The use of drones in Pakistan normally brings to mind images of US spy planes attacking tribal areas. But drones now are being used to capture a different kind of picture in the country — showing some of the world’s highest mountains being scaled by world-class climbers through some of Earth’s thinnest air.
This summer, a Swiss expedition used remote-controlled helicopters to shoot rare footage of climbers on the Karakoram, one of the world’s most demanding and formidable mountain ranges.
“People are going to see footage from the Karakoram that no human being has ever seen,” said Corey Rich, a photographer and videographer from Lake Tahoe, California, who was on the expedition.
The expedition was a joint project between outdoor clothing and equipment company Mammut, and Dedicam, a firm that specialises in using remote-controlled helicopters to shoot video. Their goal: to document world-class mountaineer David Lama and his climbing partner Peter Ortner as they climbed Trango Tower. The sheer granite tower in the Baltoro Glacier is more than 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) above sea level and is one of the most technically difficult climbs in the world.
Filmmakers long have used helicopters to capture aerial footage of climbers — as well as other extreme sport athletes like surfers and skiers — that is hard to capture from the ground. But helicopters are costly and can be dangerous if they crash or get too close to the people on the ground. Additionally, their beating rotors often kick up dust, snow and wind — and can push climbers off balance.
Drones, which can weigh just a few kilos and cost between $1,000 and $40,000, are a fraction of the size and cost of the helicopters traditionally used in adventure photography.