Climbing in the Verdon Gorge, France

Photograph by Keith Ladzinski

"This particular area is accessed via kayak because of the immense canyon walls—it's the only way in. It’s a pretty special approach," says climber Jonathan Siegrist, seen here about 225 feet above the Verdon River in France’s Verdon Gorge. The canyon, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, is not far from the French Riviera and is popular with tourists—and rock climbers.

"This is an amazing route in a very unique cave hidden low in the gorge,” says Siegrist. “The route begins with some very overhanging and gymnastic climbing through mostly good holds, then it pulls the roof and finishes on this immaculate headwall of blue limestone." Siegrist, who lives out of his van parked mostly in Colorado, has been climbing for the last nine years. "This was the first hard route I have climbed in Europe on my first European climbing trip," recalls Siegrist. "Hopefully I’ll be back when the water is warm enough to jump in!"

Getting the Shot

"It was one of the most spectacular canyons I've ever shot climbing in, perfect in every way,” says globe-trotting adventure photographer Keith Ladzinski. Ladzinski headed to Verdon Gorge with climbers Siegrist and Nina Caprez to explore the roots of French sport climbing.

"When I first saw this cave I knew immediately that it was going to yield a pretty wild top-down perspective," recalls Ladzinski. The trio kayaked to the location, and Ladzinki set up above Siegrist, who had hung a static line from nearby anchors. “It gave the ultimate bird’s-eye perspective of the route he was trying. I used a basic pair of extended painter's poles to boom out from the wall to get the shot—it was an exciting perch."

After returning to their boat they discovered the boat had a hole. “We rowed hard—and laughed harder—and were only mere inches from the surface of the water when we got back to the shoreline,” says Ladzinski. "I thought we were going to have to swim and that would be bad for all of the camera gear in the boat! That sort of adventure makes it a better memory somehow, you laugh about it while it's happening—and for years to come. In some ways, it’s the best part of the job."

Ladzinski photographed with a Nikon D4 and a 14-24mm, f/2.8 lens.