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More Verdon freesoloing and BASE jumping

Mich Kemeter freesolo climbs the crux 6b+ pitch of ORNI (Unidentified Crawling Object) in the Verdon Gorges, France.

Mich Kemeter freesolo climbs the crux 6b+ pitch of ORNI (Unidentified Crawling Object) in the Verdon Gorges, France.

In early December, I had the pleasure to return to Verdon to shoot Austrian climber Mich Kemeter on his latest exploits, freesoloing a number of insanely exposed routes. On some of them, he carried a parachute, offering a (small) chance of recovery in case of a fall. Here is a small portfolio of these adventures.

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Best of 2015

With a few delays, here comes my now traditional (20142013, 2012 and 2011) selection of the most significant images I have shot last year:

 

Claire Mercuriot flies next to Aiguille du Grépon at sunset, Chamonix.

Claire Mercuriot flies next to Aiguille du Grépon at sunset, Chamonix.

A spur of the moment shoot, we got incredibly lucky with conditions, allowing us two magical flights from Aiguille du Midi. Though I have many sunset shots, this one of Claire against Aiguille du Grépon in perfect light really stood out.

 

A team of women, led by Bettina Aller, on their way to the North Pole via skiing the last degree.

A team of women, led by Bettina Aller, on their way to the North Pole via skiing the last degree.

Going to the Arctic and skiing the last degree to the North Pole was certainly taking me out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed those six hard days on the ice, following an all-woman team during the inaugural edition of the Mamont Polar Cup. Here, Bettina Aller crosses a potentially dangerous water lead.

 

The Chamonix PGHM (moutain rescue service) in action, shot for Montagnes Magazine.

The Chamonix PGHM (moutain rescue service) in action, shot for Montagnes Magazine.

Though I haven’t shared many of those images yet, I spent a lot of 2015 embedded with the incredible Chamonix PGHM rescue service, following them on their daring rescues. Here at night, in a storm, on Arête des Cosmiques.

 

 

Tom Boyer climbs a short rock step below Camp 2 on the Abruzzi Ridge of K2, Pakistan.

Tom Boyer climbs a short rock step below Camp 2 on the Abruzzi Ridge of K2, Pakistan.

Along with the North Pole, the other big expedition of the year was to the second highest mountain in the world, K2. Though nobody ended up summiting this year due to poor conditions, it was still a grand adventure. Here, Tom Boyer on a short rocky step below the infamous House Chimney, on our acclimatization round.

 

A group of local villagers help Brant Didden and other members of a K2 expedition to cross a flooding river near Skardu, Pakistan.

A group of local villagers help Brant Didden and other members of a K2 expedition to cross a flooding river near Skardu, Pakistan.

Getting to K2 was half the adventure, and coming back an ordeal I won’t forget anytime soon. This was shot near sunset after hiking 90km of treacherous glacier terrain and flooding rivers in 2 and a half days, and driving 8h on the bed of a Land Cruiser on very sketchy roads. At this stage, crossing a flooding river/mudslide and escaping a near-riot of angry local villagers was par for the course.

 

Agathe Petrini dances in front of a sunset on the Mont Blanc range, Chamonix, France.

Agathe Petrini dances in front of a sunset on the Mont Blanc range, Chamonix, France.

I have done a couple of photoshoots with my friend Agathe Petrini, an awesome dancer and teacher from Chamonix. It was tough to choose only one image!

 

Jon Gupta and Will Harris climb the Traverse of Écandies in Switzerland's Val d'Arpette. Montane photoshoot.

Jon Gupta and Will Harris climb the Traverse of Écandies in Switzerland’s Val d’Arpette. Montane photoshoot.

And of course, throughout the year and in between big trips, I keep climbing in Chamonix. Here, shot for my oldest client, Montane, Jon Gupta on the fun Écandies Traverse.

 

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A PGHM rescuer gets winched from the EC145 helicopter on Aiguille de l’M.

Though I have many shots of helicopter winching, this one really stood out due to the great light and the presence of my beloved Drus in the background.

 

BMW and Salewa joint campaign photoshoot in San Martino di Castrozza, Dolomites, Italy, featuring Simon Gietl and Gerhard Fiegl.

BMW and Salewa joint campaign photoshoot in San Martino di Castrozza, Dolomites, Italy, featuring Simon Gietl and Gerhard Fiegl.

September saw me on a number of big photoshoots, including a joint campaign for Salewa and BMW. Juggling with complicated logistics and terrible weather created some very interesting challenges. It was also great to apply my lighting to real, high-pressure photoshoots.

Sadly, Gerry (on the right in this shot) died a few weeks after this was shot, while descending from a major first ascent in the Himalayas.

 

Aerial view of Aiguille du Tour after a winter storm, Chamonix.

Aerial view of Aiguille du Tour after a winter storm, Chamonix.

It’s always great to get new point of views on familiar terrain, especially right after big storms. Here, on a recce flight of the rescue helicopter, I managed to capture Aiguille du Tour looking very ominous. Probably my favourite landscape shot of the year.

 

Mich Kemeter freesolo climbs the crux 6b+ pitch of ORNI (Unidentified Crawling Object) in the Verdon Gorges, France.

Mich Kemeter freesolo climbs the crux 6b+ pitch of ORNI (Unidentified Crawling Object) in the Verdon Gorges, France.

Verdon is a place where I have shot a lot but never get tired. So when Mich Kemeter asked me to come photograph him freesolo climbing in early December, I didn’t hesitate for long. ORNI is one of the weirdest, scariest lines I have seen in a while, so freesoloing the very awkward crux with hundreds of meters of exposure certainly required a great mastery of the sport.

 

Paragliding flight of Vallée Blanche with Élodie Bobillon, Chamonix.

Paragliding flight of Vallée Blanche with Élodie Bobillon, Chamonix.

The final image was shot only a couple of weeks ago: as winter didn’t seem to want to arrive, we ended up flying a lot. And Vallée Blanche after taking off from Aiguille du Midi never disappoints!

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2015 Red Bull Elements

Aaron Durogati takes off from Planfait during the Red Bull Elements in Talloires, France, on September 19, 2015.

Aaron Durogati takes off from Planfait during the Red Bull Elements in Talloires, France, on September 19, 2015.

Just like two years ago, I was asked by Red Bull to shoot the paragliding portion of their Elements race, a fun adventure relay featuring rowing, trail running, paragliding and mountain biking. I shot half of the day from the airs, flying tandem with Jérôme Baud, and half from the various take offs above Talloires.

This was sandwiched in between commercial shoots, and it was very fun to just go with the flow of the event. A lot less fun, though, was editing the resulting 3 800 images before day’s end!

Here is my highlight gallery, and make sure to also check the ones from Stef Cande and DROZ photo!

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K2: acclimatization, base camp and the trek out

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2015 turned out to be a terrible year for the Karakoram, with no summits on K2, only two on the much easier Broad Peak, and a few on the Gasherbrums, the complete opposite of last year. We acclimatized slightly above Camp II on the Black Pyramid, around 6800m, coming down on July 17th. Unfortunately, we never really got the weather window we needed for a proper summit push, and the very high temperatures degraded the route, leading to very high avalanche and rockfall danger. The high point on the mountain was reached by the very strong Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux and Köbi Reichen, at 7500m on the Cesen ridge.

Once it was clear we couldn’t summit, the focus switched to getting home, not an easy task from deep in the Baltoro. Logistical snafus, long treks on blistered feet, hair rising jeep rides and cancelled flights ensued repeatedly until, on August 4th, I finally managed to board a plane back to Chamonix.

Quite an adventure it has been! Enjoy some of my favourite images from the trip.

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K2: Pakistan, the trek and Base Camp

I have now been in Pakistan for over two weeks, and even though climbing proper will only start tomorrow, with our first and only acclimatization rotation (to about 7200m), it has already been a string of awesome adventures: from discovering Islamabad, to driving the infamous Karakoram Highway over two days of cramped minibus, a hairy jeep drive to Askole and six days of trekking up the Baltoro glacier, among the tallest mountains on Earth. Here are a few images, transmitted over satellite from Base Camp, to give you an idea of what things were like. Enjoy!

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K2 bound!

Ulrik Hasemann climbs to the Upper Torre glacier at sunrise, while the summits of Fitzroy, Poincenot and Saint-Exupery barely show. El Chaltén, Patagonia, Argentina.

Well, it’s now official: I will shortly be attempting to climb the second highest mountain in the world, K2, at 8611m. It’s a much harder (and more interesting) affair than Everest, as the route is steeper and more technical, the weather harsher and there are significant objective dangers. To date, there have been only about 340 summits, compared to Everest’s nearly 7,000!

I will be joining Madison Mountaineering‘s team as a high altitude cameraman and photographer, and will especially focus on Vanessa O’Brien, the current female speed record holder for completion of the Explorer Grand Slam (7 Summits + both Poles), and who will attempt to become the first American woman (and first British woman to make it back down alive) to summit the mountain. We leave next week and won’t be back before middle of August, but Base Camp should have an internet connection, so I will hopefully be able to share some images along the way.

It will be a very exciting and challenging new adventure, so soon after the North Pole, and I can’t wait!

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A few Mont Blanc adventures

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The previous couple of weeks have been somewhat calmer than usual, leaving me some time for personal projects and climbing. And since I have a very (very) high altitude expedition coming up soon, I took the opportunity to pre-acclimatize as best as I could, using our local hill, Mont Blanc. Various adventures were had, on ski, foot and paraglider, and though not all were successful, it sure was a lot of fun!

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Skiing to the North Pole!

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Shortly after coming back from New Zealand in mid-March, I was contacted by one of my colleagues, polar photographer Martin Hartley, asking whether I fancied going to the North Pole in two weeks, replacing him as he was double booked. It’s exactly for this kind of question that I got into adventure photography in the first place, and there wasn’t much hesitation before giving a very positive answer. Cue a couple of days of frantic packing and preparation, and I find myself in Oslo, Longyearbyen and finally Barneo Ice Camp, at around 89°N.

The idea of the trip was to shoot the first edition of the Mamont Polar Cup, where four teams of four to five skiers try to ski the last degree and reach the Pole first. I was covering the all women team, led by polar explorer Bettina Aller, and greatly enjoyed the company of Geraldine, Tamara and Jennifer. In the end, we skied for five days, reached the Pole at 16:30 on April 18th, waited a storm for another day and got picked up by a MI-8 helicopter back to Barneo, where we proceeded to get thoroughly drunk on Mamont vodka (life lesson: never drink with Russians, especially if vodka is to be involved. Never!).

What an adventure!

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Shooting in Nepal for Nissan

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As the beautiful country of Nepal is hit by a terrible earthquake, here are some images of a happier time, a project shot for Nissan Europe to promote the release of their updated X-Trail 4wd. Titled “The Five Elements of Adventure”, we spent a week last November following the four happy winners of an Instagram competition, along with mountain guide Matt Walker, as they experienced some of the most fun adventure sports that the country has to offer: pendulum jumping, canyoneering, mountain biking, rock climbing and whitewater kayaking. And it didn’t hurt either that both the landscapes and the local people are truly amazing.

The video team produced a great film, which you can watch on Vimeo On Demand: The Five Elements of Adventure. All proceeds from the movie will go desperately needed relief efforts in Nepal.

Here are some of my favorite images from the trip. Enjoy!

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