Oct. 30, 2019

Worldwide adventurer and stunt double leads University of Calgary Outdoor Centre

New manager’s lifetime in mountains sparks education

Consider Paul Chiddle’s outdoor accomplishments and you may be tempted to untie your boot laces, chuck that mountaineering backpack, get back into bed and call it a day. Is there anything this guy hasn’t done?

As the new University of Calgary Outdoor Centre manager, Chiddle would prefer that you get inspired. And get moving. Preferably in the direction of the Outdoor Centre, a part of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Active Living, where you can take a variety of programs that will get you out enjoying the outdoors.

“Whether you’re getting outdoors and getting fit for the first time or you’re looking for more exploring, learning and adventure, we’re providing programs that encourage an active lifestyle for everyone,” says Chiddle, 44, who has been conquering challenges while working and playing outdoors for most of his life. You can meet Chiddle at the free avalanche awareness event at Science Theatre 148, 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 7. 

Paul Chiddle

Paul Chiddle on a classic Rocky Mountain ice climb

Christian Lanley

Tackling harsh environments in high places

The British-born, fully qualified international mountain guide has climbed and skied all over the world. He’s climbed five of the six classic north faces of the Alps, as well as thousands of routes all over the world, and he’s skied some of the steeper European north faces. He’s guided Mt. Logan, the highest peak in Canada. He’s guided 27 of the 54 “11,000ers” of the Rockies in one season (the 54 peaks in the Rockies higher than 3,353 metres or 11,000 feet).

As a member of the British military, he was a sniper for a special forces support group and a physical training instructor. He’s climbed the deadly West Ridge of Mt. Everest, one of the toughest routes, though he had to make the gut-wrenching decision to turn back in the face of avalanche danger when he was just 400 metres (1,312 feet) from the summit.

“There were four of us, physically and mentally strong, and all capable of reaching the summit, but knowing people will push themselves and die there,” says Chiddle. “Making that decision to turn around was part of the achievement.”

His avalanche instincts and rescue skills have been put to the test. Nine years ago, he received a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for rescuing and leading a team of six people to safety at night after a serious avalanche accident on the border of Germany and Austria. 

“We happened to be near another group in the backcountry late in the day when the avalanche hit,” says Chiddle. “It was getting dark and time was against us, we dug two people out, one who was unconscious and got all of them to a hut and eventually to safety.”

Manager, guide and stunt double

Always seeking new challenges, Chiddle recently worked as a stunt double for the actor Willem Dafoe in a new, unnamed film that will be released in 2020.

“What motivates me and got me into this line of work is that I’ve never been one to stay in a comfort zone,” says Chiddle, who has been guiding for 22 years, including guiding international clients in the Canadian Rockies.

“I like to introduce people to new experiences and get them to the point where they can steer their own adventures.”

Though Chiddle grew up in the port city of Portsmouth on Britain’s south coast, watching from the shore as ships sailed, his interests always leaned toward rocky terrain — the bigger, the better. His passion for the outdoors was ignited during family holidays to North Wales, where the mountains beckoned.

“We’d be in awe, looking out the windows at the peaks, so even through it was a four-hour drive, it was always worth it,” says Chiddle. “I’d go off and explore and as I progressed from scrambling to climbing, early on, I knew this was it for me.”

The Outdoor Centre has been guiding adventures, teaching skills and renting gear for over 40 years. Open to the public, they offer expertise for a large range of activities at affordable rates.