High and Wild with Photographer James Martin
Click on the small photos to see a larger image.
Last year, nearing completion of his six-year project to photograph the wild North Cascades of Washington State, James Martin faced a hard reality: it was time to make the trip into Mount Challenger, one of the jewels of this beautiful range and one of the most remote occasions in the lower 48. Challenger is so difficult to reach that
very few climbers go there, much less anybody else. But Martin, an eccentrically independent
and committed artist, was unfazed.
Carrying ropes, ice tools, crampons, camping gear, lenses, camera and tripod, he hiked four miles from the nearest road to 5,100-foot Hannegan Pass, and down into the Chilliwack Valley for another five hot miles along the river. He figured a way across the raging stream, then made the sweaty climb with his load up to 5,200-foot Whatcom Pass. There, Martin saw his route was blocked by a 7,600-foot mountain. He would have to climb it--not normally a problem for a technical climber such as Martin, but a dicey proposition when carrying a load no self-respecting Sherpa would consider.
Carefully--and slowly--he picked his way up talus and rock slabs, and gamely climbed the narrow 1,500-foot ridge of steep mixed snow and rock, carrying his ridiculous load to the summit. He put on crampons and descended a dangerously icy slope to Perfect Pass. By the time he reached the Challenger Glacier and climbed, exhausted, up to his campsite at 7,000 feet, he had traveled 20 miles in three days. His pack weighed 70 pounds, almost half his weight, partly because Martin's dedication to perfect sharpness required a big image--and that meant a Pentax 645 and a Gtzo tripod with a Foba ball head.
"I got two good images out of that trip," Martin said, "and I'm very happy with that. And there is no way in the world to get those shots except put all that gear on your back and walk in there."
As is often the case with persistence, the 44-year-old Martin's refusal to make compromises has lead to success. His work has appeared in Smithsonian, Outside, Sports Illustrated and other major magazines, as well as award-winning books such as Tentacles: The
World of Cephalopods, and The Masters of Disguise, A Natural History of Chameleons, a collaboration with Art Wolfe. His large portfolio of stock images are marketed exclusively through Tony Stone International.
Martin's willingness to take on unreasonable difficulties to get the shots he wants is one reason his work stands out. Mountain landscapes are a specialty-from the icy ranges of Antarctica to the Cascades, Sierra and Canadian Rockies-but his work also includes wildlife and adventure travel. He currently is at work on another collaboration with Art Wolfe.
Peter Potterfield, Mountain Zone Staff
When not hanging out with friends in Borneo, James Martin is an accomplished mountaineer and photographer (click here for Martin's stock photo site). You can see more of his work in: Ice-Climbing in the Canadian Rockies, The 1997 Ouray, Colorado Ice Festival, The Allure of Indoor Climbing and Chamonix, To Climb or Not To Climb.