Founded in Norway to introduce people to adventures such as ice climbing, snow holing and mountaineering, Skyhook has since expanded into Africa, Nepal, Peru, Russia, Morocco and the United Kingdom. Today, they lead treks to the summits of some of the world’s most desired locations: Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp, Inca Trail and Mt. Elbrus to name a few. With their award-winning operators, mountain leaders and instructors, Skyhook is set to be a top mountaineering agency.
I had the amazing opportunity to speak to Alan Cooney, the founder of Skyhook Adventure and a Norwegian mountaineering instructor. He has climbed all over the world, in locations such as Yosemite’s El Capitan and Norway’s frozen waterfalls. He uses Skyhook Adventure to share his love for mountaineering and climbing with people new to the sport.
“Climbing 4000m up, I drop the one item needed to survive the snow slopes above – my ice axe. My heart pounding in fear, I grasp for it and luckily catch the tip of the pick, not knowing yet that this day would change my life.
Seven years earlier, having just graduated, I wanted to have a real traveling adventure. If you’ve ever found yourself tired of city breaks and sightseeing, you might know that feeling?
For me this meant starting an ice climbing apprenticeship in a small Norwegian town called Rjukan. Swinging some axes into frozen waterfalls and then heading back for a sauna with the locals, made for a fantastic experience!
After a while however, it was time to start a finance career in London, keeping up the passion with weekend trips and holidays.
It was on one of these side-trips that I was perched on a rocky ledge, staring down at that ice axe in the tip of my gloves. As a French-British team of four, we were climbing a technical and rarely-done climb up Toubkal (13,700 feet) and, dropped axes aside, the trip was incredible. The others said it was the best week of their lives, but for me it was perhaps even more – the fire was alight to help other people discover this incredible way of traveling.
Back in London, the thing you quickly realise about starting a business is you need some customers! Unfortunately, hundreds of hours into promoting rock climbing courses, not a single person had booked.
Then one day I had an idea. You don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer to have a fantastic time trying ice climbing, so why not setup a Beginners Ice Climbing course in Norway?
The result was literally an overnight success, and the very next day I went to my boss and quit.
Since then Skyhook has grown into a small company, with three of us in the office passionately finding the very best mountain adventures around the world!” – Alan Cooney, Skyhook Adventure
Check out their website: www.skyhookadventure.com
What inspired the creation of Skyhook Adventure? What is your mission, and ultimate goals for the company?
Dropping your ice axe on a mountain ridge might not sound like a great situation to be in. In fact, it might put you off the mountains for life!
For me though, a trip to the High Atlas range of Morocco inspired me to make the opposite move.
The incredible views down from snow-capped summits to the Sahara Desert below, and the super friendly locals working in this harsh environment, inspired me. I wanted to help other people discover this fantastic way of exploring Earth’s wildest places.
Since then Skyhook has grown into a small company with a mission to do exactly that. We find the very best mountain adventures around the world, and then help you book on as part of a small-group of similar people.
Our ultimate goal is to be known for offering the very best mountaineering trips. That means working on every little detail, to make sure your experience is perfect!
Many of your adventures and guides are based in Norway, which is where the company started. What motivated you to add on adventures in other regions, such as Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp?
Norway was a natural place to start as I’m personally a Norwegian Klatreinstruktør Høyfjell – a high mountain climbing instructor.
When you look around the world, however, the problem with finding a great guide is universal!
There are a lot of local companies but it’s hard to tell which are safe without being a guide yourself. There are also plenty of travel agents who use layers and layers of middle-men before connecting you with the very same local guides.
Our aim with the newer trips was to do all the hard work and safety inspections, and then help you book directly through our website with local guides instead. Your guides then use our systems so that we can keep track, and provide expert advice whenever needed.
What sets Skyhook Adventure apart from other adventure companies in the industry?
Our adventures are better!
Also, we’re pioneering safer and more ethical working conditions for guides and porters, so that you can book in confidence.
What are some of your most popular courses?
For guests from the States, Everest Base Camp is the most popular and we’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm around this trip across the pond. We’ve only got a few dates left on this until 2020 now, so if you’re keen to join us (and Kirsten) then it’s worth taking a look soon at: https://www.skyhookadventure.com/courses/everest-base-camp?utm_campaign=TAL_1
A lot of these courses require people to step out of their comfort zones. It must be rewarding to see some positive changes in your clients during these adventures! What are some of your most memorable stories from these trips?
It might surprise you, but we have quite a few guests on our trips who are afraid of heights. It’s a fear that can inhibit you quite a bit, and it’s really cool to see people challenging this head on.
Sometimes you bump into the same people heading out in the mountains independently, and it’s pretty special to have helped them gain the skills and confidence to do that!
The most memorable event for me, however, was getting a call as duty manager that a client had tripped and thought his leg was broken. We quickly mobilised all the instructors on rescue duty, and 15 minutes later I was on the scene myself.
Fortunately, one of the instructors who had beaten me there translated the client’s statement more accurately that he had ‘bruised’ his knee and wouldn’t be needing the stretcher. Languages can be a challenge in Europe from time to time!
What do you hope people take away from these experiences?
A love of mountaineering and a passion to do more!
What are some of your goals for the company?
We have two new trips that are launching soon, but I’m afraid it’s a big secret until they are released next month!
As cryptic clue for you, with one of the two mountains, colors are everywhere!
How do you think outdoor adventure can make a positive impact on people’s lives?
Mountaineering is an amazing way to travel the world.
For our guides and porters however, it is even more! By booking on a Skyhook trip, you’re contributing directly to local guides’ livelihood and quality of work. Porters often carry as much as 45kg on their backs – three times the recommended limit. With Skyhook we enforce a strict 15kg limit. Bring more and unfortunately, we must ask you to leave something back in Kathmandu.
What impact do you want to make through Skyhook Adventure courses?
We want to improve mountaineering trips and courses.
That means supporting local economies with ethical employment, modern safety practices, and fantastic hand-crafted trips directly from the people who know them best.
Welcome to the revolution!
For more information, check out their website: www.skyhookadventure.com
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