Conditions are becoming evermore variable, is the New England Ice Climbing Community a dieing breed?
Pinnacle Gully, Mount Washington
"I've Never seen Ice Climbs act like they have this season" -- Al Horvaford--
The goal of the social media posting is to build a following and supporting community so that people can be aware of the things going on in this New England landscape and Community.
Majka Burhardt, a local guide and climber.
The Goal of the Instagram posting is to publish portraits of various members of the community. The Instagram posts will show and tell the stories of various people whom live and depend on the ice climbing of the Mount Washington Valley.
Blog Post One: Dreaming in the Yellow Box
Growing up, as a child you don't usually get a lot of mail. With the exception of birthday cards or junk mail most mail was for my parents. Once a month a specific piece of mail would come that was even more exciting than birthday cards with money in it. A new publication of National Geographic. My sister and I would fight each other for who was able to peel back the mint-staticky pages of the latest issue and gawk at the mind blowing photos of places that existed outside of our midwestern home.
Throughout my middle school and high school years I developed a love for both photography and the outdoors. I slowly had pictures published in local newspapers and I traveled out west on rock climbing trips. As I started my freshman year at Saint Michael's College I would be asked the question of what I was studying. My answer has long been consistent: Video and photography paired with Environmental Studies. The responses usually came back the same, and went something like this:
"Oh that's awesome, its great that you know what you want to do... so an ideal job would be working for National Geographic, right?"
My response would ususally be:
"Well I think its everybody's dream from a young age to be a 'National Geographic Explorer', right? So of course I wouldn't say no to that, but realistically I'd probably do some other environmental type work.... but maybe down the road!"
Well, it's my senior year at Saint Mikes now and I can say that I have somehow-someway (to an extent) reached that level. My Buddy Jimmy and I were awarded the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant to study, archive, and create a documentary about the changing climate's affects on the Ice Climbing: culture, economics, and landscape.
Another microwave chunk of ice falls 10 feet away, and its not from climbers overhead. We are at the base of Cathedral below the Repentance Ice Climb staring in grim horror at the ice climb known as Repentance. Repentance is widely coveted as being one of the proudest and aesthetically pleasing to look at and climb routes in New England, but instead of standing tall the monolith crumbles and puddles to ground around our feet. As the climb deteriorates so does our spirit for the project. This visual, is a perfect metaphor for climate change, but we wanted to first photograph and video the climb in its grandeur before it crumbled.
It is not like we simply waited to long to capture the project. It is the middle to end of February and we are standing in Crampons, but wearing only T-shirts. A sentence likely never before said in New Hampshire until now. It is not like we neglected to capture Repentence in its prime, but rather there simply was not the opportunity. The weekend before the thaw was blizzard conditions and waste deep snow. The blizzard walloped New England for 4 days. Just before the blizzard there was a 24 hour period where there was above freezing temperatures adn rain, followed up an instantaneous below zero cold snap-- New England was layered in ice. The news was covered in broadcasts of 40 car pile ups.
There is just no predictability any more and as a result expectations melt into disappointments. Through the vaporization from one aspect the situation turned into a materialization of a new set of ideas and story for our National Geographic grant. Unlike Repentence in North Conway, the project is still very much still standing and survive in a new form. The key for our project and for navigating New England is you just need to be adaptable.
Blog Post Two: Ice Climbing and Virtual Reality
For Jimmy's and I Yankee Ice Project we are publishing a three part 360/virtual reality. Each video is shot completely in 360 video and focused on 1 person and 1 area in the Mount Washington Valley.
Ice climbing has never really been shot in this way before, so Jimmy and I had to develop a lot of the shooting techniques and hardware.
We really wanted to show the high exposure of ice climbing so we had to develop a way to mount the 360 degree camera to the ice. So what we did was attach the camera to a doll-rod and pushed the doll-rod and camera into the opening of a 22 inch ice screw on the side of an ice climb. The results were staggering and extremely effective.
Our second technique was the 360 degree camera mounted on a drone. This was effective, but super variable. Ice climbing in New England equals: cold, windy and mixed precipitation. These conditions are not ideal for either a drone or a 360 degree camera (because of video stitching). When I really break it down, we likely only achieved roughly 1 out of 5 shots.
1 of every 5 shots doesn't seem like a very good percentage, but when you think about all that has to go into getting a shot and all the things that need to be executed flawlessly it sometimes feel like a miracle any shots are done successfully. It is not like shooting in a studio. For ice climbing alone you need lots of layers, spare gloves, ropes, and gear. For filming you need lenses, batteries, tripods, memory cards and various other spare parts and gear. The same goes for drone and 360 gear. Each type of camera requires its own set of separate gear.
When you shoot in both 360/VR and traditional video format you need to shoot everything twice: once in 360 and once in traditional video format. When shooting ice climbing, you get to work with extremely talented athletes -- but to get the shot you always have to be one step ahead so that you end up getting the 'sweet-spot' and not a 'butt-shot'.
The shots we have make the extremely tough process of lugging all the: ice climbing, camera, and drone gear into spots throughout the Mount Washington Valley -- extremely worth it. We are super excited to share what we have with people all over in the coming weeks and months!