And so it begins…


I’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time, and on Sunday it will finally happen: I will be in Yosemite Valley, the cradle of American climbing and home to walls of legend, including of course El Capitan. I’ll stay there until early November.

This is both a climbing and a photography trip. On the first front, our main objective is the most famous route in the world: the Nose. 31 pitches, 1000m, 3 to 4 days of a mixture of free and aid climbing (about 5.8 C2). But we’ll also do some smaller, grade V walls like the regular northwest face of Half Dome and the south face of Washington Column. I’d like to try some of the hard long free climbs, like Freeblast, Astroman, the Rostrum or the Steck-Salathe. And do some of the classic easier routes: Royal Arches, Central Pillar of Frenzy, Sons/Serenity, perhaps even Snake Dike.

On the photography side, I will be shooting for the American Alpine Club’s International Climbers Meet (the same one I attended in Indian Creek two years ago), which should include some famous climbers. And I will then pack at least one camera out of the four I am taking on any of the many climbs I plan on doing.

I have been told there is wifi in some places in Yosemite Village, so you can probably expect updates as I go, either here or on the social networks (check the links on the side).

My flight is 12 hours away, I am more or less packed (with more organization than usual, as the top photo should prove), so now it’s finally time to lean back, relax a bit and just enjoy this trip which I started planning more than a year ago!


Turning pro

Photo by Ruthie Cristobal

Changing lenses in Paris. Photo by Ruthie Cristobal.

If you’ve been following this blog lately, you must have felt a bit let down. The thing is, I have been quite busy.

First, with finishing my PhD dissertation. It has been more than three years in the making, and I thought about dropping out more than a few times, but somehow, I managed to stay on track and finish it. The final thesis is online, if you feel curious (pdf warning), but be aware that the level of gibberish-ness is quite high. I still have to defend it, probably in late November, but am otherwise completely done with academia. After nine years in university, it is a very weird feeling.

The day after handing in, I flew back to France. I had no reason to stay in Denmark and needed to be much closer to the mountains if I was to have a go at being a mountain photographer (the 172m high point of Denmark doesn’t quite qualify). Last Friday, I filed the paperwork I needed with the French treasury, which officially makes me a professional photographer!

I had been thinking of this for years, but it is only in the last couple of months that it became really obvious this was what I should do, and that there was a good chance I might actually make it work. It will be tough, for sure, but I can see it working out.

Practically, this means a lot more time for being in the mountains and shooting, so hopefully a lot more new images, posted on the blog and the newsletter. My immediate plans: mountaineering in the Écrins next week, a Magnum seminar in London in the weekend, more mountaineering in Chamonix the following week, then hop on a plane to California to go check out what the big deal is with this Yosemite place everybody keeps talking about…


James Monypenny after a victory on the Cosmiques Spur.