What: British Style: From Ben Nevis to Mount Everest
When: Wednesday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Millennium Place
Today, Ian Parnell is a leading British mountaineer who has spent over 20 years climbing the peaks of Patagonia, Greenland, the Nepalese Himalaya and his home turf in the UK, preferably in the depths of winter. Because that just makes things a bit more interesting, right?
"In the UK in particular, we haven't got the grand summer mountain ranges that you've got up in Canada, and we haven't got the big faces at Squamish or anything like that," Parnell stated. "We've got adventurous rock climbing, but it's just not quite such a classic quest of activity, whereas in winter, even though our mountains in Scotland are relatively small, they get transformed into something that's a lot wilder."
Parnell's love of the outdoors came before he cultivated an interest in photography, and certainly before he began making a living as a professional shooter. In fact, Parnell still clearly recalls the moment that he got hooked on adventure: at the ripe old age of eight.
"When I was younger, my parents took me along to see Chris Wellington and Doug Scott - two of the most famous British mountaineers when I was growing up - and I remember a particular show, actually, it was of a climb of Doug Scott's. He climbed this mountain in Pakistan called the Ogre, and he fell off at the top and broke his legs and had to crawl down the mountain. And I remember a particular shot of him; he had these bloodied knees, because he was crawling on his knees down the mountain, and I remember looking at that as an eight-year-old and thinking, 'Wow, that is amazing! When I grow up, I really want to be like that!'"
Little did his unsuspecting parents know.
"On my 30 th birthday I was halfway up a route on El Capitan in Yosemite and I remember looking across at a friend of mine... who was free climbing one of the routes next door, and I remember thinking that was absolutely amazing."
After this "mini mid-life crisis," Parnell decided to quit his day-job with the British Mountaineering Council and find a way to climb as much as he could. Which is where photography came in: it was a means and an excuse to go on these epic trips. Sponsors like Arc'teryx eventually came into the picture as climbing and photographic assignments followed.
Next week, Parnell will be presenting a collection of almost two decades' worth of footage and still shots from some of the most epic trips of his career. The presentation is dubbed, British Style: From Ben Nevis to Mount Everest.
"A lot of people talk about the style of mountaineering - so you have the 'old school, siege-style' heavyweight expeditions. A lot of people talk about 'alpine style,' which is the modern, lightweight expeditions," he explained. "This is British-style, and it's kind of a humorous look at what I get out of mountaineering, what I like, and how I approach it."
He will showcase some of the most memorable trips he's been on over the years, which are by-and-large very personal journeys to Everest, India and Scotland. But another trip with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a British adventurer and the first person to visit both the north and south poles by surface means and the first to completely cross Antarctica on foot, also comes to mind. In March 2007, the 62-year-old Fiennes undertook a personal challenge to climb the Eiger by its North Face, raising 2.5 million pounds for charity in the process. Parnell was one of the guides who accompanied him on the four-day ascent.
"As an assignment, that was very enjoyable because it was a challenge to complete technically, but also, it was a very genuine climbing experience," Parnell mused. "Some of these media-type ones tend to be a bit more like stunts, if that makes sense. It's a little bit like a circus, because it feels like you're selling a story which is a little bit embellished, but we didn't need to do any embellishing."