Just like in 2010, 2011 and 2012, here come the 10 favourite images I have shot this year (assuming I don’t get something absolutely amazing in the next 4 days, that is). My only criterion was that I needed to personally love the shots, even though they may not have been the most popular.
Natalia Zimina of Team Redfox-Goretex (RU) in the otherworldly ice of the massive Tyndall Glacier, part of the Patagonian Ice Cap, which all teams are required to cross on day 1 of the 2013 Patagonian Expedition Race, Patagonia, Chile.
As in 2012, I headed to Chilean Patagonia to cover the insane Patagonian Expedition Race (which sadly seems to not be running anymore, at least in 2014). It was a very different year, with even less resources than the previous year, but the highlight definitely was crossing and shooting on the insanely huge Hielo Continental Sur. I singled out this shot for its very strong graphic elements and its simple story.
Ulrik Hasemann at the beginning of pitch 11 of the classic Comesaña-Fonrouge route on Aguja Guillaumet. El Chaltén, Patagonia, Argentina.
After shooting the race, I headed over to El Chaltén with my friend and colleague Ulrik Hasemann to do some alpine climbings. Though the West Face of Cerro Torre was in amazing condition, it was not to be this time, and we settled for a much easier option, the classic route on Aguja Guillaumet, during a decent weather window. I shot this a short way to the summit, and loved the combination of action and scenery so much that it’s on the cover of my latest book.
Jimmy Sesana puts in some big turns in hard crust on Vallée Noire, with the East Faces of Mont Blanc and its satellites in the background, Chamonix, France.
Back in Cham and with one of the best snow years ever, the mood was very much on skiing. I shot this for fun with friend and steep skier Jimmy Sesana, and the snow was actually some of the most horrible I have ever skied, a layer of hard crust over deep powder that was extremely treacherous. I ended up falling something like five times, but I’m allowed, I’m the photographer…
Elsie Lemordant and Francis Kelsey on a photoshoot for Vaude on Aiguille d’Entrèves, Chamonix, France.
This was my second shoot for Vaude and I love how much freedom they let me have: the brief is simply to go alpine climb something and bring back cool images of their latest gear. The tricky part was that it had to look like summer in a ridiculously snowy early April, but we found the classic Entrèves traverse on the Italian side of Mont Blanc to provide us with great light and no ski tracks in the background.
Armin Holzer serenades Mich Kemeter with a didgeridoo, on a highline far above the Verdon river.
Verdon is becoming a bi-annual pilgrimage for me, as it is one of the most drop-dead-gorgeous places I’ve ever been to, the climbing is world class and there is always a ton of crazy athletes pulling off fun stunts. This hammock highline improvised concert definitely took the palm that year, and Patagonia among other clients used it on their website.
Mich Kemeter freesolos the 6a+ last pitch of “Marches du Temps”, 300m off the deck in the Verdon Gorges.
Though of course, the craziest of all is freesolo climbing, with no ropes or any other safety equipment. Just like last year, Mich performed and climbed the really impressive last pitch of Marches du Temps, while I shot suspended from a highline. This particular image got the attention of EpicTV and led to the summer video project, Freesolo.
Cross-country flying, doing the classic Tour du Lac in Annecy, France, with Tristan Shu and Michaël Régnier of ITV Parapentes.
Though I didn’t fly much during the winter, late spring saw big developments in my paragliding: I did some great little cross-country flights (Petit Tour du Lac in Annecy and Planpraz-Varan), did a bunch of high altitude flights, especially from Dôme du Goûter, Mont Blanc du Tacul and Dôme des Écrins, and perhaps most importantly, started carrying a serious camera up there. This shot, following Mika, the wing designer for ITV, and very talented colleague Tristan Shu across the Annecy lake was my favourite from the flying season.
BASE jumpers at the Monte Brento site in the Sarca Valley, Trentino, Italy.
Early July saw me on an insane road trip through the Alps (Chamonix-Münich-Arco-Zillertal-Graz-Arco-Innsbrück-Grindelwald-Friedrichshafen-Chamonix), to shoot stills and video on a number of projects. I happened to spend the best part of a week with BASE jumpers from the really impressive Monte Brento exit, one of the best spots to jump in Europe. Having a lot of jumpers doing multiple rotations left me with a lot of opportunities to experiment, and this shot of an (unfortunately unnamed) Russian jumper was the one that resonated the most with me.
Dave MacLeod on his redpoint of the crux 8a pitch on “Paciencia”, a long and steep pitch in extremely exposed surroundings on the Rote Fluh. Eiger Nordwand, Grindelwald, Switzerland.
Out of the blue, I received an email in mid-August from Welsh wunderkind Calum Muskett asking me if I wanted to shoot him and Dave MacLeod attempting to repeat the hardest route on the infamous Eiger Nordwand, two days later. A short drive later and I arrived in Grindelwald, only to discover that instead of being allowed through the Stollenloch, the railway window a third up the face, we would have to climb up from the bottom, unroped, on wet slabs, with big packs. Halfway up, I broke a hold and nearly fell all the way to the bottom of the face !
The resulting images, though, were incredible, as this is a truly unique location, and rarely does one get the opportunity to shoot such difficult climbing in such an unaccessible place. The wall was so overhanging that I took a big pendulum when I unclipped from the last directional quickdraw on the fixed line, letting me shoot Dave on the upper section of the crux pitch. One of the hardest I’ve ever worked to create an image, and worth it.
Elsie Lemordant climbs “Incredible Hand Crack” (5.10+) in Supercrack Buttress, Indian Creek, UT.
Finally, the fall was dedicated to a mostly personal road trip through the Western USA, (re)visiting such locations as Yosemite, Bishop, Red Rock, Zion and Indian Creek with the girlfriend. I ended up shooting a little at the very end, as we randomly met with a French elite group from FFME, which included Elsie, model on the Vaude shoot the previous spring. This image is not so much about the crazy moves as it is about what goes through a climber’s head before he or she launches through a difficult section. More thoughtful and honest portraits are definitely a direction where I see my photography going in the next few years.