In Praise of Climbing Photographers
November day in 2013, the staff hiked to the famed route on Castleton Tower during a gear-testing trip to Moab, Utah. Senior Contributing Photographer Andrew Burr kept us laughing with corny jokes during the strenuous approach through steep sandstone washes and crumbling embankments. We finally reached the ridge and a short technical section, so I removed my backpack and went up to perch on the edge of the sloping stone and shuttle packs. Grab the handle, twist, toss. Grab the handle, twist, toss. Grab the han— I lurched forward under the weight of Burr’s 65-liter pack, almost toppling over on the kitty litter rock. His overstuffed pack outweighed the others by 25-plus pounds. I could barely move it.
On my half-dozen climbing trips with Burr, I’ve never seen him stop working. Awake before everyone else, he’s carrying double the gear, running ahead of the group, hanging on a rope for hours, and hustling until well after everyone else is sitting by the fire, all while smiling, laughing, and carrying extra beers to share at the summit. That doesn’t even mention the countless hours of editing, emailing, pitching, invoicing—all to eke out a modest living. It’s easy to assume that climbing photographers have glamorous lives traveling the world, taking beautiful images, and hobnobbing with the pros, but the truth is they work harder than anyone else in the industry. Their efforts give the rest of us the blood-pumping inspiration we need to bust out another set on the hangboard, save money for a plane ticket, or daydream during an endless budget meeting.
In an effort to pay homage to those who personify the beating heart of our sport, we present the Photo Annual, a yearly celebration of all things climbing photography. You’ll find a look back at 10 years of Climbing covers (p.24), a profile of a spunky female photographer (p.26), an essay on being the muse (p.32), and 18 pages dedicated to the best climbing imagery we’ve ever seen (p.54).
Fifteen years ago, when I picked up my first issue of this magazine, the magnificent photography piqued my curiosity and eventually consumed me. Unlike words, photos have no cultural, linguistic, or generational boundaries. Seeing a climber high above her last piece with focus in her eyes, groping for a micro-crimp and the wall falling away 500 feet to the ground below is a language we can all understand. JULIE ELLISON, EDITOR
THE CLIMBING STAFF ON THE SUMMIT OF CASTLETON TOWER IN 2013.