Sometimes I feel inspired to write a few thoughts to accompany my photos on Instagram - these are a select few.
It's been extremely heartwarming to read all of the accounts on Ueli from some of his most closest friends, but it's also becoming increasingly sad to know that we no longer live in a world with the Swiss Machine.
Jon Griffith's account hit me pretty hard, when he described Ueli as "someone who felt the sharp pain of public criticism and who took it to heart far more than anyone realized, and who in the end couldn't stop himself from being pressured from the last few years of critique and base-less accusations from people who refused to believe what was possible, simply because they had never seen him move and climb like I have done. The Everest-Lhotse traverse would have been his redeeming climb in the eyes of the world; proof of his abilities that should never have been needed."
Sometimes more than physical hardship, I find the mental battles with honesty and ego to be the hardest - the silent demon that becomes increasingly heavy when the stakes are raised. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be the world's leading alpinist under the burning spotlight.
Ueli's sensitivity and his ability to take things to heart seem to be a reoccurring theme from the accounts I've read, and the humble way in which he conducts himself in interviews leads me to believe that he kept these thoughts at the very front of his consciousness, making him such a genuine and likeable character.
Thanks for keeping it real Ueli, and for inspiring us all to aim higher without sacrificing our humanity.
Climbing is a Gift
I recently picked up the book "Why We Climb"; early into the book is a nice line from Kitty Calhoun.
l"You know climbing is a gift. We aren't going to be able to climb our entire lives. None of us know what the future will bring. There's no time to waste being consumed by fear, self-doubt, and comparison. Those are all negative emotions. We need to spend the time given to us climbing with all the joy possible, all the joy climbing deserves." l.
I haven't had that perspective in awhile, to see climbing as a gift. I just always thought I'd be climbing, planning my life between weekends and expecting to climb.
It's true though, climbing is a gift. I'm able to shoulder a heavy pack, grab holds the size of my finger tips, have long days, and the leisure time to do it. These are all gifts - nothing from the start was owed to me, or continues to be.
The line from the book reminded me that while I still have this capable body and mind, to do my best to love the gift fully, so that if it all disappears, I'll know I didn't squander it with laziness or excuse.
I tend to post a lot of "feel good, change yourself, and do something uncomfortable" bits on Facebook. Most of the time I don't actually follow through with anything and the mild elation I get from reading the article replaces any actual action - but sometimes I get off my ass.
There's definitely something to be said about doing things before you feel ready or comfortable; trusting that you have what it takes to deal with the unknown, and to stay humble to any successes due to luck.
Throwback to a few years ago when I shut it out and tied-in for "Streets Cry Freedom," something I didn't think I was ready for. The route is barely off-vertical, with ice that is a little more than a glaze. Gentle taps lead up to a crack for a sideways driven Spectre, and a little higher up is a spine of ice that allows half a stubby if inserted on an angle.
Climbing into no-fall zones for a sustained amount of time on thin vertical ice ended up really fraying my mind. I was fortunate enough at the time to be surrounded by a solid group of people who believed in my ability to make up for any self-doubt. The climb and experience ended up being a major turning point in my climbing career and likely one I won't forget! Props to Andriy for having the vision for the line and the trust to belay me on it!
"You're never going to feel like it"
I do my best to repeat this to myself whenever I roll out of bed for an alpine start, or tie in my laces for a run after work.
The thought comes from a Ted talk I listened to that spoke about the kind of growth that only comes from overcoming temporary discomfort.
I combine this with a line from a short video called "Move", where @realwillgadd mentions how he's never regretted a training session - and it's always true, at least for me.
Somedays you won't feel like waking up early or training, but you'll never regret that you did.
📷: Woke up early to drive into the Ghost to climb 'The Real Big Drip'. The early start put us first in line and rewarded us with soft early morning light.
Beginners guide taking to (semi)decent butt shots*
1. Prioritize interesting movement! Symmetrical poses and over-extended bodies don't lend themselves too well. Look for bent arms, legs, and crooked torsos
2. Go super tight, or super wide on the crop. If it's tight, refer to point 1, if it's wide, prioritize framing - use leading lines (horizons, aretes, shadows, etc) and trees.
3. Climb super cool things. With some humble spray, it won't matter how shitty the butt shot is, it's badass anyways!
📷: @juliacetnar looking for anything that isn't another .4 on Horseman.
*this isn't actually a guide
Hiking's a strange thing for me.
It's brought me to some amazing places, and views not often seen by those who don't make the effort. However, it's strange, because most of the time I'm just looking my feet. With legs pumped, hips bruised, and collar bones knackered - it's just one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes think about the weight I'm carrying, versus my partner(or those around me), and envy lighter loads, which just adds more strain.
This all becomes a bit analogous, but it reminded me of how some of my favourite hikes were done by myself - at my own pace and with no one to compare to, when I gave myself some time to look up instead of bearing through.
Maybe I need to worry less about my comparative pace and what others are carrying, or something like that.
📷: On the way to Laguna Churup. Nevado Churup in the background at 5,493m.
This weekend yielded some pretty splitter weather! Lots of folks out, and @mattemccormick got on his first rock route in Southern Ontario!
Some thoughts on this shot down below.
- to stay close to the subject and shoot wide at the crux
- get good expression and movement, while using the tree canvas as a backdrop.
- harsh and spotted midday light through the tree line at the bottom half of the wall, while the upper wall was blasted with really bright light (crux is at the split)
- didn't want to make everyone wait around for the shade line to move... for a shot that’s already in less-than-prime lighting conditions.
- pick the shaded section of the climb for the shot, and pick some areas before the crux
- choose a tight crop, using a lens with a very shallow depth of field to isolate as much of the subject as possible.. 135mm 2L… the only other lens in my pack at the time haha.
- the 135mm 2L is what I’d label a “high risk” lens for climbing action shots. There’s chance for front/back focusing, it’s hard to time focus during movement (without a deliberate pose-down), and you’re working with a really tight crop that’s fixed
- parts of the climber are be going in-and-out of the spotted lights at any moment, providing only a few chances for Matt to be nicely lit.
- move aperture up to 2.2 to gain a bit more lee-way for front/back focus issues
- use the strongest and most accurate AF point (the center one), and crop anything necessary in post-production
- shoot a shit ton of photos.
- had some colour casting issues from the tree canvas and rockwall, so I decided to swap to B&W
- B&W also gave me a bit more flexibility for burn/dodge options.
What Christmas is
It's Christmas time 🎅! I hope y'all are doin' well! The holidays have always been a bit of a strange time for me. I always felt pressured for my mood to be in-line, and that I needed to meet X, Y, and Z in order to have a fulfilling and proper holiday. Somehow it always felt like I'd fallen short - my family isn't lovely enough, I spend too much time alone, or that the presents lack grandeur.
Maybe you'll have big family gatherings, fat turkey, wild parties, and fireplace cuddles with a significant other - or maybe you'll have none of these, and you'll be working when everyone's at home, have a meager meal, or you'll be alone.
If you're the latter, and you get to see your Facebook feed fill up with lovely photos of family and couples on Christmas Day, I think it's good to remember that just because you didn't meet that image, doesn't mean you failed anyone or anything. Christmas looks quite different for everyone, and it isn't proportional to what we get to see. There are other folks just like you - really.
That said, if you're lucky and you are surrounded by amazing people, let them know just how grateful you are! It's a lot less awkward to mention it now when everyone's more generous with their good tidings :) .
Merry 🎄 Christmas!
📷: @donaldsondave's content reading his book at a lean-to shelter in Katahdin. The next day we both had an incredible time out on the Cilley-Barber route.
I came back from Peru with many photos, but too many unorganized thoughts... as a result, I've been slacking on posting anything, spending most of my time trying to make sense the experiences.
I took two very important lessons from Peru I thought I'd share though:
1. Knowledge does not equal understanding. This goes for climbing, relationships, and overall understandings of the world. An achievement-based society will have biases towards intellect, but it's empathy that will bring understanding. So many times we know, but so few times do we try and understand before drawing conclusions. They don't necessarily take us to the same destination, and like climbing, it's the style that counts.
2. When off the clock, take the photos that you want - your photos are your own. Honor your own experiences, as they may not be the same as others, and when/if you decide to share your photos, they will be genuine to you and not a reflection of what others expect.