From the Karakoram Highway to Beijing, and Everything In Between

As soon as I turned 18 one of the first things I did was get a passport. I’ve always known I wanted to travel, and that was the first step I made towards my dreams. However it wasn’t until almost two years later, on May 12, 2015 that I actually got the chance to use that passport to travel halfway across the world, to China

After taking a semester long course focusing on China and it’s relationship with the media, my journey started on a rainy morning at Saint Michael’s College. Where we were all loaded into vans before departing to the airport for a 14-hour flight. We landed in Kashgar, the westernmost point of China, and continued down the Karakoram Highway, which is now considered to be the modern Silk Road. 

My classmates and I walked in the footsteps of those who came before us. We stayed with a Kyrgyz family in their yurts overlooking Karakul Lake, ate and danced with a Tajik family in their Tashkurgan home and spent a night dancing under the stars with Uyghurs in the Taklamakan Desert, also known as the Sea of Death. We enjoyed the cultural differences and experienced a part of China that many people don’t even know exists.

For our last day in Kashgar we started out early with a hike to Shipton’s Arch, the largest natural arch in the world. While hiking up the manmade stairways you can see it peeking out at you, humbly hiding it’s dimensions. However you can’t even fathom it’s vast size until you are standing mere feet from it. After our hike and a short nap, we traveled to the Id Kah Mosque, which is the largest mosque in China, went to a silk carpet shop and visited Kashgar’s Old Town, a seemingly disheveled gem full of genuine Uyghur culture. 

With three day left in China we bid farewell to the west and made our way east, finishing up the remainder of our trip in the country’s capital, Beijing. Our day of travel was filled with long layovers, and a few cases of the stomach bug for some members of the group. After very little recovery time, we were up and loaded onto a bus to make our way into the mountains. We met with William Lindesay, a Great Wall expert, who gave us a unique opportunity to see a part of the Great Wall that is not open to the public. The overgrown section of the wall made me realize just how much history could be found within the stone structure. 

Our last day consisted of a trip to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. After spending a portion of the semester learning about the history of these landmarks, it was impressive to see them in person. We also visited the 798 Art Zone, a large section of galleries and street art in the Chaoyang District of Beijing. Unfortunately when we arrived the galleries were closing, so we wandered around looking at the various street art and graffiti. 

The final stop of our night was Houhai Lake, which is surrounded by a Hutong neighborhood famous for it’s nightlife. The colorful lights were beautiful, and they certainly reflected the eccentric area of Beijing. But our night didn’t end there, after a taxi ride back to the hotel, we all took the Dongcheng District of Beijing on foot. We wandered around maze like Hutong neighborhoods, took photos by Tiananmen Square and I celebrated my 20th birthday at midnight. Without any sleep, we returned to Tiananmen Square at 4am, to watch the daily flag raising ceremony. And after our sleepless night, it was time to go home. Ending the trip of a life time.

I spent a large majority of the trip with my camera strapped to my side, here are just a few of the shots I got from this unique country:

Special thanks to my professors Rob Williams and Traci Griffith, who made this trip a possibility. To all of my classmates for traveling to the land less traveled and taking every new experience by storm, even eating pigeon and using squat toilets. And to my mom and dad for not treating me like a crazy person when I told them I wanted to go to China.

Lake Champlian with Alex

My good friend Alex came to me about a month ago and asked me to take a picture of him, I don’t think he realized that he was getting himself into a mini photoshoot.  But he was a good sport; braving the cold and let me have the creative control.  

When I came to school almost two years ago I never would have guessed that one of my best friends would end up being this kid from Los Angeles.

The Burly Ama-Slam - March 23

I’ve always liked live music, so when I heard about Burly Ama-Slam I was stoked to go!  The event was hosted by The Skinny Pancake and emceed by Dr. Rob of The Phineas Gage Project.  Dr. Rob is a professor of mine and he gave me the opportunity to be the photographer for the event, which allowed me to get some practice photographing live shows.

Ama-Slam is a “battle of the bands” of sorts, where ten performers from around Burlington each get to play a song of their choosing.  They are then judged on a scale of 1-10 by three judges.  The final score determines the winner.

I had an incredible time at this event, and was exposed to some talented local musicians.  I look forward to going to the next one on April 27!

What Happens in Vegas…

Sometimes opportunity comes knocking at your door, and turning it down would be absolutely senseless.  That’s how this trip came about, and I can’t even begin to explain the incredible experience that I had while climbing in Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, NV.  It was my first climbing trip, so who better to go on it with than Mike Jewell, the man who introduced me to rock climbing nearly eight years ago through Kismet Rock Foundation.

Mike made sure that I would have the best climbing trip I could possibly imagine, we got on 12 different climbs, climbed 38 pitches, totaling in over 4800 vertical feet; without a single rest day.  

The main focus was the classic climbs, including Dark Shadows (5.8), Cat in the Hat (5.7) with a variation recently established by Joanne Urioste called Ebony Way that combines The Cookie Monster (5.7) and Pauline’s Pentacle (5.9) as a start; Sensuous Mortician (5.9), Fold Out (5.8), Olive Oil (5.7), Frogland (5.8), Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a), Great Red Book (5.8) and Geronimo (5.6), as well as some sport at the Black Corridor; Vagabonds (5.10a) and Bon EZ (5.9+).

We stayed with Mike’s friend Teresa, her husband John and her pets Rosceaux, Pebbles, Drake, Reggie and Chucky.  There was also a great deal of time spent with the Urioste’s and their dog Pepper.  The hospitality we received was like no other. 

On the way to the airport, Mike drove me down Las Vegas Boulevard to see the strip.  Just to say that I saw it.  The stark contrast between the lights of the casinos and the sandstone cliffs I had just spent my spring break on was inconceivable.  It’s sad to think that the people in the casinos are missing out on such a natural gem just beyond the city. 

It was nine days packed with climbing and good company that I’ll be reminiscing about for the rest of my life. 

Pictures don’t do this trip any justice, but I will try:

Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival

Last weekend I was given the opportunity to go home and take photos for the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival, it was an absolute blast. Shooting on a snowing winter day was definitely new territory for me, so it was a great learning experience. Things started to run a little bit more smoothly after I figured out how to keep my camera’s buttons from freezing and how to work in a relatively wet environment.
I met some interesting people during the festival, I’ve always enjoyed being in the presence of fellow climbers. It was surprising just how far so many people traveled just to ice climb in my little hometown. It makes me realize just how fortunate I am to have grown up in such a unique corner of the world.

I’m already stoked for next year!

Aly and Bear

Last year my friend Aly and I were roommates, one of the first things I learned about her was that she LOVES her dog Bear. I lost count of the amount of Bear photos that were hanging on the walls of our small dorm room, so I figured if I bought up the idea of a photoshoot with the two of them Aly would be all for it. She was! The two of us went back to her hometown after classes yesterday, had some fun in the snow and got these adorable shots!

Looking Back on 2014

Twenty-Fourteen was quite the year.

I got a plane ticket to Colorado for spring break (then told parents I was going), finished my first year of college, drove to Virginia for the Dominion Riverrock Festival, got an amazing internship opportunity with Anne Skidmore Photography, worked as an in-house staff member and volunteer climbing instructor for Kismet Rock Foundation, my dog had litter of eight puppies, I lead my first trad climb and I encountered so many positive and inspiring individuals along the way. On top of all that, I feel as though I’ve developed greatly as an artist. Thanks to great professors, mentors and peers.

This coming year already has so much in store, like going on my first big climbing trip and spending my birthday halfway across the world. But I can’t wait to see what other surprises it will bring as well.

Here are some of my artistic highlights of 2014:

Wrapping Up the Semester

It was quite the semester this fall, with it’s fair share of ups and downs. And a few all-nighters to boot. I can’t wait to get back on campus in January, but some good R&R at home with family and old friends, and a few hours spent at Frontside Grind are long overdue.

I’m incredibly happy with the artistic work that I’ve produced over this semester, so I’m dedicating this post to sharing it.

Kismet Rock Foundation

Kismet Rock Foundation is a non-profit climbing school that helps children in need through their developmental teen years via an education in technical rock climbing and a family like atmosphere.

This program came into my life in 2007, when I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to be a student. Since then I have interned for the organization and I am now one of three alumni in-house staff members.

Kismet has opened so many doors for me, by giving me the courage to stand up for what I believe in and work towards my goals. As well as igniting my passion for doing things that some people may find crazy, like climbing up and hanging off of cliffs with little fear.

The kids that I currently work with are some of the strongest and most amazing individuals that I have encountered in my entire life. They teach me something new every second that I spend with them and I’m honored to call them a part of my Kismet Family.

This past summer while I volunteered at the cliff with the them, I took some time to practice my climbing photography skills. Here was the outcome…

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