MichaelgSeamans's Blog

Illiterate ramblings from a photographer.

Archive for February 2010

Two Climbers, Two Feet and Two Mountains: The Idea

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Chad Butrick removes his prosthetic limb after a day of ice climbing in Ouray, Colo., on Feb. 18, 2010

With the new year came a new direction for my professional photography career.  In August 2009 after two years on staff with the Gannett owned daily newspaper, The Coloradoan, I lost my job. At the time I was devastated now I’m thankful.

Chad Jukes leads a pitch in the Ouray Ice Park on Feb. 16, 2010.

I spent nearly four months trying to find a place in the growing freelance market in a declining newspaper industry that was already saturated with many talented, out-of-work photographers. It was a simple trip over the New Year holiday to the mountains in Ouray, Colo., to get away, go climbing and clear my head that turned into a story opportunity that would satiate any photojournalist’s thirst to tell a meaningful story.  A story opportunity that would bring my two passions of climbing and photography together, again, .

As most of my friends and colleagues know, I am always looking for a new documentary project to occupy my life for a few months. In early January an old friend, climbing guide and co-founder of the non profit organization, Amped Outdoors, Mark Miller, approached me with an ambitious climbing trip to the Ruth Gorge in Alaska. The idea; two climbers, three technical ice routes on two formidable mountains, unassisted deep in the remote Alaska Range in just a 12 day window. The magnitude of the proposed trip took on a new dimension when Miller told me the climbers are both right leg  amputees below the knee. The proposed trip and time line is ambitious for any able climber with full use of all limbs never mind two disabled climbers with only two left feet between the two of them. Miller then asked me, “would you like to document it?” DUH, no brainer! YES!

Above photo: Chad Butrick, 33, left and Chad Jukes, 25, right, enjoy a beer at O’Brien’s Pub after a day of training in Ouray, Colo., on Feb. 9, 2010.

The climbers: Chad Butrick, 33, of Arvada, Colo., lost his right-leg, below the knee in an automobile accident in Missouri in 2005. Chad Jukes, 25, of Logan, Utah, lost his right-leg below the knee while serving in the Army in Iraq in 2006 after his vehicle hit an IED berried in a pot hole that severely fractured his leg.

Fast forward a month. On Feb. 8, 2010, Chad Jukes, 25, of Logan, Utah and Chad Butrick, 33, of Arvada, Colo., traveled to Ouray, Colo., to meet each other and begin training for the daunting climbs they have set for themselves in May. Jukes and Butrick were brought together by Amped Outdoors for this climb to highlight the progress in prosthesis technology and more importantly the triumph of the human spirit. Or better stated by Butrick, “to highlight the huge progression and recent developments in adaptive sports by taking the ice climbing skills learned in events such as Gimps on Ice, (A WORKSHOP FOR AMPUTATED ICE CLIMBERS RUN BY AMPED OUTDOORS) or through adaptive educational programs like Amped Outdoors; then implementing the use of the developed expertise on ice routes located deep within the wilderness of Alaska. This progression illustrating the value adaptive programs can provide to instill self-reliance, confidence, and technical skills to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.”

Jukes and Butrick plan to spend the next two months preparing and training to operate in the harsh and remote Ruth Gorge in the Alaska Range and I plan to document every step of the way. I hope, through this blog that I can keep people informed on the progress of the climbers’ training and the process of documenting the first all disabled unassisted climb of the North Coulior on the Mini Moonflower and the Moose’s Tooth in May 2010 as the sole photographer. So if you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear it.

special photographer’s note,

I’m holding my show stopper photos off the blog site in order to publish later. Click on image to view large.

Chad Butrick leads a pitch in the Ouray Ice Park on Feb. 16, 2010.

Chad Jukes leads the third pitch of Horsetail Falls on Red Mountain Pass south of Ouray, Colo., on Feb. 18, 2010.


Written by michael G. Seamans

February 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm