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2011 retrospective: my 10 favourite photos from the past year

So, it’s that time of year again. Since all the good snow was used up yesterday, let’s take the opportunity to repeat the 2010 retrospective post. Here, then, are my 10 favourite shots from the past year. Enjoy!

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Shot in Kandersteg where I was accompanying Danish climber Kristoffer Szilas on his quest for hard mixed climb, I spent most of the week dangling on a fixed line below icicles. I was set up to shoot Kristoffer on a M10 when Ramon Marin ran up the classic M9+ “Pink Panther” on the other side. The angle wasn’t perfect to shoot the lower section, but as soon as he reached the terminal icicle, I was in position to capture his facial expressions as he desperately fought the pump to finish the route.

 

Will Foreman getting psyched before a redpoint ascent, Kullaberg, Sweden.

Will Foreman getting psyched before a redpoint ascent, Kullaberg, Sweden.

Will, Rune and I hadn’t come to Kullen for photography but just to have a good climbing day in the early Swedish summer. Will was working on a route adequately called King Kong, with a powerful and slightly scary crux sequence at the top and was readying himself at the bottom, while additionally having just injured his toe. The result was a big power scream, which I was lucky to capture with a very wide lens.

 

Nick Valentine on the famous razor edge section, P7 of Chapelle de Glière, Aiguilles Rouges, France.

Nick Valentine on the famous razor edge section, P7 of Chapelle de Glière, Aiguilles Rouges, France.

My first route with Nick Valentine, with whom I will be climbing in the ex-USSR, was the super fun “Chapelle de Glière” in the Aiguilles Rouges. Photography was a secondary concern until we reached the famous razor edge section. Nick had led it, but I asked him to go back half a pitch when I reached the belay, as this was too good a photo opportunity to pass!

 

Andrew Grosser flipping his rope on the traversing fourth pitch of the East Buttress of El Capitan, Yosemite.

Andrew Grosser flipping his rope on the traversing fourth pitch of the East Buttress of El Capitan, Yosemite.

I have numerous shots of my partner, Fiona, on this section, and they are really good, but the one I ended up selecting was of Andy, member of a team I allowed to overtake us, since they were so much faster. To be honest, I was a bit bored, having stayed at the belay for a solid half hour, and went with my gut to snap some wide angle shots with his rope in the frame. As often the case, experimentation is ultimately rewarded with very unique images!

 

Stefan Jacobsen rappelling from the Stovelegs on the Nose after an unexpected storm blew in, El Cap, Yosemite.

Stefan Jacobsen rappelling from the Stovelegs on the Nose after an unexpected storm blew in, El Cap, Yosemite.

When the storm started on the Nose, it was obviously bad news – we had hoped to be on the wall for another two to three days, but with the low angle bottom section quickly turning into a waterfall and drenching us, it soon became obvious we had to go down, fast. As a photographer, however, it was a great opportunity to capture a very special mood. Additionally, the many abseils allowed me to get quite close (I had only packed a 50mm lens) to the other climbers and capture their struggle in these very adverse conditions.

 

Andrew looks up from the Nose as the weather worsens on El Cap.

Andrew looks up from the Nose as the weather worsens on El Cap.

Shot during a brief lull in the storm, this shows Andrew in the way he must have felt, very lonely on the wall indeed. It is also a side of El Cap that is very rarely captured.

 

Enmore Lin aids a crack on the last pitch of Lost Arrow Spire, with dizzying exposure to the ground and Upper Yosemite Falls running nearby.

Enmore Lin aids a crack on the last pitch of Lost Arrow Spire, with dizzying exposure to the ground and Upper Yosemite Falls running nearby.

When I shot this, I had just been through one of the most trying four days of my life, somehow succeeding in completing my first big wall, and my first solo. Enmore and Stefan had come to climb the last two pitches of the route and set up a Tyrolean traverse back to the rim. As soon as I topped out on the pinnacle, I abseiled down once more, realizing I had the perfect opportunity to capture a leader in an extremely exposed situation. This kind of situation usually requires a lot of forethought and setting up, but in this case, I got it entirely “for free”. I just needed to put up four days of lonely suffering first.

 

Cody Sims reaching the handcrack between the Sewer and the Bloc, with tremendous exposure. Freerider, El Capitan, Yosemite.

Cody Sims reaching the handcrack between the Sewer and the Bloc, with tremendous exposure. Freerider, El Capitan, Yosemite.

Though it may not be the most spectacular image of Cody’s climb, there is something in the early morning light and his contorted body position that really works for me. In addition, the fact that he has absolutely nothing beneath his feet and that neither rope nor belayer show emphasizes the insane exposure, this high on El Cap.

 

Mich Kemeter freesoloing the Taft Point highline, with El Capitan in the background, Yosemite.

Mich Kemeter freesoloing the Taft Point highline, with El Capitan in the background, Yosemite.

This is not any of the images of Mich that made the rounds of world newspapers last month, and it is arguably a lot less impressive than those showing just how high above the ground he is, but it’s still my favourite from the shoot, mostly because of the light, his symbolic body position and the expression in his face which leaves no doubt as to the level of focus required and what’s at stake.

 

David Garnier skiing down the Glacier du Milieu, with Aiguille d'Argentière in the background, Chamonix, France.

David Garnier skiing down the Glacier du Milieu, with Aiguille d’Argentière in the background, Chamonix, France.

Not even a week old, this was shot last Wednesday on an aborted ski-climb of Aiguille d’Argentière. What made us bail, the sun hitting the slope, is also what makes this image works. I love how all the elements here (the granite, the snow, the rope, the mid-turn action freeze) contribute to creating an atmosphere both beautiful and threatening.

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3 thoughts on “2011 retrospective: my 10 favourite photos from the past year

  1. Alexandre says:

    @Matthew: I don’t have US plans at the moment, but things change quickly, so you never know. I’d love to go back to Alaska and Utah, and also to visit the Tetons, in particular.

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