BLACKRAPID Guest Blog Post by Clay Cook | Photographing the Wings Of Kilimanjaro Expedition with BLACKRAPID

WHEN I FIRST PIKED UP A CAMERA,

I found the stock strap to be uncomfortable and quite unfashionable. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even attach it. And to this day, it’s still in the box. But, I needed a support system and a reliable support system for projects that required multiple cameras in a run and gun scenario. Overtime, I grew into an advanced style of photography, but still required a strap that was comfortable and could adapt to extreme adventure. The BLACKRAPID sling strap system has always been the answer.

AT HIGH-ALTITUDE MOTHER NATURE IS IN COMPLETE CONTROL, YOU MUST HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT, RIGHT TEAM, AND A FIRM FOCUS.

Within the first pre-production meeting for Wings Of Kilimanjaro, we didn’t touch on the risk or mental attrition we would face, instead we focused on the objective. The goal was to not only para-glide off the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet, but more importantly to provide education and clean water to the Maasai of Tanzania. In partnership with Nadus Films, our job was to document this great charitable event from start to finish.

MOUNT KILIMANJARO IS THE HIGHEST FREE-STANDING MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD AND IS THE MOST UNIQUE.

As you trek to the top you pass through four different ecosystems; rain forest to moorland to alpine desert and finally to alpine glacier across volcanic erosion. The equipment list was extensive and detailed, but the proper gear was vital. It has to be the most durable, weather resistant, lightweight, equipment available.

ON AN EXPEDITION SUCH AS THIS, COMFORT PLAYS A VITAL ROLE INTO MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH.

If you’re uncomfortable, hardship will drill through your body like a bullet. A ten-pound camera can feel like twenty at high-altitude. On Mount Kilimanjaro, a proper support system was crucial and the sling-style strap and soft breathable cushion of the Curve Breathe from BLACKRAPID offset that camera weight, so I continue to climb at the same time in comfort. We pushed through seven trying days of long treks and acclimatization beginning at 3,000 feet all the way to 19,341 feet. I had to haul gear, be ahead of the pack and double time the pace. The cam buckles on the strap allowed me to be versatile in any situation. With the quick zip of the buckle, I could lock my camera in place and continue with the expedition.

ONCE AT THE TOP, OUR DESCENT WAS A FOURTY-FIVE MINUTE, FROZEN FLIGHT STRAIGHT DOWN.

In order to sail off the summit, we had to sprint down the face of Uhuru Peak hoping for a wind cycle to lift the glider and the weight of the pilot and passenger. After an exhausting six-hour summit bid, this dash was the hardest obstacle I faced on the journey, especially with the additional weight of the harness and camera equipment. But, the Backpack Breathe strap was the perfect solution to maintaining a center of gravity, with the DSLR secured to my chest. 

THE GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

Although our expedition Wings Of Kilimanjaro pulled off an amazing feat and set a world record, I believe our greatest accomplishment was not para-gliding off Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet. Our triumph was raising over a half-million dollars to save the lives of thousands of Maasai in the remote villages of Tanzania.

#LIVETHEMOMENT WITH CLAY COOK

Clay Cook is a BLACKRAPID Ambassador. Discover more about his work over at www.claycookphoto.com.

For more information on Nadus Films, visit www.nadusfilms.com.

Discover more about the Wings of Kilimanjaro project and participate at www.wingsofkilimanjaro.com.