Jonathan Griffith Photography Blog
2013 was pretty wild; I completed some big climbing projects, but I also lost a lot of friends to the mountains and was thrown in to the deep end when Everest kicked off. Luckily though I've been surrounded by some great people in the last 6 months and looking back over the last 365 days I'm lucky to have climbed, lived, and laughed so much. So here is a round up of my year through my camera lens...
A few days after New Years my climbing year kicked off with an attempt of Metanoia on the North Face of the Eiger. I think the Harlin and Metanoia vie for the spot of hardest route on this face so whilst it was disappointing to have to retreat it wasn't a huge surprise; but it was a good chance to catch up with someone I would spend a lot of the coming year with- Ueli Steck.
Ueli Steck questing about on Metanoia, Eiger North Face
A few days after Metanoia I headed off on a quick simul solo up the Couturier Couloir on the Aiguille Verte to stretch my legs. Ben Briggs joined me and skied down the thing- steep skiing is really quite terrifying and I was glad just to down climb. But the Verte brought back an old link up of mine that would come together a couple of months later
Ben Briggs skiing the Couturier Couloir, Aiguille Verte
Conditions in the high mountain weren't great and so I found myself climbing a lot in an area I'd never visited before- the Requin in the Envers. The snow was bountiful during January and February making the climbing somewhat Scottish at times.
Greg on the Sorenson-Eastman, Envers du Requin
Tom Grant rapping back down Ice is Nice in some spicy weather
An Adidas Outdoor photoshoot took me back on to the Supercouloir Direct on Mont Blanc du Tacul in -25 degree temperatures and heavy spindrift. A tough shoot for all but the shots were awesome.
Stephanie Maureau on the crux of Supercouloir Direct, Mont Blanc du Tacul
I started focusing quite a bit on ice-climbing having not done a huge amount and culminated in doing Dame du Lac followed by Shiva Lingham the next day (and Dame du Lac again the following day!). Shiva is without a doubt the hardest ice lead I've done but I was psyched to get a timer release shot of me on it at the top.
Caroline George on the first pitch of Dame du Lac
Myself on Shiva Lingham, Argentiere
On the 3rd March I set off to solo the North Face of the Verte, NE Face of the Droites, and N Face of the Courtes in a day. I was a little nervous to say the least and the Droites was tenuous and buried in sugar snow but it was just one of those days that felt good and in the end it all went to plan.
Sunrise on the Aiguille Verte...one down, two to go!
My fitness training had been good and I felt strong enough and confident to head off to Everest with Ueli Steck and Simone Moro to film and photograph what would have been a cutting edge Himalayan ascent. Unfortunately that wasn't to be, but I learned alot about altitude, people, and the media; and that will all prove a very important life lesson.
Mt Everest and its sprawling Base Camp
Acclimatising by myself on Pumori looking over Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse
Load carrying beneath Nuptse
The Western Cwm
Ueli Steck escaping via an untracked glacier after we were almost killed at Camp 2
Coming back from Everest was very tough because of the hounding we received from around the world. We were made to look like villains and I was broke having invested alot in the trip. Such is life. I ended up soloing the Monch N Face from Grindewald town with Ueli late one night after a few days of interviews for Sender Films just to get out and do something. Leaving at midnight we had a really important climb for the both of us allowing us climb side by side and talk things over about what had happened on Everest and the Media aftermath.
Ueli Steck soloing the Monch N Face
I did a really fun and cool Petzl shoot with Jeff Mercier and Ally Swinton that took us over on a huge traverse of the Chardonnet, Argentiere, and Tour Noir. This is the kind of shoot I love- I get to 'solo' around the two athletes and the shots are genuine and real. I also got to see the three north faces that I'd linked up in March in their entirety and I think it finally sunk in how big a day that was.
Jeff Mercier and a spectacular sunrise- sometimes you just get lucky
Ally and Jeff on the Tour Noire
I had to remain fit for another expedition so I managed to solo a big traverse of the Mont Blanc massif starting in Les Contamines and ending up at the Aiguille du Midi. It was something I'd tried twice before but always been thwarted by the weather. Arriving at the Midi I felt strong and ran up the arete- 5000m of ascent and 42km or horizontal. I felt ready for Pakistan.
Myself on another big enchainment- just beneath the Bionassay on my way to the Mont Blanc and Aiguille Midi
In August left for my second trip to the Charakusa Valley in Pakistan with Andy Houseman. The Nanga Parbat massacre a month earlier had been a major concern but we felt far enough away that it was safe. Unfortunately we didn't get to climb our main objective as Andy was ill but third time's a charm as they say....next year insha'Allah!
The K6 and Kapura Massif under a full moon
Andy Houseman on the N Ridge of Drifika. K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrums in the background
Andy taking in the sunset on Drifika
Andy on the North Ridge of Drifika
Coming back from Pakistan with two failed expeditions in the same year it was starting to feel like a bad one. The weather was pretty poor in Chamonix but we managed to do a really great shoot for Berghaus in winter temps on the Diables Arete where everyone worked their asses off- the shots are some of the best I've ever taken...so that's always nice.
Ben Briggs on the Diables Arete, Mont Blanc du Tacul
A shoot with Millet on Beyond Good and Evil allowed me to climb it the day before to see the shots I wanted and check out conditions. Some really great climbing and I was psyched that we managed to free it. It's super thin compared to the previous year to add to the fun of it.
Very techie and thin climbing on the crux A1 corner from master climber Seb Ratel and Marion Poitevin
Melissa Arnot (of Everest heroine fame) came to visit and we shot a climb for her sponsor First Ascent. The conditions weren't great but we managed a fun little route called Chippendale on the Petit Capucin nevertheless....where there's a will there's a way.
Melissa Arnot on the alternative approach to Chippendale on Petit Capucin
Straight after the First Ascent shoot I headed up to climb the Grandes Charmoz North Face from town with Ally Swinton. The climb was super fast and easy but the round trip from town in deep snow made for a really long and fun day out.
Ally Swinton on the Grandes Charmoz North Face
The weather this autumn and winter has not been conducive to anything high mountain, so I've set my sights on the ice again doing numerous laps on Nuit Blanche and other ice climbs in the area. I thought I was going to die on this pitch when the whole pillar fractured and started cracking around me for 20 seconds, the scariest moment of my climbing life so far.
Myself on Nuit Blanche just before it started cracking all around me...scary times
2014.....with two Greater Ranges trips already scheduled am feeling good about this one!
I always know it's going to be a tough day when I'm knocking back Cliff Caffeinated Shot Blocks still hours away from the bergshrund to stay awake. But the week leading up to the Charmoz had been full of long climbs and very early starts- so the decision to finish it all off by getting up at 3am and climbing the N Face of the Charmoz from town in a day, round trip, was not the best one I've had. But then it seems like such a good way of climbing this face. The idea to do it from town was actually born almost exactly a year ago when myself and Ally headed up only to find the lower slabs covered in snow rather than thin ice. Another notch to the bail list and a year later I read that some Italians had just done it- the Charmoz is one of those faces that can often look in condition but is actually very rarely in condition. I was happy on this occasion to let someone else take the unknown out of the equation and find out whether it was climbable or not- they reported thin conditions and took three days so we packed a big rack and a small bivy kit just in case.
I think this is the right mountain
The alarm was met with the usual startled annoyance at 3am; it felt like a long day was ahead. Meeting up with Ally for our rematch in town and we left the cold inversion and found ourselves sweating our way up the track to the Mer de Glace. The body and mind were tired but for some reason the psyche was high as I was confident it would go- I also couldn't bare the thought of having to bail twice having walked in from town both times. So some way or another it was going to have to go.
Montenvers was slow but the approach on the glacier and to the base of the route was even slower. We failed to find much of the old tracks but thankfully Ally-trail-breaker-Swinton has happy to carve on ahead and we arrived at the shrund 2 hours later than we thought. Oh well, the route looked in amazing condition so that would save us some time. The topo describes the first pitch as being the crux- which I guess it kind of is given that its pretty much completely unprotected for about 30m of climbing, but whilst the ice is hollow and thin it's just a head pitch rather than anything else.
Starting up the face, © Ally Swinton
The whole face we did as a simul climb, but really you could have done as a solo apart from maybe the last two pitches. The lower part of the face is perfect sticky nevee- it wasn't too cold and we made fast progress...it felt a lot like Autumn....finally! The sun rose behind us on the Verte and Drus and life was good.
At the first Snow Field with sunrise on the Drus and Verte
On the Second Snow Field with the Drus and Verte in the background
The final 4 pitches out of the direct were in great condition, and before long I was standing in the sun on the top looking forward to brewing up some water in the late afternoon sun. The view was excellent, the freeze dried meal much appreciated, and the tea abundant. What more could you want when sitting on top of an Alpine North Face in winter?
Ally heads up the final snow field
On the top snow field with the Republique on the left
Getting stuck in to the immaculate goulottes on the top part of the face
Myself near the top, © Ally Swinton
Ally tops out from the face
The descent down to the Nantillons Glacier follows a line of raps- once on the glacier we opted for a more circuitous route that would avoid the seracs above. It was slow going but never a problem. The real crux of the day began after that- getting down to town. Instead of heading back over to Montenvers or over to the Midi we decided to just keep heading straight down. Terrible decision. Hours of deep trail breaking and dangerous terrain followed- the Foehn storm that ripped through town a couple of years ago has devastated this area and we found ourselves climbing through an obstacle course of slippery dead forest. It took the expression 'combat hiking' to a new level. A few hours of combat later and we arrived back down to the inversion and the car- tired but wow what a day out.
Now to find the raps and get off this thing...
The first of many raps down the the Nantillon below
Ally Hobbit Swinton in his element- a chainsaw would have been pretty useful on the last bit of the route
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It has been a long time coming but I've finally put together a portfolio site. I must be the only photographer who doesn't actually have one and after 10 years taking Alpine Climbing shots from all over the world, and from every major mountain range, it turns out that I've got quite a good selection to choose from! Click here to check it out, and share the site!