Featured Photographer: Austin Siadak

On big missions and solo climbs I listen to cheesy pop music like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift to keep me going. I am not ashamed.

I started climbing in college after a friend of mine randomly invited me to go to the local climbing gym one evening to relax from all our school work. For a year or so it was just something I did once a week, but after studying abroad in Chile and spending some time just hiking around Patagonia, I was really inspired to spend more time outside and learn how to climb huge, remote mountains.

The North Pillar Sit Start, Argentine Patagonia
Julian Poush slices up the “Awesome Splitter pitch of the Northwest Ridge of Aguja Mermoz during the second ascent of The North Pillar Sit Start, Argentine Patagonia.
The Regular Route (5.12) on Half Dome in Yosemite Valley
Jesse Huey and Will Stanhope climbing the last hard pitch of The Regular Route (5.12) on Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.

Climbing was my gateway into the world of photography, filmmaking, and creativity.

I never would have considered myself artistic growing up, and I never even picked up a camera until I was almost done with college. But as I got into climbing, became part of the climbing community, read stories in climbing magazines, watched climbing films, I was deeply inspired by the passion, love, and effort that permeated the sport and culture. I discovered a deep desire within myself to not only get out and go climbing in these wild, beautiful places, but to share that inspiration with others.

Through a lot of trial and error, a bit of luck, and a lot of serendipity, I learned enough to land a job working for Duct Tape Then Beer, a small outdoor media firm in Seattle. I worked there for two years as an editor, director, and cinematographer, and had the incredible opportunity to work on a number of award-winning adventure films such as The Road from Karakol, 35, and The Gimp Monkeys, as well as fun projects like the spoof video, First Light.


As much as I loved that job it required me to be in front of a computer more than I want, and in January, 2014, I left to pursue freelance work, focus my efforts on still photography, and to spend more time outside and climb more.

 

Related: Force—10 Years of Patagonian Adventures with Mikey Schaefer

El Capitan
Free climbing El Capitan takes its toll, but beer on the summit makes it all worth it.
The Evolution Traverse (5.9), High Sierra, California
Matt Van Biene surfs the great granite wave of The Evolution Traverse (5.9), High Sierra, California.
Torre Valley, Argentine Patagonia
Julian Poush gets ready for another long day of climbing in the Torre Valley, Argentine Patagonia.

Easily the proudest moment I’ve experienced while climbing was when I climbed the Care Bear Traverse; a 6,500-foot linkup of Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, and Cerro Fitz Roy in Argentine Patagonia, with Cheyne Lempe in early 2013. We spent three days on the route and another long day rappelling off of Fitz Roy, and when we came back I felt like a different person. It was by far the biggest route I’d ever climbed at the time, and pushed me way past what I’d thought I was capable of accomplishing. It took everything I had and knew about climbing: free climbing steep cracks, navigating complex ridges, traversing snow slopes, aid climbing icy cracks, moving quickly with a pack on in order to succeed. And to do it with someone like Cheyne, who I look up to and admire for his own climbing accomplishments, was really special.

 

Related: Lucky Monkey, The Adventures of Cheyne Lempe

 

It was a moment where I realized just how possible it is to turn your dreams into reality, and I constantly think back to that experience when I have doubts or concerns about a route or really anything I am doing in life.

Cheyne Lempe on The Care Bear Traverse in Argentine Patagonia
Cheyne Lempe on The Care Bear Traverse in Argentine Patagonia.
Torre Valley, Argentine Patagonia
Julian Poush hikes out of the Torre Valley, Argentine Patagonia.

I want to inspire great memories and personal growth.

I hope my photos and stories can inspire others to go to wild places with close friends and have meaningful experiences that push them both physically and mentally. Whether that comes through climbing, or fishing, or hiking doesn’t really matter to me. We all share those incredible experiences regardless of sport, and that’s what draws so many of us back time and time again. If I can inspire people to want to go do that, that would make me happy.

A big part of that to me is capturing not just the beautiful, majestic moments that we’re so used to seeing in outdoor media—perfectly framed shots of climbers in epic locations—but also the smaller, gritty moments that make the climbing lifestyle so special and meaningful.

Jens Holsten, Leavenworth, Washington
Jens Holsten runs another lap on the solo circuit outside of Leavenworth, Washington.
Sam Radcliffe, North Ridge, Mt. Conness, High Sierra, California
Sam Radcliffe steps out on the diving board on the North Ridge of Mt. Conness (5.6), High Sierra, California.

Compared to the vast majority of people in America, not to mention the rest of the world, the life I live is very easy. Sleeping in your car, cooking on a Coleman stove, working in coffee shops … it’s nothing compared to going to war or working hard manual labor.

The Big Baby (5.11) in Indian Creek, Utah
Scott Bennett puts together the perfect rack for The Big Baby (5.11) in Indian Creek, Utah.
Chris Kalman, Cochamo, Chile
After a lifetime of blood, sweat, and smears, Chris Kalman puts his socks in their rightful place on the funeral pyre, Cochamo, Chile.
The Fitz Roy massif, El Chalten, Argentine Patagonia
The Fitz Roy massif looming above the small town of El Chalten, Argentine Patagonia.
Young Gaucho (5.11-) at Cerro Colorado, Chile
Coleman “Troutman” Blakeslee puts up the first ascent of Young Gaucho (5.11-) at Cerro Colorado, Chile.
Stephan Isensee and Tobias Wolf, Chile
Stephan Isensee and Tobias Wolf look for new lines in The French Valley, Torres del Paine, Chile.

The thing I love most about rock climbing is the wild places it can take you.

High up on an exposed big wall, inside an otherworldly ice couloir or waterfall, perched atop an epic alpine ridge—it is being in these incredibly beautiful and hard-to-reach places that keeps bringing me back to climbing and to the mountains. I just love the feeling of being part of a beautiful landscape for a brief moment in time. Those moments when you say to yourself,

Holy shit I am really here right now?!

 

Related: Featured Photographer: Jon Glassberg


Want to hear more about Austin Siadak? Check out the unedited version of his feature here. Thanks for sharing your passion and insights Austin! We wish you the best of luck in your upcoming adventures!

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