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    • Climbing, writing and photography. Three separate pursuits that often intersect. Which of the three is most valuable?

      When writing about the climb, I assume you want to see photos and videos. These media arguably convey the greatest sense of place in a story centered on that subject. However, this often requires a lot of extra work (pull out the camera, posing in that perfect spot, halt upward momentum for a quick video log or even bring an extra team member for comprehensive documentation) and serves as a distraction. Distractions which last just seconds, but which accumulate over the course of an objective ultimately influencing the outcome.

      Last year, Jackson and I summited Mt Huntington via the Phantom Wall.

      What would make that story better? Should we, in the future, increase expedition costs and environmental impacts to bring along a third person? Should we take more time on the route (given a decent weather window) to document with greater detail?

      Does media share equal importance with the climbing objective?

    • Chris MacAskill

      Oh my God, Paul, what an ascent!! For ordinary people like me, it's hard to fathom what drives you, what it must be like to be in such a dramatic remote place, and how incredible a dose of adrenaline that must be.

      And yet. Ordinary people devour books like Into Thin Air.

      I gave a lot of thought to your question and one part of the answer depends on whether your objective is to share with friends or tell your story to the world. But I believe that, whatever the objective, becoming a great storyteller is one of the best things any of us can do for almost every aspect of our lives. It makes all the difference in our careers, families, and friendships.

      I can't imagine your story without the great photos you took.

    • Amazing pics Paul....Obviously, IMHO Jimmy Chin and Conrad Aker (Alex Lowe was my first hero when I got into mountaineering and then photography - RIP) have somehow managed to do everything themselves. I am sure you have watched Meru and I left the theater shaking my head how those guys did it all. Which in turns have mad respect that people like you do do it all. As corny as the CHASE banking commercial is showing Jimmy Chin do an APP deposit from his phone after he sells one of his prints, I don't doubt that you never get paid enough for all the risks and creativity required to capture any single image. I did once get flown up to the Kahiltna Glacier to just shoot some stock images around Base Camp but none of that series capture the true beauty and technical skill of what you did/do.

    • Meru really got me thinking about this topic in the first place. One of the main reasons Conrad chose Chin and Ozterk as climbing partners was their skill with the camera. Chin was arguably the least capable climber on the team, but he was Conrad's first pick. His objective was twofold: 1) climb the shark's fin and 2) tell the story to a wide audience. Turned out to be a spectacular film. But the costs were apparent. I suppose the amount of work you put in directly reflects how wide an audience you want to reach.

    • Thank you Chris. And I agree with your answer. In order to tell a story like this to a wide audience, photos and videos are a necessity. I suppose as a climber, you have to weigh the cost of telling the story alongside the cost of climbing the route and decide if you can manage it all.

    • Chris MacAskill

      Interesting, I didn't know that about Chin. But Meru. 😱 Jaw to the floor.

    • Chris MacAskill

      One of my regrets in life is that I didn't understand earlier the elements that make for a great story. It wasn't until grad school that a professor made me focus on writing, even though I was a geophysicist and didn't want anything to do with it. "No passive voice! Adverbs are not your friend!" That's what I thought good writing was because that's what the books he made me read said. There is some truth to those things. Steve Jobs knew to say Think Different, not Think Differently.

      Now I'm reading books like Story and The Story Grid and I'd give anything to have read them long ago. For example, you talked about food cravings and having to drop your drawers and literally freeze your butt off. What about life's more emotional issues like missing your daughters and wife during the long storms, or the fears every climber battles and the internal struggle to justify the risks?

      I know those things depend on your audience, but framing the story and its telling doesn't require bringing extra cameras or an assistant, it just requires learning more about storytelling as if you were learning about climbing technique.

    • Kevin Harrington

      It’s interesting how Meru has become the definition of alpinism to the general public. It’s an incredible film with incredible story telling. I can’t imagining pulling out my camera on an A4 big wall at 20k feet. But even the pros barely pulled out the camera on lead. Most of their footage was in their portaledge or belaying the 1st. Filming was clearing counterproductive to pushing new ground. 

      There are so many ascents that aren’t filmed in great detail like Meru was, and the general public is not aware these amazing feats. Paul, mad props for your ascent!

      I take tons of nice photos in general, but rarely carry more than just my iPhone when climbing. Climbing and photography are both passions of mine, but when doing them together I dilute the enjoyment of both. It's just hard climbing in the present when behind a lens. The story would be different if I was trying to get sponsors.

    • Kevin...your comments made me think about something a tad differently. In my personal chapter when I was dabbling in some light mountaineering (Rainier, Whitney, Grand Teton, etc) but with the fantasy passion of the big mountains.....Touching the Void came out. OMG! Absolutely gripping book. No pictures but just a harrowing tale. When the fictional movie came out, it was decent by Hollywood standards but far less personal than reading the book.

      In today's world of Instagram and thinking of Paul's original topic, maybe today the actual art of writing gets trumped (I apologize for that term in advance) by Instagram.

      Sharing the experience is vital for me and the audience but if the multimedia is too slick does it lose the pure authenticity of the actual experience?

    You've been invited!