Calling It Quits: Skiing Ben Wyvis
I was halfway through drinking tea and stuffing my face with toast smothered in peanut butter when my friend Ronan messaged me. His plan was to hike up Ben Wyvis (Scottish mountain at 1,046 metres) and ski back down it - "Going to be there for 10:00 if you want to come?". I couldn't say no to shooting this and despite not having skis and needing to hike the whole day, I didn't mind at all!
I was delighted to go hike in the mountains and with it starting to snow I had a grin from ear to ear. All the images I wanted to capture were in my head already, 10-15 shots of the days adventure. Skiing was something I have wanted to capture for a while so no photographic opportunity was going to be missed!
On our walk to the bottom of the mountain I caught glimpses of the peak and started to realise what a mission was ahead. I had always hiked but never gone up a mountain in knee deep snow to try and shoot someone skiing down it. Nervous but excited, a challenge is always good, right?
As we started to climb, the wind picked up and a grey cloud came in sending a good amount of snow our way. The visibility got worse and there was no sign of the path. We made our own way up but every now and then we would drop to above our knees in snow. It was deep and we had a few laughs at each others expense. Although thankfully every so often the path would reappear and give our legs a break.
As it started to clear we got back to being motivated to reach the summit and do what we came here to do. Looking at the summit we could see the snow blowing off the top and wondered if we would be calling it quits.
Of course the weather decided to come in again. We took shelter behind a boulder, the usual spot on Wyvis for a snack and rehydration. Contemplating a plan, we decided on going a little further up and make a call. Unfortunately more ice was appearing and the wind was biting at our faces.
I have been in some pretty strong winds while hiking but this wasn't good. When your hiking poles are flapping around and your leaning hard into the wind to stop yourself from falling over, it was time to head back down. We were so close to the summit, close to getting to the other side and getting those shots we wanted. I felt like we failed and was frustrated with all the effort we had put in. That's how it is and to be honest, it's okay. It's risky being out there and no point in being blown away for trying to ski down a hill and get the shot.
Feeling disappointed, we made our way back down. During my frustration the cloud had moved and the wind died down. Ronan shouted that he could ski a section just below us and suddenly I felt like our failure took a turn. We worked out his line and I dug a hideout in the snow to shoot from.
Once he had his skis on I was delighted, we are finally getting what we came for! At the same time I was nervous. If I miss the shot it was a slog for him to get back up and do the run again. My gloves weren't doing a great job and I need my fingers to work. I placed my hands down my trousers and on my thighs, body warmth is great although people look at your oddly! Now I was ready.
From having to turn back because of conditions to getting two shots and even having the sun make an appearance. Having to retreat was certainly a hard pill to swallow and something that sadly happens with these kind of shoots. In the end it worked out although not quite what we had in mind. "Better safe than sorry" is a good saying but even when the weather is great what we do is still risky.