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JOE MCKAY

Owner/Operator/Guide/Dad
Certified by Association Canadian Mountain Guides

I removed myself from school during the second semester of grade 10. By that point in my life, I had been to 11 different schools. The locations ranged from Fort Smith, NWT to rural Saskatchewan, population 250. My final years were in Calgary. With an extreme case of undiagnosed ADHD, the structured environment of the education system and the distraction of the city proved beyond my capabilities to cope. 
    In the next nine years, I spent primarily as a laborer in the oilfield industry, first, in the seismic exploration wandering the Arctic  Islands looking for oil and then returning to punch holes in the ground roughnecking on a drilling rig. Add in a few summers as a grain farm laborer mixed with time spent working on a blasting crew in the Eastern Arctic. Trailer court in Northern Alberta material. 
    I don't believe in luck, fate, or ghosts. However, in 1984 and 22 years old, I had just been crushed by a girl. My tear-filled eyes and broken heart happened to be walking under the Squamish Chief on my way to Vancouver. From a parking lot at the base of a three thousand foot wall of granite, a bunch of people were pointing at these black dots thousands of feet off the ground. It was also the moment I decided I was going to be a climber. 
    Climbing and extreme mountaineering is a tailor-made sport for somebody with ADHD. Because of this, I managed to reinvent myself. My new lifestyle meant dropping out of mainstream society for several years. 
    My first professional job mountain guiding was in Banff summer of 1987. By 1990 I was working year-round as a mountain guide. This career path was ideal, given my background. 
    1991 I made the cover of the Canadian Alpine Journal ( that's the Rolling Stone mag of alpinism). However, a February 2001 article in Penthouse Magazine ( " A View From The Top" ) about ice climbing brought me enough fame that the bartender in the heli-ski lodge I was working at recognized me. 
    A guiding colleague of mine introduced me to my first video camera in 1994. I became fascinated with the ability to record images onto tape, which led to a fascination with technology in general. 
     It was also in 1994 that I purchased the internet domain http://www.mountainguide.com. One of my employees in Ecuador who also worked in I.T. took the time to explain that the internet was going to be a big deal one day. 
    My fascination with technology also led me to purchase a newly emerging communication device called a cell phone. In 1994 I was the only mountain guide in Canada to own one. Nobody could see a practical application for this device.  That was until Michelle Garbert of Banff blew off the third pitch of the Grand Sentinal rock climb near Moraine Lake. This fall resulted in a compound tib/fib fracture, broken ribs with breathing distress, and neck injuries. It would have been at least three hours back to civilization to initiate a rescue with Parks Canada. Fortunately, you can see the Lake Louise ski hill from the Grand Sentinal. The lake had the only cell tower in 150 kilometers in any direction. Forty-five minutes later, Parks does its first helicopter fly-bye.  Hence the first cell phone initiated rescue in Banff. 
    I bought the best prosumer camera you could get in 1996, a Sony VX3 hi-8 three-chip camera. It was a staggering $5000 CND. A couple of guides and I had it in our minds to produce instructional videos on mountaineering. Our first project was a crevasse rescue video. This endeavor did not lead to any fruitful end product, but it did teach us a lot about the complexities involved in this sort of project. 
    In 2005 I wanted to expand from the world of guiding and applied for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology two year film making program. I placed just outside of the acceptance allowed, which was 100 students a year. One critique was that I could use more of an industrial background in audiovisual. This advice led to me taking a job with Sharps Audio Visual, which had the in house contract for the Banff Springs hotel. 
    This job brought some depth into my limited audiovisual world from soldering XLR cables, running camera, lighting, programing soundboards. It was while employed with Sharps A/V that I started to subcontract my A/V skills. 
    Technology re-enters the picture with the emergence of Youtube.com. Remember the crevasse rescue video we were going to make. That footage was still around, but the likelihood of us doing anything with it was pretty much none existent. Youtube had yet to be purchased by Google, so hosting videos for free seemed like a failing business model. Despite this, Aug 2006, I uploaded a small number of videos about tying knots and tricks to make climbing safer.  At present, I have 245 videos on that channel with well over six million video views on the youtube channel alone. 
    November of 2014, I attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival's Adventure Filmmakers Workshop, which was a week-long series of workshops providing insight into not only the technical end of film making but exposed candidates to the business side of the industry.