KNOW Jonathon Wood, exploring new heights

Posted by Creative and Communications on 09.29.2017
Creative and Communications

We’re now adding to our portfolio of KNOW Arrowhead featured employees. Meet Jonathon Wood, who just joined us from a 10-year tenure at QBE. Do you know someone who would make a great KNOW spotlight? Let us know!

For someone who spends his days in risk management, Jonathon likes to live on the edge…of a cliff, that is.

A commercial senior underwriter with Arrowhead Core Commercial, Jonathon Wood works with producers whose clients range from gift shops to attorney offices, to manufacturers. His goal: to help grow the commercial portfolio of Arrowhead and QBE, our carrier.

In his spare time, he likes to hang from three fingers, 80 feet from the ground, on his way to the top of Mouse’s Misery in Devil’s Lake State Park, near Madison, WI. Devils_Lake_-_Mouse_Tracks-sm.jpg

“Climbing is all about risk management,” Jonathon explains. “Before you ever head out to the climbing wall, you need to assess the risk exposures presented by the route up the wall, the environment (weather and surrounding area), your fellow climbers, and the type of climbing you are doing. That dictates with whom you climb, where you climb, and how you climb it.”

One key part of climbing risk management is thoroughly checking out every piece of gear before the climb. “As you climb, your life literally hangs by a thread. You’re completely dependent on your gear, your climbing partner and your own skill,” he said.

Jonathon’s no stranger to handling risk, whether it’s on behalf of a client or carrier, or on his vertical challenges. His dad, a former Rocky Mountain Rescue Service member, taught him the ropes, so to speak.

“As one of our Boy Scout leaders, my dad started an annual trip to Devil’s Lake State Park. He taught me about the equipment, safety controls, climbing and anchor placement theory so that I could help him run the trips.”

Fast forward to 2000, when Jonathon (left) decided to take up climbing again. Not knowing any other climbers, he invited friends to join and trained them to climb safely. He’s been a climbing instructor since 2004. “One of my friends who I taught has gone on to become an accomplished Big Wall, sport and ice climber, with many climbs over 1,000 feet. He now teaches me!” Dan_and_Jon-sm.jpg


Your toughest climb?

“Definitely Mouse’s Misery. It has one move where you can only use three fingers of one hand to hold on. You’re supporting your entire weight with those three fingers in that handhold, while pulling your body weight up. If you lose your grip, you’ll fall – but only 8-10 feet, thanks to your safety rope.”

Your favorite climb?

Devils_Lake_-_Birch_Tree_Crack-sm.jpg ii “Brinton’s Buttress at Devil’s Lake. It’s one of taller routes – 90 feet high. It’s a challenging route because the rock is quartzite – it’s like glass – smooth and hard to grasp, especially if your hands are sweaty. At the base, you’re already 300 feet off the ground. Then, about halfway up at 350 feet, you’re above all the trees – there’s nothing at all around you. Wind kicks up; you can see clear down the bluff. You feel that surge of adrenalin – wow, I’m really exposed here. It’s exhilarating.”

Describe the exhilaration at the top.

“When you reach the top of a climb, it’s not really the exhilaration you might expect. There is a brief moment of ‘Yes, I did it!’ followed by a feeling of awe at what you worked so hard and risked so much to attain. It lasts just a moment, but in that moment is a beautiful smallness filled with wonder.” Setting_up_rope_on_Brinton's_Buttress-sm.jpg

Vertical risks vs. everyday challenges

Jonathon related the risks of climbing to tough challenges at work, and how he approaches them: “When you’re climbing, you don’t always make it to the top. But to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, ‘It’s not how many times you fall down. It’s how many times you get back up.’

“In a work challenge, you’re also not necessarily successful the first time. That’s when you do your risk assessment: Is it worth it to continue? What am I doing wrong? How can I do it better? Then you take a deep breath, dust yourself off, strap your gear back on, wipe the sweat from your brow, and get back to it.”

Jonathon’s beginning to train the next generation of climbers: On recent visits to the climbing gym, he took along his 22-month-old daughter, who’s showing a climbing aptitude. At her young age, she may be “vertically challenged” now, but we’re expecting her to successfully challenge the verticals in just a few years!