The Impact and Influence of Photography

Berner Oberland panorama

The other day while riding a train, I watched as a small girl, maybe three years old, sat on her mother’s lap and flipped through a tourism brochure. I could clearly see her eyes quickly scan each page searching for something to land on. The pages with no photos would be flipped aside while those with several photos would be studied. She’d lean in closer to the photos she found interesting. Her body language, even at three years old, revealed what I am sure is true for all of us when looking at today’s infinite media sources.

Would an adult have been any different? Probably not. I had, only the day before, made a decision about the quality of a local magazine by doing exactly what this little girl did. I saw a regional magazine I’d been meaning to check, picked it up and rapidly scanned through looking at… what? The photos. My perception of this product was based on about 12 seconds of time. The content of the magazine revealed that it was of a high enough quality to warrant taking. I approved based on photography. That magazine succeeded at getting my attention.

But how many others do we pass by? How many advertisements do we simply pass over when clicking around online or skimming through magazines? We’re bombarded with imagery, and the standards are rising. The qualities we like must be presented at a level high enough to catch our attention. We like tidy, pretty things, we like emotion, we like inspiration and we like happiness and kindness. We like these things in photography as much as we do in people. If these traits are present, we’ll have a closer look, the words and the product come next.

As a professional photographer, I am interested to know how and why a brand chooses the imagery they wish to portray their own image. Also, I am interested to know how a consumer of images, and therefore of these brands, chooses what image is successful. What images made that little girl pause? What makes you pause?

It’s interesting to place similar images on a page, good vs. bad – why does one catch our attention while another we skip right over?

Trail running at sunrise, Interlaken, Switzerland

Trail running at Bishop Pass, California

A hiker stands in the moody landscape at Annapurna, Nepal

Plaun la Greina, Switzerland

I’d love to hear some comments here. Thanks!

 

 

PatitucciPhoto Summer 2014 News

Trail running in Lauterbrunnen, Swiss Alps

Morning trail run with a super motivated friend, Belle – in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Summer is officially here! This means just one thing, staying outside and bouncing around the Alps climbing, running, biking and of course making images of it all for the brands we work with. After returning from Nepal, we made the decision to stay closer to home for the remainder of the year. The more we explore our backyard, the Berner Oberland, the more we wonder – why leave? This, combined with being very motivated to do big mountain runs and climb has allowed for some beautiful projects to develop. We’ll post these images to our social pages as we make them. Our 2014 Mountain Sport Photo Workshop has been confirmed. This is the third straight year we have worked with our friends at Switzerland’s Viewfinder Center for Photography and once again, this year’s workshop will be held in what is undoubtedly one of the world’s most stunning locations, Grindelwald. This is our home turf and we know it well – guests will get to spend three days beneath the Eiger’s (in)famous North Wall at Kleine Scheidegg learning all about mountain sport photography, digital workflow, the photo business and how to break into it all as a pro. Space is limited, sign up early for the September 19-21 workshop – full info at : Viewfinder Mountain Sport Workshop For now, we wanted to share what we’ve been up – recent clips of our work plus some new images we’re happy with.

Ski touring on glacier

The last ski tour of 2014 in the Bernese Oberland, oh and one giant crevasse!

Trail running at sunrise

Lots of running from home while training for Nepal and the summer, high above the Brienzersee and Interlaken on the Hardergrat Trails.

Camp scene of a cold morning

And with this coffee, a very cold morning is about to dramatically improve! Shot for Optimus Stoves, Nepal.

Crack climbing, Annot, France

We’ve been shooting a lot of work for Outdoor Research. One of their athletes, pro climber, ace mountain guide and great friend, Simon Duverney has been the subject of a lot of our work lately as we enjoy different climbing areas in Europe. Here, Simon redpoints a 7c crack in Annot, France.

Road biking Grosse Scheidegg pass, Switzerland

Road biking shoot on the Grosse Scheidegg, for Assos cycling clothing.

Climbers hiking on the Mer de Glace, Chamonix

As a climber, I love this image. We’re walking on Chamonix’s Mer de Glace glacier headed for the Envers Hut – there is just so much to see in this landscape, from the smooth glacial ice, to the bulging fold of seracs and stone. It’s really another world, but sadly, one that is rapidly disappearing.

Climbing in the Envers des Aiguilles, Chamonix

Simon on Guy Anne, an absolutely perfect 6a+ crack at Little Yosemite above the Envers Hut. Thanks for getting up at 4 a.m. guys!

Climber belaying partner

Another image I just personally like. I was waiting at the belay when it started to rain – may as well shoot what I see.

NG Traveler Dolomites Alta Via

National Geographic Traveler used our image from the Dolomites Tre Cime di Lavaredo to open an article about the Best of the World places to visit.

Mammut Ultimate Collection

Shot in 2013, Mammut’s new Ultimate Ad Campaign has launched. A commercial shoot that included 16 different story boards shot in 3 days in Switzerland

Fritschi_Outdoor Research_Billboard

The new Outdoor Research billboard for Switzerland features our image from climbing Zermatt’s Obergabelhorn

Fit for Life Cover

Nothing like getting a friend on a magazine cover. This image was shot on a very real mountain run one evening near our home in Interlaken.

Deuter 2014 Catalog

Deuter’s 2015 Catalog cover is one of our’s from this spring’s Nepal trip

Trail Running UK Ueli Steck Cover

Ueli Steck uses trail and mountain running as one of his primary training methods for alpinism. This is our image of him on the cover of the UK’s Trail Running Magazine

The Tengboche Bakery

And finally, is this yak here to take our order or for something far more devious?

 

Sony Alpha a6000 Review for Mountain Sports

Trail running in Lauterbrunnen, Swiss Alps

We are not camera reviewers or even remotely interested in camera tech. We just make photos, concentrating on the experience, with familiar gear we know to be reliable and of the highest quality. However, as professional photographers and athletes, we have long dreamt of a small camera capable of making perfect images for publication. One that would also have to be very fast so as to capture just the right body position necessary for many of our subjects. If you want the tech stuff, and to read reviews from people who know about comparisons with other cameras, there is a never ending Google-able supply. But as a very experienced pro mountain sport photographer who is out every day using camera equipment, I can give you a basic overview for that need.

Last year we bought the small Sony RX100 and found the quality superb, but the user experience not so – the screen was too hard to shoot with and it was far too slow, and not wide enough (28mm) to shoot what we needed it for, mountain running. For most people the camera is just about perfect, but for us, it came up short.

Then along came the Sony Alpha a6000. We read some reviews and suddenly it was part of our camera family. Yesterday we took it for a big mountain run in perfect sunny weather in the Swiss Alps. In no way are we affiliated with Sony, we bought the camera ourselves, and here’s what we found.

Sony Alpha a6000 and 16-50 (24-75mm) kit lens

Familiarization and learning the camera system is super easy, Sony did a great job with the button layout. The mini buttons all crammed together make for a bit of a mess on the back when trying to make rapid adjustments, but this is expected for the size of the camera.

The camera feels like a small DSLR – one selling point for us was the ability to look through a viewfinder and not just be limited to framing on the screen. This allows for more creativity and ease of use in bright light.

Sony has figured out the focusing – the camera’s auto focus nails it every time. And, there are numerous focusing modes guaranteeing one will be just right for the situation.

Speed….. whoa, 11 frames per second is for real. Shooting running was made effortless. Find the right framing, shoot. Done. Somewhere in that group of images is the exact right body position. Next!

Notice that the images made from the Sony a6000 all include perfect running form – the moment that needs to be caught. This is simplified with the 11fps speed.

Battery – Sony says one battery will get 330 images. We made 800 on one battery (although we did not spend time in camera editing). But still, the battery drained very quickly when shooting in high speed. Looks like we’ll be buying more batteries for the running trips.

Image Quality – Rich blacks, wide tonal range, large RAW files that allow for cropping, and razor sharp images thanks to a focus accuracy and the large sensor. We did find the corners to be a bit soft at 16mm (24mm with conversion). In terms of low light and noise… we only shot on a sunny day – to be determined.

Our goal is to be able to do our sports and always have a camera along that we can whip out and shoot. For us, this camera is not about being super creative or diving into the image making process, rather, it is about getting a very real image from a real experience. The RX100 was too limiting in terms of speed and use while our 5d’s are just too big. All these years of shooting mountain running have required us to split the DSLR body and lens between us, but this insures missing images as it is not convenient to shoot on the fly. The saying goes that the best camera is the one you have with you – but if that camera is not ready, you may not use it. The a6000 is the camera at the ready. This is our first ever camera review and I can honestly say that I am one thrilled photographer to have it in my pack.

All the images posted here are from our first day with the camera. The test was to go for a mountain run and see, 1) How easy the camera is to use. Can it be pulled out when ahead of or behind a runner and quickly shot on the fly thanks to the camera controls? (YES). 2) If we stop and do a quick shoot, is it fast enough to make the process brief? (YES, 11 fps gets the shot!), and finally 3) Do we come home confident in our image files so that they can go right into our stock collection ? (YES).

Sold. Have you used this camera? Let us know what you think.

And by the way….. the running tour was pretty good too!

Berner Oberland

Switzerland’s Berner Oberland, from the Jungfrau (l) to the Breithorn (r). Our tour was 28km with 2050 meters of gain starting and ending in Lauterbrunnen Valley. Light packs required to move quickly through this terrain. This image was made with the Sony a6000 panorama feature.

Janine headed west from Obersteinberg to the end of the valley before looping around and back east. Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland

After a quick in and out towards the Mutthornhütte. Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland

Dan running the moraine above the Schmadrihütte. Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland

Trail’s end and highpoint – time to head down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nepal Sherpa Mountain Culture Photos

Pangboche

When we booked our first trip to Nepal, a friend said, “People like you never go to Nepal just once”. He was right, we’ve been three times in the last three years for four treks and one climbing expedition.

As we do our work photographing flashy new outdoor gear, making trekking & climbing images, and telling the westerner’s story of travel in the Himalaya – day to day Nepalese life goes on all around.

Lukla Flight“No, that can’t be right…”, is probably just about everyone’s thought when getting a first glimpse of the Lukla runway. And this as you are about to land. As the plane pitches, yaws, bucks and creaks, you wipe your palms on your pant legs and utter a nervous laugh. Once the wheels hit tarmac, you realize you are going uphill on an impossibly short runway, headed straight for a guesthouse. With a screeching of the brakes you come up short, whirl around right, nearly touch tips with another plane taxiing for take off and just like that the doors are open. Everyone off! Welcome to Lukla!

Buddhist womanA Buddhist woman praying, “Om mani padme hum” as she circles around inside a large bell, tapping her palm along the edge, making her own wonderful music.

DingbocheDingboche, 4530 meters. The villages and homes you pass through while trekking in Nepal are a never ending source of interest. The people live at elevations higher than some of the highest peaks we climb in the Alps. Here, smoke drifts from a home sitting amongst potato fields awaiting the first monsoon rains.

SherpaThuli Kharka, 4300 meters. Dawa Gyalzen Sherpa’s family farmed this land for hundreds of years until the trekkers and climbers started to pass through. Today they run the 55 bed Mera Lodge during the trekking seasons, and farm in the summer monsoon.

YakChukhung Village, 4730 meters. A yak stands free of its burden after a day carrying supplies to guesthouses.

Sherpa KitchenA typical guesthouse wood burning stove for preparing the lodge menu.

Ambu Lapcha Pass, 5850 meters. A Sherpa traverses through a serac fall on the way to the Ambu Lapcha Pass. A difficult, high pass connecting the Khumbu with the remote Hunku Valley.

North Korea Photography

North Korean soldiers

Less than a month ago, my great friend and writer, Tim Neville, got the green light on a story idea he had pitched to Ski Magazine about the new ski resort in North Korea. As a photographer who can shoot both travel culture and skiing, I got the call to join in. The project was assigned and only a few days later, before we could talk ourselves out of going, we had visas.

We flew to Beijing where we had a meeting at Koryo Tours, the premier tour company taking foreigners in. Our guide briefed us on what to expect, the rules, and the many oddities of traveling in North Korea. For instance, don’t get a compound fracture as it is treated by amputation. Okay, noted…

As a photographer, it is made crystal clear that you are only allowed to shoot where they tell you. Do not ever photograph the people or military unless given permission. The only time that the rules were somewhat relaxed was when we were on the bus, from which we could shoot out the window, just so long as it was of “pretty things”. Also, during a visit to the DMZ where we were allowed to shoot soldiers on guard.

Once there, it doesn’t take long to kind of “get it”. North Korea was everything I imagined and more than I expected. It is a comedy, a mystery, and of course a horrific tragedy. While driving through the countryside I found myself marveling at beautiful pieces of life; an old woman herding turkeys along a road, Russian made wood burning steam trucks billowing smoke, and ox carts piled high with firewood. But then I’d remember why it is like this, what these people’s lives may be like, and it no longer seemed so beautiful. All of this, the real North Korea, not the Pyongyang showpiece, was what I wanted to document – but was not allowed.

Finally, we made it to the new Masik Ski Resort and found something closer to what we know. Until Masik, the North Korean people didn’t seem so human, but once skiing and riding lifts, we found their humanity show through the reality. The 42 minute chairlift ride from bottom to top is another DMZ. We heard playful laughter, saw a young North Korean couple cuddling, something not visible in daily life, and we had both locals and soldiers riding down the lift smile and wave to us.

This answered the question we had come seeking. Does the ski resort provide some hope? Could tourists be ambassadors that give the North Korean people face to the outside world, and vice versa?
Both Tim and I had been criticized for going to North Korea. The reasoning being that we were nothing more than a source of foreign currency for the regime. But like so much criticism and online commentary in today’s world, it all too often comes based on limited knowledge of a subject. I don’t pretend to understand North Korea, but I have been there now. One reality is certain no matter where you go, people are people, with many of the same ambitions and traits. I saw this, if even for a few moments, on a North Korean chairlift.

The full story of Tim and I’s experience, with many more photos, will publish in Ski Magazine in the fall of 2014. In Europe, the story will run in Esquire UK and SwissInfo.ch

The Pyongyang mausoleum

North Korean soldiers having their photo taken outside the Mausoleum to the Great Leaders, Pyongyang

North Korean Workers Party Monument

North Korean Workers Party Monument, Pyongyang

Small boy at back of bus

A child peers out the back of a Pyongyang city bus, North Korea

North Korean children playing

North Korean children playing in Kaesong City

The Pyongyang underground metro

The Pyongyang underground metro

The Pyongyang underground metro

A man stands reading a newspaper in the Pyongyang Metro

Pyongyang, North Korea

Sunrise in Pyongyang from the 38th floor of the Yanggakdo International Hotel

Korean child with sled

A North Korean child excited to play in the snow, Masik Ski Resort

North Korean couple on lift

A young North Korean couple shows affection on a chairlift at Masik Ryong Ski Resort

Korean solider photographing child

A North Korean officer taking a photo of a child at Masik Ryong Ski Resort

Five Outdoor Tips

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Gear, making the most of it

After doing mountain sports for the last 25 years, 300+ days a year, my philosophy about gear is to find the perfect system, then forget about it. I live and work in the mountains, the Swiss Alps, and I have dedicated my life to mountain sports, both as a photographer and athlete. I am more concerned about “doing” than I am about fussing over things. I’m also an uphill kind of guy. That said, I wanted to share some recent discoveries, about gear and ideas. And remember, it’s the little things that can matter the most.

Lose the Hip Belt

A couple of things I learned from training and traveling with Ueli Steck have become part of my own program. I noticed Ueli almost never uses a hip belt on a backpack. Unless it is heavier than the pack will allow, he has moved to designs where the shoulder and sternum straps create a kind of harness, allowing the belly to be free for breathing while keeping the hips more mobile. Try it – you’ll see…. of course this only works if you are carrying relatively light loads and/or have a pack with the system.

Ueli Steck ski mountaineering training

Ueli using a special pack from the Mountain Hardwear line; double sternum strap, no hip belt and extra wide shoulder straps with pockets. Great for aerobic sports.

Vertical + Speed = Fit

Interested to know what Ueli Steck does to get so strong? It’s pretty simple. In addition to a lot of technical climbing are big vertical days combined with speed workouts. Put in your vertical days, either running uphill or power hiking steep stuff at high intensity, then match them with well rested for speed work. The vert days are of the 1000-3000 meter variety – big! You get tough, strong, and fast.

Harder_3x

Triple 750 meter hill repeats with high heart rate (in red, 80-90% of max). A special kind of fun best shared with friends.

Outdoor Research

Ok, admittedly, this is blatant brand promo – but it’s because I am in love with the line of gear they have developed. We have worked with a lot of brands throughout the years, as photographers, product testers and for providing design input. This year we became part of the Outdoor Research family, as European Brand Ambassadors and photographers. After getting to know their line – we found some pieces we now live and work in.

The Ferrosi Line : When we first got involved with OR, everyone said, “Get all the Ferrosi stuff”. They were right. It’s super light, stretchy, bomber, highly wind and rain resistant and the go to piece for most every mild climate endeavor. The pants and jacket go everywhere with us.

The Acetylene Jacket : My choice for layering in cold conditions, with Primaloft torso, and light microfleece sleeves. For climbing and ski touring.

The Halogen Hoody : Janine and I’s “what goes in the backpack for every trip” piece. Outside Magazine called this the 2014 Gear of the Year. Primaloft insulation with Schoeller side panels – a match made in heaven combo. Packs down to nothing, weighs nothing. Keeps you warm. Perfect. Put a Ferrosi over it, you’re ready for battle, put an Acetylene under it – you aren’t going to get cold.

The Acetylene at work in the Himalaya

The Ferrosi – recipient of the “This stuff is awesome” award, by everyone who has ever worn the material.

F-Stop Navin Camera Bag

In 2013, I finally found a camera bag that I can use in most all of our mountain work situations. The F-Stop Navin. It’s a streamline camera bag that is the exact shape of a Pro DSLR with lens. It can be mounted on the chest or as a modular piece of their Dakota line. I use it on the chest by clipping small carabiners to my backpack’s shoulder straps – easy on/easy off, but it may also be used with an optional harness system. Another thing I appreciate is that when it’s in my pack it takes up no extra room as their is no bulk to it, no extra pockets, just a fitted bag for my Canon 5d and up to a 24-105 lens. And when you pull it out of the pack, it doesn’t catch on anything. The molded side pockets are perfect for a film card case and one battery. It’s bomber, minimalist and simple – perfect.

The F-Stop Navin clipped to backpack shoulder straps

The Soft Bottle

How could a squishy little water bottle be a significant piece of gear in someone’s life? Well, ask a thirsty athlete how good a sip of water feels. If you move quickly running, climbing, or skiing, and like to stay light, consider the soft bottle. Why? They are small, just enough to make a difference, mold to where you pack it, and when empty, basically disappear. Perfect for in the climbing pack or on the harness, in the runner’s pack of choice, or in a ski mountaineer’s shirt pockets. You’re more likely to take water when it’s no big deal to find a place for it.

I found Hydrapak’s Flask the ideal design, tough against puncture and with zero plastic taste.

Hydrapak’s Soft Flasks, now you see them, now you don’t.

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2013 Photo Summary

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2013 was our 15th year together, it was also our best. Thankfully, I say that at the end of every year.

Once again, it was a year of continual movement and countless experiences. Most importantly, we collected more memories with great people, friends both new and old, and folks we met along the way. There’s a fact continually beat into my head, we couldn’t do what we do without truly amazing people as part of the process. This goes for everything.

We didn’t want this final summary to be a portfolio. Instead we wanted images about who we are, what we do, and especially images that feel important to us. Our business is both PatitucciPhoto and Dan & Janine, there’s little division between work and life. Together, we shoot what we do as much as we shoot with others. Our life is spent active in the mountains, traveling, and making photos of it all. These are some favorites.

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Nicole after I stopped shooting, luckily I got one more off as she did her thing, which was perfection.

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Osman Shala, who showed us a diary kept during wartime. Kosovo.

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Pedaling on home roads, high above town. Interlaken, Switzerland

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Running Costa Brava. Catalonia.

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I spend every day with this woman and it’s only getting better. Late dinner on a big summer run in the Alps. Interlaken.

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Starting at 4am, Janine and I ran from our house 30km along the crest of the Hardergrat and finished on the distant most peak, the Brienzer Rothorn. It was probably the most fun I have ever had in the mountains. Interlaken, Switzerland.

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Fabienne and Janine loving life. Grimsel Pass, Switzerland.

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We spent the bulk of the summer on glaciers in the Swiss Alps shooting several stories on environmental change. These magnificent glaciers are rapidly shrinking, see them before it’s too late. Zermatt, Switzerland.

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I love this photo for the feeling of immensity. The Alp’s largest glacier, the Aletschgletscher, Switzerland.

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Raphi Imsand, high on the Obergabelhorn. Zermatt, Switzerland.

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Very happy in my workplace, the summit of the Obergabelhorn. Zermatt, Switzerland.

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While on assignment to climb the highest peak in the Berner Oberland, our backyard mountains. The summit of the Finsteraarhorn. Switzerland.

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A man who makes us laugh and is a joy to work with, writer Brendan Leonard of Semi-Rad fame at the Aiguille Dibona. Ecrins National Park, France.

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Simon Duverney, Ecrins National Park, France.

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It’s complicated.

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A great new friend, Simon Duverney. Gimmelwald, Switzerland.

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Simon climbing at Geyikbayiri, Turkey

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Surely the highlight of 2013, going to Annapurna with Ueli Steck. Nepal.

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Our office for three weeks, Annapurna Basecamp, Nepal.

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Janine experiencing power volleyball with the Nepalese boys at 4150 meters.

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The people make it – our phenomenal Nepalese friends and camp crew. Annapurna.

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Janine at night, hoping to find Ueli on the south face of Annapurna. Nepal.

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Ueli Steck and I on the glacier where we found each other after his historic 28 hour solo of Annapurna, Nepal.

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Ueli Steck descending from Annapurna

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I had no idea Janine made this image of me while at Boudanath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Buddhist Temple, Bhutan.

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The very last image we made in Nepal after this monk blessed us and said good bye with, “I hope you will return to Nepal”. And so we will, very soon.

Ueli Steck Behind the Scenes at Annapurna and Personal Thoughts

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Our incredible team for Annapurna. Everyone, a pure joy to be with.

To date, we have had over 8ooo Google searches land on our site as a result of people searching variations of “How does/what does Ueli Steck… insert train, eat, think”. Apparently folks are interested in these things.

Now that we’re back home in Switzerland and our Stock Site is loaded with photos of Ueli at Annapurna, I had some time to go through our personal photos from the trip and re-live what was one of the best experiences of our lives. Then came a photo request from the Swiss Alpine Club for their beautiful magazine Die Alpin. The editor wanted something more personal, not just Ueli doing his usual bad assery. We all know Ueli as the guy in the Swiss Machine hammering up the Eiger, so maybe it’s time to see what goes on behind the scenes, with friends, yet still in his world while focused on big objectives. And also, to answer those Google searches. I asked Ueli to respond here as well. The questions are very basic, yet truly get right to the heart of what he does.

How does Ueli Steck Train?

Ueli combines modern training principles with 100% dedication and focus. He has a great coach who keeps him on a strict program that he lets nothing interfere with. Ueli claims to not be a natural athlete, he’s just a hard working guy. No magic folks, he loves what he does, he’s passionate about climbing and he has the ability to keep razor sharp focus on what he wants.

Ueli Talks Training

Ueli Steck : “This year it was manly endurance, I was running a lot, mostly uphill, but I also made some nice long runs in the Alps traversing beautiful ridges or just leaving from home to go on long runs. 
It was mostly 16-20 hours running a week with lots of vertical meters. Then I was also back on my combined training. Like starting at Grindelwald Grund with a run up to the Guggihut, there I’d change from running shoes to mountaineering boots and climb the Mönch. So I also had  the technical part. In addition, I trained a lot of down climbing this summer. I felt this is very important for safety on Annapurna as I thought about Lafaille’s story.”
Ueli Steck training

Ueli trail running from Annapurna Basecamp

What does Ueli Steck Eat?

Likely the most commonly asked question of professional athletes is centered around nutrition. I’ve spent a great deal of time around these people, and for the most part I can tell you, they eat real food. Nothing too special, just real food. “Real” being unprocessed, close to the source, and naturally occurring.

Ueli Steck Annapurna 2013

Extreme exception to the “Naturally Occurring” food rule… Ueli traditionally eats an American Hostess cupcake before serious attempts on 8000 meter peaks.

Ueli is no different, he doesn’t adhere to any special diet, he’s not Paleo, or Atkins, or into any other fads. He’s just a good Swiss and consumes sizable quantities of bread and cheese. But, while climbing or in performance mode, he does use science as it is both efficient and practical. He’s sponsored by PowerBar and uses their full range of product.

Ueli Talks Food & Nutrition

Ueli Steck : “I take care about food for sure. I try to eat as natural as possible. For sure I love fresh salad, but I make sure after climbing to get enough protein. And after running I fill up with carbohydrates. Bars and gels are just during training, after is real food.”

Ueli Steck Annapurna 2013

The very food that went up Annapurna for his solo ascent. He ate everything pictured in 28 hours and said it was exactly the right amount.

What does Ueli Steck Think?

Over the past few years we’ve become great friends with Ueli, we do a lot together, mostly for fun, a little for work. As a friend, I was admittedly hugely stressed out to see what he committed himself to at Annapurna. As we sat in Advance Basecamp watching him, Janine occupied her time by organizing nature, cobbling camp, re-routing and cleaning the water source, and then peeling about 40 apples for a fresh dessert. Meanwhile, I paced and tried not to think of the “what ifs”. Later, when Ueli was down, he spoke of never, ever, being able to imagine any “what ifs” when soloing. He just climbs, focused on the route ahead, staying in control, and being always sure he can climb down what he climbs up. He does these things for his life, not just to stay alive climbing, but in how he lives each day. Maybe this is what we can relate to, Ueli’s climbing as a metaphor for our own lives. I saw him maintain momentum when the weather was terrible, adapt to variables that came as a surprise, and as a leader, work with people in a purely positive manner. Ueli has developed these traits, combined them with performance athletic training and applied it all to arguably the most serious game there is. The results speak for themselves, this is the magic of Ueli Steck.

Ueli on Risk and Reward

Ueli Steck : “I think a lot about risk and life, and am very realistic about living. I know nothing changes when you climb something, the world is still the same. We all will die sooner or later. If you climb something, this is just for your own experience and for nothing else. Nobody is ever able to take away this experience. Never, ever. But, you also take all the risk and consequences. Which means if you fall, it’s only you, you get hurt or you die. When you die the world just moves on without you! That’s very simple. So make sure you get the experience you want to get.”

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Some personal images to share. Great memories for all of us, and I hope a personal feel for what goes on behind the scenes.

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Ueli celebrating his birthday in basecamp

Ueli Steck Annapurna 2013

Luckily, there was more than one celebration, cake 2 was for a successful summit

Ueli Steck Annapurna 2013

Bouldering at 4200 meters, the day after he summited Annapurna…

Ueli Steck Annapurna 2013

How does Ueli Steck shave? With purple water of course.

Ueli Steck Annapurna 2013

What does Ueli Steck read in the tent? Donald Duck.

Ueli Steck Annapurna 2013

Nepal’s Apple Genius Bar

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Ueli and I descended together from the glacier, only to run into Janine making her way up to greet us. Lots of happy hugs.

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Ueli, Janine and I back in Advance Basecamp immediately after Ueli descended from Annapurna

 

Ueli Steck Annapurna Climb 2013

Ueli Steck climbing Annapurna

Ueli… My first thought upon waking.

3000 meters of rock, snow and ice greeted me as I unzipped the tent door. The massive wall was cast in deep blue without sun and towered so high I had to poke my head out of the tent to see the summit. Ueli’s friend Tenji Sherpa stirred next to me, so too Janine. Immediately, Tenji’s face joined my own and together we took in the wall as he announced, “My dream was that Ueli stood on the summit last night.”

We scanned the wall starting at where we’d last seen him the night before. My eyes searched the rock band where I assumed him to be, but there was nothing but ice and granite. Then, as the morning’s first light moved down the face, a line appeared on the final snow slopes. From near the summit I followed it down to where it began, exactly where Ueli had hoped to exit the wall. “Tenji, is that a track on the summit? Wait! There… Ueli is down climbing!”

Just below where camp 2 would have been, a tiny dot was moving down the very open face of snow we had watched him climb the day before. We burst out of the tent and yelled for the others to hear, “Ueli is on the way down!”. Don and Jonah’s tents zipped open and groggy faces appeared to begin their own search.

The morning routine was started; Water was put to boil, bags were packed, Ueli’s favorite foods prepared. We would go up the glacier to meet him. Then excitedly, Don announced, “I got a message from him last night, it says, ‘I am back in camp 2. Long night climbing. I am descending after some food.’”

But the one question remained… Had he summited?

Not 24 hours before, we had all stood at the base of the South Face of Annapurna. Ueli was ready to climb, but how high, none of us knew. I could see he was in a different mental place, more serious, focused to begin something so severe there are only a few on the planet who could even contemplate such a thing; To solo an 8000 meter peak via a new line, with only a small pack, and without oxygen.

We shook hands, four cupped, bro’ style, and he started up. For a few moments we watched him move away, climbing in his typical manner of focused precision and even movement. We began our descent and for a time lost sight of his progress. Finally, once back in the open we found him. He had moved past camp 1 where he said he may stop to acclimate. Clearly, he had other ambitions.

By the time we reached our advance basecamp he was nearing what would be camp 2. Strong winds now buffeted the face and spindrift was running like rivers with Ueli between on a sharply defined flute. Huge plumes of snow blew from the face obscuring him from our sight. Through a 1000mm lens we could watch his every step. We paced camp like first time fathers in a waiting room.

Ueli arrived to the rock band just as the day’s last light left his position. Here the wall was both steeper and more exposed to avalanches. The late afternoon had brought increased winds and building clouds. The curtain fell on a great performance, Ueli was gone.

Then, just before nightfall, it cleared and we again found him, but he’d descended about 150 meters. Through the 1000mm lens we could clearly see him digging a snow cave, moments later he disappeared into the face itself.

Night fell, the show was on hold.

As we trudged up the glacier to find Ueli I thought of this man who has become my friend. For the last year I have watched him in his endless training and preparation. But once in the Himalaya, I could see he was in his own arena, and he was rising above even himself. In less than three weeks at Annapurna, he had been able to maintain continual progress to achieve his goal. Then, with a window of weather and opportunity, he was unflinching when it came time to pull the trigger and get it done.

Lost in my thoughts about what we were witnessing, I finally looked up to see a lone man moving quickly down the glacier. I stopped to prepare my camera and when I again looked up he was hugging Tenji, everyone was laughing and I could hear him clearly say, “Now we can go home early.”

That answered the question about the summit. But also, it confirmed that it was not only Tenji’s dream that had come true.

Ueli Steck Annapurna ice fall

Ueli Steck negotiating the icefall to reach Annapurna’s south face advance basecamp

Ueli Steck Annapurna camp

Ueli Steck and Don Bowie at advance basecamp beneath the south face of Annapurna

Ueli Steck Annapurna gear

Ueli packing the bare minimum for a true alpine push on Annapurna

Ueli Steck Annapurna climb

Ueli starting up the south face of Annapurna. 2500 meters of steep snow, ice and rock

Ueli Steck Annapurna climbing route

The view from advance basecamp, Ueli is just visible on the snow slopes leading to the giant rock band.

Annapurna advance basecamp

Don Bowie and Jonah Matthewson keeping an eye on things

Don Bowie Annapurna

Don Bowie and Janine Patitucci playing the stressed out waiting and watching game

Ueli Steck Annapurna climb descent

Tenji Sherpa and Don Bowie with Ueli where we connected on the glacier below the south face. Tenji was with Ueli in 2012 on Mt. Everest when they each summited without oxygen.

Ueli Steck Annapurna portrait

Ueli Steck after climbing solo for 28 hours on Annapurna’s south face

Ueli Steck Annapurna descent

Ueli headed down the glacier and back to advance basecamp

Ueli Steck Annapurna

Ueli taking another look back at the mountain he just came to know

This is only one part of a much bigger experience. For the whole story, and in Ueli’s own words, be sure to check in at Ueli Steck.

A huge thanks to the incredible team we found ourselves a part of. Don Bowie (climber), Jonah Matthewson (videographer) all our Nepalese friends who supported us in every way, from Basecamp management to carrying loads to ABC, and especially to Ueli who offered us this opportunity to be a part of something so special.

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