LD: Where’s home? And do you get to be home much with all your shoots?
In 2015 I photographed my first Skyrun. The plan was for me take a quad bike to the Olympus check point and then to run to Balloch. The quad track is quite dangerous (it’s used by the farmers as training for Roof Of Africa). I was on the back of a quad with a much older and larger medic behind the wheel. I wasn’t aware of his lack of technical skill, and neither of us were prepared for the bad quality of the track ahead. Somewhere on a steep rocky section, my driver hit a rock, which caused the front of the quad to kick up. With the weight of us both, an extra camera pack on my back, and a medical kit strapped to the rear of the bike, we were destined to fall off. We literally went vertical, and the bike stalled for a couple of seconds. We must’ve looked like a bucking stallion in a corny Western movie. In those two seconds, I had visions of me becoming a cushion for both driver and quad! Somehow we managed to regain control of the bike and continue on. It turned out that further along the route, just after I’d got off the quad, the driver rolled it and refused to carry on. I had to run the rest of the way.
More recently I documented the latest 9 Peaks record with Ryno Griesel, Ruan van der Merwe and Greg Avierinos. I decided to wait in a cave below the chains of Sentinel Peak for a specific shot I had in mind. As I always do, I planned my timing carefully, but unbeknownst to me, Greg rolled his ankle on the plateau and the team would run a time two hours slower than predicted. Un-equipped for that time period in the sub-freezing temperatures, I began to freeze. I had to really focus on trying to keep warm – I did about 500 jumping jacks, 200 mountain climbers and way too many push-ups. Eventually, while sheltering from the cold, sharp and strong winds I passed out, and was woken 20 min later by an icy, pebbly face slap from the wind. I ran back to the car, and was happy to see the guys’ headlamps coming out the dark about 20 minutes later. (More on that here – AdventureLife post on Expedition India) I’ve also drowned two cameras whilst filming in kloofs and shooting in strong rains. This is an expensive job!
I can think of times where I was being stupid, but none so dramatic that they really made me reflect on life in the moment.
Recently I photographed the world’s highest adventure race, Expedition India, which was in the Indian region of the Himalaya. The final leg of the race was a trek of 50km where participants navigated from 3 000m, up over a pass of 5 400m, and back down to 3 500m. Loaded with two days’ worth of food, compulsory race gear, my photographic gear and slightly fresher legs, I hoped to move as quickly as the participating teams, or even faster than them, allowing me to get about four teams in the space of about 40km. Teamed up with a less capable tog’, (LD: that’s slang for photographer), we moved way to slow and were forced to sleep at base camp, positioned at 5 100m. After just five hours sleep, I found myself with extreme nausea, a headache and diarrhoea, all the signs of altitude sickness. Later that day we were asked to take an oxygen saturation test before we moved up to 5 400m. I ignored the orders – I knew I wouldn’t pass such a test, and I’d have to be evacuated from my route. Instead I insisted on finishing my job and sticking with the last team. It was stupid, yes, but I knew I was capable of carrying on at that point, and I knew was experienced enough to manage myself.
For more on Terence Vrugtman’s work, click on his website Adventure Life