Fantasitc Frozen Attempt

When you can no longer tell your holding a jug or a crimp because you can't feel your fingers and the rubber on your shoes is frozen, dusted in snow and no longer sticking then it's time to set the rappel and acknowledge this as the last high-mountain climb of 2014, sans crampons.  This was the reality of Sunday's climb on the Campanile di Val Montanaia as we stared at the summit and final pitch realizing it was both the safer choice and the path of less suffering to retreat.  

 Ivano looking back on the two hour hike leading to the base of the climb.  The day I leave Italy I will miss this animal as much as the Dolomites themselves.

Ivano looking back on the two hour hike leading to the base of the climb.  The day I leave Italy I will miss this animal as much as the Dolomites themselves.

 Ivano beginning the crux pitch under the clear winter sky.

Ivano beginning the crux pitch under the clear winter sky.

I climbed this Dolomite Classic earlier in the year and this trip was dedicated to taking our friend on his first multi-pitch climb. We figured this would be a great introduction. He crushed his climb but the snow on the west side killed us. The mountain is not going anywhere so "today she wins." The passion of the mountains is not always the summit as much as it is the peace, power and beauty you feel under her gaze.  Now we just need to cross our fingers for the temperature drop we were promised so we can sharpen our axe points and hit some ice.

 Auston on the belay...dude rocked the route and looking forward to many more climbs with this cat.

Auston on the belay...dude rocked the route and looking forward to many more climbs with this cat.

 Auston wrapping up the crux pitch in style.

Auston wrapping up the crux pitch in style.

 Still can't feel my big toe.

Still can't feel my big toe.

“The way is beautiful…but maybe it is heavy”

I find it hard to know where to start when so very much has transpired in the last several months.  It all started with our leaving our home in Japan, via a whirlwind of visitations across Texas culminating with our move into our beautiful and exciting new house in Italy.   

The gear is finally unpacked, the Profotos are charged, the Drobos are plugged in and I am once again on the road.  Two days ago I loaded the car with camera, climbing, and camping gear and took off on a crushing 14hr drive to Rodellar, Spain to essentially return to work.  I came to shoot with world class Adidas climbers Sasha DiGuilian and Dani Moreno on beautiful, mighty Spanish walls.  Sasha, following her win at the Spanish Championships in Gijon last weekend, is working on what would be the first female ascent of a powerful 8c route. The first day went without a hitch and both Sasha and Dani are amazing to watch and even more inspiring to photograph.  We tentatively have all week to shoot and push it but now however, we are stuck.  We are in a holding pattern as the rain curse, which has followed me since I landed in Europe, follows me.  With a forced rest day I was able to edit a bit but for the most part I am just itching to get back on the rope and behind the lens. 

After the cursing of the sky and the lamentation over a lost day of opportunity we spent last night eating a beautiful meal at the Refugio and I found myself content with the realization of my wilderness office and my assignment.  I often talk about the gratitude I feel towards my subjects and my career but it is something truly difficult to convey with words of appropriate weight.  Hanging 90 meters of the valley floor watching one of the sports most talented and accomplish athlete’s crossing over the lip of the cave with grace and power and being there to capture that feat is still, to me, a wonderful gift.  As a photographer and I would imagine professional athletes we find ourselves fighting for days like these, through the rain days and in-between assignments.  When however, you finally get on the rope or behind the lens it all becomes fluid and right.  Like my Italian climbing partner says, “The way is beautiful…but maybe it is heavy” but the weight, the difficulty is so very worth it. 

As I type I am watching the sun fight through the clouds, time to go see if the rock is dry.  More to come.

 

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Made in America - Crashed upon Globally

I am currently working on a set of personal/campaign images for Organic Crash Pads and was lucky enough to spend yesterday working with the wonderful and powerful Akiyo Noguchi (2009, 2010 Bouldering World Cup overall champion. Second overall in 2011, and again in 2012.)

Akiyo-chan drove over two hours from Yokohama to meet us in Shirotai, she spent almost two hours getting into makeup and then proceded to pose while hanging on a V7-8 as if it were a ladder.  As photographers we are all gifted our career by those who are willing to stand in front of our cameras but yesterday I was humbled watching Akiyo work to create our images. O-sama, domo arigato gozaimasu.

Other people who must be thanked are my wonderful makeup artist/wife and friend Nobu-san for allowing us into his gym to do makeup before heading into the mountains.  Incidentally, Nobu is also part of this project.

One of my favorite memories from the day came at the end, when we returned to the gym to remove makeup.  Our 9 year old climbing friend Nana was there and when she realized who was coming in you could see here through the door jumping up and down as if Christmas arrived early (that is probably not a culturally appropriate analogy but lets roll with it),  truly adorable to watch her giddiness around her idol.  Akiyo was lovely and gracious signing her chalk bag and posing for pictures, class act.

More shoots to come and Obe-san as soon as your new pad arrives your next!  For now, here are some more images from our amazing day in Shirotai with Akiyo-chan.

Rising Sun

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I finally secured a break in the Japanese rainy season to begin a project I’ve had on my board of “Ideas to Shoot” for a long time.  The images are part of a campaign concept I pitched to an outdoor company whom I love.  They are a small but prolific boutique shop that crafts fantastic custom work and so I wanted the individuality of the user experience to come across.

I wanted to share this photo of the model and my good friend Nobu san who was kind enough to sit for 4 hr in makeup and then let me drive him into the mountains looking this way.  We almost got in an accident laughing at the reaction of two girls at a bus stop whom Nobu surprised.  Thank you Nobu you are so gracious and amazing.  Know I have a bottle of single malt with your name on it.

I am leaving in 9 days for an epic adventure into the backcountry of the Weminuche wilderness with my father and brother but when I return I am excited to finish this project with the other four other athletes here in Japan.