I Met A Guide Who Walked Into A Volcano

Climb Onsight visited Frederick Schuett, the owner of ONE AXE Pursuits, to discuss his explorations of cliffs, frozen waterfalls, mountains, and volcanoes around the world.
Explore Lava Lakes with ONE AXE Pursuits

Frederick Schuett, or “ONE AXE Fred”, is the proud owner of the only two lava suits in existence. A lava suit, as I learned, is exactly what it sounds like: an astronaut-like suit used to walk on lava. Being inside an erupting volcano, Frederick tells me, “Is like being on another planet.”

I arrived at ONE AXE’s headquarters wondering if I got the got the address wrong. A remodeled limestone church stands before me, but then I see the ONE AXE logo next to the door. “It used to be a movie theater in the early 1900s,” Frederick says. He currently uses the bell tower of the church as a rappel training tower and tells me that he plans to re-point the stone to add a climbing route on its side.

 

ONE AXE Pursuits Headquarters

Over coffee, Frederick tells me a bit about his climbing life and his plans for future expeditions. He started climbing outdoors in Rockwood Conservation Area (back when climbing was allowed there). As a nine-year-old, Frederick named the area with the hardest climbing routes “Razergrass” on account of the long grass that would cut your legs if you wore shorts. Alas, as the area got developed (in part thanks to Frederick), the name did not stick.

 

Without access to proper equipment at a young age, Frederick improvised. He started with an extension cord for his first rappelling adventure with a makeshift harness made from cotton rope (obviously, not recommended). He eventually upgraded to marine ropes and sewed his own harnesses. For skills, he learned old-school techniques (like fashioning a carabiner break) from a 1940’s mountaineering book he found in his school library.

 

 

One Axe

As Frederick got older, his knowledge, equipment and exploits expanded. His “One Axe” nickname was given to him at the age of 18 by onlookers as they saw a young man ice climbing in Alberta with only one ice axe (Frederick’s guide had taken one of his ice axes away when he commented the climb was not much of a challenge). Frederick has climbed Canada’s tallest mountain – Mount Logan, guided high altitude mountains, and rigged world firsts inside erupting volcanoes.  Some of these feats are featured in the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

 

He also rigs stunts for many television shows and movies, the most daunting, to me at least, was designing a rope traverse and lower/raise system to enter the “Door to Hell”— a 100 foot deep crater leaking natural gas that has been on fire for over 40 years. The stunt was featured in National Geographic’s Die Trying series.  

 

Frederick has used his life experiences to design tailored courses for everyone, from beginners to stunt performers, so they have fun learning the fundamentals of rope systems, rock and ice climbing, and mountaineering.

 

Immediately next door to the office is the Elora gorge, where the Irvin & Grand River flow between 80-foot-tall limestone cliffs. This gorge is one of many of the ONE AXE playgrounds. Frederick builds his own ice climbs each year on the limestone cliffs and rigs ziplines across the gorge for some of his courses. 

 

 

ONE AXE Pursuits Ice Climbing Trip

For instance, in his ZipX course, participants learn how to rappel from the center of a zipline spanning the Gorge by rappelling 80ft down to the river below. The program finishes with a chance to run and jump face-first off the cliff and fly on the zipline across the gorge (for an extra challenge, you can try pulling yourself back across the gorge. A Guelph police officer set the record for this challenge with a nearly impossible 31 second time).

 

The proximity of the ice climbs to the office has an inherent advantage—warmth! I have only been ice climbing once in my life, and the biggest test was conquering the cold. Frederick teaches the basics to beginners indoors on his mock ice wall, and, once everyone is adequately prepared, participants can practice their newly developed skills on the ice climbs a short walk away.

 

For the more serious adventurers, Frederick boasts a collection of courses that will prepare climbers for expeditions anywhere in the world. Frederick tells me that he ensures skills are learned and practiced multiple times in a controlled environment, so climbers react appropriately in the mountains.

 

I learned about a climber who took a rock rescue course with Frederick, that successfully implemented the skills in a remote part of British Columbia and saved her climbing partner on a multi-pitch climb. I learned about the mountaineer who, after taking a local mountaineering course with Frederick, was the best prepared member of his guided expedition in Alaska.

 

 

Frederick Staring in Volcano

As I am leaving, I ask Frederick what is next on his list. He tells me he wants to lead exclusive trips into erupting volcanoes. For a similar price to climbing Everest, he can take people to the even less traveled interiors of erupting volcanoes.

The words, “it is like another planet” repeat in my mind as I say my goodbye. 

Picture of Shaun Rosenthal

Shaun Rosenthal

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I Met A Guide Who Walked Into A Volcano

Climb Onsight visited Frederick Schuett, the owner of ONE AXE Pursuits, to discuss his explorations of cliffs, frozen waterfalls, mountains, and volcanoes around the world.

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