Skip Horner: A Legendary Adventurer's Guide To Managing Risk

"The successful summit is made before the first footstep is taken on the mountain."
Skip Horner has spent the past 50 years leading expeditions in the world's most remote, inaccessible and dangerous places.

He was the first mountaineer in history to successfully guide clients up the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. In addition to his incredible abilities as an alpinist, Paddler Magazine nominated Skip as one of the top whitewater guides of the 20th century – having led numerous first-ever descents on eleven major rivers, including the Yangtze, the Zambezi and the Indus.

As a professional adventurer, planning for risk – for danger, for the unexpected – is essential if you want to come home alive. Skip attributes his long career and his record of never having lost a client while in the wild to meticulous planning before he embarks on an expedition. Planning in advance allows him and his team to react swiftly when surprises arise, and often to notice adverse conditions developing early and resolve them before they worsen.

In this podcast, Skip shares his best practices for risk management, many of which universally apply to all dimensions of life including personal safety and financial security. And he drives these lessons home with white-knuckle stories from his personal adventures, when his life was held in the balance.

This interview is a little different than our usual fare, but will likely be one of the more riveting ones you listen to this year. And extremely relevant to Peak Prosperity’s core theme of the criticality of preparing for crisis in advance.


Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Skip Horner (69m:22s).

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Skip’s a great guy and his adventures are fascinating, but I’m looking forward to more interviews with people on financial and environmental topics. How about talking to a real scientist, for instance Paul Beckwith, who is available for interviews?

Steve Keen!

I was never a hair boater or a scumbag climber but I had enough oh shit moments to realize how the outdoors had transformed me. When poop happens, it happens fast. I made it up the Durance Route on Devils Tower on my fourth day of climbing, bailed off of the Grand Teton on my third, never took a screamer.
I did lead a bunch of private trips on western rivers, was lucky to get four trips down the Grand Canyon as a boatman.
My mentor had 70+ trips down the Grand Canyon with no flips. Lava Falls is the big scary one on the Colorado and I tucked in tight behind him to follow his line, that slow motion effect unfolded as I watched him head towards “the cheese grater” at the bottom of the rapid. Even though I was 30 feet away from him at the top of the rapid when he entered I must have corrected my entry point as we watched him flip his first boat. I am going to call it luck as skill sometime plays a small roll in a Class V, we ran the rapid dry and ended in a perfect spot to rescue them before the next rapid.
I guess the life lesson in this story with Skip IS preparation for me. The first boat to run a big rapid will eddie out at the bottom and be ready to assist in a rescue. There is CHOICE in this as one must pick an eddie that will let you out when the time comes! Water is powerful, it is sure easier to work with it than to fight against it. I have picked up more swimmers than I care to admit.
Not to trash the commercial guys…I have seem more wraps by professionals than I have by private boaters. Rapids change dramatically with different flows, I guess as a guide one can get into running one way if it has worked in the past.
So here we are, we hear whitewater ahead. What worked last time, may not work this time. Let’s scout this one and maybe find a new line?

There was a time when people had to spend years practicing, learning, training and calculating how to do something like climb Everest or Float the Bio Bio. It takes time and hard work to get that kind of experience. More and more these big adventures became simply a matter of having enough money. Someone else puts in the hard work and gains the knowledge. As long as you have enough money you can go along on the adventure.
There seems to be lots of extra cash floating around for people to spend on paid adventures. Everest would be a pretty quite place if no one could just pay to be taken up there.
When you put people with little to know real knowledge in places like Everest or class V wilderness rivers you can expect things to go wrong and people to die. Of course if there is enough money to pay for thing like helicopters and team doctors it does reduce the chances of deaths.
I think there is a lesson there for the prosperity crowd; just because you have money doesn’t mean you are prepared. The guy who put in the time and hard work, he is prepared.

Hi PP team,
The podcast seems to start in the middle of the interview.
I am still enjoying, but it seems like the beginning was cut off.

Fantastic interview, thank you! I’ve been less lucky when it comes to unexpected outcomes (white water, motorcycles, 911, post-2008 employment).
What happens to the Human psyche once satellite based 5G and other technologies make (involuntary) “connectivity” globally ubiquitous and replaces or sublimates our survival instincts? Do telecommunications innovations make us more or less resilient (in the long run)? Flying inside of a thin aluminum or other tube at 35,000 feet were it’s -40F outside faze anyone anymore? Seems like the subtext of this interview is that it’s about the Human experience. Danger, risk, focus, resilience in the face of death are all meaningful only to our experience. Yes that seems obvious but there’s something in there that’s deeper. Can’t quite put my mouse pointer on it.

I loved this. Sometimes the financial and environmental interviews lack the sense of raw humanity and adventure that I felt oozing from this interview. In the end it was about preparation and mentorship for me. I look for mentors like this in my life. It is going to take more than knowledge and science to get us through the next few decades. We all have to face our own alligators: both external and internal. Inspiring!

I was planning to post something earlier but I do some remote back country trips too with a lot of planning and risk assessment involved. This last week I did a solo hiking trip from the pitt river headwaters in garibaldi park down to the pitt river. I was hoping to packraft all the way out to vancouver. Well 5 days in, I had done 95% of the hard stuff. All that was left was about 15 km of somewhat lively river rafting with dangerous downed trees called sweepers. After this the river is sluggish. Then Google Earth decided to pack it in on my phone, despite working for two weeks on a previous trip into the Mexican desert, which was on a different phone. My paper map backups were not detailed enough for proper navigation of the hazards which I had underestimated beforehand. I could deal with them but not without knowing what was around the next corner. After a day of consideration and GPS messages with my mom and friend I decided that the risk from sweepers was too great and I called for a helicopter. A couple hours later this afternoon it picked me up. Unfortunately the local TV crew was there at landing and I made it on the local news tonight, not for the reasons I wanted. But the point is that I am a very risk aware person and I made a deliberate assessment and decision based on my risk tolerance and put aside that part of me that just wanted to jump in the raft and go finish this trip in glory that no one has accomplished before. Well I accomplished 95% of it and kept risk to an acceptable level and am here to tell the story. Hopefully this message got across in the news story, I haven’t seen it yet. I’ll post a link to a trip report I’ll write up in a hiking website when I get that going.