Thursday, June 2, 2011

Extreme Rock Climbing Camp

Extreme Camping and Rock Climbing photographs by Gordon Wiltsie

Hanging precariously in tents off a 4,000ft vertical cliff face wouldn't be most people's idea of the perfect camping trip. But these daredevils scale cliffs and pitch their tents thousands of feet up.


These intrepid rock climbers thrill in tackling the longest and hardest - and probably most dangerous - big wall climbs they can find. And as these pictures show, because their climbs can last for weeks they must set up tents on the edge of cliff faces for much needed rest


The collection of photographs is part of a summer-long exhibit of work by Gordon Wiltsie at the Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, California, USA. The exhibition features an array of stunning images from climbs over the past decade including the first ascent of Great Sail Peak (above) - an overhanging granite wall on Canada's Baffin Island


Gordon Wiltsie said: "During the climb of Great Sail Peak it was the Arctic spring so melting snow on both the summit and a ledge midway up the cliff constantly sent rocks and chunks of ice flying down...


...One the size of a car even came crashing down around us. Several times I came within inches of being hit which almost certainly would have been fatal"


Looking out of a hanging tent, high up on Great Sail Peak


"For serious big wall climbers simply being this far off of the ground isn't scary or dangerous in itself...


...And although the climb was hard enough that it was possible to take a big fall, the cliff was so steep there were a few ledges to hit and modern ropes are stretchy enough to absorb most of the impact"


Gordon Wiltsie photographs from cantilevered poles high on Great Sail Peak


"Camping in the Portaledges - or hanging tents - is a lot less scary and dangerous than it is climbing outside of them. They're pretty comfortable and you don't actually see the drop below...


"...I find it similar to sleeping in a regular tent. You're always harnessed into a separate anchor from the tent so I felt quite safe - unless I had to lean out to get food or supplies from our haul bags hanging outside"


Mountaineer Alex Lowe hears on the radio that the lead climbers are near the summit of Great Sail Peak


Gordon, from Bozeman in Montana, USA, added: "Although rock climbing like this seems insane, dozens of similar trips take place in remote locations every year"


Gordon Wiltsie climbs high above Queen Maud Land icecap on Rakekniven spire, Antarctica


A mountain climber reads in a portaledge high on Great Sail Peak


"I'm really excited about my summer exhibit of my work," says Gordon. The Mountain Light Gallery in California was established by the late Galen Rowell. He's one of my own mentors and also widely considered to be the godfather of modern adventure photography"


Gordon Wiltsie in front of Ulvetanna in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica