The beauty of extreme sports is that there is no limit to the adventure. The cliff can always be taller, the plane can fly higher and the hill can be steeper. This was the case for Swiss adventure photographer David Carlier, who recently accompanied and photographed steep skiing specialist Gilles Sierro in his successful attempt to be the first to climb and ski the Dent Blanche, a 4357 m (14,925 ft)-high mountain in the Swiss Alps.
Not only is the Dent Blanche one of the highest peaks in the Alps, but it is easily one of the most difficult steep skiing feats one can dream of. For the shoot, David summited the mountain with Gilles, then photographed him as he descended. This shoot was part of a bigger project from David, a movie that he wrote, directed and produced titled “13 Faces Du Valais,” which premiers today in Switzerland. The film follows 13 characters in the Swiss state of Valais, who all have a different appreciation for and relationship with the landscape that surrounds them.
I am specialized in high mountain shootings. In this case, I had to make a bivouac (temporary camp without cover) with the mountaineer at more than 4000m of altitude to document the whole story. So, on top of seeking those jaw dropping action shots, I was also documenting the whole story and directing the movie making at the same time.
As with any mountain adventure photography expedition, one of the biggest challenges was shooting in a harsh environment. David and Gilles went to the location twice before the shoot to check snow safety, timing and camera angles, as well as to find a safe spot to bivouac. They also had a rescue helicopter on stand by in case they needed to be flown out. Still, the altitude, cold temperatures and innate hazards of the mountain all played a part.
The main challenge was safety for the crew and the skier. I work a lot in this kind of extreme environment, so I am used to it and I know how to handle my gear to avoid problems. In this case there was snow, which can be a real difficulty since very cold temperatures kill the batteries fast. Once safety was organized, we could really concentrate on the shoot.
In addition to the descent appearing in David’s film, one of the images will be used in a major US outdoor magazine in the Fall. Others have already been published around the globe. Check out a teaser for “13 Faces Du Valais” below:
To see more of David’s work, visit davidcarlierphotography.com.