Marmot Photography Awards 2021

Nick Brown UKC 7th March, 2022

UKC and UKH are proud to announce the winners of the 2021 Marmot Photography Awards

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: Johnny Dawes on Poetry Pink by Jethro Kiernan

Nikon Z6, 14mm, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 320
Nikon Z6, 14mm, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 320

'I'd been shooting some video footage of Johnny Dawes on the Rainbow Slab and he'd been doing some pretty amazing top-roped hands-free stuff and we were planning on finishing the day with some climbing on Poetry Pink (E5 6b). I was on an abseil rope ready to go and Johnny was having a bit of a faf and shooting the breeze at the bottom of the route when I noticed the quality of the light changing as the sun dipped, there was a lovely Autumnal golden glow. I don't normally give directions to climbers when I'm photographing preferring a more organic approach, but I was quite insistent that Johnny needed to get his ass on the route pronto. The light proved to be amazing but I feel that the picture also captures something of Johnny's amazing catlike grace and balance on the medium of slate and for me personally I feel I got the person, place and medium.'

@jethro_kiernan


Winner of the Winter Climbing Category: Greg Boswell on the first ascent of 'Take Me Back To The Desert' by Hamish Frost

Sony A7C, Samyang 18mm, 1/500s, f/4, ISO 200
Sony A7C, Samyang 18mm, 1/500s, f/4, ISO 200

'Driving up from Glasgow to the Northwest Highlands, I admittedly had slightly mixed feelings about winter climbing again. Most years, winter would be preceded by a period at home, gradually adjusting to the falling temperatures and shortening days, all the while ramping up my psych levels for the upcoming winter. This year was different. After a month away on back to back expedition jobs in the mountains and the desert, returning home to find winter in full force felt akin to falling head-first into an icy loch. I can't say I was in a rush to get back into the total sufferfest that is Scottish winter climbing, however, Greg enticed me up north with the prospect of trying something new that 'wasn't totally nails' up in the Northwest…

'Myself, Greg and Graham McGrath set off at 5.30 am on Sunday, making quick work of the slog up Beinn Eighe. Finding our Plan A route out of condition, we turned our eye to the Eastern Ramparts which looked in better nick. Rather worryingly, Greg was showing a particular interest in the steepest, most overhanging section of the wall. It appeared that the prospect of doing something 'not nails' was going out of the window fast!

'The proposed line leaned over us, looking improbably steep. Two seams gave a possible line of weakness to below an arch shaped roof and further thin cracks led through even steeper ground to the top. Greg quested upwards, putting in two seriously impressive onsight leads on positive, but extremely steep and sustained hooks to see us through the main difficulties. Graham then flew us up the final pitch to the top as the light faded and blue hour set in. Continuing on the usual theme of routes I have absolutely no right to be on, I managed to flail my way up in no great style, but relieved to at least get up given I'd not really done any technical climbing since August. A new three-star route on one of the best hills in Scotland and more importantly an ace day out with good pals to kick off the winter!'

@hamishfrost


Winner of the Landscape Category: 'An Teallach On The Rising Tide' by Robert Durran

Fuji X-T2, XF XF 18-55 at 24mm, 1/75, f/16, ISO 200
Fuji X-T2, XF XF 18-55 at 24mm, 1/75, f/16, ISO 200

'The last weekend of August promised inversion conditions and I was keen on some photography, but it seemed uncertain where might be best and so, hedging my bets, drove up to Applecross on the Friday evening, slept in my car on the Bealach na Ba and then enjoyed a short amble and splendid sunrise on Meall Gorm. Breakfasting back at the pass, I realised that the fog over the sea was rising rapidly and moving inland. Anxious to remain above it, I abandoned thoughts of Skye and headed for Sgurr Mor in The Fannaichs, the highest top in the north west. By late afternoon I had my bivi set up on the summit and settled down to watch as the cloud sea crept up from the west. My gamble and effort paid off with this extraordinary sight as the tide breached the ridges below. As the cloud rose above the summit during the night I was treated to a rare lunar fog bow. By morning everything was very soggy and the magic of the evening already seemed distant as I headed for the road.'

See more of Robert's photos in his gallery here.


Winner of the Expedition and Alpine Category: 'La Vallée Blanche' by Martyn Maltby

Canon 5D Mk IV, with Canon EF100-400mm at 176mm, 1/1000s, f/6.7
Canon 5D Mk IV, with Canon EF100-400mm at 176mm, 1/1000s, f/6.7

'I was spending a week in Chamonix with no climbs in mind, but to acclimatise for attempts on some peaks on the Italian side of Monte Rosa, - assuming they'd let me into Italy with all the covid checks in place at the time. The plan was to do some high level long walks alternating with rest days at altitude. This rest day I spent with my cameras on the summit of the Aiguille du Midi, on a cloudless day, and crisp clear light. I was using a 24-70mm zoom for all the landscape shots from this superb viewpoint.

'I began to realise that I and many others had taken all these same shots hundreds of times before, so I started to look for something different and decided to take photos of climbers doing things that climbers do. I switched to a 100-400 zoom and zoomed as close as I could to the climbers; ascending and descending the Midi exit ridge; on the Cosmiques Arete;  climbing the Tacul. I liked seeing the climber's faces, concentrating, focused, climbing or sorting equipment.

'I saw these two climbers who had descended the ridge, and were continuing towards the Traversée Midi-Plan, so had left the crowds who turn right towards the South Face. They were now isolated in the big spaces, and I liked the way that in front of them the curving slopes had various areas of sun and shadow, and the whole landscape seemed to fall away in stages in front of them, getting darker down to an out-of-sight unknown off the picture.'

See more of Martyn's photos in his gallery here.


Winner of the Bouldering Category: 'A change of perspective on the Pokey' by Harry William Brook

iPhone 11 Pro, Wide Angle at 26mm, f/1.8, ISO 32
iPhone 11 Pro, Wide Angle at 26mm, f/1.8, ISO 32

'Much like the fictional town of Royston Vasey, from which many of its problems take their names, Buckstones Edge is not a choice destination. Perched high on the A640 it offers some cracking vistas back down Marsden Moor towards the Pennine Way and Pule Hill which on a rare fine day can help you overlook the fact that a majority of the crag is moorland scrittle. The two redeeming features of the crag are the ice cream van that can be found in the car park come rain or shine, and the roof on which this photo was taken.

'Living in Manchester, Buckstones Edge provides a good location for a quick grit fix when I'm travelling back to see my folks in West Yorkshire, and was a choice location on the baking hot but windy day this photo was taken. Pig In A Pokey and Okey Dokey both have local popularity, rightly so, with folk tending to take pictures of the problems from the side in order to incorporate the neighbouring reservoir and cloughs. Using the traditional 'phone in shoe' method I'd videoed myself on an effort on Okey Dokey and was retreating beneath the roof to hide from the wind when I noticed the change of perspective that could be gained from there. An angle reminiscent of the classic Low Rider shot. My phone back in my shoe set to burst mode, I ran a lap of Pig purposefully slowing to enjoy the toe hook move out of the roof and the positivity of the left-hand crimp. That move alone makes a visit to Buckstones worthwhile. Whilst I can't see the crag being in any select guidebook anytime soon, problems like Pig only demonstrate that sometimes the best moves on rock are beyond the guidebooks and among the esoterica.'

@hwbrook


Winner of the Sport Climbing Category: 'Dennis Kwok on Poison Ivy (8b+) at Central Crag, Hong Kong' by Tony Cheung

Sony A7m3, with Tamron 17-28mm, 1/1000s, f/4.5
Sony A7m3, with Tamron 17-28mm, 1/1000s, f/4.5

'Sitting high up on the side of Victoria Peak and overlooking the entire city of Hong Kong, I have always wanted to capture a climbing photo that can represent the city, especially during the covid time, when we all can not go overseas.

'With that in mind, I partnered up with Dennis who had a similar vision and wanted to revisit the crag that was just next to the city harbour.

'The route, Poison Ivy, was bolted by French climber Laurent Jacob and left as a project for many years until recently. With a dyno in the middle and a city backdrop, it is the perfect combination for a jaw-dropping photo.

'When we arrived at the crag, it was clear that everything was going to be tough. It was so hot that Dennis didn't know if he'd be able to do the moves. Luckily the climb was later in the shade and everything just fell into place. Conditions continued to improve and we even stayed until dark for some night climbing with breathtaking night views of Hong Kong.'

@climbingdocumentary


Winner of the Hillwalking Category: 'Walking into Black Hill' by Mark Bullock

Canon 4000D on auto
Canon 4000D on auto

'Amusingly for me, this shot was unplanned: although I had gone out with my 'big camera' specifically to get guidebook shots for a friend working on a new bouldering guide to the area (and none of them were as well-received as this spontaneous one I spotted on the walk out). It was late afternoon in early November, and there had been some delicious white-golden light flooding the valley at the crag. But here the vivid blues and greens remind me almost of an atlas or a globe. Basically, I walked past the pool and thought it had the makings of one of those Lac Blanc shots of Kilian Jornet running on the far bank, reflected and silhouetted against a sunset. Ha. But I had a bouldering mat and jeans on. After setting up the tripod I did a couple of walkthroughs and thought nothing of it until while I was uploading later, when it occurred to me to flip it upside down. It felt so obvious it almost felt like cheating, but the blues and greens and the globe aspect I mentioned, seemed to give it a slightly surreal otherworldly edge.'

@mark_bullock


Winner of the Scrambling Category: 'Sunrise on Bristly Ridge' by Jethro Kiernan

Mavik 2 Pro, 28mm, 1/120s, f/7.1, ISO 200
Mavik 2 Pro, 28mm, 1/120s, f/7.1, ISO 200

'This was an early morning trip up Bristly ridge with Luca Celano with the aim of getting some pictures, it was the tail end of winter with just a few patches of snow and we decided to get in a mid-week trip. We got to the great pinnacle near the top of the route and the sun was about to come over the horizon. I'd been shooting with the SLR but as we had the place to ourselves decided to try a few shots with the drone, I placed myself in the gap and and flew the drone to silhouette the ridge, as I did this I noticed the sun peeking through a gap in the pinnacle so I positioned the camera so the sun just peeped through the gap and closed up the aperture to maximise the 'sunburst' effect. I then shot three frames in a panorama that could then be stitched together so that the length of the ridge and Tryfan could be fully captured.'


3rd Place Overall: 'The Cuillin at sunrise from Garbh Bheinn' by Robert Durran

Fuji X-T2, XF 10-24 at 15mm, 1/105, f/5, ISO 200
Fuji X-T2, XF 10-24 at 15mm, 1/105, f/5, ISO 200

'At the start of the prolonged inversion conditions during the week before Christmas, the forecast was for the top of the clouds to be at around 500m and I realised that this meant the whole Cuillin main ridge should be exposed in splendid isolation. I drove to Skye beneath leaden skies giving no hint of the sunlit world above and slept in my car at the head of Loch Ainort. Lucy arrived as arranged at 6 am and we headed for Garbh Bheinn by headtorch in pitch darkness, soon ascending into the dense, wet cloud. The miraculous emergence into the still, mild air above the starlit cloud tops came right on cue and we were on the summit as the first hint of dawn appeared in the south east. We had plenty of time to savour the changing light and plan photographs. I took many shots as the sun rose, but I think this one is the most pleasing – almost exactly what I had envisaged and hoped for. Lucy went on to Garbh Bheinn but the day was so benign that I happily stayed on Garbh Bheinn till sunset for more photography before finally and rather reluctantly descending back into the damp gloom below.'

Lena: 'A spectacular landscape with beautiful light. The difference in texture of soft clouds and sharp peaks catches the eye, whilst the human element gives the photo a timeless feel. Perhaps an accurate visual representation of a climber's mind - anything but the mountains pales into insignificance.'

See more of Robert's photos in his gallery here.


2nd Place Overall: 'The fluted snow spines of Malaphulan (6573m) in the moments after sunset' by Hamish Frost

Sony A7C, Sony FE 70-200mm f4 G OSS at 168mm, 0.8 secs, f/4, ISO100
Sony A7C, Sony FE 70-200mm f4 G OSS at 168mm, 0.8 secs, f/4, ISO100

'In November I was fortunate enough to get asked to go and film and take photos on Ama Dablam. The mountain's basecamp is situated in an extremely scenic moraine field at the foot of the mountain, offering superb views of some of the surrounding mountains. The weather around that time of year is generally very stable, and so the clear skies and lack of any atmospheric haze meant that most evenings we were treated to some amazing light shows on the nearby peaks. 

'Between acclimatisation laps up the mountain, I'd often spend the hour or so around sunset in basecamp with a long lens and tripod, trying to find interesting and varied compositions. Malaphulan, with its perfect triangular shape and mesmerising pattern of fluted snow spines was the mountain I found my lens drawn to most often. This particular shot was taken in the moments just after sunset, providing a slightly softer light to give some definition, whilst giving the image some cooler blue hues to contrast the warmth of the sunset.'

Lena: 'Simply stunning. The landscape is mesmerizing, the central yet jagged ridge and the unusual texture of the mountain immediately caught my attention. The perfectly captured blue hour light gives it a somewhat soft yet sharp feeling.

'Yet this image makes me feel so much more than this. The play with light and shadow perfectly mirrors many climbers' experiences with mountaineering. To me, it represents the contrast between excitement and trepidation, simplicity and complexity, the challenge and respect. 

'I've looked through all the finalists' images many times, yet still, each time I come across this one I get goosebumps!'

@hamishfrost


Overall Winner: Johnny Dawes on Poetry Pink by Jethro Kiernan

Nikon Z6, 14mm, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 320
Nikon Z6, 14mm, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 320

Lena: 'A breathtaking scene, frozen in the perfect frame. It's fascinating how the serious position contradicts this serene landscape. The pairing of delicate climbing on slippery slate and a big runout create a feeling of suspense, while the beautiful backdrop and golden hour light bring an unusual peacefulness. This winning image is a result of both the climber's and photographer's mastery of their craft.'

@jethro_kiernan


UKC and UKH would like to thank all the users who submitted photographs throughout 2021. In total there were 15,125 user-submitted photos, a real testament to the online climbing community.

Other articles in this series

Marmot Photography Awards 2020

Marmot Photography Awards 2019

Marmot Photography Awards 2018

Marmot Photography Awards 2017

Marmot Photography Awards 2016

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