skiing accident. And Adam has admirably been an open book about this grieving journey, and I am honored that he would be willing to talk about that process with me here on the podcast. This I'm not gonna lie is a pretty heavy episode, but it's also a good one. It's also a long one
Dylan Bowman: I am hoping to receive my prototypes in March and I just can't wait, but for now go check out the SL P DX, the debut footwear product from the brand that is out. Now my shoe of choice, I actually just did about 25 miles in it a couple of days ago in beautiful Marin county, California. They are very, very nice. You can go get a pair for yourself, find it at run speed, land.com. Use code free trail 15 with a capital F for 15% off your purchases. Thank you so much to Adam for doing this. Thank you guys for being here. Hope you guys enjoy the episode, Adam Campbell. Hey buddy. How are you?
Adam Campbell: I'm good. Thanks. Yeah. How are you Dylan?
Dylan Bowman: Doing great. Doing great. Welcome to the show, man.
Adam Campbell: Yeah, no thanks. It's a huge honor. Are you, um, you know, you've accompanied a company on many, a run or a ski tour recently, so I, uh, it's, it's cool to be a part of this. I listened to one with Jim yesterday actually while walking my dog and yeah. What, uh, you know, two legends of the sport. It was awesome.
Dylan Bowman: Ah, thanks so much, man. Yeah. Uh it's you know, for me, it's, it's such a great excuse to be able to sit down with people like Jim and people like you and all the other amazing athletes and guests that I've had on the show. And, uh, it's a true joy for me. And, uh, I've wanted to have you on for a long time and you know, we've been exchanging texts and emails about it for quite some time. And here we are already February you 2022, and we're finally doing it, but you know, you and I sort of came up in the sport at the same time, more or less, you know, sort of like the turning into the 2000 and tens era of the sport, an exciting time. And, uh, I always really looked up to you. I mean, I felt like you were part of the cohort of athletes who I really drew a lot of inspiration from and you know, yourself and Gary Robbins, the two sort of Canadian heroes along with Ellie Greenwood on the women's side.
Dylan Bowman: And then, you know, that was the era of Anton Kaka and Kyle S Scags and how ner. And anyway, like I've always just really like admired you as an athlete and especially like your transformation. And I, I actually wanted to start our conversation in the natural place. And that is with triathlon because I've always known this about you. I always knew you were on the national team and on that Olympic path, but we've never talked about it and I'm a huge fan of triathlon, especially like the ITU stuff. So awesome. Let's start there. Talk about that, that part of your athletic career and, and maybe how it transitioned into being such a mountain sports stud.
Adam Campbell: Yeah, well, no, well, well thanks. And no, I mean, those early days were really cool and uh, you know, I'm not sure I can really be put in the same box as Ellie. I mean, she's definitely a league above, but, uh, no, I, those were really, really fun years, but yeah. So how I got into triathlon, um, in 1999, I, uh, yeah, 1999, I'd actually been, uh, I was working at outward bound, um, as a canoe guide for the summer. And, uh, it was really cool, sort of doing these four day to up to 20 day canoe trips in the back country of Northern Ontario. And, but we'd come back to this base camp and when I was there, um, I, I grew up swimming, um, and I'd always sort of been a decent runner, but I never really like trained for, for sports specifically.
Adam Campbell: Um, and, uh, it was at this, this sort of the, the home camp and there was a guy there training for triathlons and so get in the water and swim with him. And I had a mountain bike up there. So we go on gravel roads and mountain bike on the gravel roads and, you know, run together. And then later that summer, uh, I signed up for a triathlon and it happened to be the junior Canadian triathlon championships. And I, uh, I finished, uh, fifth or sixth at it, which, um, for whatever reason qualified me for the junior national team. Um, so I got to compete at the, the junior world triathlon championships, which were Montreal Canada that year. And it was a really big year because, uh, triathlon was going to be Olympics in the year 2000. So that Olympic or so that world championships was one of the qualifying races for the Olympics. Yeah. And is where Simon Whitfield qualified for the Olympics.
Dylan Bowman: And he won gold that year. Didn't
Adam Campbell: He? And then Simon won gold in 2000. Yeah. And I was going to a university at the time in Kingston, Ontario and Simon grew up in Kingston and I'd started running with the cross country running team because I was like, it seemed like a pretty good way of training for triathlon. And so I was able to walk onto the cross country team there. And Simon came and trained with us at the, with the cross country for you did a cross country workout and we were running together and I was, you know, sort of able to keep up with him on some of the intervals. And he was like, Hey, you're a triathlete, you're a young guy. We've got this, um, training center going out in Victoria, Canada, uh, which is on the other side of the country. Yeah. Um, how would you like to come and train with us? And I was not really into school at the time. I was much more into running around in my Speedo and, uh, and
Dylan Bowman: The Olympic gold medalist is recruiting.
Adam Campbell: Medalist is telling might have some potential. And, um, so I was like, well, that sounds pretty cool. And so I, I actually dropped out of university and, uh, flew across the country and literally landed at the airport in Victoria in December of, um, 2001. And like, I called him and I was like, Hey, I'm at the airport. And he is like, what do you mean? I'm like, literally I'm at the airport. And he's like, well, do you have somewhere to stay? You know, like, no, not really. He's like, well, come stay with me.
Dylan Bowman: Australian
Adam Campbell: Guy, right. Australian guy. Yeah. Who also has a very good podcast as well, well, worth listening to, and then, uh, we had Peter Reed who'd won Ironman, Hawaii, multiple times training at the training center,
Dylan Bowman: Canadian guy. Yep.
Adam Campbell: Canadian guy from Victoria and his, his wife at the time Lori Bowden had also won iron man, uh, Hawaii. And so I was instantly dropped into this center of excellence in triathlon, which is pretty cool. So like literally my first day there arriving on the pool deck and I'm like Olympic gold medalist world champion, iron medal champion, and then like other, um, you know, some of the other top triathletes in the world sort of recognized that something good was going on in Victoria. So they'd all come out and train. And so I was able to train with some of the best athletes in the world there, which was, it was a really, really cool experience. And, uh, quite quickly realized that, you know, while I had some talent, I was definitely not those guys
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Um, yeah, it was
Dylan Bowman: Cool. But, but you were on sort of the Olympic path, weren't you?
Adam Campbell: Yeah, I mean, I was, I was trying to be, um, there was a, you know, people from across Canada came out there to go train at this center. And so it was, you know, in one regards it was incredible because I got this like really deep learning into how to be a professional athlete on one, on one hand, like how do you actually earn a living as an athlete? Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Metaphorically. Yeah.
Adam Campbell: Um, so I I'd get quite beaten up at the start of those swims. And so I'd start, uh, you know, the, the, the bike portion had a bit of a disadvantage and I also don't have the most natural, raw power yeah. On the bike, you know, so I wasn't able to, like, I'm not bridging up to the, the Simon Whitfield and the Greg Bennetts of the world by myself on the bike. Um, so if I could get lucky and sort of suck wheel and get drawn up to the front pack, I would get the all good result. But, um, it was one of those, if, you know, if the cards played out in my favor, it could work on the right day, but ultimately it didn't. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: Well, you know, I'm a big fan of the sport of triathlon, and I always sort of knew that you and Simon had that relationship. I probably listened to every podcast Simon's ever done. I'd love his attitude and enthusiasm and his philosophy about, you know, sport and, you know, just your story about you arriving at the airport and him inviting you to stay somebody who would theoretically be like a competitor first spot on the team. You know, I don't know him personally, but, um, I feel like that's, uh, an example of how I would expect him to act as somebody who is only knows him through, through interviews, this great Canadian champion, Olympic champion triathlete. And, you know, you just mentioned something that I actually wanted to talk about. And that is like the fact that, and you've written about this recently in a blog post about how you've basically been a pro athlete since you were 18 years old and that now in your forties as a 40 something that the ego and the identity that's always been wrapped up in being this high performance world class athlete is sort of softened a little bit talk about that, because I think it's a really interesting thing as somebody who's been a pro athlete for more than half of their entire life.
Dylan Bowman: And it's really hard to kind of let go of that identity, isn't it?
Adam Campbell: No, it is for sure. I mean, and you know, the, the definition of pro athlete has shifted quite a lot in those 25. I, I turned 43 tomorrow.
Dylan Bowman: Happy birthday, man.
Adam Campbell: Um, yeah, so yeah, so literally 25 years. Um, but yeah, so it shifted quite a bit, cuz so when I started out in the sport, it was, it was basically purely a results based game. You know, it was, are you, you know, you taught five in the world, you got this amount of money, are you taught? Yeah. Done this amount and um, you know, and it sort of down the line, whereas now the definition of pro athlete is, is definitely changed. I think, um, you know, having, having taught performances, um, is, is still really, really important, but you can kind of create that identity a little bit. I mean, look at something like Phil gamont, um, who has the perfect example, never YouTube channel, which is, which is awesome. I mean, he, he was never, you know, he was, he was a top level pro, but he wasn't one of the best in the world at what he did. Yeah. But he's still very much a pro athlete, even though he is theoretically retired
Dylan Bowman: You know, in his Twitter bio, it says the unprofessional cyclist, you know, exactly it's such a brilliant way to brand it. Right. Cause he is not racing on a world tour anymore, but he still earns his living as a cyclist, but it's more on the lifestyle and content creation side. So it's just a great thing to riff on the
Adam Campbell: Changing
Dylan Bowman: Dynamic of being a pro athlete.
Adam Campbell: But he also still has the credibility of those, of those results at one point. And he still was out like, you know, crushing these yeah.
Dylan Bowman: You
Adam Campbell: Know, these hill climbs, which is, you know, it is pretty, it is pretty, it's pretty fun to follow what he does for sure. Yeah. Um, or even, you know, like Lockland Morton, um, you know, was arguably more famous for his, uh, you know, his big bike packing missions and he sort of solo adventures. And even though he still races on the pro tour, his value to brands is so far beyond yeah. As a, you know, a do mystique of some sort or a hill climb.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. I just read an article about both those guys. Maybe this is why it's fresh in your mind as well. Well, I think it was
Adam Campbell: Outside
Dylan Bowman: Article. Yeah. It was well I'll, I'll look it up and I'll try and add it to the show notes if I can find it, but I'm pretty sure it just came out a couple of weeks ago and effectively the point of the article was this, this sort of thing that you're talking about and it evolving landscape of being a pro athlete and how sports fans are consuming things in a different way. And athletes are delivering value to brand partners in a different way. And they use Locklin as a great example in that his alt tour of France, where he rode the entire tour last year, including the, you know, sections where the riders who are actually doing the tour, take the bus, he rode the entire distance of it and actually beat the tour by like four days or something like that.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. And in flip flops.
Dylan Bowman: Yes. And so, but very much representing the culture and the spirit of cycling and that his, I think it was his social impressions RD, the social impressions of the athletes who are actually doing the races. And so to what you're saying, it's like he's delivering a different value right. Than if he were a domestic, trying to shepherd the team leader up to the V too or whatever. Right. Yeah,
Adam Campbell: Absolutely. No, it's, it's really, you know, he, um, he captures the imagination. He is also, you know, he is obviously, I don't know him personally, but he just, he comes across as a really likable person and who just genuinely loves to ride his bike. And that's just so relatable for people. Yeah. And he is also clearly just a mega badass as well, like which about us, which sort of adds adds to it. And, um, it's interesting. I mean, I mean, following, like I'm really into watching, um, like, like mountain movies or like, you know, ski movies and stuff. And up to recently, a lot of sort of the adventure film world has been, um, you know, like ski porn, you know, like it's just like big slasher cuts and stuff. And now, like story seems to be much more relevant and actually doing a much deeper dive into personality and background of athletes. And I, and personally, I mean, maybe it's just a sign of me maturing, but that I'm much more interested in that as well.
Dylan Bowman: A hundred percent. Yeah.
Adam Campbell: You know, there still is a place for like the huge Hawk and I'm just, I'm the first one to be like, that was super cool. But then also wanna know, be like, what is your motivation to do? Like why did you choose to H 120 foot cliff? And what is going through your mind when you're doing or not? You know,
Dylan Bowman: Man, what a perfect place to start and what a perfect segue, because you know, really the reason I want to have you on in addition to being a fan of yours and the admire of yours for more than a decade now, I mean, truly you were one of the guys I looked up to when I found this sport back in 2008, right. And really in the last five or six years, man, you've been through the fucking ringer man. And as somebody who doesn't know you like super well personally, but who has looked up to you, it's been like crazy to witness. Right. And to your credit, you've been an open book about everything and never held anything back. But I mean, to what we're talking about, you know, social media is like a double edge sword. Right. And it is more compelling, at least for me to learn more about the human being, you know, and the culture and the spirit and the motivation more so than it is to just talk about like, Hey, what was the workout that you did that contributed most to this spectacular performance?
Dylan Bowman: Right. Mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: That's an interesting question. Um,
Adam Campbell: And, um, I could go really hard and, you know, it was, it was a nice mental escape from it, but there was no real joy at the finish line, you know, like I'd finish these things. And I was, I just felt kind of empty mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: And one of the reasons I was out doing that big traverse, um, it was kind of a, like, I just need to go and do something big, get my mind off it, like, you know, um, whether it was an ego thing or just, I needed to go and numb myself in the mountains for a day. Um, I, I'm not entirely sure it's hard, hard to really pull it apart. Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Which ultimately resulted in a near death fall for you. I wonder if you've ever, have you ever thought about that of like, maybe that was your wake up call right. Of like you can't run from this anymore, right.
Adam Campbell: Oh, 100%. No, there's no, no doubt on my mind, but that, like, that absolutely changed a lot about me. Wow. Um, you know, it was in a very profound way. I mean, I mean, I there's, I shouldn't be alive. Like there's, there's no, it's just pure dumb luck that I'm not, you know, one that I'm alive and two that I'm not, you know, fully, you know, that I, but I still have like a relatively well functioning body. Yeah. Um, you know, I mean, just for, for anybody who doesn't know, I, um, we were doing this sort of mountaineering traverse in Roger's past British Columbia, which is, um, it's sort of this it's, it's a proper like fifth class mountaineering traverse you're you're crossing glaciers. And, um, it was gonna be about a 30 mile, um, 8,000 meter, uh, Traver, like Ridge traverse, uh, linking up about 14 peaks. And, uh,
Dylan Bowman: It's not just like a little trail run or an old barrel,
Adam Campbell: Like it's definitely not a trail run
Dylan Bowman: Proper objective. Yeah,
Adam Campbell: Yeah, no, for sure. And, um, as we were scrambling up one of the peaks, um, on kind of, you know, fourth to maybe low fifth class terrain, um, and it, it was probably the worst rock in the entire route. A block pulled out on me and I fell hard to hard to know exactly, but I a couple hundred feet, a few hundred feet. Um, and I, it was very ledge and I tumbled down the ledges. Um, and for whatever reason, um, I, I survived, but I broke my back in my hip and I had lacerations across my body. And, uh, we, we looked at the weather quite carefully, uh, prior to doing the traverse. And, um, we saw that we had a good weather window. So the, I was able to get rescued really quickly. Um, and both, uh, Nick E and Dakota Jones who are, you know, both worthy of, uh,
Adam Campbell: Um, and they were able to, you know, to sort of stabilize me and, um, call, call for call for help. Yeah. But, uh, no, that, that incident definitely, uh, changed me one, you know, I was a mobile, you know, I, I couldn't walk for, for six weeks and I was really, really scared. Like I, you know, I should have died and I was incredibly humbled by my time in the hospital. Um, sort of dealing with the reality of like, it was kind of a, like, what the hell are you doing with your life here? Yeah. Um, so it literally was like a huge, uh, wake up call in, in a lot of ways and made me face myself in, in really, really dark, deep ways. And, um, the reason I pulled through was the love of Laura and my family, and then, you know, just being incredibly vulnerable because I was like, I was reliant on these total strangers for the most basic tasks. Like I literally couldn't wipe my own ass. Yeah. You know, like I was having to call N I remember sitting in my own filth at three o'clock in the morning because I was like, I don't want to call a nurse to clean me up right now. And then eventually being like, why not? Like it's just ego, just, just do it. And just having this deep gratitude for these people who I didn't know and whose names I don't remember necessarily, but that I owe so much to.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Yeah. So in a weird way, it's almost like this accident allowed you to begin to start healing from the disillusion of your first marriage and for you to finally come to terms with that pain and therefore create this new life with your new partner, Laura, who you had broken up with the day before. Is that right?
Adam Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Um, no, and it, it, it very much did. And, you know, through that time, I, um, I started, uh, doing quite a lot of pain meditation cause I was in a lot of physical pain and the pain meditation led me into more just like personal meditation and more journaling and drawing, um, which sort of led me down a path of like deep self-reflection because all of a sudden I couldn't run away. Like I literally couldn't run, you know, I couldn't move. Um, so I was, I was forced to just sit and
Dylan Bowman: Isn't that crazy dude, it's similar on a much smaller scale, not to compare myself to you, but just to share a personal anecdote from my own history of injury, cuz in 2019, when I broke my left ankle, I very much just did not accept it. You know, it was like, whatever, I'm in it, hard rock, even though the race ended up getting canceled, I was like, there's nothing that's gonna stop me and continue to power through. Even though, though I had a deep awareness, a deep knowing that I was not right physically or emotionally, I was like really in a dark place myself. And then it wasn't until I couldn't run anymore because my Achilles flared up and my ankle is just a total mess, but I keep pushing. I kept pushing. So then I'm training on my bike, crashed my bike and then it was finally like, okay bro, you need to stop.
Dylan Bowman: You know, this is the moment where you just stop and you have to let things settle and figure out whatever's happening internally and let those things heal before you can start moving forward as this, you know, identity of an athlete anymore. And so I, I, so yeah, resonate with your description of that fall in that intensely, you know, life changing experience and near death experience really did allow you to address a deeper, uh, of potentially a, like a deeper thing that you needed to fix within yourself to, to move forward. And, you know, I was just telling you that I re-listened to your podcast with Billy Yang, uh, over the last couple of days and you got, I mean, Billy just did a masterful job in that interview where he sort of talks through everything that you've been through in the last five or six years.
Dylan Bowman: And I want to direct people to, to listen to that. Um, and you know, I don't wanna make you talk about the same thing and I really just kind of wanna plug holes and um, you know, talk about sort of what's been going on since that conversation because mm-hmm,
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Um, yeah, just, yeah, I mean sort of just take one quick step back, but it is interesting. Um, you know, as athletes, you know, we, we can often fool ourselves that, you know, going for a run, um, is, is like it's the panacea
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Wow. It's just the truth that there's always that silver lining isn't
Adam Campbell: There. Yeah. And, and there has to be cuz otherwise it's just, it's just horrible. And so I think, you know, and, and maybe it's, um, you know, in nature of, you know, you do these really long events and, you know, mountaineering things and you kind of have to find like some form of beauty in the, in, in the darkness, in the pain or because otherwise it's just pain
Dylan Bowman: There's always a metaphor for ultra running isn't there. Exactly.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. No. And so it is often my reference point, so, you know, it's not it, but you know, I, I have learned a lot of life lessons through training for sure. And it, it applies, um, in a lot of very important ways. Um, but I think if it is your only way of dealing with things, if it is your only life reference point, then you're probably not leaning a very balanced, um, life ultimately.
Dylan Bowman: Um, so then going back to this question of, yeah, after your first marriage ended and you have a near death fall yourself, and then you find this new, beautiful relationship and you're coming back and getting your health back, you're doing races again, you're getting in touch with your physical expression again, but not using it as a crutch. You're doing it for the love of it. Did it feel like you were reemerging into this new Adam Campbell 2.0, I just feel like, want to figure out, like, what was your life like in between these two things?
Adam Campbell: No, it was, it was, it was wonderful. Um, you know, it like Laura, Laura was an incredible human and she really opened me up, um, you know, allowed me, me to really, really feel a, a deep kind of love and vulnerability and just connection to another soul that, you know, even in my first marriage I had not frankly felt to the same degree. Um, you know, my first wife and I, we got, you know, we we'd met when we were 20. Um, and we were together for quite a while, you know, we, and you change as, as people over that, that like the time, um, and, uh, you know, and she's an incredible human and incredible person and just, you know, we, we grew apart, um, as, as we aged under sort of life paths shifted, but no, very much so. Um, you know, I, you know, I was, you know, started climbing a lot more, started back country skiing a lot more. Um, I started doing a lot more writing, um, you know, Laura and I traveled the world a lot. And just, just to travel, you know, like not, not with a specific to do
Dylan Bowman: Range people that, yeah.
Adam Campbell: I know after that point in my life, it was like, you know, you'd go with a specific objective. Um, and so finally we'd actually just go and travel and it was incredible. And of course we'd go and run and, you know, surf or scramble or whatever when we were in these other places. But that wasn't the primary point of being there. The primary point of being there was to enjoy the experience. And that was something that Laura really kind of shifted my perspective to. I remember one day, uh, we wrote ski touring and, uh, we were approaching the summit in, um, in, in Banff national park. And, and it, it's a, it's a really, really beautiful part of the world. And we were, you know, going up this, uh, this Ridge and, uh, you know, we were maybe like 20 or 30 minutes away from the summit. And I started to get a little bit eye of the tiger. Like, you know, let's, let's be a little, little summit fever. Yeah. And we got there and she's like, she stops. And she's like, no, I think we should just stop here. And I'm like, why? She's like, no, well the good skiing ends here. We're here to ski. And I was like, no, but, but the summit are
Adam Campbell: She's like, but no, but we're here to ski. This is this, like, that's not enjoyable. Like that just looks like windy and like, horrible. Why, why do you need to go up there? And I was like, I actually didn't have a good answer. I was like, I don't know, like, you're so right. Like, this is like, that's not enjoyable. This is where the pleasure ends. So, yeah. So she really, really shifted my perspective that way. And, um, you know, forced me to, you know, she, she could charge like she moved well in the mountains. Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. So it's been two years now since Laura passed, I guess, just to set the table or just to provide context for those who don't know your story again, I think most people will. And for those who want the much more, more detailed version of it, again, I would just highlight Billy Yang's podcast, uh, where you guys sat down. I think it was last summer. Um, and I'll link to that in the show notes, but maybe just sort of tell the listeners what happened in a nutshell. And then, um, yeah, I kind of want to talk about sort of how things have been since then.
Adam Campbell: Yeah, no, absolutely. Um, so, um, a, a friend of mine and I, um, he's, he's a really well known ski guide, uh, in Canada, um, and just a phenomenal skier. Um, we're gonna go do, um, a back country day, uh, in Banff national park and Laura and, you know, Laura also loves skiing and, um, she actually done a steep skiing course with this, uh, with this guy, um, you know, a few months before, sorry, sorry, the year before and in, uh, so this was January 10th of, uh, 2020. And so we went out for this, uh, for a casual ski day. It was really just like a, you know, a group of friends out skiing. And it was, it was a, a touchy avalanche day. Like we, we knew that there's avalanche forecast, you can look at beforehand. Um, and the rating was considerable for the day, which is it, it it's probably the most unpredictable kind of train.
Adam Campbell: And so we, we picked an objective that, you know, we thought was manageable for the day. And, um, you know, we're all very experienced back country skiers. Uh, you know, I said, he's one of the most highly regarded ski guides and Laura and I have the highest level of avalanche training. And, you know, we're in the back country, you know, 60 to a hundred days a year on skis. Um, so no, no know how to read snow fairly well. Um, and we were, you know, we were, we, we had a really fun day and it snowed quite a lot. It was really stormy. And, uh, we were skiing this one aspect and kind of moving our way, um, you know, right to left over these sort of like little tree lines. And, uh, so we skinneded up the Ridge ski, the line had had a really good powder run.
Adam Campbell: We already had the skin track in. So we went up ski the next little shoot and then finally make over to the third shoot. And, um, we were, it was basically our last last line of the day. And we were at the top of the Ridge and we identified all the hazards. Uh, we knew that there was a little Creek at the bottom, we'd identified, uh, a safe area, um, to sort of regroup. Um, and so for, for people to explain to people like this is like proper back country skiing, like you're like, you're, you're quite out there. You know, there's no cell signal, like we're, we're deep in the, in the mountains, in the Canadian Rocky. So it's quite remote, um, area. And so, um, Laura skied the line first and, you know, skied this like knee deep powder and was having a great time.
Adam Campbell: And then Kevin skied the line second and he dropped in a little bit farther right than Laura and I moved forward to watch Kevin ski the line because he is a beautiful skier. And, um, as I move forward to watch him, um, I, I triggered, um, basically, uh, uh, an area of like week snow, not, not to get too deep into the, the swim sign and it, it ripped the entire slope in my feet. Um, so the, the area was like under, under pressure, um, and the, what I stepped onto released the entire slope of my feet. And so, um, this 80 meter wide, um, crown, um, so what's that like 200 feet, um, 200 foot crown about, and it's, it went anywhere from about a meter wide, uh, in depth to 40 centimeters. Um, cuz it, it went wider to narrower. Yeah. Ripped at my feet and then ran the entire, uh, 400 meter length of the run.
Adam Campbell: So 1200, 1200 feet. And, um, I, I was, I started to get caught in the avalanche and I was able to stop myself on my ski pole. Um, and, and I sat there and I watched this, uh, this avalanche trip below me and, um, I, I start yelling avalanche, um, as loud as I can. And, uh, there's a huge sort of powder cloud. And when it settles, I quickly moved like out of the line where I was, so I wouldn't trigger a secondary avalanche in the, on Laura and, um, and Kevin below me yeah. Moved or the next sort of Ridge line and skied down as fast as I could. And when I got down there, um, my partner, Kevin said he saw Laura in the trees and he saw her scurrying. Um, so he is like, so we just started yelling Laura's name. And then when we realized she wasn't answering, we, when you're back country skiing, you have, uh, these avalanche beacons on you.
Adam Campbell: So sort of, um, yeah, little things that trans a signal. So we, we pulled out our, our, and we start performing our search and, um, these things, they start drawing us into this Creek bed. And so we realized that Laura had been buried in this Creek bed. And, um, just due to the nature of how big this avalanche was, she was in a safe, in a safe spot. Um, but the avalanche went really big, so bad, presumably the powder cloud or the slide took out the trees where she was standing as well. Um, and so I don't know if she had moved, uh, somewhat out of the safe area to, to look to, to see if I was in the avalanche. I I'll never know. Um, yeah, because you know, it's kind of, yeah. You know, these are the things that you sort of wrestle with, but what was the, sorry?
Adam Campbell: Ultimately, she was buried under 12 feet of snow and, um, you know, we, we were, we were, it was, it was quite a complicated search as well because it was on quite a steep slope and, um, and the debris and, and tree branches sort of made, made the digging quite hard. And so it took us 45 minutes to actually get to Laura, cuz you can't dig straight down, you have to tunnel in because otherwise the snow would, uh, would keep bearing onto you. So we had to, to start digging about 30 feet out to tunnel in towards her. Um, and then when we got to her, her, her feet were still up slope with her, with her head, um, at the bottom of the slope. And so we, it took us another 45 minutes to fully get her out of there. And that was just hell like in every, every way possible. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Well, thanks for describing it again. And you know, I can't even begin to understand, I mean, just your description of calling her name and not getting a response that must have been agonizing in real time. Were you panicked? I mean, were you
Adam Campbell: No, exactly. Yeah. So I mean initially, you know, when, when I, when she didn't respond, you know, your initial thought is okay, she's probably like buried. Um, you know, but you know, maybe not that deep, but then when, when you, you get the four meter reading, um, that instantly sort of changed the game, but, um, no, and you know, but you don't allow yourself to have that thought. Um, the, the only thing is you have to have to get her out. Um, and you know, and Kevin, um, did a really good job at giving me tasks, um, and sort of counting it down. And so he really controlled that because I was on the verge of losing, losing it the entire time. Um, and I, I even remember, you know, at one point digging and, and thinking that I was getting tired and just getting so mad at myself, that thinking that, um, and then, uh, when we finally got to her and we could see her face that, that, that really broke me because I mean, her face, she hated being cold and her face was blue.
Adam Campbell: I'm sorry. Um, and, uh, she was wearing, she was wearing MITs and her, her left MIT was off. And all I could see was her ring finger. Like she was clearly trying to like cover, cover her mouth to, to create a, an airway, which is sort of what you're taught to do. And, um, so I could just see her, her, her blue face and her ring on her finger. And, um, that, that was really, really hard. Um, and you know, I, I asked Kevin if he, uh, he went up to her and, um, we cl he cleared outta her airway and I asked him if he could feel a pulse and he lied to me and said that he could, um, and, uh, you know, we'd, we'd called, we'd called for, uh, search and rescue at this point, uh, to come out, um, to, to get her out.
Adam Campbell: And when we finally like were able to get her, her body out of, outta the back of the hole, um, the only way to actually get her out is I had to like pull her up onto me and then crawl up the hole and then pull her up on. So like drag her out the hole. And it was, that was, that was, it was, it was incredibly hard. Um, and then, uh, you know, we, we performed C uh, we performed CPR on her and, um, we weren't getting any kind of a, any kind of a pulse, you know, so we, we, you know, we took all the clothes that we had in the emergency blanket to try to keep her warm until the search and rescue crew came. And, um, when the search and rescue crew came, I actually, I knew, and Kevin knew, um, the search and rescuers as well.
Adam Campbell: So seeing the look on their face as well, um, you know, when they clearly knew how serious the situation was that, um, you know, that was really, really hard. And, uh, when they finally came back and so they, they removed Laura by, um, by our helicopter. Um, so you get long lined out under helicopter. And when finally they came and took Kevin to me, that's when I, I, I, I broke down completely. I just started screaming and yelling. And, uh, when they dropped me, when they dropped us down at the nearest road, I just completely collapsed. And, um, yeah, I was not in a, not in a good state anymore, but I mean, I, I, I kept it together as best as I could. Um, you know, I, I, I did, I definitely did some screaming as I was shoveling, um, and just yelling at Laura telling her that we were coming and, and, and all that, but ultimately, you know, one, one job and that's to, to try to savor her and, um, you know, they were able to, to revive a pulse, um, once they actually warmed up and, you know, the other, the other, the other sort of thought I had is, um, you know, it, when people go hypothermic, uh, there's actually stories of people surviving quite a long time.
Adam Campbell: Right? Yeah. Hypothermic, it can kind of preserve the body. It's, it's incredibly rare. Um, you know, when somebody's buried for more than 15 minutes, like your chance of survival is really, really well. We know this intuitive, like, you just know this, but it
Dylan Bowman: Would've, it would've been a miracle, but at least you had some glimmer of hope
Adam Campbell: That yeah. And you have to, you have to have hope and you have to keep believing. Um, but, uh, you know, and so they, you know, eventually I went to the hospital, which was a few hours away by car. Um, so they had to flyer to Calgary. Um, um, and when, uh, when we finally got there, uh, you know, they said that they had this pulse, but you know, her, her organs weren't, weren't doing so well. And then later that day, they, um, they told us that they weren't gonna be able to, to save her. And, uh, it was basically just a matter of time. Um, and so, yeah, you know, we just, you know, sat with her, um, and talked to her and held her as, you know, basically she died
Dylan Bowman: My God, man.
Adam Campbell: Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: I, I can't imagine. And especially having her be at your side, when you went through your own near death thing, which you said earlier really should have killed you and for the roles to be reversed and for her to actually succumb. I just, I can't imagine. And it's now been two years and you posted a couple of weeks ago on the two year anniversary on your Twitter. You said two years ago today, I triggered an avalanche that buried and subsequently killed my wife, Laura Sakowski, I'm still processing and learning to live with the guilt and grief of that day. I can't describe how much I miss her. And of course accidents happen in the mountains. And it's not your fault, but I wanna talk about those two words, guilt and grief, cuz I don't think you really talked about that with Billy. And I think mm-hmm,
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Um, no, I mean guilt, guilt's a huge one. I mean, you know, the, the worst thing I've ever had to do was, um, was, was call Laura's family and tell 'em that this happened, um, you know, like that's, and that I didn't know whether or not their daughter was alive. Um, that like that's so horrible. Yeah. Um, and, uh, yeah, I mean, I, I definitely, I, I definitely deal with that on, in a, in a huge way because you know, you, you know, you have this romantic notion that you'll save the people you love, um, and that you'll find this extra strength and I wasn't able to, um, and having to live with that is, is incredibly hard. Um, you know, and although, you know, we say that, you know, you know, the risks going into the mountains and, you know, but they're, you, you don't really, you know, you can, you can save these things until you've actually gone through it.
Adam Campbell: It's, it's a completely different, different beast. And, um, and you know, and not just me, you know, I think about, and, and this is something that had happened with my first accident in Roger's past is I really, really thought about the consequences of my, my choices going in the mountains and sort of moving in this more technical, dangerous terrain. And, um, just how inherently selfish it is because my actions impact so many other people, my choice impact so many other people, um, you know, my accident in Roger's pass, scared the hell outta my family. Um, it put my partners in a horrible position, like, you know, Nick and Dakota thinking that they were watching me die. Yeah. Um, like they thought they were coming to a body recovery when they were, when they were scrambling back down to me, um, you know, the search and rescuers, like all, all these people, like there's this trickle down effect, um, to it.
Adam Campbell: And then in this case, it's the same thing, you know, like Laura was a family doctor in Kamar, um, and just like a wonderful member of the community and sort like the broad reach of, um, of this accident on, on the, the wider community was really, really deeply felt. Um, and that was, I was painfully aware of that. And, um, yeah, I mean, you, you, you know, you, you can tell yourself that, you know, mountain actions happen, but I also made a mistake. Like I stepped onto a convict role, which like, you know, looking back on it, I, I, I realized what happened and you know, that, that slope was wind loaded. Um, you know, and we had talked about it, but it, it was basically, it was like worst case scenario on top of worst case scenario. Yeah. And, um, you know, and, and, and I can't take it back.
Dylan Bowman: So how do you wrestle with that feeling of guilt now, two, two years removed, has it improved at all? Have you come to a place where you can forgive yourself?
Adam Campbell: Uh, that's a good question. I, I, um, I don't, I don't think I, I, I, I forgive myself, but I like it happened mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Consequ consequences,
Adam Campbell: You have to live with the consequences. Um, that's, that's kind of, you know, and, but I also understand how somebody would make that choice. Um, and I wouldn't judge them for it either. Um, yeah. You know, I, I, I get it. I mean, I, uh, um, there's, there's a, a famous case of, um, of this, a young Alpine climber Hayden Kennedy, um, who is skiing with his, his partner, um, in Montana. And she died in avalanche and he wasn't able to, to rescue her and, uh, you know, and he, he ended up committing suicide, um, the next day. And, uh, you know, I've been in touch with his family a little bit as well. Um, and they've reached out to me and they've been wonderful support, but, you know, I, I, I understand the head space that he was in and, um, had, had I not been with Kevin that day, um, had it just being me.
Adam Campbell: I think that maybe I wouldn't have been able to live with it, but in the, in, in this circumstance as well, I'm like, okay, I was with another trained professional. It wasn't, you know, we, there was a, a group of us making these decisions. There's a group of us trying to do the, you know, there's two of us trying to do the rescue. Um, so while I don't, you know, like I'm, I'm very, very sorry that Kevin has gone through this with me and it's has had an impact on his life as well. And in quite a profound way. Um, in some regards I'm, I'm, I'm grateful that he was there as well. Um, yeah.
Dylan Bowman: So on the subject of Hayden Kennedy and, and his partner, it makes me wonder,
Adam Campbell: Sorry, Inga Perkins. Like, I think it's important to also say her
Dylan Bowman: Name, Inga Perkins. Thank you. And I remember that story cuz Hayden Kennedy is from Carbondale, Colorado, a town that I've lived in rowing fork valley is a second home to harmony and I, and um, I remember seeing him speak at the Wheeler opera house and he was famously this young up and coming world class, Uber talented climber, who also had the values of like this purity to him cuz he was the guy who ended up, what did he do?
Adam Campbell: So he Sara TTO, he, he chopped the bolts in territory famously after freeing the route. Yeah, yeah, yeah. With, uh, Jason Cru. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Just kind of a, an aspiring or an ascending legend of climbing still very young person.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. And, and his dad is one of the best known, um, alpinist of all time as well, Michael Kennedy and the editor of, um, you know, a number of the, the big climbing magazines. Yeah. Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: So what I was getting at is I know there exists these support systems of widows and widowers and family members of people who've died in the mountains. And I wondered if, if you've been connected with those types of groups and what type of support you've been able to find from that, or, or what support have you been able to offer people in similar positions?
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Um, no, I mean, that's, you know, one of the unfortunate aspects of living in a, in a mountain community is, you know, death is, you know, it, there is more, um, more incidents of it, unfortunately in these mountain, in these mountain pursuits, it is, you know, as much as we say, driving to the trailheads, more dangerous it's statistically, I would actually sure. Maybe more people die in car accidents, but as a proportion of users back country travelers and climbers definitely there's a higher rate of like fatalities and really, you know, um, bad injuries than in the normal population. So, um, unfortunately there are a number of other people that have suffered similar, um, incidents out there and I, and right away I was contacted by a number of, um, of people like I'm quite good friends with, um, with Brett Harrington. Um, and who was the partner of mark Andre LA clerk?
Adam Campbell: Um, they were actually living at my place in Canmore before mark Andre went up to Alaska. Um, and so, you know, so Brett had, had reached out, um, uh, there's another famous, uh, climber David Lama, um, who had died in, uh, in the Canadian Rockies, um, a couple years before, as well. And, um, and his partner had also reached out and it just so happened that after, um, after this, uh, this incident, um, there was actually a support group getting started in Canmore. Um, and Kevin who was with me on that day, uh, was one of the founding members of it, as well as, um, Barry Blanchard. Who's a very famous Canadian alpinist and Sarah Nikk, who's a, um, a well known ice climbing guide started this it's called the mountain Musks and it's, it is a support group in Canmore, um, around people who suffered, uh, fatalities and trauma in the mountains.
Adam Campbell: Um, and so, so I, I did have this, this level of sort of emotional mentorship, um, from these people who suffered like quite serious trauma for a number of years and who are at different stages of, of grief. Um, and then since then I, you know, I, I have had people reach out who've suffered, um, you know, loss in the mountains, um, whether it's their, you know, whether they've lost partners to the mountains or have lost partners while out with them in the mountains. And there is an unfortunate community of people who, who reach out and, uh, you know, it's not the club you wanna be a part of. Um, but there that you do offer a, a form of, you know, everybody goes on their own journey. Um, but if you can share a little bit about what you've gone through, I think it does help. And that's one reason why I've chosen to be quite public with my, with my grief and grieving, um, is because having people reach out to me did help me a little bit. And I figure if I can help even one person, um, not that it will ever right. The wrong I've gone through, but at least I can live with myself to some degree.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah.
Adam Campbell: And it gives me, so it gives me a sense of purpose because I ultimately like I not a lot makes sense to him, like to me. Yeah. Always makes sense.
Dylan Bowman: I mean, so speaking of that, it really doesn't make sense, man. And as somebody who has just been an active follow of yours for more than a decade, I can't help, but feel
Dylan Bowman: Just this deep sense of unfairness, right? Cuz you were famously struck by lightning at the hard rock 100 back in 2014, you nearly died in your own fall two years later. And then three years after that you lose your wife in a terrible avalanche ski accident. And I, I have to admit like as I continue to follow you and you continue to kind of go out in the mountains, I'm both confused and impressed in that. I admire you for staying true to the things that you love doing. But also I wonder to myself, like how the fuck do you still go out in the mountains? What, what can you say about that? Like how is it after those things and that glaring unfairness in my mind that you can still go out and do that and mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Um, no, I mean in, uh, you know, there, I think there's a, I think it's Ryan hold Messner has a famous quote it's um, and it's, uh, you know, mountains are aren't fair or unfair for just dangerous. Um, and so I think if you, you know, it's, it's not, you know, the mountains, the mountains aren't out to get me
Dylan Bowman: It's, it's, it's like an example of, I mean, does it make you feel cursed in some way?
Dylan Bowman: Just to get honest feedback? Yeah.
Adam Campbell: Just to get honest feedback, it's like, am I, am I a fuck up out here? Should I not be doing this? And you know, their answers are, you know, they say, no, you know, they're like, no, you're quite a conscientious Mount traveler. Um, and you know, and I've done, I've done lots of training. Like I've got like fairly decent hard skills in the mountains. Um, I think perhaps I, I progressed a little quickly into the mountain pursuits and in retrospect I should probably should have done more of the, the hard skills early on. And so maybe this is just a little word of advice to anybody out there who's, um, looking to get into the more sort of mountainside of mountain running or back country skiing. You like take your time and to really develop those hard skills and do it in a slow way, you know, progress into the light and fast from that. But start with like the traditional learn how to do the fundamentals really well, learn how to tie your learn about the different systems, learn
Dylan Bowman: Heavy and slow before the light and fast
Dylan Bowman: What's the balance between joy and fear now when you're out there.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. That's a good question. Um, it's primarily joy. Like when I go out into the mountains, like, I, I, I seek like, you know, pleasure in the mountains and the way that I try to move and travel in them is pleasure. And then on occasion, um, you know, I might do something that is like on paper kind of scary or a bit more dangerous, like skiing, skiing, a steep line, or doing like a, a bigger sort of mountain traverse or something. But I, I, I don't seek that out. Um, it's, if everything feels lined up and is, is perfectly in place for that on the day, then I then, and it's, it's the right thing to do then, um, then, then I'll be one of potential objectives, but I, I, I basically back down from stuff all the time.
Adam Campbell: Um, and, uh, it, it, it's interesting, I think with like a lot of mountain stuff, if you're too objective focused, um, you'll gonna get yourself in trouble. Like one of the better ways was put to me is, you know, say you want to go climb Mount Robson, which is the highest mountain, the Canadian Rockies getting up Mount Robson. You say, you want to go to the Robson area
Dylan Bowman: You lose that mental flexibility.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Lose the mental flexibility. And also it's like, there is great pleasure and value in each of those objectives. Mm-hmm
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Adam Campbell: Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: You have mentioned a couple of times that you've been journaling and writing, and you started a bit of a blog that I've been keeping up on, and that you've been sharing on your social channels. And in November you wrote a post called I fucked up. I'm sorry. I love you. And I read it and instantly just had this explosion of sadness. Mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Um, yeah, so, I mean, I, I guess, I guess another thing just to mention people is, you know, through, through all of this, I, I haven't been getting quite regular counseling. Um, and I think that that's really, really important and valuable and, and I've, I've had a few different counselors and I've worked with different people for different areas of, you know, I've got, you know, I've got grief, I've got trauma,
Adam Campbell: Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: There's like a symbolic letting go that occurs then.
Adam Campbell: Exactly. Yeah. It's hard. And it kind of has to happen organically, um, at its own pace. And I wasn't ready to let, let that stuff go yet. Um, but it was also just this constant reminder and sort of ghost everywhere. Um, and you know, I, so I started seeing this, uh, um, this woman and, you know, she was wonderful. Um, and we know like she was our friend in camo of, of Laura and I, and um, you know, in COVID happened through all this as well, you know, so all of a sudden there's this like closing off and, you know, you're having to, um, you know, had, COVID not happened. I probably would've gone off and traveled, um, and maybe have left cam work for a little bit, but you know, all of a sudden I wasn't really able to socialize with anybody. And so you start, you know, um, you know, my bubble was me in this, um, this other woman mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: And so you, you're kind of like forced in a bit of an unnatural situation. Uh, we had, we had a lot of fun, you know, and it was, um, it was going, it was just nice to feel good again, and to feel a sense of joy and happiness and to laugh again. Um, you know, like the first time you laugh after going through a tragedy, it's you have all this dissonance, like, am I allowed to laugh? Wow. Is that okay? Like, am I allowed to feel joy? And ultimately, yeah, you are like, that's kind of the point of this all, like, it's the point of life, but it like, it, it really messes with you the first time you laugh after, um, you know, after a deep tragedy. Um, and so you have to give yourself permission for these things. Um, anyway, so we've been seeing each other and we decided that we were going to, to go to Squamish for the summer and I was getting regular counseling in Canmore.
Adam Campbell: And, um, we left the, the bull valley cuz you know, we've both been stuck there for a year and a half and we're like, it'd be nice to go somewhere different. Um, so we moved to Squamish for the summer and when we were in Squamish, I things were going well and I stopped, I stopped getting counseling, basically like life felt good. I was enjoying everything was everything felt like it was going well. And uh, my family lives abroad. Um, my brother lives in Sweden and my dad lives in Spain. Um, you're do an entire podcast on my, like my, up, my messed up
Adam Campbell: And so I started to like get a little bit of anxiety about that and a little bit worked up and worried. And because we were so far apart was, you know, the communication just felt a little bit weird mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: And, uh, so I was sitting in this, in my home, um, you know, with sort of signs of Laurel over the place. And it just started to feel quite heavy and, and quite oppressed. And then, uh, uh, this other, my partner, um, came back and when she came back, she's like, you know, I I've been thinking about things and I'm just, I just don't feel that this is the relationship that I, that I want and which is entirely fair, you know, like that's, yeah, you're allowed your somebody's allowed to say that, but at that moment it was, it was too much for me. Yeah. Um, and I, and I can, I can appreciate how dealing with me through that period. Would've been really, really hard, you know, you know, she'd walk into my place and there's photos of me and my, you know, my former wife on the, the mantle, you know, like that's a lot for something to, to deal with.
Adam Campbell: And, and my heart really, uh, goes out to her and for dealing with that, and I can understand why she wouldn't have wanted to, um, to be in a relationship that say, but anyway, um, so, but that just led me to going and, and I was dealing and I had a horrible trip back from Europe. It just due to COVID like my flights got delayed. I ended up having to spend like an extra night in a hotel. So I was, I was sleep deprived. And then I got back living in, in this place and all of a sudden, like, I, I didn't sleep for a couple nights. And I, I did some anxiety about, um, about this woman coming back. And then, uh, you know, she broke up with me, which led to me not sleeping for a couple more nights. And so I, I basically hadn't slept in, you know, I hadn't had a proper sleep in over a week and I literally did not sleep for over two days.
Adam Campbell: And I was sitting on my couch and I'd actually gone climbing the day before with a couple, um, friends of mine. They're like, Hey, some like something seems up like just come out and just have some fun with us. And when I was out with him, I just, I, I was kind of like a zombie. I just, I wasn't, I wasn't really there. And then, uh, I, I started that, that blog at about four o'clock in the morning, um, or three 30 in the morning because I was like, I just needed to like, something was in me, but I needed to let out and I just couldn't figure out what it was. And then the next morning around maybe 9:00 AM after now sleeping, I in a bit of a catatonic state just like walked upstairs, grabbed every pill on my counter and just swallowed them.
Adam Campbell: Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Counter. So since the accident, I mean, you mentioned just that passing thought was you were walking past the river of jumping in and ending it, and that being so much easier than having to face the reality of losing your wife, aside from that little episode, had you dealt with anything that would have resembled suicidal thoughts between then and this episode?
Adam Campbell: Uh, no, nothing. That, nothing that was suicidal to that point. Um, and I, you know, talking to other, to, to counselors and therapists and I wasn't actually suicidal. Um, you know, I didn't, I didn't have like constant, like suicidal ideations. I wasn't constantly thinking about suicidal thoughts. Um, in that moment it was literally, I just need this pain to go away and I can't figure out how to make this pain go away. Um, in, in that moment, um, what I, what I have dealt with on occasion is definite PTSD. Um, I've had some moments. Um, the first time I tried skiing a steep ski line, I fully panicked in the middle of a line and just had really, really bad panic attacks. And, um, you know, had to in, in a position where like, I really couldn't panic and I had to, to calm myself and sort of figure out how to get myself out of that situation.
Adam Campbell: And then I was doing last, uh, spring. I did this, this big ski traverse with a, with a couple friends when we were, we were trying to do it and a pretty fast push. And, um, you know, as we wrote for 53 hours and, you know, 11,000 meter ski traverse and, um, in the middle of that, just the fatigue kind of caught up to me. And I, same thing. I had a panic attack in the middle of it, and they were able to like call me and sort of talk me through it, but I, I hadn't had any other suicidal thoughts. Um, but yeah, so I, I, I swallowed all the pills, saw myself in the mirror and I was like, what the fuck have I done? I ran downstairs called, uh, called the people I was climbing with the day before. I was like, Hey, I've really fucked up here.
Adam Campbell: Call an ambulance. I, uh, you know, it was the middle of the morning. And so I ran over to my neighbor's place and she's eight and a half months pregnant. And I just started banging on her window and I was like, you need to call an ambulance. I fucked up. Um, and, uh, she brought me into, into her place and I started going in outta the consciousness at that point. And same thing, like cames, a small town. And I, I remember the, um, you know, the, the ambulance driver or the, um, the paramedics and even the, the police officer, cause they have to bring a police officer in these situations. And like I knew all of them, um, you know, so I remember sort of seeing them like recognizing them in like in a blurry state and then, uh, getting taken to hospital in Canmore, um, before they took me to a, a more major center.
Adam Campbell: And, uh, yeah, while I was at the, the major hospital, um, they came in and they're like, um, the, uh, the, the psychiatric doctor, um, you know, he is like, you're not, you're not under, we can't detain you. Uh, we would, we recommend that you go, uh, and seek like deeper psychiatric care. Um, but we, you're not a, you're not, we don't deem you a harm to yourself. We don't deem you a harm to community, so we can't detain you. You're free to go. But our best recommendation to you is that you, um, admit yourself and which is a what's that like, I mean, but actually I need to like, there's one other layer to that though, Dylan. Um, yeah, the hospital that I got taken to and the emergency word that I got taken to was the same word that Laura died in. Um, so I got taken there and I, I had this massive panic attack and this huge retraumatization being there. Cause I hadn't, I hadn't obviously hadn't been back to that, that unit since Laura died. Um, so I'm sitting there and I had that realization, so I'm sitting there alone having just tried to kill myself, punched in the face of the fact that this is where my wife died. Yeah. Um, sorry. Um, you know, uh, 20 plus months prior, um, I was like, that's about as low.
Dylan Bowman: I mean, that's why I, that's why I'm just like, it's so hard to understand how you don't just feel completely defeated. Right? Like, do you ever just throw up your arms and just say like, what the fuck is the point? Or what is the lesson here? Like what is the universe trying to teach me that I haven't learned already? Yeah.
Adam Campbell: Uh, yeah, no, I mean
Dylan Bowman: That's true. That's true, man. That's totally true. I guess, you know, for me it just feels like an overwhelming amount of hard sometimes, you know? Yeah.
Adam Campbell: But I think if you, if I were to just dwell on that though, like then I, I, then I would just take those pills and not try to live. Right. Like if, if I just, if I dwell purely on, on the misery that I've suffered, like there's a lot of beauty in life. Like I've got, I've had by, by most objective measures, I've like, I've, you know, I've like, I, you know, I have, I have a very loving family. I've had like profound love with somebody. I have like really, really wonderful friends and community. I've had incredible life experiences. I've seen incredible beauty in the world. I've got to travel to basically every continent out there. Um, you know, so, and, and there's still a lot. I just like, I'm just very curious about life and like what there is still out there. Um, so yeah, there's definitely times when I'm like, God, this is, this is a lot, but you, it
Dylan Bowman: Seems like you're due for like a breakthrough in the other side.
Adam Campbell: Right? Like
Dylan Bowman: You win the power ball,
Adam Campbell: Something for takes, but also don't know what that means. Like what does that look like? It's also, maybe it's incumbent on me to sort of, to make that happen to somebody as well and to build it, um, life doesn't owe you anything
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Well, so what was it like as somebody who's been a professional athlete for your whole life? Who knows how to overcome shit mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: Well, I mean the, the way that I ultimately realized it, it was like, if I had to, you know, I've been to the hospital before, cause I broke my hip and my back at the moment, my head and heart are broken. Yeah. This is where you go and heal your head and heart.
Adam Campbell: All right. Um, just because there's not an obvious outward sign of physical damage, this is what I need to do right now to heal. And I ultimately want to heal and I want, I don't wanna, I don't wanna kill myself. I don't wanna die. Um, you know, not
Dylan Bowman: That's a beautiful way to put it that that's where you go to heal your head and heart. Yeah. But it takes courage to do that. And as you talk about healing, one of the things that you say in the post that I'm referencing here and I'll link to it, is that you realize that you needed to leave the house that you and Laura had made together in, in Canmore. Yeah. And that the weight of her absence was making it so that it was really difficult for you to heal and move on yourself. Yeah. Have you, have you moved out or what?
Adam Campbell: Yeah, yeah, no, no. I have. And uh, so it, you know, it's interesting once again, um, you know, the, the thing about forcing myself to stay at that psychiatric, uh, ward, which, you know, when you wake up in the morning and you're surrounded by people who are, you know, whose life has been very, very hard for a long, long time, um, and realizing that I'm no better than these other people, we're all in the same place was it's incredibly humbling. But once again, forcing myself to, to stay in one place, to stay sealed, to sit and sort of deal with my shit, um, was invaluable. Uh, just like I had previously in the hospital, after my accident, Roger's pass, forcing myself to sit and deal with my shit was, was invaluable. Um, but yeah, no. So while I was there, I was like, I, I, I need to, to let go of, um, of a lot of this and in, in this case it meant moving.
Adam Campbell: So I I'm, I'm actually living in Squamish, British Columbia now. Um, so I did, I, I got out and I, uh, I, I rented my home in Canmore and, um, I chose, I was sort of debating between a few, few towns, but I have a, like a deep connection to, to Squamish. And I have a lot of really, really good friends here. And so it was really important for me to move somewhere. I've already, already had an established community. Um, cause I thought that was gonna be really important. Um, and uh, yeah, so I've been in Squamish since December 1st.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah.
Adam Campbell: Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: So another thing that I'm curious about just is sort of a, a silly detail of this all, but another thing you mentioned in your blog post is that you had stopped drinking and using pot. And mm-hmm,
Adam Campbell: No for sure. And you know, I, uh, I I'm, I'm aware that I, I I'm attracted to those to substances, you know, like I definitely have like a natural tendency towards them. Um, and they, they have quite a strong effect on me and, and I'm aware of that. Um, and, uh, I mean the, the first reason why I stopped using them was, was frankly, I was, it was put on, um, you know, psychiatric meds at the time.
Adam Campbell: Um, I still do something every day, whether it's, you know, back country skiing or cross country skiing or climbing, or just going for a dog walk. Um, so spent time outside, uh, connecting with people, um, yeah, reading and writing are still a really, really big part of me, uh, quite a lot of journaling. And you know, now that I'm, now that I'm starting to have a bit more of a routine in, in Squamish, um, trying to get, you know, once again, it's, it's really trying to find that, that, that purpose, um, you know, so what, what can I actually do? Um, like what, what is the meaning of my life
Dylan Bowman: So, so talk about that because also in the Billy Yang podcast, you said something that I found very profound and it was that you said something to the effect of right now, I'm just surviving. Yeah. And looking for purpose. And I know, you know, you well enough to know that you were a practicing lawyer for some time in your life
Adam Campbell: Mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: Yeah, so, um, uh, so I I'd started a practice in Canmore, um, the law practice and then through, and, and I actually, I went back to it, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about, um, the type of law I was I was doing. Um, and that's doing a disservice to my clients and, and to myself, um, I'm I was doing it a solicitor practice. So you're, you basically like, you know, reviewing and writing contracts and mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: Uh, so sort of shifting that responsibility of also, you know, I'm aware of it, I'm no longer like an elite, uh, cutting edge, you know, like runner, uh, there's a, there's a metal pin in my hip, but you know, it's yeah. Apparently that's a bit of a limiter to running fast. Yeah, yeah. Um, but so I, so I've been able to, to pivot that a little bit and maybe really, really accommodating in, in that sense and, um, sort of using my, my knowledge of the trail running world, and then, um, starting to do a lot more writing and hopefully, um, build that out a little bit more as well.
Dylan Bowman: I mean, you, you have a gift for it. And I was actually gonna suggest that, you know, I mean, your story is a deep and heavy one mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: No, for sure. It's I mean, but it's a, you know, it's an intimidating, scary process. Oh, sure. Yeah. Starting and, you know, do you, you know, if you're, if you're going down that road of writing, um, especially something, you know, that I would wanna share, you know, it's gonna be deeply personal and I'm, I'm aware that once again, anything I, I put out there, you know, it's my take on things and other people who have different perspectives and I'm very conscious of, um, you know, the, the impact that anything I share would have on, on people that are close to me. And I want to be quite like respectful of that, but I'd still, also want to do it in a, in an honest way. And, um, it's retraumatizing,
Dylan Bowman: Right?
Adam Campbell: Putting yourself out there, writing this stuff down, there's, there's great value in it, for sure. Um, and I think there's great therapeutic value, but it's, it's bloody hard, like, you know, retelling these stories, um, reliving it and, um, you know, opening it up to, to outside people. It's it is retraumatizing a lot. So it's do I really want to do that? And, and I, and I do, but I need, I needed to feel grounded somewhere first and I'm starting to feel grounded now. Um, and it was more, it was important for me to, to build that more solid foundation before I venture down this path of like bury myself raw again. Yeah. Because if I did that on a shaky ground, I think it would've had quite bad. Uh, it, it, it, would've been very hard to handle. Sure. And potentially could have been had negative outcomes in the long run.
Dylan Bowman: So where are you in the grieving process right now? I mean, Laura passed two years ago now, and you just experienced this. I don't know if you call it a breakdown, but it, it seemed like a deterioration of your mental health, obviously to a point where you needed to get help. And much of that I'm sure is just born from the fact that your whole world has been turned upside down and two years goes by and the blink of an eye, even though it seems like a long time, I'm sure the pain is still raw on at least on occasion. Where are you in your sort of healing and grieving journey right now?
Adam Campbell: Yeah, I mean, I, I, you know, I'd say, you know, you, it, it never goes away. And the, the, the intensity of it can still on occasion really catch me off guard. Um, even though you've, you've lived it multiple times, but you definitely learned to integrate it in your life. It's no longer fully acute. Um, but there's definite times when it's really, really hard. And there's just a lot of, um, you know, like other people in Laura's life, like Laura's family, you know, they're on their own grief journey and, you know, we're really, really, really close, but, you know, I might be at one stage, they might be in another phase and you try to talk about it and it doesn't quite mesh and your world can, it, it can, everything just feel a little bit unstable. And so you just have to have like a lot of empathy for where other people are at in the process and where, where I'm at at different times.
Adam Campbell: And it's completely, non-linear like, I could feel like everything's rolling along. And then all of a sudden, just have this huge gut punch that sets me way back. But ultimately, despite what happened in October, November,
Dylan Bowman: Sure. So you're not just feeling like you're just surviving as you described to Billy.
Adam Campbell: No, exactly. I feel that I'm now at a stage where I'm, yeah, I'm no longer just purely living in the moment on like, you know, feral instinct. I'm now starting to, to look forward and, and, and plan ahead a little bit good. And it feels, you know, it feels wonderful to be in that position, what that exactly looks like. I don't know, but I'm now at least able to go into that mental space of thinking forward.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. That makes me very happy to hear. Yeah, thanks. So let, let's start winding down. I wanted to talk about this concept of acceptance mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: Oh, no, no, absolutely. No. A hundred percent. I mean there, no, I, I very much like I've accepted that it happened. Um, you know, it's, it, it, it, it, you know, there there's times when I, I can't believe it's happened. Like, it's, it's still, it feels surreal that she's not around and that she's died and I I've gone through it, but I, I very much accept it. I, um, so with my, my, with my, my therapist, um, we have this, this saying, and it's Oprah and it's observe permit and accept. So, you know, like you observe the situation you, you permit and, and then you sort of accept, um, you, you permit the, because like life is just full of, he's like really strange unexpected situations. You know, you're when you're trying to like, bring two people together, whether it's through a friendship, just like an interaction, you know, there's, you can't control what outside forces are doing. You can't control what nature's doing, so you can sit there and like, you can observe it, you can permit it to happen, then you have to accept it,
Dylan Bowman: Oprah.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. So that's kind of my that's kind my, like my new saying for, for life. And it applies to like the most minute of situations to the most extreme.
Dylan Bowman: And it's your, your therapist or your counselor who brought that into
Adam Campbell: Your life? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: It reminds me too. In one of your posts, you talked about, maybe this is the same person, the same counselor who said that you can't high performance grief.
Adam Campbell: Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: Talk about that concept real quick. Yeah,
Adam Campbell: No,
Adam Campbell: I don't really know, like the, you can't, you'll never, there is no finish line with grief. Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Well, that's why, that's why I asked about the acceptance thing, because it is contradictory to the instinct of athletes. I think sometimes who are intrinsically born with a feeling of, I can control this, I can overcome this. I can do this. I can push through this. Mm-hmm
Adam Campbell: For sure. And you know, a lot of our, our language, um, and historically that is being how we've been to it. It's it was, I found it quite interesting initially after Laura died that I found this almost, um, there was almost like a generational gap in how people told me to, to deal with it. And there was definitely some people, um, and typically of, uh, of an older age, age bracket saying, you know, chin up, head down, back to work, deal with it. Like not, not universally. Um, but that was definitely an attitude. And there was a time when that was sort of how we were told to deal with issues by not dealing with them.
Dylan Bowman: Know people who've done that who've gone through things. Yeah.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. And, um, and, and perhaps that works for some people or for a length of time. Um, but that wasn't a good path for me. Um, and for me, it was better. And fortunately, I'm in a position where I, I was, I did actually have the grace of time and the financial stability to be able to, to deal with my shit. Um, and to sort of give it this time to work through this process, you know, had I had three kids who all needed to get fed and I had these external pressures. My life may have been very, very different. And the choices I may have had to make were very different, but given my life circumstance, um, I, uh, I, you know, I, I have the, the option of, um, letting things sort of roll their, their course.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Yeah. Well, Adam, man, it's so great to have you on the podcast and talk about this. And I just so admire your courage to be so open about everything that you've gone through. And there's no doubt that not only this podcast, but everything else that you've done sharing things on social media and just like being willing to not be too proud to show the hard shit that you've been through will help people. And I hope you feel that. So let's close by, I'm just talk about the future. You said you're finally looking forward, right? What's what's next for Adam Campbell? I mean, I know you're, you're always an active person and it sounds like you've got some fun things that you're doing with Arteri, but what, what broader impact are you, uh, hoping to have on the world? What is, I don't know. What does 2022 look like for you?
Adam Campbell: Um, but ultimately it's building a, a strong foundation again, and really, um, learning to, to sit with that and, um, think about what the future
Adam Campbell: At some point,
Dylan Bowman: Dude, moving counseling, hiking therapy. That's a brilliant idea.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Um, so I, I see, I see myself sort of going down, down that road to some degree, um, and trying to, you know, build a strong community of friends in, in squama share. And, um, you know, and I do wanna have a family, like I do, you know, that's, it's important to me, like, you know, love is important. And I believe that that's something that Laura, uh, would want. And, you know, luckily for me, I, um, I, I, I believe that that's something that's, you know, in my future and it's happening, you know, like I'm, I'm lucky. I, um, you know, I've actually recently started seeing somebody and it's going, it's going really well. And she's a wonderful person. And, um, you know, and obviously very, very understanding and, and sympathetic to
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Well, thanks again, man. Honestly, this has been one of my favorite conversations that I've had on the podcast. I really do appreciate you being so open. I will challenge you to keep writing, keep sharing, man, even if it is retraumatizing, I hope it helps to exercise some of the demons and to help you come to terms with, um, you know, that feeling of guilt and responsibility and, you know, I just have nothing but empathy and admiration for you for everything you've gone through and your willingness to be open and share about it. And I appreciate you doing it here on the podcast too.
Adam Campbell: Yeah, no, thanks. And, and you're, you're doing a wonderful thing here as well. And it's, uh, you know, I get a lot of inspiration from all the wonderful guests that you've had and I look forward to, to following along and, um, you know, it's, it really is a brilliant community. Um, and I, you know, I've really appreciated all the, the, the love and support that I felt from the broader community. Um, it's been truly wonderful. I mean, and it all started back in, you know, uh, 2017 when I ran hard rock, um, or sort of struggled my way through hard rock there.
Adam Campbell: That was, that was, that was painful. I'm not sure that's the hardest thing to do, but, um, you know, I really, I felt like the love of everybody out there on the course. And, um, and over the last few years, the, the messages of support that I've received from people have been really, really touching and heartwarming. And so thanks everybody out there. And, um, it's, uh, it, it really, really means a lot. And just like a, a little, a tiny little thing is, you know, if you're thinking of a friend, um, if you see somebody who's hurting a little bit, just reach out and just say, Hey, just thinking of you, just let them know it. Like, why the hell not? Or if, you know, if you love somebody, you know, like, I love that you say, you'll love you. Like, it's just say it because it may be the last time you ever say it. It may really help that person. The moment don't, you know, don't even say, how are you doing? Just say, thinking of you. Yeah. What really goes a long, long way. And it has
Dylan Bowman: Isn't that so true. I mean, like just human contact and human communication is like such a healing and beautiful thing, right? Like I've recently caught up with some old friends who I don't catch up with nearly enough. And it's just like the joy. I feel of just having a short conversation with somebody who I used to be very, very close with and who life is just forced, you know, a little bit of distance between us. It's just like that human connection is the most important thing in the world. And yeah, it's, it's, it is just powerful to receive a simple text, doesn't it?
Adam Campbell: No, it re it really is. And, uh, it doesn't, doesn't take, doesn't take much. Um, and one, one little, I mean, lot of people, you don't really know what to say. Um, when people have gone through trauma and one, and I, I think saying, thinking of you is better than necessary saying, how are you? Um, because one thing I found is I I'll get a lot of messages from people saying, how are you? And the owner is suddenly put on me.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah.
Adam Campbell: Wow. I have to answer when I'm going through something. And it can actually be kind of overwhelming when you're already feeling overwhelmed.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Cuz then you have to verbalize, I feel like shit. Yeah, exactly. Or you have to pretend like you don't
Adam Campbell: Exactly.
Dylan Bowman: Um, that's a, that's actually a very, very powerful insight there.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. Yeah. So that'd be, um, you know, we're, we, we just don't, we don't know what to say. It's, it's kind of interesting that like emotional intelligence isn't taught in schools, you know, because ultimately it's probably the most important thing we can all have in life, but that'd be my one little, one little just saying for anybody, if you, if you know of somebody who's going through some, a hard time and you don't know what to say to them, just say, Hey, thinking of you, if you need anything, let me know. Yeah. In order, just, just reach out that way. Um, I think that there's a lot of power in that.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Well Adam, thanks again, bro. To be continued. Let's do it again soon.
Adam Campbell: Yeah. I'd I'd love that. It'd be wonderful. Yeah. And I look forward to, to following along the progress here. It's exciting.
Dylan Bowman: Thanks bro.
Dylan Bowman: What do you even say after a conversation like that? Um, thank you. Is probably all I can say. Thank you. Thank you to Adam for his inspiration that he has given to me as an athlete. Uh, thank you to Adam for the example that he sets to the rest of us. And uh, thank you Adam, for the courage to be so open and honest about some really challenging subjects, please go visit the show notes from this episode. Again, I would highly recommend the podcast that Adam did with Billy Yang. I link to that in the show notes. It's amazing. You must listen to it. I also link to the article that we referenced early in the conversation about storytelling in mountain sport. I managed to find it. It was GQ, not outside as I said in the episode, but it's an interesting read. If you are into sports and content and sponsorship and things like that.
Dylan Bowman: And then I also link to Adam's Instagram profile and his blog, where I would highly recommend you give him a follow to keep tabs on his journey. Finally, a big thank you to our sponsors, without whom we would cease to exist as a company. First speed land, second gnarly nutrition for their support of the show. Thank you guys so much. You can find links in the show notes, along with the relevant discount codes for these amazing products, please do visit those links, support our partners. Appreciate you guys so much really do, uh, really appreciate you and trusting me with your time and attention and for trusting me to bring you important conversations. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you so much for being with us on this journey until next time. Love you so much. Talk soon, byebye.