The winter 2002 competition had a simple challenge: submit the photo which best embodied the phrase "Winter doesn't get any better than this!" On offer was winter gear worth nearly £600, including for first prize a Mountain Hardwear Ethereal Ice parka (srp £330), Second place prize a pair of Scarpa Alpha boots (srp £200), and third a Wildcountry Syncro Harness (srp £60).
The challenge galvanised people; we allowed two full months (so that you could buy digital cameras, or scan in your analogue photos. People were still entering right up to the midday deadline - and trying to just after it. (Sorry about that.)
In the end we had 284 entries from 68 different people - or perhaps more, as there were 21 entries where the author didn't give a name; this could be construed as a mistake, folks, since a name helps us to contact you. Still, as long as you leave an email, that's the crucial thing. In all, the entry rather more than for the previous summer's competion, which attracted 227. What the judges thought was great was the sheer quality and variety of the pictures, which came from all over the place - New Zealand, Canada, Snowdon...
Choosing a winner and two runners-up was very, very difficult for the judges (Tom Briggs of Jagged Globe, Andy Hyslop of Rock & Run, and Charles Arthur and Nick Smith of UKClimbing). That's why this article has taken so long to appear. But in the end we managed it. And here are the results.
|First prize to Colin Wells for his photo of a leader on Polar Circus (W15) in Canada.
The judges said: "This image has an 'other-worldly' quality about it and encapsulates the sense of loneliness on that 'big lead'. The architecture of the icefall and the threatening darkness of the cliffs either side are beautifully framed. Although the climber is a long way away from the camera, there is action. His axe swung above his head, he's climbing forcefully towards the light. There's a lot of energy in this image, both from the climber and his natural surroundings. We really liked this one!"
|Second prize to Toby Whitley for his photo that lives up to its name - "A sense of scale".
The judges said: "Again, the caption is a suitable one! When a photograph manages to capture a true sense of scale, it becomes more than a plain two dimensional image. In this shot, your eye follows the trail in the snow from the cameraman, down towards their partner and then you look behind and the landscape is awesome! Steep glaciers plunging down the mountain and menacing cloud hanging above the ridge in the distance. On a typical day like this, colours are mute, but there are numerous shades of black and white which give the image its depth."
|Third prize to Roy Thomas for his very intriguing picture from the French Alps.
The judges said: "Just as you might eye a stone building which just asks to be climbed, here, the natural icefall formed on the outside of this tunnel cannot be ignored! Whether by the accident or design, this photo is unusual. Taken from inside looking out and framing a section of the giant icicle (how big is it?) it's strangely surreal. The sun shining on the ice and the light just catching the side of the tunnel add colour too, making it more interesting than a straightforward silhouette. It's a fun photo, but it's well executed."
Roy Thomas writes about his picture: "The icefall in the photo was formed by an artificial water outlet above an avalanche tunnel near Champagny-en-Vanoise on the D91 (not far from the Trois Vallees ski area). The icicle must have been at least 15 metres high and was pretty unstable (hollow centre). I think the photo was taken in December or perhaps January this winter . It was a pretty exceptional winter for ice climbing this year in the Alps (at least near grenoble) - a lot of high debit waterfalls froze up for the first time in 10-15 years or so (such as La Pisse, near La Grave) whereas due to little rain in the autumn few water seepage lines were climbable."
Of course, Colin's success was something he worked at: he entered 82 photos! (Toby Whitley entered 15, and Roy Thomas 14, since you wonder.) It is true that they were the people who entered the most photos, though only narrowly - Mountain God Andrew entered 11, for example, and in all 30 people entered two or more photos. Note also that it was perfectly within the rules to enter multiple times. And we didn't choose them on the basis that they had done a lot, because we were looking at the photos, not the names.
Entering a lot of photos might just mean that they had plenty to contribute. And more especially, that they had all been out climbing at just those times when everything comes together and makes it perfect. That's when you know that winter doesn't get better than this. Just remember to take your cameras next time.