Climbing the Great Arch, China
Photograph by Carsten Peter, National Geographic
“We all were absolutely shocked that this wall existed in nature!” recalls climber Matt Segal, seen here about 300 feet above the ground on the Nihao Wokepa route on the Great Arch in Getu, China. Segal, along with friends Emily Harrington and Cedar Wright, joined a National Geographic assignment with photographer Carsten Peter to investigate the region’s diverse karst rock formations for “Exploring China’s Caves” in the July edition of the magazine. “The climbing was very steep and physical—in fact, I think this is the most overhanging wall either Cedar or I has ever climbed.”
The protruding rock on the left side of the photo showcases one of the various rock formations they encountered—stalactites. “The majority of this climb was ‘wrestling’ with those stalactites!" says Segal. "Swinging from one to the next and wrapping your whole body around them is one of the most unique styles of climbing I’ve ever done."
Surfing the Wedge, California
Photograph by Benjamin C. Ginsberg
“This particular wave didn't have much of a shoulder on it and was more of a closeout, so I was just trying to get out of its way,” recalls local surfer Bobby Okvist. “I try to surf the Wedge as much as I possibly can,” says the Newport Beach, California, native and resident seen here surfing the break. “It's my home spot, so when we get the right swell, it's the first place I check when I wake up.”
“The Wedge is actually known as a bodysurfing and bodyboarding wave, but on the right days it's very surfable,” says Okvist, who says this was the biggest day of 2013 for the break. “Usually the bigger it gets, the better it is for surfing.”
Getting the Shot
“The Wedge is one of my favorite surf breaks for its size, ferocity, danger, and the sheer craziness of it all,” says photographer Benjamin Ginsberg. Having photographed the Wedge in the past, Ginsberg knew where to set up to get his shot and stay safe at the dangerous break. “I knew my best chance for a dramatic image would be down the beach at an extreme angle, using a long lens.
It proved to be the right decision, as I was able to get the shot of a larger, dramatically pitching wave with Bobby very close to shore, and without a crowd of people or a dozen little cameras on extended poles poking back up and out through the wave face."
With a gray “June gloom” forecast for the day, Ginsberg photographed under less than ideal conditions. “The low cloud cover made for significant background noise and low light levels. It was exceedingly difficult to set the camera shutter at a speed that would freeze motion without producing grainy images," he says. "Fortunately, when the water was as clear as it was that day, the contrast between the color of the breaking wave and steel gray sky helped create a striking composition."
Climbing the Wendenstock, Interlaken, Switzerland
Photograph by Mikey Schaefer
Getting the Shot
“When we arrived at the parking lot, the face was completely in the clouds. We didn't really know how to get to the base,” recalls photographer Mikey Schaefer. Schaefer set out with climber Tommy Caldwell to tackle difficult routes in the Wendenstock area—pictured here is the Coelophysis route, rated 5.13c, in the Wendenstock crag. “The approaches in Wendenstock are pretty serious and fairly dangerous, so it took us some time to navigate to the start of the route safely. For a while, I didn't think we'd even be able to go climbing,” says Schaefer.
Luckily the weather was manageable, and the climbers set out to climb Coelophysis. “Thankfully for me, Tommy doesn't climb extremely fast. This gave me a lot of time to try different framing and angles. I had actually been struggling with the clouds most of the day, as they were so thick it was hard to see anything. I knew there was a chance I would get something really unique, but I wasn't getting my hopes up too high. An hour or so after I got this shot, it started to rain and we were all forced to go down,” says Schaefer. “I was a bit lucky—I got some shots in.”
Skiing the Grand, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Photograph by Andy Bardon
“I think I'm on 17 or 18,” says Jimmy Chin of how many times he has skied the 13,776-foot Grand in the Tetons. “I lost count after 15 a couple years ago. There were a couple years while I was training to ski Everest when I would ski it three times a week.”
“I discovered and fell in love with skiing long before I started to climb. As a kid, I grew up skiing in jeans in Minnesota. Yup … I know … but I lived for it, and I still do,” says Chin, who now splits his time between Jackson, Wyoming, and New York City. “Jackson is totally incredible for skiing. Between the tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Pass, and Grand Teton National Park, there is a lot of skiing to do—on piste, backcountry skiing, and ski mountaineering.”
“I was just stoked on life and to be up in the mountains with my friends,” recalls Chin of this moment. “It was a perfect day. We were all moving really well, comfortable with the terrain, and our timing was perfect. Conditions were great. I treasure and appreciate these kinds of moments more and more these days.”
Kayaking the Dudh Koshi, Nepal
Photograph by Ben Stookesberry
For veteran expedition kayaker Ben Stookesberry, an Adventurer of the Year who is known for running the world’s wildest whitewater, and up-and-coming Nepali kayaker Surjan Tamang (pictured), the original plan was to trek to Everest Base Camp and then check out the Dudh Kosi, a storied yet “tame” river fed from the meltwater of Everest’s infamous Khumbu Icefall and flowing among the giants of the Himalaya. Like all good adventures, things did not go according to plan. And the river was much more than they expected. “I can only describe it as Grand Canyon-size walls with giant Himalayan peaks stacked on top … you begin to feel pretty small on that river,” Stookesberry reflects.
Big-Wave Surfing at Teahupoo, French Polynesia
Photograph by Tim Mckenna
"The view I had right here was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life," says surfer Koa Rothman of this moment in Teahupoo, French Polynesia. The photo won the Billabong XXL Tube Award. "Watching the lip land next to you, feeling the wave bend back behind you, seeing the boats in the channel go over the wave—being in the middle of all that energy is unexplainable," says the Hawaiian surfer, who started riding waves at age two with his father on Oahu's North Shore.
Rothman wiped out on this wave. "When I fell, I was sliding on my back for what felt like forever. The water felt like concrete when I hit it. Then this giant lip was landing next to my head, and I thought I was going to die. But as soon as it finally sucked me over, it was like a huge giant picked me up and shook me as hard as he could for 40 seconds under water, then let me up.
Climbing in Yosemite, California
Photograph courtesy Jen Rapp
Adventurer Dean Potter and best friend, Whisper, a 22-pound mini cattle dog, climb Yosemite View with El Capitan and Half Dome in the distance. Taken on an evening in May 2013 by Potter's girlfriend, photographer Jen Rapp, the team climbed into position just as the sun was setting to capture the Yosemite Valley's last light washing over the inspiring views and landscape.
Potter and Whisper do many adventurers together, including climbing, biking, trail running, and even surfing. They also have a forthcoming film, When Dogs Fly, about their wing-suit flying adventures together.
Dean Potter BASE Jumps With His Dog
Snowboarding the West Fjords, Iceland
Photograph by Jason Hummel
"It was so amazing riding 3,000 feet of steep terrain all the way to the Atlantic Ocean," says snowboarder Kyle Miller of this line overlooking town of Flateyri and running right to the sea—with perfect snow conditions. "It was something I will never forget."
"We could just drive around, see a line that grabbed our interest, park at the bottom, climb, then ride back to the car," says the pro splitboarder from Seattle. "Then repeat three times a day seven days a week. There are not many places in the world that provide such easy access to amazing terrain."
Climbing Monserrat, Catalonia, Spain
Photograph by Sam Bié
Getting the Shot
“The fog adds another dimension—a mountain in the sky,” says photographer Sam Bié of getting this shot of climber José Agustí on La Joya de la Corona on Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain. “Montserrat is an iconic mountain that inspired many Spanish artists, including Gaudí—it’s a fantastic world. The main challenge is to observe and see the characteristics of the place.”
This route was actually Bié’s alternative plan. “The weather was too bad to go on a long and high route. And by chance, the fog came in at the right time and disappeared very quickly after,” he recalls. The swiftly moving fog became the biggest challenge of the shoot. “The fog was stable for one minute, and one second later the fog surrounded us. I crossed my fingers the sun didn’t appear because the fog would disappear very, very quickly.”
Surfing the Margaret River, Australia
Photograph by Kirstin Scholtz, ASP/Getty Images
Getting the Shot
Photographing in the late afternoon during Drug Aware Pro on Australia’s Margaret River, seven-year ASP World Tour vet Kristin Scholtz created this layered image of South African surfer Bianca Buitendag while battling the sun’s glare.
“While it yields great results with the backlight creating that beautiful green glow in the waves, it can pose challenges as the camera struggles to hold its focus,” says Scholtz, who shot from Surfer's Point. “Shooting from below the wave, rather than from above on the cliff, emphasizes the size of the wave and allows you to capture that beautiful backlight.”
One of the biggest challenges to shooting surfing on the Margaret River is the distance from the beach to the break—almost half a kilometer out to sea. To make up for the distance, Scholtz works with a long lens, including an extender for her 500mm lens.
Night Ice Climbing in the Cogne Valley, Western Alps, Italy
Photograph by Alexandre Buisse
"Climbing by night is an intimidating prospect: Will I find my protection and find the easiest line ... or make a bad decision due to the darkness?" says Canadian climber Jen Olson, seen ascending an icefall in the Cogne Valley of the Gran Paradiso region of the Italian Western Alps. Luckily, the route didn't have any unwelcome surprises. "I find that when I'm on snow or ice at night, the light is good enough to make good decisions. Everything else falls away, it's quiet and clear. Afterward, I tell myself, I should climb at night more often!"
Getting the Shot
“It is much more tricky for climbers to lead challenging ice by headlamp than daylight, so we all had to be careful to keep a big safety margin,” says adventure photographerAlexandre Buisse. The climb was assigned by Sports Illustrated, and Buisse knew the photo he wanted to capture. “I scouted this route a week prior and kept tabs on ice conditions and temperatures in the few days before the shoot,” he recalls.
Set up on a fixed line, Buisse was able to move up and down on pace with the climbers and shoot the various angles he had in mind. “This is the type of image I was really looking to shoot while planning. Everything else was bonus.”
Keeping the lighting simple, Buisse shot above the second pitch, below and to the side of the climbers. “I wanted to keep the lighting relatively simple, as logistics were very complicated, and it was impossible to reposition the flashes once I was up on the wall. For this particular image, I used a single studio strobe ten meters away from the base of the waterfall, equipped with a zoom reflector to focus the beam on the single area where the climber would be. I was careful to balance the power of the flash with the headlamps of the climbers,” says Buisse.
Backcountry Skiing Mount Superior, Wasatch, Utah
Photograph by Will Wissman
“A photographer's dream”—that’s how top ski photographer Will Wissman describes the day he made this picture with ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich. “I have skied Superior nearly a hundred times, and this day would be in the top three for snow conditions. It was deep, light, and stable.
“I contacted a few of my most trusted backcountry skiers for a Superior shoot, including Caroline. She is a seasoned pro with heavy avalanche safety credentials. I knew I could count on her to make the right decisions,” Wissman says, adding that this was of particular importance due to the treacherous conditions of the 2014 season.
As the two veterans worked their way down the mountain, a phenomenon revealed itself. “When it's cold with bluebird skies in the Wasatch, it’s a fairly typical phenomenon to see something I call the ‘sparkle effect.’ If you get the angle just right, you can capture it.” Shooting from the ridge of Superior, where he could capture the line Gleich choose, Wissman knew he had a dramatic angle.
“The sun was in the perfect location to make the ‘sparkles’ come to life," recalls Wissman. "The eastern flank of Superior was lit up while the base area of Snowbird was still shaded, giving the photo depth and contrast. I spent a total of 40 minutes navigating through deep snow and pepper rock in order to find my angle. As Caroline slid into my frame, I knew instantly we had nailed it.”
Surfing Peahi, North Shore, Maui, Hawaii
Photograph by Fred Pompermayer
"I try to surf every day," says local surfer Yuri Soledade, seen here on a 40-foot wave at Peahi, or Jaws, on Maui's North Shore. "This particular spot is where some of the biggest and most powerful waves in the world break. It's considered the proving grounds for big-wave surfing." The cliff at Pauwela Lighthouse and the West Maui Mountains rise in the distance.
Soledade has a lot of experience in big waves: He first surfed Peahi in 1999 and first paddled into the powerful break in 2004. "There is a lot of training and preparation before every season and session, but the goal is to push the limits but be safe at the same time," he says.
On this day, the weather was perfect. "Usually there is always wind and cloud cover," Soledade recalls. "But on this day we had no wind and not even one single cloud in the sky."
Climbing the Priest, Castle Valley, Utah
Photograph by Jeremiah Watt
Getting the Shot
“The Priest is an amazing formation in a stunning landscape,” says photographerJeremiah Watt, who took this photo of climber Madaleine Sorkin on the Excommunication route of the Priest, a freestanding tower in Castle Valley, Utah. Watt had climbed in the area previously and was psyched to return to photograph for work. “The most surprising part of the climb is how short the route really is. It’s technically rated one of the hardest towers in the country and is wicked imposing from the base. But in reality it’s only three pitches of hard climbing with a short, moderate pitch to the summit,” recalls Watt.
To get the shot, Watt tied himself into an anchor about 20 feet above Sorkin and rappelled off the top of the route where it leaves the arête and moves right into a crack. “We bivied on the ledge below Castleton that night in horrendous wind, but this shoot went really smooth thanks to the hard work and camaraderie of the crew.”
Bouldering on Oahu, Hawaii
Photograph by Ryan Moss
“We found this boulder after being tipped off by a local hiker,” recalls Justin Ridgely, owner of the Volcanic Climbing Gym in Honolulu, Hawaii. “It's a short scramble through the jungle up a pig trail. The boulder is about 14 feet tall, and the problem [the path that a climber takes] is called ‘All Boars Go to Heaven.’” This spot, which is known as Boarlomana, is canopied by a large banyan tree and surrounded by bamboo. “We shot this in the afternoon … the jungle is thicker there, which gives it that eerie light,” Ridgely says.
“I spend a lot of time climbing and exploring Oahu and the outer islands,” he says. “I've spent the past four years here developing the bouldering with the rest of the local climbing community. We've gone from two areas to about 44 in that time. The bouldering scene here is amazing, and the aloha spirit is very present in the climbing community.”
Skiing Jackson Hole's Sidecountry, Wyoming
Photograph by Jay Goodrich
“Once I popped the takeoff, I remember thinking ‘knuckles to buckles’ and then my mind went blank,” recalls local skier Hadley Hammer of this cliff most commonly called Smart Bastard in the Jackson Hole Ski Resort sidecountry. “Athletes always talk about the flow, or that moment when everything is still … and that was certainly one of those moments. The three seconds or so that I was in the air felt like three minutes.”
A trio of skiers, including Hammer, Jess McMillan, and Bryce Newcomb, was exploring the Tetons backcountry when they decided to scout the snowpack on this line. “The area above was littered with sharky rocks and sugary snow, which made it less conducive to skiing fluidly into the air.” Fortunately, the area had received nearly daily snowfall for a month. “I volunteered to go first,” Hammer recalls. “I went in with more speed than I needed and passed the ideal transition spot, but the snow was soft and the landing gentle."
Mixed Climbing a New Route in Helmcken Falls, British Columbia, Canada
Photograph by Christian Pondella, Red Bull Content Pool
“The waterfall is both the reason for the incredible spray ice and the main problem in that it sometimes sprays you,” recalls Will Gadd, the prolific climber, paraglider, and kayaker seen here who is always pushing the boundaries of his sports. Gadd is making the first ascent of Overhead Hazards, which he calls the hardest mixed climbing route in the world, located in the ice-climbing wonderland of Helmcken Falls, British Columbia. “I have never been as cold as I was on this climb,” says the Canadian, who lives in Canmore, Alberta. "It was just brutal."
Snowboarding in the Himalaya, Nepal
Photograph by Andrew Miller
Getting the Shot
"I think this is probably the highest and burliest spine line ever done on a snowboard," says photographer Andrew Miller. Miller had met snowboarder Jeremy Jones, one of our Adventurers of the Year, two weeks earlier while testing snowboards in Chile. Soon after, Miller heard from Jones. "I got a call from Jeremy asking if I had any interest in a trip to Nepal because a spot might open up. A few days later, he called back to see if I was still serious about going. And a few days after that, he called to tell me the spot was mine if I wanted it. I said 'yes.' "
During the 40-day expedition to try to ride two new lines above 20,000 feet in the Everest region of Nepal for his forthcoming film Higher, Jones's production crew mapped out and reconned several different options and angles on the glacier for shooting the wall, as well as the safest spots. "I setup two still cameras for two different options to make sure I nailed the shot and had photos to choose from—we knew this trip would be one, maybe two lines ridden total," recalls Miller. "I was shooting from a barbie angle, adjacent to the spine wall. We had to scramble up a rock face to the toe of the glacier, put our crampons on, and rope up for a three-hour walk across a broken glacier to set up our angle at 18,500 feet."
Kayaking Waterfalls in Chiapas, Mexico
Photograph by Alfredo Martinez, Red Bull Content Pool
"This drop is actually tricky, as the entrance is absolutely blind," recalls kayaker Rafael Ortiz of this moment on Bolom Ajau, a series of five drops accessed from Agua Azul, a tourist site in Chiapas, Mexico. "You gotta trust a sequence of waves and finally a last curling one that will put you in the right spot."
Ortiz dropped this 30-foot fall, then had a few seconds to figure out where he was before the next 50-foot drop. "It's of huge importance to be there with someone you trust 100 percent," Ortiz says, and in this case he was with his brother, Isidro, both from Mexico. "This is a special place to kayak because of the adventure it takes, the fact you are in the core of Zapatistan lands, the difficulty and character of the drops and, of course, the turquoise color of the water," Ortiz says.
Climbing Cliffbase, Hvar, Croatia
Photograph by Emily Polar
Getting the Shot
“I knew I had the photo when Kori Maughmer’s arm was out—it was the perfect spot in relation to the pitch of my camera and her position on the rock,” says photographer Emily Polar. Polar joined four friends traveling and climbing in Croatia.
With a local friend and guide, Polar scouted Cliffbase, a climbing center on the island of Hvar, before the climb. “I knew sunset was the best time to shoot this location, so I scouted and saw that the profile of this particular route would be the best to capture the shape of Kori’s body against the ocean, and in such a stunning environment,” recalls Polar. “When Kori was shaking her arm out, I knew it would define her body and give more energy to the photo, so I was really excited that she took a break for those couple of seconds.”
Skiing Mount Superior, Utah
Photograph by Jay Beyer
“It's always a challenge to wake up and climb in the dark, but the glow of sunrise makes it all worthwhile. These are the moments I live for,” says Utah-based, big-mountain skierCaroline Gleich of this moment on the south ridge of Mount Superior in the Wasatch Mountains. She and her climbing partner, Nate Smith, had bootpacked up the couloir to gain the ridge, then skied down Suicide Chute. “The snow inside the chute was surprisingly smooth, chalky, and carveable,” recalls Gleich, who is building up her ski mountaineering skills. “The wind tends to buff out the snow within the line, keeping it in good shape, while the rest of the south face of Superior was the texture of frozen coral reef.”
“I love the quiet stillness—it's one of the few times in the day I find true mindfulness,” says the skier, who has been seen ripping on the cover of every ski magazine, includingPowder. "Of course, I find the same Zen focus and mindfulness on the way down, but there's something special about the way up. It's slower and allows you to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, especially on an exposed ridge line like this one.”
Snowboarding Near Zermatt, Switzerland
Photograph by Tero Repo
Getting the Shot
“I really love moments when nothing is planned and then moments later you have captured something great,” says photographer Tero Repo. Repo has been photographing in Zermatt, Switzerland, frequently over the past few years, working with local guide and skier Samuel Anthamatten and pioneering snowboarder Xavier De Le Rue. “I think every time we shoot near Zermatt with Xavier and Samuel, we get good results,” Repo says.
"This was one of those lines that just happened without a reason. The boys thought that it was good idea to hit that couloir. A few minutes after, I was shooting it. The next step was to shoot from a heli,” where Repo captured this photograph.
“My first thought was, Really? But knowing Xavier, I was comfortable to watch him through my camera,” recalls Repo. The terrain was Repo’s biggest challenge, and he managed balancing the line’s exposure, which was variable due to seracs overhanging the couloir. “It is hard to fight against Mother Nature, and you know you will lose that battle if you are not careful.”
Ice Climbing Fearful Symmetry, Canadian Rockies, Alberta
Photograph by Forest Woodward
Getting the Shot
"When we arrived at the base of the pillar, there was another group with us who took one look and decided, 'No thanks, that's above our pay grade,' " recalls photographer Forest Woodward, who took this shot of ice climber Graham Zimmerman in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. "I actually wasn't aware of the ephemeral nature of the Fearful Symmetry route until we arrived in Canmore. Everyone spoke of it with a sort of reverence," says Woodward.
The group tackled a rough drive in Ghost Valley to make it to an area called Recital Hall, where this rare, icy rout
e had formed. “I understood immediately why the route commands such respect," Woodward recalls.
The team faced a tough climb in, and Woodward fought snow devils coating his gear in fine, frozen snowy dust. “The added challenge of managing gear in inhospitable elements is part of what makes ice climbing such a niche sport,” says Woodward.
Free Climbing the Totem Pole, Tasmania, Australia
Photograph by Simon Carter
Australian climbers Doug McConnell (leading) and Dean Rollins (belaying) are seen on the Totem Pole, a slender 215-foot-high dolerite column that has long fascinated rock climbers. Located at Cape Hauy on the Tasman Peninsula, it is tucked between the Candlestick, a 361-foot-high island (to the left) and the mainland.
“We initially went out because it was the 40th anniversary of the first ascent in 1968 by the legendary John Ewbank and thought it would be fun to repeat his aid route,” recalls Rollins. “It is an amazing piece of rock, and the climbing is of a high quality and quite committing in nature. No one had free climbed the Totem Pole by this route before—when we realized we could do it, despite our injuries, it gave us even more motivation.”
The pair spent 15 days working on the route over several months. Just getting to the spire involved a hilly, two-hour hike and nearly 200-foot rappel to the base of the spire. Once there, the Southern Ocean dished out some pretty challenging weather.
“One of the reasons it took us so long was that conditions were often not ideal. Some days were very, very windy. And on others the rock was damp and seeping, so we wouldn't make much progress,” recall Rollins. “And if the swell is up and you're close to the water level, every now and then a wave will smack you.”
Kayaking the Mekong River, Laos
Photograph by Ben Stookesberry
Getting the Shot
“The moment that I savor most in kayaking in extreme places is the one that is captured here. We're well beyond the point of no return, where the anticipation, excitement, and anxiety of the outcome meld into a singular focus and you become totally absorbed in the moment,” says kayaker and photographer Ben Stookesberry. Stookesberry, one of our previous Adventurers of the Year, was part of the expedition with Chris Korbulic (pictured) and Pedro Oliva to explore the Mekong River in Laos.
Stookesberry set up the framing for the photo and ran a one-second time-lapse while positioning himself at the base of the falls to support Korbulic in case anything went wrong. “Pedro and I followed Chris into this maelstrom soon after the camera captured this photo," he recalls. "Then the scariest hour of our 12 days on the Mekong began as we paddled eight kilometers to the nearest village of Hang Khon, Laos.”
The trio battled fishing lines strewn throughout the river that often harm native local wildlife. “The river here is infested with countless fishing lines and nets that could have easily ensnared and drowned us that night. Luckily, we made it through this gauntlet, but the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin has not been so lucky,” says Stookesberry.
Deepwater Soloing the Musandam Peninsula, Oman
Photograph by Jimmy Chin
Getting the Shot
“In some ways, shooting someplace new is great because you see everything fresh and with new eyes,” says photographer Jimmy Chin. Chin, on assignment for National Geographic magazine, photographed climbers Alex Honnold (pictured) and Hazel Findlayas they put up new deepwater soloing routes on the knife-edge seaside cliffs along the Musandam Peninsula, Oman. See the story, "Impossible Rock," in the January 2014 issue.
Chin had photographed Honnold climbing in Yosemite for a previous assignment forNational Geographic, but this story was on a much tighter time line. “I had a lot more time to shoot the Yosemite story, and I was also much more familiar with the area," Chin recalls. "I had less than three weeks to shoot the Oman story, which isn't a lot of time to shoot a feature story, especially when I'm going to a completely new and remote area. It's great to shoot a place you know well, but I also love the challenge of showing up to a place I've never been and diving straight in."
To get this photo of Honnold, Chin positioned himself on a ledge to the side of where Honnald was climbing. “I knew the light was amazing and that I better nail the shot. I wasn't sure if Alex was going to be able to get out to the same point again,” he says. “I had imagined a shot like this, but got really lucky to get the perfect light and cool body position. Alex contorted and strained every muscle in his body to keep himself on the route.”
Stand-up Paddleboarding Jaws, Hawaii
Photograph by Richard Hallman
Getting the Shot
“Things at Jaws happen so fast, I wasn't sure it was even Kai taking off on the wave until my Skidoo driver pointed and said, ‘Kai Lenny,’ ” recalls surf photographer Richard Hallman. “I focused my attention on the wave because I knew he was riding stand-up and even though the wave was small for Jaws, it was big for stand-up. He had a spectacular air drop.”
Lenny dropped into the wave, and Hallman continued to photograph the 20-foot ride until Lenny fell. “I knew right away with the few last frames in my camera that it was a particularly bad fall. My biggest concern at this point was his safety.”
Rescue Jet Skis rushed to help when Lenny resurfaced, and Hallman noticed Lenny’s foot was bleeding. “I immediately took a photo with my 70-200mm zoom camera—the zoom allowed me to see the severity of the cut. My experience as a former trauma nurse told me that this was a particularly bad cut,” he says.
Climbing Superfortress, Near Vail, Colorado
Photograph by Celin Serbo
"I was completely engaged in the climbing, not thinking, not doing, just being," says climber Will Mayo of his second ascent of Superfortress, a very difficult mixed ice and rock climbing route near Vail, Colorado. "Yet when the partially formed icicle of the Fang collapsed beneath my feet, the whoosh of air and the corresponding cacophony of about ten tons of icicle shattering a hundred feet below instantly snapped my mind back to the situation beyond the climb." Worried about the people below, Mayo recalls yelling, "Are you OK?" There was no immediate response so he yelled again. "My girlfriend yelled up that she and everyone else were okay. I realized afterward that because the amphitheater overhangs by about 50 feet, the ice had fallen well out and downhill from where they all were belaying and watching.
"One of the other routes I have established in Vail I named as a tribute to my late Great-Uncle Tom, who was a copilot of a Flying Fortress, the nickname for the B-17, with the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. He was shot down in occupied France and survived," says Mayo. "The double entendre is that the amphitheater seems fortress-like and the widely spaced bolts provide opportunity for flying-like falls. Superfortress, which is the nickname for the B-29, seemed like a logical next route as it crossed my first route. I named it before the Fang collapsed, yet it seems very appropriate considering that the amount of ice that fell like a bomb likely weighed about as much as the plane's bomb load capacity."
Snowboarding the Pemberton Ice Cap, British Columbia
Photograph by Mark Gribbon
“Being in the backcountry is where I belong and am the most happy,” says snowboarderJoel Loverin, seen here on the Pemberton Ice Cap in British Columbia, Canada, during a three-day backcountry camping and riding excursion.
“Compared to the other lines I rode on the trip, this one was a lot more relaxed, but the end result for the photograph came out a lot better than the others,” recalls Loverin, who is based in Whistler. “I’m drawn to the freedom and isolation of being way out in the mountains and being submersed in terrain that is always changing. I love the adventure and endless exploration possibilities and the quiet serenity of it all.”
Climbing Hallucinogen Wall, Black Canyon, Colorado
Photograph by John Dickey
Getting the Shot
“I had never even seen the Black Canyon before this climb. Turns out the Black is infamous for a reason,” says photographer John Dickey, who joined climber Josh Wharton on Hallucinogen Wall in Colorado's Black Canyon. “I've been shooting on big walls for over a decade and when I first stepped over the edge, it took me a minute to get my head right before continuing.
“I knew the Black had some pretty difficult lighting, so I went prepared with gradient filters and a strobe. Once I rappelled in and saw the lighting situation, I put away the filters and milked the contrast for all I could. I toyed with balancing the light using filters and in the end stuck with the high contrast,” he recalls.
In order to get the shots he wanted of Wharton, Dickey started climbing at 4 a.m. His goal was to get a head start on Wharton and then begin the long rappel at around 6:45 a.m. to intersect on the wall a few hundred feet off the ground. Dickey had his lighting and climbing thoroughly planned, but serious routes can give pause even to the most prepared. “The biggest challenge of the day was at the start—those first minutes stepping over the edge of the wall. Whenever I get intimidated like that I focus on the task at hand: Check the harness, make sure the carabiner on my belay device is locked, double check camera batteries, and move on.”
Mountain Biking Book Cliffs Near Green River, Utah
Photograph by Jay Beyer
"I was grinning ear to ear from the amount of fun I was having and just starting to plan where I would need to get on the brakes before hitting the steep trench left by runoff at the bottom of this line," recalls pro skier Carston Oliver of this moment at sunset in Book Cliffs, Utah, an increasingly popular mountain biking destination.
"The terrain at Book Cliffs is very complex, with lots of folds, spines, and rolls to explore and play on. This area has the full spectrum of riding options, from supermellow to outright death-defying and everything in between," says Oliver, who left Salt Lake City at 4 a.m. to drive three hours with photographer Jay Beyer to Green River. They took a dirt road to Book Cliffs, where they earned each descent by either pedaling or hiking up with the bikes on their backs. "In essence, it looks and feels like backcountry skiing, but without the risk of avalanches."
Ice Climbing in Hyalite Canyon, Montana
Photograph by Jason Thompson
“Winter Dance does not form every year, and it's extremely difficult. For those reasons it's seen very few ascents,” says climber Whit Magro, seen here on the third pitch of the challenging route in the main fork of Hyalite Canyon, a classic ice-climbing destination outside of Bozeman. “I had just after passed through the scariest part of the route and was happy to see a good rest spot approaching ahead.”
“This volcanic rock may look beautiful, but it's terrible, unconsolidated, loose, and scary to climb on,” says Magro, who lives in Bozeman and has been ice climbing for 15 years. “It’s one of the reasons why this route is so demanding.”
“Ice climbing is one of the most wild mediums of climbing that can be done,” says Magro. “It has a high level of adventure due to its unpredictability and it's dynamic nature.”
Getting the Shot
Recently, photographer Jason Thompson and climbers Magro and Adam Knoff set out to link two difficult routes together—Winter Dance and the Big Sleep—in Hyalite Canyon. “This day was meant to figure out how to get from the top of either climb to the top of the next climb, which involves a lot of terrain to cover,” says Thompson.
“Whit and Adam were moving really quickly and efficiently on the first climb of the day, Winter Dance. Spirits were high and the decision to give the link-up a go was made,” recalls Thompson.
Thompson shot from a ridge running parallel to Winter Dance. “Whit's climbing is very smooth and fluid. It’s great to watch through my lens,” says Thompson. “Reaching the top of Winter Dance and still having the stoke to continue the journey along the ridge over to the Big Sleep was inspiring. It was a great day in the mountains.”
Winter Surfing in Cook Inlet, Alaska
Photograph by Scott Dickerson
"I would say that surfing up here is not very popular," says Homer, Alaska, local Gart Curtis, seen here rushing back to the truck, with his friend Mike in the distance, after a winter surf session 30 minutes outside of town. "The conditions are fickle. Weeks can go by without waves. It's rare that the number of guys in the water exceeds single digits—and we know each other."
Curtis and his friends were navigating large, broken up pieces of ice formed by packed snow on the shore that gets soaked, refrozen, and then broken by the waves and tide. "They are a bit tricky, but it is faster to go along on top of them than to slog and weave through the heavy snow in between," Curtis recalls.
Gearing up to surf in Alaska's biting cold is critical. "You can still feel the cold through the wetsuit, but luckily it's warmer in the water than on the beach. I'm wearing a 6/5/4 wetsuit, with 7mm booties and mitts. I'm also wearing a thermal rashguard and neoprene trunks," Curtis says. "Some guys use battery-powered, heated tops, but I don't have one. And a couple of the guys I surf with put vaseline on their faces to block the wind on the really cold windy days … I might try that sometime."
"Hunting for breaks is a big part of the fun," Curtis says. "Even finding a new sand bar a few hundred yards from a known spot, or a spot suddenly working at a different tide than what worked last season—that's a thrill."
Getting the Shot
“It was just above zero degrees, windy, snowing, and pretty dark outside,” says photographer and surfer Scott Dickerson. “There was no practical way that I could have photographed from the water given the conditions. The current was going much faster than I could swim, and there were large chunks of ice floating through the surf that would have been even more dangerous to me, considering my lack of mobility swimming with the camera.”
The surfers drove along the Alaskan coast, looking for waves that could be surfed at Cook Inlet. While watching his friends attempt to surf, Dickerson fought the extreme weather on the beach. “The beach was a sloped sheet of ice that made it incredibly difficult to get out of the water because it required you to scramble uphill over wet ice between the surging waves,” recalls Dickerson. “I had to be careful to keep the camera lens protected, while also having to run through thigh-deep snow to keep up with Mike and Gart as they drifted down the beach in the strong current.”
Ice Climbing in Zirknitzgrotte, Austria
Photograph by Martin Lugger
Getting the Shot
“At the time it was very questionable to climb this ice rock because of the danger that it would break and crash—along with the climber,” says photographer and climber Martin Lugger. After climber Peter Ortner (pictured) told Lugger about the location in Zirknitzgrotte, Austria, the two went to scout and climb. Lugger immediately knew he wanted to light the scene with strobes. “When we came there, I knew I wanted make some shots with flashes. Although it's dangerous because of falling ice, the area is very nice for lighting.”
Lugger set up the photo he wanted to capture. “I have no standard lighting because every scene needs to be adjusted differently,” he says. “I imagined this frame when I planned my setup and lights. I had three main angles in mind and two of them worked out for me."
For this shot, Lugger lit the scene with a Hensel Studio strobe and blue gel. He also used another strobe to brighten the climber. “The biggest challenge during the shoot was to not get hit by falling ice, and not to slip on the ice with my Hasselblad in my hands.”
Lugger photographed with a Hasselblad H3DII-50, 80mm lens, and Hensel Studio strobes.
Kayaking the Rio Santo Domingo, Chiapas, Mexico
Photograph by Marcos Ferro, Red Bull Content Pool
"This is a shot of the last drop off in the big canyon of the Rio Santo Domingo," recalls kayaker Rafael Ortiz of this moment on the steepest known kayakable whitewater sequence in the world, found in Chiapas, Mexico. "I was feeling totally stoked and high-energy when dropping the last 50 feet." This section of the river, which carves a path near the Guatemala border, tumbles over the rocks at an average slope of 1,900 feet per mile.
Ortiz, Rush Sturges, and Evan Garcia ran the full sequence of falls—dropping 80 feet, 80 feet, 20 feet, 70 feet, 20 feet, and then these last 50 feet—which had been a longtime goal for Ortiz. "Just for Angel Wings, the first and most savage drop, you have to count 100 percent on your team if anything goes wrong."
"I've been to this river every year since kayaker Ben Stookesberry showed it to me six years ago," recalls Ortiz. "And I've always dreamed about doing every single one of the drops in one day. It's the ultimate thrill. You can paddle every single one of the drops in less than three minutes—it's insane!"
Skiing at Dusk at Brighton, Utah
Photograph by Scott Markewitz
"I was just enjoying the hang time," recalls skier Dash Longe of this moment launching off a 45-foot cliff at dusk in Brighton Ski Resort, Utah. This was the first time Longe had skied off this particular cliff, but he had hucked others in the area. Brighton has a wide variety of cliff bands that are easy to access and see relatively low traffic compared with most ski resorts. Fresh, cold Utah powder would make his landing soft—if only he could see it.
"I couldn't see the landing, but it was not too worrisome actually—I was able to visualize the whole thing and was quite confident I could make it," says Longe, who lives in Salt Lake City and has been skiing for 26 years.
Getting the Shot
Photographer Scott Markewitz headed to Brighton with the intention of capturing this exact shot. “I was looking for a big cliff to shoot at dusk, and this one at Brighton is great to shoot and easily accessible.”
To get his shot, Markewitz trekked up and down from the cliff multiple times to calibrate his photo and get the frame just right. “The biggest technical challenge was setting up the strobes and calibrating everything before it got too dark to get the evening sky,” he says. With one strobe positioned at the top of the cliff and another stand holding two strobes at the base of the jump, the photographer was ready. “We got this shot in one take,” Markewitz recalls.
“It was pretty ballsy for Dash to jump off a cliff that big when he could barely see the landing and then get blasted with the strobes, which basically blinded him before he landed,” the photographer adds.
Markewitz photographed with a Nikon D3, a 17-35mm lens, two Broncolor Mobil2 power packs set up with three heads on stands, and “pocket Wizard radio transmitters to fire everything.”
Climbing in Kootenay National Park, Canada
Photograph by Paul Bride
“They are magical and lovely,” says ice climber Jen Olson of the ice stalactites and stalagmites seen here in Caveman cave located a half-hour hike from Upper Haffner Creek in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. “It’s so fun to take pictures of them, as well as the gigantic hoar frost on the roof of the cave.”
Olson is seen during a difficult section on a route called Neolithic. “This is a big move, and when you release the lower tool, your body responds by swinging past horizontal to compensate. Controlling the swing is the crux of the route,” says Olson, who lives in Canmore, Alberta, and works as a mountain guide and climbs competitively. “On this route, you have all your weight on your arms for long periods of time, so the clock is ticking. You need to keep moving to keep holding on.”
Getting the Shot
“Jen had already been out to Haffner earlier in the year and mentioned that the ice stalagmites were really big—maybe too big. I had to see for myself,” recalls photographerPaul Bride. When Bride arrived at the cave he found himself battling harsh shadows, wet conditions, and fluctuating temperatures. “The difference in temperature within the mouth of the cave and ten feet outside was incredible. My camera kept fogging up and I was getting soaked from the dripping water.”
As Bride explored the cave to find the images he wanted to shoot, he saw this frame. “Looking back, I remember thinking how cool the composition looked through my viewfinder. I felt like it could be a special image.”
When sun began to burn off the morning clouds, Bride knew he needed to get his shot before shadows overtook the scene. “By hiding the forest behind the stalagmites, taking a reading from the natural light on the wall behind Jen, and a second reading from the ice stalagmites, I was able to create a balanced look throughout the image.”
Surfing Namotu Island, Fiji
Photograph by Stuart Gibson, Red Bull Illume
"I hope I get under this," was the thought going through surfer Sean Woolnough's mind as he rose on this wave, named Love Shacks, off Namotu Island, Fiji. Woolnough had just paddled out for the first wave, missed it, and turned around to face the one in the picture. "I got sucked over the falls and rag-dolled over the reef," the Australian says.
Woolnough was not fazed by his precarious position. "I saw that the wave was quite large, but all was good because I had been in that position many times before," says the Sydney local who has been surfing for 30 years. "I surfed the rest of the day getting some bombs and some more floggings."
Getting the Shot
“Nothing out of the ordinary, other than driving a Jet-Ski with $5,000 worth of camera equipment not in a water housing into huge waves,” says photographer Stuart Gibson of taking this shot. On this “average day,” Gibson captured a photo of Woolnough floating atop a massive wave that has earned Gibson a spot in the prestigious Red Bull Illume Photo Contest’s Top 50 finalists list.
After watching this break with Woolnough for years, the duo got the glassy-wave day they were looking for. “I shot about 10 or 15 photos of this wave. I was kind of worried for Sean, but I knew he's good in big waves. I was more focused on taking a cool photo of a wave that we have chased for so long.”
Climbing El Chorro Gorge, Spain
Photograph by Forest Woodward
"It was very cold and windy and damp, but we were in a really memorable location," recalls climber Blake Herrington (in green) seen here with Scott Bennett at 150 feet above the water in the El Chorro Gorge, Spain. The 400-foot, fully-bolted sport-climbing route is on the limestone Africa Wall.
On their six-week trip to Spain, Herrington's closest calls came not on rock walls, but while driving. "We had some driving adventures on narrow streets in the big cities—and in Basque country, where all the road signs are written in the Basque language," says Herrington, who lives in Leavenworth, Washington.
Getting the Shot
“I had been eyeing this part of the gorge for the better part of two weeks," recalls photographer Forest Woodward. “To get this shot, however, I had a very specific vision for the frame I wanted, so I positioned myself accordingly and stayed there for the duration of the climb.”
“For me this was one of those moments that you hope for as a photographer,” says Woodward. Fortunately, he had the opportunity to get the shot he’d been planning for. “I watched as Blake and Scott became specks, framed by the steep converging lines of the gorge and the river below. Working in unison their smallness echoed my own feelings of awe for the majesty of the gorge, and in the moment I snapped the shot it felt right.”
Woodward photographed with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a 16-35mm, f/2.8 lens.
Surfing Monument Beach, Australia
Photograph by Andrew Shield
“This moment was pure joy,” says surfer Dion Atkinson of getting in the barrel of the popular Monument wave break located along the Great Australian Bight in South Australia. “This wave is a very dangerous, heaving barrel very close to the cliff and on an extremely shallow reef. I was extremely focused at coming out of the other end!” This unique wave should only be surfed by expert surfers. “I have spent a lot of time here, and it is not for the faint-hearted when the wave starts to get some size,” say Atkinson, whose main goal is to qualify for the ASP World Tour.
"There almost isn't a day that goes by over here when you don't get to share a few waves with a seal or a pod of dolphins,” says the 19-year-old Aussie who lives in Adelaide and has been surfing for a decade. “I love it when they are around—especially when the dolphins surf the waves with you and jump all around you.”
And, in Australia, marine life is followed by its apex predator—sharks. “The region is known for sharks, and there have been a few fatal attacks in the area in the past 10 to 15 years. But I always tell myself I have more to worry about on the drive over than a shark in the water bothering me,” says Atkinson.
Getting the Shot
“In South Australia the thought of sharks is nearly always present,” says photographerAndrew Shield. “This coastline is famous because of the great white shark documentaries filmed here. This day the swell was as big as the wave can handle and was beyond the skill of average surfers, but these are the conditions that pro surfers, like Dion, crave."
To get a photo that captured the wave, surfer, and coastline, Shield went wide. “I chose to shoot this session with a 10.5mm fish-eye lens to try to get inside the barrel with Dion and also to include all of the rock formation,” he says.
“I was feeling good and fairly confident of having shot some decent images when a huge seal popped up next to me. After getting over my initial shock, I felt relief that the huge grey shape was not a shark! This was short lived, as the seal started swimming at me and barking at me!” recalls a surprised Shield.
Kayaking the Stikine, British Columbia, Canada
Photograph by Barny Young
“I was glad I made it through without getting beat down by this monster,” says kayakerGerd Serrasolses on paddling these rapids, known as the Hole That Ate Chicago, in the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River in British Columbia, Canada. Serrasolses did a total of four runs down the canyon and claimed the second descent of the Site Zed rapids, becoming the second person to run all the rapids on the legendary river. “The Stikine is considered the Everest of kayaking and is one of the best big-water runs in the world,” says Serrasolses. “It offers a three-day trip down one of the most beautiful canyons you can imagine, through wild and untouched nature, with the best rapids you can think of. It's a paradise.
“Most important of all though, I had a great time with all my friends and discovered one of my favorite runs of all time!” Serrasolses was joined by other members of the Adidas SickLine Team.
Getting the Shot
“I knew that if Gerd swam, he wouldn't be able to get out before V Drive, another of the crux rapids on the Stikine, and only a hundred meters downstream,” recalls professional kayaker and photographer Barny Young. Shooting from a small rocky outcrop along the river, Young was able to get close to the rapids and paddler thanks to a keen understanding of how kayakers navigate rivers such as this. “I anticipated having Gerd in the foreground of the photo punching this huge hydraulic at its weakest point. Instead, he was thrown off-line by a large lateral upstream and dropped into the meat of the hole, backwards,” says Young.
“From a photographic perspective, this frame is great, as the size of Gerd in comparison to the hole gives justice to how big it actually is," says Young. Towering rock walls line the Stikine, drowning out most sunlight before it reaches the canyon’s rushing river. “Often, the lack of sun can be an issue due to the sheer-walled nature of the river. Normally in this situation I would lower my shutter speed to let in more light. On the Stikine, however, the river and subject are moving so fast that this could lead to motion blur, so I find myself lifting my ISO to account for this,” he says.
Young photographed with a Canon 550D and 18-55mm lens.
Heli-Skiing near Seward, Alaska
Photograph by Grant Gunderson
“Alaska is the best spot, hands down, to ski steep, in a lot of snow,” says French skierRichard Permin, seen here doing a powder turn as he came off a 50-foot cliff he’d just jumped. The Gulf of Alaska is in the distance. “But we struggle with the weather. Sometimes we camp in Alaska for three weeks with only one day on skis—or sometimes none.”
“I skied five different lines,” recalls Permin of this day near Seward, Alaska, with skiersCody Townsend and Markus Eider. “It was the most productive day of the trip. We starting skiing at sunrise, and we were done at sunset.” The trip was so productive, in fact, that both Permin and Townsend got injured (see more details below).
Scenes from this trip will appear in a Matchstick Productions film called Days of My Youthcoming out in fall 2014.
Getting the Shot
“I really wanted to capture something that showed the amazing location and gave the viewer a sense of place, rather than focus strictly on the ski action,” says award-winning photographer Grant Gunderson of this shot. “For this shot, we decided to post-up on a knife-edge ridge, where we would have our best chance to capture some great ski action with the amazing backdrop that Seward provided."
Though the landscape is alluringly beautiful, the skiers were fighting injuries and tough conditions. “The biggest challenge we had shooting in Alaska was athletes getting hurt. Early this day Cody Townsend injured his knee, ending his trip and season. The next day Richard was caught in an avalanche—pretty damn terrifying too—which ended his trip and season. The conditions where absolutely perfect for the skiers to really push the limits this year, but anytime they are pushing it that far there is always a risk of injury,” says Gunderson.
Climbing the San Rafael Swell, Utah
Photograph by Louis Arevalo
"It's a great challenge to try a climb that not only you haven't done but that hasn't been done by anyone," says Salt Lake City local Mike Friedrichs, seen here making the first ascent of Blood on the Tracks on the Dylan Wall in the crowd-free northern San Rafael Swell, Utah. "It provides an opportunity to use one's experience in route finding, gear, patience, resting—all the things that years of experience help." Friedrichs is seen at the crux of the climb, about 60 feet above the ground with 20 feet to go.
"I called the wall the Dylan Wall, and this may be the jewel of the entire crag," says Friedrichs, a chronic disease epidemiologist and frequent climber in the San Rafael Swell. "And the route is named after the title of one of the best, if not the best, Bob Dylan album. The route is also a west-facing corner that catches the alpenglow in the evening and turns brilliantly red."
Getting the Shot
“Last November I spent a couple of weekends at the Swell, with the intention of making photographs that would capture the feel of the place,” says photographer Louis Arevalo. Arevalo met Friedrichs the morning of the shoot. “My only plan for that day was to shoot late, when the light would be better.”
To get his shot and capture Friedrichs climbing in the stunning desert landscape, Arevalo climbed and photographed along a fixed route, about a hundred feet to the left of Blood on the Tracks. Arevalo’s late-day planning came together for this photo. “When the light really began to pop Mike actually volunteered to climb Blood on the Tracks without being asked. I was super lucky.”
Backcountry Skiing Mount Hood, Oregon
Photograph by Richard Hallman
"It felt like I was flying," recalls skier Tommy Ellingson, seen here launching off a jump at 8,000 feet on the White River Glacier on Oregon's Mount Hood. "The jump had a little pop on it so we went up before we started to fall so that we could match up with the landing. There was a weightless feeling, for sure."
Ellingson and skier Josh Larkin hiked up to this feature from the Timberline Ski Area boundary line, about a 45-minute trek. "I definitely appreciated my friend Josh for hitting the jump first, which took off a lot of pressure and allowed me to really take everything in." Each time a skier hit the jump, he would have to hike back up, which took 30 minutes each time.
"Immediately after the moment the photo was taken, I aired into the transition, where I landed and prepared for a small bump then a superfast traverse to slow down through sun-cupped dirty snow, but looking into a beautiful sunset," recalls Ellingson, who has lived in the Hood River area for 13 years. "The speed for the jump got faster and faster, which was kind of scary because I didn't want to overshoot the landing."
Paragliding the Big Lost Range, Idaho
Photograph by Jody MacDonald
"There were insane vistas for 7.5 hours," recalls paraglider pilot Gavin McClurg of this record-setting flight over Idaho's imposing Big Lost Range. "Imagine flying over some of the largest terrain in the American West—at between 9,000 and 18,000 feet—underneath a piece of highly engineered plastic and some impossibly skinny lines. It was surreal."
McClurg flew from Sun Valley, Idaho, for 240 miles, breaking the previous North American Foot Launch record of 204 miles. "The conditions that day were the strongest I'd ever flown in," says McClurg, who lives in Sun Valley and has been been paragliding in Africa, the Himalaya, Europe, and over the Pacific. "When I was low, it was frightening, extremely stressful, and, of course, dangerous; but when I was high, it felt like the world was in my hands."
"Sun Valley is one of the best spots in the world for paragliding because of the huge mountain ranges, a vast desert to the south, very strong thermals, and long summer days," says McClurg. "We have only just touched the surface. Much larger flights will be done from here in the years ahead, I am sure."
Ski Touring the Ruth Gorge, Denali National Park, Alaska
Photograph by Garrett Grove
“The slope below us had some avalanche potential, so we had regrouped to assess it,” recalls ski mountaineer Andrew McLean, seen here with Noah Howell and Mark Holbrook on a final descent back to camp after a long ski tour in the Ruth Gorge area of Denali National Park. “I ended up going first but did so very cautiously by ski-cutting the slope and trying to get it to slide. There was some surface sluff but not much else."
“The Ruth Gorge is an incredibly scenic place with tons of climbing history and iconic peaks—Moose’s Tooth, Bear’s Tooth, Dickey, Huntington, and more—all packed into one tight area. It is also very easy to get to," says McLean when recalling the ten-day exploratory trip. "In terms of ski mountaineering, it is kind of all or nothing—either flat or vertical, which makes it a tough place to ski. Still, in the right conditions, there are some amazing lines in that area.” McLean moved to Park City, Utah, 25 years ago. He has made steep, remote first ski descents on all seven continents.
Getting the Shot
“It was cold, definitely the most sustained cold I have ever dealt with,“ says photographerGarrett Grove. Throughout the trip the temperature hovered below zero, reaching minus 25°F at night.
Night Surfing at Keramas, Bali, Indonesia
Photograph by Russ Hennings
“It was quite weird surfing with the lights blaring in my eyes,” says Australian surfer Adam Melling, seen here night surfing during a non-competitive expression session at the Keramas wave break off Bali. “All you can see is what’s on the top of the water. It’s hard to tell where the reef is shallow.”
The Oakley Pro Bali was held here June 18 to 29, 2013, because it is a great wave for high-performance surfing, allowing for aerial moves, big turns, and getting barreled. But surfing the break in darkness is a different challenge. “It was hard to see the waves coming—they just pop up in front of you, then you got to swing and go. If you look into the lights you go blind until your eyes adjust again.”
The stadium-style lights illuminating the scene attracted an unexpected surfing spectator—bats. “There where a bunch of bats flying around the lights,” recalls Melling. “I don’t want to know if anything else was drawn to the lights in the water bellow.”
Windsurfing on the Pistol River, Oregon
Photograph by Michael Clark, Red Bull Content Pool
"I remember being really cold, but I wanted to get a few more moments in with the helicopter before the sun set," says windsurfer Levi Siver, who was shooting for the upcoming film WindBoost. "I felt very blessed sailing late into the sunset having that beautiful canvas behind me."
Located a six-hour drive from Portland, this coastal spot is always windy and picks up swell from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. "It's a pretty remote place, but windsurfers from around the world have been coming here for decades," Siver says.
"Using the wind as your energy, you end up riding five times as many waves as you would surfing," notes Siver, who lives in Maui. "It used to bother me that mainstream America is so out of touch with how progressive the level of windsurfing is now. But popularity means more crowds, which equals less fun."
Climbing New Routes Along the Green River, Utah
Photograph by Celin Serbo
“Just being in a remote place with good friends and learning something new was an unforgettable experience,” says climber Daniel Woods, seen here on an unknown route in Labyrinth Canyon along Utah's Green River. “My goal on this trip was to learn how to trad climb and go into the unknown,” says Woods, whose background is in bouldering, sport, and competition climbing. “The feeling of being a beginner again was humbling, but I had some of the best to teach me—Matt Segal, Alex Honnold, John Dickey, and Renan Ozturk—and they did just that.”
With learning to climb comes learning to fall. “The best part of the trip for me was falling on double 00 TCUs [protective gear placed in the rock] for the first time," recalls Woods, who lives in Boulder, Colorado. "As I was falling, I placed my hands over my head in mid-air, just waiting for the gear to rip and for me to hit the ground. Luckily, the pieces held and I survived.”
Climbing in the Verdon Gorge, France
Photograph by Keith Ladzinski
"This particular area is accessed via kayak because of the immense canyon walls—it's the only way in. It’s a pretty special approach," says climber Jonathan Siegrist, seen here about 225 feet above the Verdon River in France’s Verdon Gorge. The canyon, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, is not far from the French Riviera and is popular with tourists—and rock climbers.
"This is an amazing route in a very unique cave hidden low in the gorge,” says Siegrist. “The route begins with some very overhanging and gymnastic climbing through mostly good holds, then it pulls the roof and finishes on this immaculate headwall of blue limestone." Siegrist, who lives out of his van parked mostly in Colorado, has been climbing for the last nine years. "This was the first hard route I have climbed in Europe on my first European climbing trip," recalls Siegrist. "Hopefully I’ll be back when the water is warm enough to jump in!"
Climbing Sea Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine
Photograph by Tim Kemple
"Come on arms, do your stuff!" was the thought running through climber Hazel Findlay's mind as she climbed this hundred-foot route after a long day on the weathered sea cliffs of Maine. Findlay started climbing on some boulders just above the water; climber Alex Honnold is seen below her. The trip was a stopover after a North Face team expedition to climb sea cliffs in Newfoundland.
"The sea cliffs in Maine were quite small—a hundred feet. The wall in Newfoundland was probably 1,500 feet," says Findlay. "But the cliffs in Maine are right above the water, so that makes it feel very dramatic and intense.
"I actually learned how to climb on the sea cliffs of my own country, so it was really cool to visit some other sea cliffs on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean," says the British climber who now lives out of cars and suitcases. "Often trips aren't about how good the climbing is, but the adventures you end up having getting there."
Snowboarding in Laax, Switzerland
Photograph by Lorenz Richard, Red Bull Content Pool
Getting the Shot
"This was the first camp for me—it was actually the first of its type in Europe, so I was quite happy to hang out with such young, talented riders," says photographer Lorenz Richard, who took this shot of Dutch snowboarder Dimi Dejong at the Red Bull Junior Snow Performance Camp in Laax, Switzerland. "The goal was to tell the whole story of the event with action, lifestyle, and portrait images. It was more of a reportage, which I really like."
"A big challenge was the weather. It changed from sunny with blue skies to cloudy and over-shiny conditions within minutes. Everybody was motivated to get shots," recalls Richard. In a controlled event environment it can be difficult to capture unique photographs. "I had two approaches. First, the pipe in Laax is quite known for images with the round restaurant in the background, so I wanted to avoid that angle; The second approach was more graphic. While shooting, I was trying to get the images as clean and organized as possible. I think when you are spontaneous you get the best shots."
Rock and Ice Climbing in Santaquin Canyon, Utah
Photogrpah by Jeremiah Watt
“At this moment I was thinking how radical it was going to be to swing out onto that dagger of ice,” recalls climber Scott Adamson, seen here on a new route called the Angel of Fear in Utah’s Santaquin Canyon. “The moves going out to the dagger are not all that difficult physically, but you should still be heads up so you don’t skate off,” notes Adamson, a 15-year ice-climbing veteran. “After I weaseled in some good rock protection the climbing seemed mellow.”
This is a mixed-climbing route. First the climber ascends a steep rock roof, then he or she committs to this ice traverse. “I strive to find routes that have big ice daggers and to climb naturally with gear. This route has natural gear placements for cams, nuts, etc.,” says Adamson, who lives at the base of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains and works as a climbing and canyoneering guide in Zion National Park in the summer.
Surfing the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Photograph by Matt Kurvin
"This wave was the best ride of my life so far," says Tiago Gil, seen here at sunset on Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore. "I remember paddling into it—I was frightened. I got to the bottom of the wave and looked up and saw the meanest wall of water I've ever seen. Being inside the barrel was so loud, then it turned quiet. It gets so peaceful a split second before it turns into a life-or-death situation." The Sunset Beach, Hawaii-based surfer is a true adventurer who rides waves for the love of it, not for sponsors. "Then I popped up and had never been happier."
Climbing Wings of Desire, Penticton, British Columbia
Photograph by Ryan Creary
Getting the Shot
"It's very classic and aesthetic," says photographer Ryan Creary of this route, Wings of Desire, climbed by Canmore, Alberta-based guide Marco Delesalle in the Skaha Bluff near Penticton, British Columbia. "It’s one of the lines that stands out right away when you approach the wall.”
The overcast day was perfect for lighting the scene Creary had in mind. “I wanted to try and get a different angle than other routes I had shot from above in this area,” he recalls. After a quick scramble to a boulder perched on a talus slope below the wall, Creary was perfectly aligned to frame Delesalle and the graphic rock.
“I really wanted to showcase the color of the rock," says Creary. "It really stands out, and it’s a very obvious line from that angle. Since it was a bright overcast day with few shadows to deal with, the colors popped very nicely."
Tour Down Under Cycling Race, Australia
Photograph by Gregg Bleakney
Getting the Shot
“The temperature outside was over 100 degrees and the cockpit started to heat up like a sauna,” recalls photographer Gregg Bleakney, who shot this image from a helicopter above the 2012 Tour Down Under in South Australia. “All I could think about was how the cyclists were going to manage the swelter—most had just hopped off a plane from mid-winter in Europe.” Bleakney went to the road race to capture a specific photograph he had in mind. “My goal was to find the cyclists over an interesting geographical feature and to let that feature dominate the frame." To reach those features, at the right time, he cross-referenced the helicopter takeoff duration, flight speed, the actual start time of the race, and the estimated average speed of the peloton. “The timing needed to be perfect and a bit lucky," says Bleakney. "The helicopter was only allowed two or three turns over the peloton at each intercept point.”
A delayed takeoff quickly changed Bleakney’s detailed plans to get the shot. "I knew that by the time the cyclists rolled past the feature that I'd be too far aloft to make the frame I wanted with my zoom lens," says Bleakney of getting this shot above crops along the border of the Barossa and Clare Valleys in Australia's iconic wine country. So he quickly swapped from his full-frame camera body to his backup camera, which had a sensor that pushes the zoom from 200mm to 300mm. "I simply crossed my fingers and hoped for a little serendipitous karmic love—and that led to this picture.”
To cover the race, Bleakney photographed with a Nikon D700 and Nikon D7000 camera bodies, along with two Nikon lenses, a 24-70mm, f/2.8 and 70-200mm, f/2.8.
Kayaking Over Tomata 1 Near Tlapacoyan, Mexico
Photograph by Tim Kemple
“This is the critical moment when everything goes right or everything goes wrong,” says extreme kayaker Tyler Bradt, seen going over 65-foot Tomata 1 in Tlapacoyan, Mexico. It’s important for waterfall kayakers to land precisely, and that is influenced by their actions at the lip of the waterfall and into the first 20 feet of free fall. “At this moment, I was focused on setting my angle correctly. Some of the beauty of waterfall running is a separation from thoughts and the purity of existing in complete presence with such an amazing force of nature.”
On this expedition, kayakers Bradt and Erik Boomer joined a talented team of filmmakers for a ten-day shoot in Mexico to produce the short film Cascada. For Bradt, who set the world record on Washington’s 186-foot Palouse Falls in 2009 and then broke his back on 95-foot Abiqua Falls in 2011, running these waterfalls had a special significance. “Breaking my back hit the reset button for me in my waterfall running. I had to start back at the beginning and work up,” notes Bradt, a consummate adventurer who is now planning a trip to sail around the world. “This was the first time I finally felt right to run big waterfalls after over 18 months of striving to get back to that spot.”
Getting the Shot
“We could have touched the paddlers as they went by,” says adventure photographer Tim Kemple. “We were literally dangling a few feet away from the lip of the waterfall.” Kemple joined a team of filmmakers—Anson Fogel, Skip Armstrong, and Blake Hendrix—in Tlapacoyan, Mexico, to capture kayaking images as never seen before by rigging up ropes to capture shots as only rock climbers can.
“The idea of this vertigo-inducing view, looking straight down a waterfall, was definitely one of those shots that we talked about before arriving in Mexico,” recalls Kemple. “We weren't the first people to shoot images in Tlapacoyan, far from it. That became the challenge: How could we use light, perspective, and creativity to capture images that people hadn't seen anywhere before?
“Kayaking waterfalls is a one-take situation. Even if the paddlers enter the water cleanly, it hurts, like getting punched in the face,” says Kemple. “It’s hard to believe Tomata 1 is only one-third the height of the biggest waterfall Tyler has run. We hadn't met before the trip, but I can honestly say that I can't wait for my next adventure with Tyler.”
Kemple used a Phase One 645DF+ with IQ180 digital back and 28mm lens at 1/1600th shutter.
Climbing the Tempest, Cascades, Washington
Photograph by Garrett Grove
"The Colchuck Balanced Rock is a perfect chunk of steep white granite—it just calls out to be climbed," says climber Scott Bennett, seen here trad climbing on the Tempest wall near Leavenworth in Washington's Cascades. Climber Blake Herrington, who was belaying Bennett in this photo, did the first ascent of this route a few years earlier during a ferocious storm. But on this day the perfect weather made for a spectacular view. "This climb took us the better part of the day, but we made it back to camp for dinner and beers."
Getting the Shot
“We went to the Cascades because many new, modern alpine climbing routes have been established in the last five years by some dedicated locals around Washington,“ says photographer Garrett Grove. “We were climbing the Tempest wall all day and knew this route would specifically hold the best sunset light,” recalls Grove.
Grove rappelled to the end of his 70-meter rope to make sure he was at the best distance to allow for both wide and tight shots. “When Scott started climbing up and around this corner, it all came together really well," Grove recalls. "I framed the photo tighter to bring out the depth and details in the background,” says Grove.
Kayaking Spirit Falls, Little White Salmon River, Washington
Photograph by Eric Parker
“Snowflakes were sticking to my eyelashes and blurring my vision throughout the day,” recalls kayaker Todd Wells, seen here running Spirit Falls on the Little White Salmon River. “So one final time before the falls, I made sure to clear my face of any accumulated snow. Paddling class V rivers in sub-freezing temperatures is never very comfortable, but as soon as my hands become numb the cold doesn't bother me as much.”
The Washington State native wore two full-body fleece suits to stay extra warm, and an Immersion Research dry suit to keep dry. Having first run this waterfall when he was 14, Wells has now descended its roiling class V rapids about a hundred times. “Paddling these waterfalls is risky and avoiding injuries is always on my mind,” says Wells, who now lives in White Salmon, Washington. “But I think that becoming comfortable on a variety of different smaller waterfalls has been the best way to stay safe on the bigger and more challenging drops.
“Spirit Falls is my favorite backyard waterfall,” he says. “For a solid class V paddler, Spirit is just about an hour's paddle from an easily accessible bridge, but spectators must scurry down a poison oak infested scree field to access the falls.”