christian pondella


High-Altitude Adventures with Photographer @christianpondella

For more photos from Christian, follow @christianpondella on Instagram.

Christian Pondella (@christianpondella) began his post-college life as a “ski bum” and mountain climber, with photography as a hobby to document his high-altitude excursions. “I’d go up skiing and climbing with friends, shoot photos and spend hours in the darkroom making prints. It was so much fun,” the Mammoth Lakes, California, resident says. Over two decades later, Christian, who’s 45, makes a living documenting his international adventures, and those of other athletes like kayakers, motorcycle racers and BASE jumpers. He captured one of his favorite shots while visiting a Chilean ski resort in the Andes Mountains, cutting through powder high above a partially frozen lake. “We kept hiking and skiing, but the image I had in mind never presented itself,” says Christian of his photo of renowned skier Chris Davenport. On the last day of the trip, with less than an hour remaining before they needed to board a bus to catch a flight, the light and ice finally synced up. “I fired off a bunch of frames and didn’t even have a chance to look at my camera because we were running so late.”

Keeping pace with elite athletes requires shedding gear. “If I’ve got 25 pounds [11 kilograms] of camera gear, I’m not going to be able to keep up. I have a small camera body, plus one or two lenses, and it’s attached to my hip so I have easy access to it.”

“Helmcken Falls, located in Wells Grey Provincial Park in British Columbia, is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada with a height of 141 meters. The water cascades over a natural amphitheater where the mist from the waterfall freezes to the overhanging and horizontal rock, creating a recent discovery for the world’s elite ice climbers. Will Gadd and Tim Emmett were the first to discover and climb this severely overhanging cave.” (© Christian Pondella / Red Bull Illume)