Marmot Photography Awards 2019

UKC and UKH are proud to announce the winners of the 2019 Marmot Photography Awards

Nick Brown UKC 19th August, 2020

An automatic selection of five photos from each of the categories on site was made based on the votes from the previous 12 months. Users were then asked to vote for the overall winners of each category from this selection. In addition to the category awards, we also have three overall winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd), which were selected by professional photographer Lena Drapella.

Lena Drapella is a UK based climber and a photographer, specialising in outdoor adventure photography and climbing events.

She graduated from an Academy of Fine arts, which gave her photography a distinctive feel. In her work she often focuses the attention on the subject's emotions, showcasing not only the success but also the struggle, fear, determination and joy. Lena has worked with many British and international athletes and her photos have been published worldwide.

Facebook: @lenadrapellaphotography
Instagram: @lenadrapella
Twitter: @LenaDrapella

Winner of the Trad Climbing Category: 'Savouring the golden hour sunshine - Jen Slater on Sunlover (E3 5c) by Eben Myrddin Muse

Nikon Coolpix AW110, f/4.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 125
Nikon Coolpix AW110, f/4.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 125
© Eben Myrddin Muse

'The photo was not planned but came together quite organically. We'd been climbing in a three at St Govan's when the fellow who'd done the (totally excellent) magic show the night before at Pembroke fest came wandering along the top looking for a partner (Tom). I figured two twos is better than a three and a one so I belayed him on quite a runout camless ascent of the Cupid's Bow, the arrow, and nabbed the Loosener for myself with a rack that looked as old as I am.

I was waiting for Jen and Michael to top out from an unknown route at Trevallen, so I sort of had a nosey around to see whether they were close to the top and I was able to go to the pub soon for a number two. As it happened, I found a gully with a beautiful view of the route, and I had my little old digital camera around my neck. Golden hour was just starting, and I got totally lucky that the photos came out pretty well! I was lucky that Jen wore a pink shirt that really pops, and the big blocks behind her give a real sense of scale and texture that I like. A good day out!'


Winner of the Winter Climbing Category: Greg Boswell on Anubis XII/12 by Hamish Frost

Sony A7III, Zeiss Batis 25mm, f/8, 1/500s, ISO 400
Sony A7III, Zeiss Batis 25mm, f/8, 1/500s, ISO 400
© Hamish Frost

'In early 2019 I spent a couple of days on Ben Nevis with Greg Boswell photographing him trying the hard winter line, 'Anubis' XII/12 (one of only two grade XII routes which have been climbed in Scotland). First climbed as a winter route by Dave MacLeod in 2010 (Dave had previously climbed it as a summer E8), the 40m main pitch of the route takes a completely improbable looking line through a huge roof on the front of The Comb. The route had only seen one repeat ascent.

'On the first day, Greg had two attempts at the route but couldn't manage to get past the crux hairline crack which runs up the main prow of the roof. Stripping his gear and returning home, he made plans to return later in the week. Starting up the route at first light on the return trip, he moved quickly through the first section and despite one close call when a key axe placement ripped, Greg managed to pull through his previous high point on the first roof. He then went on to cleanly dispatch the remainder of the pitch (a more technical second crux section followed by around 25m of sustained grade VIII moves - so still no pushover!), reaching the top after just over three hours on lead.

'This photo of Greg on the crux is from one of his attempts on the first day. On the day he actually sent the route it was much brighter and sunnier on the hill, with the resulting high contrast light conditions not lending itself well to photographing climbers on shadowy north faces.'


Winner of the Landscape Category: Basalt Black - Mount Vestrahorn by James Rushforth

Nikon D850, Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 100, 1/80s at f/10, handheld.
Nikon D850, Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 100, 1/80s at f/10, handheld.
© James Rushforth

'Reaching 454m in height and thought to be six and a half million years old, the Vestrahorn is one of Iceland's most iconic mountains, second only to Kirkjufell on the Snæfellsnesnes peninsula. Comprised of Gabbro, a rarely found intrusive igneous rock, the steep-sided twin peaks are superbly photogenic, especially when viewed from the black basalt beach at Stokksnes.

'Visiting in February I was hoping for snow, instead, I got heavy rain. However, it soon became apparent the stormy skies complemented the dark foreground and mountain, creating a naturally desaturated scene and ominous mood. I used an ultra wide angle to accentuate the strong foreground interest, allowing me to capture the entire mountain in a single frame.'


Winner of the Sport Climbing Category: Lines that beg to be climbed - Joshua Lewis on The Roof is on Fire, Kalymnos by Jon Butters

Nikon D610, Nikon 16 - 35mm , f/6.3, 1/1600 sec. ISO 200
Nikon D610, Nikon 16 - 35mm , f/6.3, 1/1600 sec. ISO 200
© Jon Butters

'We took the scooters travelled out to explore some of Kalymnos' lesser travelled areas on one of those rest days where you take your climbing shoes along 'just in case'. I'd seen some shots of the archway at Palace sector in an old guide which had caught my eye and was keen to take a few shots of the formation.

'When we hiked up and looked out through the arch all I could concentrate on was a single tufa that had dripped down from the wall immediately in front of us. It was one of those holds that looked so satisfying to grip and it just begged to be climbed. We checked through the guide to find that someone in the past had thought the exact same thing and had established a line right through it.

'Scrabbling about in the rocks behind the arch I eventually ended up flat in the dirt straining to fit the whole formation into the frame as Josh moved through the roof and onto that perfect hold.

'When shooting climbing I often look to create a sense of place. I want to capture the amazing environments the sport takes us to just as much as the sport itself. This photo captures what I love about Kalymnos and reminds me that I always need to book another trip back to the island.'


Winner of the Bouldering Category: A Sunny Afternoon on 'The Punk' by Jodie Evans

Canon EOS 70D, f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO 100, Speedlight on a remote trigger
Canon EOS 70D, f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO 100, Speedlight on a remote trigger
© Jodie Evans

'I have such a passion for climbing that I decided to make it the subject of my final year photography project at university – This photograph was the first one to kick off my project!

The image was taken in the Ogwen Valley on "The Punk" - it was a perfect day for some bouldering. For this climb, I decided to take a backseat and view it from an outsider's perspective, rather than taking a chance on the problem myself. This was clearly the right decision though, as I captured several photographs of Zed battling out the problem, whilst also depicting the sublime nature of the landscape - and I am really pleased with the result!

I used a Canon 70D and a Speedlight on a trigger to light up the rock face, as I was pretty keen to capture the connection between the climber and rock – I love how the lighting practically portrays Zed carrying out a choreographed dance, with the rock face as his stage.'


Winner of the Winter Walking Category: The South Ridge of Sgurr na Banachdich, Cuillin by Adrian Trendall

Sony A7RII, Zeiss Batis 85mm. ISO 100, F11, 1/20th second. Benro filters used; CPL and 3 stop GND.
Sony A7RII, Zeiss Batis 85mm. ISO 100, F11, 1/20th second. Benro filters used; CPL and 3 stop GND.
© Adrian Trendall

'The aim was simply to get a winter sunrise shot from a Cuillin summit but the end result felt a bit more profound and meaningful and the subsequent image has proved very popular both selling well and being used on the cover of the BMC's Summit magazine.

'Local photographer, Ben Eaton-Williams and I set off from the Glen Brittle Youth Hostel at 0600. It was a hard ascent with more snow than we expected and things were pretty wet and slushy in places. Fortunately, things firmed up the higher we got making for easier progress and we were on the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich for sunrise.

'On arrival, the skies were pretty clear but during the couple of hours spent on the summit, a cloud inversion built up in the Coruisk basin, enveloped us and then subsided. There was some lovely light as the sun's rays hit Sgurr Ghreadaidh and Sgurr Thormaid. In the opposite direction, the In Pinn, Sgurr Alasdair and Sgurr Dubh Mor were silhouetted by the rising sun and the swirling clouds added to the moodiness.

'Ben concentrated on shooting back towards Sgurr Thormaid, the ridge beyond and the Coruisk basin but I liked the drama looking along the crest towards Sgurr Alasdair. Moving along the ridge, I took several shots which I was more than happy with but as Ben came over to see what I was shooting, I realised a human element would add a lot to the photo.

'People in landscapes seem like Marmite, either loved or loathed. It depends on the situation but generally, I like to include people. They add a sense of scale and human interest that the viewer can relate to.

'Fortunately Ben was happy to pose and with an unnecessary caution to be careful, he set off along the icy crest, ice axe in hand. His presence added drama to an already compelling vista. Thanks for that, Ben.

'Interestingly, later I was told the photo was reminiscent of "Wanderer Above A Sea Of Fog" a painting by Caspar David Friedrich with the message conveyed by the painting being one of Kantian self-reflection, expressed through the wanderer's gazings into the murkiness of the sea of fog. I was pretty honoured by the analogy with my photo especially when I found Robert Macfarlane discusses the painting in terms of its significant influence on how mountain climbing has been viewed in the Western world since the Romantic era, calling it the "archetypical image of the mountain-climbing visionary", and describing its power in representing the concept that standing on mountain tops is something to be admired, an idea which barely existed in earlier centuries.'


Winner of the Expedition and Alpine Category: Steinfjorden from Husfjellet, Norway by Alistair Todd

iPhone XR, f/1.8, 1/1900 sec, ISO 25
iPhone XR, f/1.8, 1/1900 sec, ISO 25
© Alistair Todd

'Norway is one of the most exciting and certainly the wildest place for walking & mountaineering in Europe with thousands of peaks to choose from and almost limitless opportunities to explore both in summer and winter. Last summer I spent a further 3 weeks exploring new locations and some old familiar haunts with part of the trip spent west of Tromso on the islands of Senja & Kvaloya which lie well inside the Arctic circle. Both islands contain everything which is best about Norway, soaring peaks, amazing Fjords, superb granite wall climbing to rival the best and in winter fantastic ski mountaineering and ice climbing routes. This time we were there with more modest ambitions, picking easy access peaks which would provide some of the best views and potentially offer some excellent photo opportunities.

'On the NW coast of Senja, a series of spectacular fjords cut deeply into the island with the narrow strips of land between invariably composed of impossibly steep but not particularly high peaks. Husfjellet at a lowly 632m is one such peak which with easy access from the SE meant the promise of a short day leaving time later to cool off on the coast. An easy walk through dwarf birch scrub led quickly within an hour to the steepening leading towards the summit. After a further hour of brisk walking, we pulled over the last rise and were greeted by a perfect blend of the luminous blue/green Steinfjord and Bergfjord, fringed by golden beaches with beyond range upon range of mountains stretching to the eastern horizons. Closer to hand a spectacular subsidiary top asked to be climbed so with little persuasion Lisa & Colin scrambled out to provide scale.'


Winner of the Hillwalking Category: An incredible morning on Suilven by Lisa Bishop

Apple iPhone 8 Plus, f/1.8, 1/8000 sec, ISO 25
Apple iPhone 8 Plus, f/1.8, 1/8000 sec, ISO 25
© Lisa Bishop

'Last June we had a few days up in Assynt. Catching the views over Assynt from Suilven has been on my bucket list since I first caught sight of the mountain a few years ago. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty awful on the day we planned to hike and camp on Suilven, foggy and drizzly rain but not a breath of wind. We decided to go for it anyway in the hope of catching the views at some point. When we reached the ridge at the top of the gully we were soaking and knackered, we set up camp as soon as we found a flat spot. We sheltered and dried off but there was still no view to be seen. A few hours later I said to my husband I would really like to try and make it up to the point we had intended to camp, so we packed up the tent and carried on further up to the spot you can see our tent pitched behind me in the photo.

'We spent the night there in the drizzly rain and fog but still not a breath of wind, it was completely silent. I set my alarm for sunrise in the hope it would clear and I would finally see those views I so long anticipated. I zipped open the tent and still no views. A few hours later around 8 am I opened up the tent to cook some breakfast, to find a full cloud inversion and the sun was beating down on me. I couldn't quite believe my eyes and jumped outside. I quickly got dressed and rushed up towards the summit leaving everything in the tent except for my phone. On the way up to the summit, I snapped this shot on my iPhone and sat and just took it in. It was the most incredible feeling being above the clouds in the roasting sunshine experiencing a cloud inversion, fog bows and broken spectres all for the first time. I never got the views I was hoping for, but this was better than I ever could have dreamed, I will just have to go back again for the views of Assynt.'

Winner of the Scrambling Category: Dawn on Sharp Edge by Tom McNally

Nikon D610, f/18, 1/250 sec, ISO 1000
Nikon D610, f/18, 1/250 sec, ISO 1000
© Tom McNally

'Travelling light, Helen and I moved quickly, lungs full of crisp winter air, racing the dawn. As we reached the tarn I looked back to see the horizon blushed with colour and we pulled onto the ridge proper just as the sun came up. Perfect timing. I'd planned for some up-close fell running shots for a book I'm working on, but now, enjoying our airy location on such a perfect morning, it didn't seem right to be rushing about. I got Helen to wander slowly along the crest and snapped away. It didn't take long for me to get some decent images but in no hurry to carry on, we took a lofty perch and lingered for some time, savouring the still air and warmth of the sun. Sometimes it's important to stop and take it all in.'


3rd Place Overall: Topping out Fingers Ridge in the afternoon sun by John Hartley

Sony a6000, Samyang 14mm, f/5.0, 1/800 sec, ISO 200
Sony a6000, Samyang 14mm, f/5.0, 1/800 sec, ISO 200
© John Hartley

'This one was taken climbing the classic Fingers Ridge in Coire an t-Sneachda. We had started later than usual after making the long drive up the night before so arrived at the base of the route with another group of three climbing ahead of us. Naturally, we ended up queuing at some belays, but this didn't matter as the weather was amazing and it meant we were topping out just as the sun was starting to set, casting golden light onto the 'fingers'. I'd originally hoped to get the classic picture of Robbie climbing between the two fingers, but the way we pitched it didn't work out, so I ended up getting this shot of him on the easy top out, with the fingers behind; a composition which I think I prefer.

'The camera I use when climbing is a mirror-less Sony a6000 with a chunky Samyang 14mm wide lens. It's a fairly bulky setup to climb with but I've found it's a good compromise between full DSLR and just a point and shoot.'


Lena's words: 'It's interesting to see how the climber wearing bright orange fits so perfectly in the landscape yet stands out at the same time. The colours and the repetitive shapes make you feel like the person really belongs there like it's their natural habitat. The oranges somewhat give a warm feel to such a cold and harsh environment. A perfect example of how warm and cold hues complement each other in photos. No wonder we always like sunrises and sunsets so much! I only wish there was more landscape to see: a slightly wider or lower angle would make this image pop even more.'

2nd Place Overall: Basalt Black - Mount Vestrahorn by James Rushforth

Nikon D850, Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 100, 1/80s at f/10, handheld.
Nikon D850, Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 100, 1/80s at f/10, handheld.
© James Rushforth

Lena's words:

'A truly stunning image. The central composition, strong contrast and the near-to-monochrome colours make it one of the most memorable landscapes I've seen. The relation between micro and macro really keeps your attention on the image. I find it weirdly satisfying that there is a strong straight line running through the middle of the image while actually there aren't any straight lines within the landscape itself.

'A perfect example of a really timeless photograph. It will shine not for 1 or 2 years but decades at least and would happily hang it on my wall!'

Winner of the 2019 Marmot Photography Awards: True Clip by Jethro Kiernan

Niko D200, 180mm f/2.8 Nikon Lens
Niko D200, 180mm f/2.8 Nikon Lens
© Jethro Kiernan

'The photo was part of few days out trying to capture some pictures for the Ground up slate guide, I'd shot some pictures from above and was wandering around the bottom of the crag scoping out some other routes and shots when the sun came around throwing Jon into highlight with the shadows behind.

'I'd actually returned to some old pictures during lockdown as I was looking for something to post when this caught my eye, I cropped the picture to concentrate on the climber and form a more pleasing composition. A good reminder to return to old shoots with fresh eyes.'


Lena's Words: 'Climbing photography can sometimes feel quite repetitive. Many photographers often settle for the 'guidebook cover look' and once they know they have nailed it, they don't tend to experiment too much. There have been many other beautiful images entered into this competition but it was this one that immediately stood out and stayed in my memory.

'Great to see the photographer being so playful with the natural light. Not to forget an almost perfect example of the rule of thirds! The beautifully lit climber instantly grabs the viewer's attention thanks to the contrasting wall, hiding in the shadows and the photo's composition. But there is also a story to this image; some answers and questions. Is the climber leading? Where is the rope? What's this climb? The more you look at it the more it tells you. Certainly, an image that stands out from the crowd and one that I will remember.'

UKC and UKH would like to thank all the users who submitted photographs throughout 2019. In total there were 8929 user submitted photos, a real testament to the online climbing community.

Other articles in this series

Marmot Photography Awards 2021

Marmot Photography Awards 2020

Marmot Photography Awards 2018

Marmot Photography Awards 2017

Marmot Photography Awards 2016

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