Pursuing a career in adventure photography is far more involved than simply taking stunning images. The process of creating imagery that tells a story has many stories within itself. Check in often and follow my pursuit and evolution as an adventure photographer.
I’ve been working on some projects and been going through my archives over the past few days. So cool to look back and find images that you didn’t even remember having like this one: Climbers descending Mt. Rainier just after dawn.
I’ve reached a new summit! I am at 19,300ft.-higher than Mt. Kilimanjaro- and I will be sleeping here for the next few nights until we make the push to summit. Lugging a massive pack from the last hut up to here was not easy; I’m now walking at an old man’s pace in this thin air. I made it, though, and without any signs of altitude sickness. I’m pleased.
Jose plods upward toward our high camp.
This morning before setting out, Jose received the forecast via his satellite phone: high winds for summit day. Right now, we will just have to wait and see. Things can change so quickly up here. Now up at this final hut, I can look up from the doorstep and see almost the entire route. Finally right in front of me and so tempting, it doesn’t look that hard, just long and high; nothing is easy at 22,000ft.
Jose checks the weather.
Since seeing the forecast and arriving at this high camp, Alberto has grown anxious to climb the peak… tonight. This is his first really big Andean climb and his focus is zeroed-in on getting up there and grabbing a coveted, high-altitude summit. Over the past few months, he’s progressed climbing near Santiago and in the Cordillera Real of Bolivia. He feels ready to go and doesn’t want to let to current good weather go to waste. However, none of us are prepared to make the climb tonight. The jump in altitude is simply too much for our bodies. I would go, but I need to acclimatize for at least a night before pushing higher. Jose seems doubtful too.
Alberto looks out, anxious to climb.
So this leaves Julio, the oldest in the group and Alberto’s official partner. Julio also needs some time to acclimatize at our new camp. He understands Alberto’s excitement to take advantage of the current window, but like us, his body isn’t ready to push high into the thin air of 20+ thousand feet. Each time that Alberto talks about leaving and climbing tonight, a sad, heavy look descends upon his face. He sighs and asks “what if’s”.
“What if you fall? What if you can’t get down? What if you get hit in the head by a rock? What do we tell people if you never return?”
Julio has repeated the countless reasons why not to climb alone and I’ve chimed in as well, but to no effect. It pains Julio to tell Alberto, “no”. As the afternoon progresses and the silence is broken with Alberto’s incessant pushing, it seems like Julio may be resigning himself to the fact that we could awake tomorrow without Alberto. There is only so much that can be said to convince a fit, excited and intelligent 26 year old to err on the side of prudence.
As I sit across the table from Julio, he reviews his map and ties knot after knot in his climbing rope, sighing every so often as he tightens them, ensuring that they don’t slip. I wonder if he’s doing this to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety he feels about his partner.
Julio marks and measures distances on a map.
Now having arrived at this final camp, I’m feeling great and am happy to have arrived so high. I really want to climb this peak; I can almost taste it. Yet the urgency and self worth that I used to put into climbing something like this is gone. If Jose and I awake to calm winds and favorable conditions on Friday morning, it’s on! But if not, I’m super comfy in this wind-ravaged hut and am content to watch the banners of snow sail off the ridgetops as I drink thermos after thermos of coffee. Even at 29 with no serious climbs to write about for the kudos and admiration of the climbing community, I have had my moments on minor Sierra peaks near home when truckloads of rock nearly killed me, have fallen ill at altitude or have watched friends weep at the loss of a loved one that went off to climb what they always do, only to return in a body bag, if that.
If the conditions allow, I’m going to climb this mountain. If not, I’ve learned from experience to hold back and wait; the mountain isn’t going anywhere. It’s just not worth pushing it too far.