During the Summer of 2012 I headed with Salomon athlete Anna Frost and ambassadors Grant Guise and Matt Bixley to Mount Taranaki on a record breaking mission at 2600M.
Mount Taranaki rising
The Camp House at 1000M is the oldest surviving building in any New Zealand national park and was a perfect place to call ‘home’ for our weekend of record attempts. My brief was to capture and document the moments of emotion, friendship, fun, pain, self-challenge and success. The first few days were about becoming familiar with the surrounding trails. It was a fantastic chance for us all to get a taste and feel for the colours, terrain, and wildness of the majestic mountain.
…she screamed with joy I ran behind her down the icy and near vertical mountain side…clicking away as we ran. What an experience!
The weather conditions were clear and crisp early Saturday morning, as I set off for the 2600M summit at 4am to be there for Anna and Matts’ peak bagging. The conditions were cold and icy on a mountain that I’d never climbed before, and doing the ascent at night added even more of a challenge to my goal. Anna hit the peak at 8am in a blistering time of 1:29 and as she screamed with joy I ran behind her down the icy and near vertical mountain side…clicking away as we ran. What an experience!
As Anna disappeared from view, Matt appeared along the snowy crater rim…full of beans and ecstatic about reaching the summit. I managed to get a totally different point of view as I ran behind him towards the final icy pitch that I had minutes ago ran downwards chasing Anna.
Crouched behind the only large rock to shelter from the ferocious winds I swapped lenses (I carried a single body to save weight) and snapped Matt as he picked lines downwards. Chasing him to the crater edge I was beside myself with what the mountain had offered us all. It was electrifying and I was “woo-hooing” as Matt disappeared around the rocky ledge to start the descent.
By Matts final and 4th descent (which was his fastest!) I was back at the camphouse waiting. The relief, achievement and insight towards Matts fight with his body and mind was open to shoot.
Around the mountain
The fourth day found Matt and I running into the mountains once more where Grant and Anna crossed to re-fuel in a 45KM attempt of “around the mountain”. The weather was poor, cold, wet and unhappy. So too were Grant and Anna as they “popped” out onto a boulder filled river bed on route, where I was waiting with camera in hand. Morale was low and minds were trying to stop them in their tracks, but motivation and determination led them both onwards into the thick jungle track for the final 20+ km. The variation in terrain witnessed was astonishing as I chased both runners through tracks that were “questionable” to get the shot I wanted.
It was then a choice of a final carpark shot when the athletes completed their adventure or “real mountain photos.” Ignoring my aching body from the previous days I headed back upwards. I could not resist it. Walking up I picked another rocky crossing with views of Mount Taranaki in the distance and waited. Grant once again caught me off guard with his speed and technical running as he blurred past. I ran after him and headed back down to catch images at the finish. I then headed back up to meet Anna and Matt who were running at a more reasonable pace for me to chase downwards!
It was a real privilege to be part of their fantastic adventures and document record breaking running.
The weekend was a fantastic experience for us all and I feel like I really hit the assignment goals “on the head” and I’m super excited to have worked with such a fantastic group of athletes. A huge thanks to Anna, Grant and Matt who were amazingly patient, which resulted in some memorable photos. It was a real privilege to be part of their fantastic adventures and document record breaking running
This story is by Paul Petch, an Auckland City based commercial photographer, art director and producer.
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