August brings a plethora of diverse images and a few new photographers to our community! Exotic travel and adventures abound, from waterfall “showers” in Iceland to volcanic hikes in Bromo, Java and from hot air balloons in Egypt to raft camping along the Alsek River in Alaska. There’s epic alpining in the pacific northwest, relaxing canoeing in the northeast and leisurely activities, like skipping stones or taking in the views at Glacier National Park. August is full of other activities too! We’ve got skateboarding frustration, sunset enjoyment with a canine companion, surfing high fives, runner meet-ups, fitness fanatics and slippery rainbow trout.
See all of the best in outdoor living, plus an ashamed walrus, in this month’s curated gallery embracing the outdoors: http://www.auroraphotos.com/result?webseries_id=14734
Any worthy outdoor adventure must also be a quest. Whether physical, emotional or geographic, the art of exploration and discovering the unknown is what distinguishes historical importance. Being the first to ascend a newly formed frozen waterfall contains a lot of unknowns and, as a result, is quite a prize. This is exactly what Aurora contributor Kennan Harvey witnessed and photographed while he was visiting Banff National Park in Canada with his close friend and professional athlete Will Gadd.
After giving a talk at the postcard-perfect Chateau Lake Louise, Gadd walked out onto the ice and the snow-covered Lake Louise to the base of the frozen Lake Louise Falls which tumbles steeply down a side creek. Intending to just gather his thoughts for another motivational speech, he noticed a slender and elegant column of ice had recently formed along the right side of the 330-foot cascade. Being a local, he knew this was a rarity – and an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
Harvey was also visiting the area, so Gadd asked him to go along the next day to photograph while he climbed the icicle. The resulting images appeared on media outlets and outdoor websites including Daily Mail, and one image from the series was even chosen as the official photograph to represent the 2014 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival sponsored by National Geographic and The North Face.
We caught up with Harvey to hear about the images he produced and to find out more about his experience documenting one of his closest friends perform a very perilous climb.
What kind of gear and what technique did Gadd use to climb the ice?
Will used rigid boots with metal spikes (called crampons) attached to the soles. Gripping an ice tool in either hand – a hammer-like metal shaft with a down-sloping, sharp metal pick – he swung them above his head, very much like a carpenter hammering a nail, often several times until each pick was buried “securely” in the ice. The technique for incrementally moving upwards involves securing both ice tools for hand-holds and then kicking each cramponed foot into the ice to provide enough balance and purchase to stand up and reset each ice tool a little higher. Will also used a rope secured to a waist harness. Occasionally, he would stop and twist in a threaded ice screw with a carabiner, or a metal oval with a spring loaded gate, to attach the rope to the ice screws.
Was there anyone else or anything else supporting him?
At the other end of the rope his partner, or belayer, used a friction device to lock off the rope in the event of a fall. Assuming the ice screw is solid a climber only plummets twice the distance he or she is standing above the last ice screw. As compared to rock climbing, ice climbing falls include many more variables and are phobically avoided. During a successful ascent the rope is never weighted, however, as a “clean” ascent requires that Will holds on and climbs only with his own hands and strength.
How did Gadd originally approach the climb, and what role – besides photographing – did you play in helping him succeed?
The climb is about 100 meters tall, or two climbing rope lengths. The pillar was formed near the middle. I hiked around and rappelled down from the top, kicking the icicle to make sure it was strong enough to hold a climber.
Will is very experienced and although the climbing was not at his limit, he is always very cautious and careful and delicate. There is a saying that “there are no old and bold climbers.” Will has his eyes on the former and believes that the mental aspect of risk assessment is paramount!
Although equipped with ice screws for protection Will decided the slender pillar was not strong enough to use them for that section of the climb. So, as a result, he had to climb for a long length without any protection in case he fell. Essentially he was soloing.
Wow. So, clearly falling was a very real possibility. What else could potentially go wrong? What were you worried about most?
I needed to be very careful not to knock any ice down upon Will while leading but our biggest worry was that the pillar would break under Will’s weight. He climbed it like a rat steeling cheese from a trap.
How did you approach this situation from a photographer’s perspective?
I believe the essence of climbing is the grand outdoor environment so I looked for perspectives including the surrounding mountains and the powerfully sparkling sun which sharply defined the newly formed icicles.
What were some of the challenges you faced when trying to get these shots?
Ice climbing photography is cold, often wet, and vertical. It is important to become as intimately familiar as a blind person reading Braille with ropes and climbing equipment in order to be perfectly positioned and ready to react quickly when the perfect moment arises.
What kind of gear do you use and why?
I really appreciate the DX camera format as it has wider autofocus coverage which I find valuable when operating my camera with only one hand while dangling above an ice climber. I also used a prime, fisheye lens as a prime lens has less sun flare when shooting directly into the sun and the wide angle coverage was important to show the vast environment. Thin gloves made from Windstopper Goretex are also vital.
About Will Gadd & Kennan Harvey
Will Gadd is a multifaceted athlete – climber, paraglider pilot, kayaker and author who has been competing and exploring at the top level for almost 30 years.
Kennan Harvey is even older than Will! After a productive career of climbing and photographing remote granite spires around the world he now specializes in capturing the artistic passion of all outdoor adventurer’s, especially his ten year old daughter, beyond the reach and format of Instagram.
Gadd and Harvey have known each other for many years. In addition to being close friends, the duo often work together to capture the thrill of climbing for Gadd’s sponsors and fans.
See more of Harvey’s work here.
On July 8th, 2016 Acadia National Park celebrated a gigantic milestone — its 100th birthday! As the oldest national park east of the Mississippi, and with the nickname “Jewel of the Maine Coast,” Acadia is a beloved park for locals and visitors alike. In fact, Acadia is the fifth smallest national park in the country but one of the top ten visited. Just in 2014 alone, more than 2.5 million visitors flocked to the park to enjoy the breathtaking vistas along the Atlantic coastline, the variety of lakes and ponds, the more than 150 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads and 26 mountains that the park offers!
Established originally in 1916 as SIur de Monts National Monument and later renamed (twice), Acadia is not only the oldest eastern national park but the first created from private lands gifted to the public through the efforts of conservation-minded citizens.
Supporters and friends of Acadia will be collaborating throughout the rest of the year to continue the community-based celebration in which hundreds of partners will honor Acadia by expressing their bond with the park — whether it be through events, programs, products, or works of art.
Since the Aurora family is based in Maine and Acadia truly is our little jewel of the coast, we thought it would be great to help celebrate the centennial by asking some of our photographers what Acadia has meant for them. Check out their responses below!
What does Acadia National Park mean to you?
Chris Bennett, outdoor photographer, http://www.cbennettphoto.com : When I’m out west and tell people I’m from Maine, I often hear people say that they loved Acadia, that it was one of their favorite parks. They see grand mountains all the time; it’s great to have a park in my back yard that is a little different. It may not offer expansive wilderness or huge mountains, but you really get a sense of the raw ocean and the simplicity of life as a fisherman from the smell of the salt air. It’s a completely alien experience for someone in a landlocked state like Wyoming or Colorado.
Jake Wyman, commercial and outdoor photographer, http://www.jakewyman.com: It’s one of my favorite places in the world, for the natural beauty, dramatic coastlines and the places where I can find serenity and quiet.
What is your favorite season / month to visit Acadia, and why?
Jerry Monkman, documentarian, outdoor / conservation photographer, author of The Photographer’s Guide to Acadia National Park, http://archive.ecophotography.com: All of them. Winter for the cross country skiing. Spring for the quiet beauty without the crowds. Summer for the spectacular weather and insane energy. And fall for classic New England foliage.
Wyman: Fall and Winter, for different reasons; The Fall for the clear air, brilliant colors, and fewer people.
What is your favorite trail / hike in Acadia, and why?
Bennett: The short, easy trail to Ship Harbor on the western side of the island is a favorite. Excellent views for a small effort. Anytime I get a chance to get to the western side I do, there are always less crowds. Some of the western carriage roads offer the same solitude, such as the one up and over Parkman Mountain, or the one to the top of Day Mountain. Both are quite a climb by bike but worth the effort. Any trail on Isle Au Haut is worth the effort, you can only get there by ferry or personal watercraft, and there is a sense of raw and wild island life that you don’t get on the big island. Duck Harbor is also the only place to primitive camp in the park.
Monkman: I love doing a loop hike up and over Sargent and Penobscot Mountains near Jordan Pond. Amazing views and lots of blueberries in July.
Winky Lewis, children / lifestyle photographer, http://winkylewisphoto.com: My very favorite trail there is the one up Duck Mountain. It is quick and easy. It was a great trail for my kids when they were younger and now when we hike it my dogs cover the distance about 10 times over because they circle from my kids up ahead and then back to me about a hundred times before I reach the top. There is a wonderful view from the top! So beautiful.
What is something rare you have seen at Acadia?
Monkman: Watching Peregrine falcons dive bombing from Eagle Cliff while I was photographing Somes Sound. They go frighteningly fast.
Bennett: Taking a late evening spring walk along the Jesup Path, I watched an owl feed for several minutes, swooping down into the tall grass from its perches in the trees.
What is your favorite memory in Acadia?
Monkman: Hiking the Bubbles with my kids, eating wild blueberries the entire time, and following it up with tea and popovers at The Jordan Pond House. We’ve done it every year since they were born and even as teenagers it’s what they look forward to most on our trips to the park.
Wyman: Being alone on the top of deserted Cadillac Mountain before sunrise in the middle of February or January.
Lewis: I am lucky enough to have grown up spending time on Mt. Desert Island in the summer, so many of those trails in the park on MDI are full of wonderful memories for me. My friends and I would take off and go on some fun adventures, often ending up at Jordan Pond for popovers. Now, with my own family, I spend time in the summers on Isle Au Haut, of which about half is Acadia.
What keeps you coming back, year after year?
Wyman: Every time that I visit Acadia, I find someplace new.
Monkman: My wife and I have visited every year since 1989 and we just love the combination of dramatic ocean scenery with great hiking up granite domes, paddling in Frenchman Bay, and the ability to choose between dozens of restaurants at dinner.
Do you have any tips for amateur / young photographers on how to get the most out of Acadia?
Bennett: Get up early, go on the shoulder seasons, find someplace off the beaten path to make a compelling picture.
Wyman: Don’t be overwhelmed by the landscapes; there are plenty of beautiful details to be found. Be sure to visit Schoodic and Isle Au Haut. Try to “see” with your own eyes; there are millions of beautiful images which have been made in ANP, but search for your own original vision.
Monkman: Get up early to beat the crowds to the photo hot spots and to take advantage of that sweet Maine coast sunrise light.
To learn more about Acadia National Park and the 2016 Centennial, please visit the Acadia 2016 Centennial website.