Behind the Photo: Mike Chapman

Tim Emmett by Mike Chapmanb

This looks gnarly. What’s happening here?
This is that cold snap we had in November 2013. This is Brandywine falls and the climber is Tim Emmett with Jaime Finlayson on belay. It was funny, Tim had been skulking around up behind the Chief in Squamish looking for ice near Mount Habrich. Then he saw a friend’s Instagram picture of Brandywine all iced up and his eyes bugged out of his head, so we drove up and rappelled it to check it out. And then it was on.

You have to move quick with those cold snaps, how did it all come together?
We knew we only had three to four days in the cold snap so it was a bit of a scramble. Tim and Jamie came in for coffee at the Cloudburst Café and it was one of those “right place, right time” moments. They told me what they were up to. so I got off work at one o’clock and drove up there without snow tires to shoot it. It was cold but not that snowy, so I made it.

What are the challenges when shooting something like this?
This was pretty easy to shoot. I’ve definitely shot in more hostile environments. The fact that Brandywine is a tourist destination made it easier to shoot a bunch of angles. There’s an observation deck even. Tim had been looking for something like Helmken Falls, something that requires cold winter conditions to hold it together, funny that he found it only about half an hour from home.

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How was the climbing?
It was a bit loose. The lowest pitch was straightforward ice with mostly dry tooling here at the top. Tim was knocking off a bit of loose rock and several large ice daggers. Then Jamie did this last pitch on top rope—his first ice climbing experience. The first and second pitch still have never been climbed but the last pitch was exciting nonetheless.

It’s pretty awesome that this is a spot that sees probably tens of thousands of visitors from around the world and yet on the right day, under the right circumstances, you can show up and do something that has never been done before.
Yeah, Plan B is “be ready.” I like shooting first ascents — I like the story behind the image. As a climber I was always interested in them too. Jamie and I even thought about coming back in the summer and checking out some other parts of the amphitheatre to see if any of it can be rock climbed.