THE RED BULLETIN: You earn your living as an adventure photographer. When was the last time you were scared on the job?
KRYSTLE WRIGHT: This May. We wanted to climb University Peak, a 13,500 ft. mountain in Alaska. There’s a downhill slope there that can only be used occasionally. When we got to the mountain, an avalanche came roaring through the route we’d planned to take. And then there were six more. And I understood, yet again, that there are times when you wouldn’t have a hope in hell of surviving.
You’re constantly exposed to these sorts of risks. How do you minimize the danger?
I have three rules. Plan meticulously, get experienced people on board and call off projects if they get too dangerous. That’s what we did that day in Alaska.
But even that doesn’t always work. In 2011, you had to be rescued when your paraglider crashed into a rock face in Pakistan.
We were in the Rakaposhi-Haramosh Mountains. I was a passenger in a tandem paraglider and a gust of wind blew us off track. We were on a very steep hill and I saw a cluster of boulders coming towards me. Then there was a bang. I blacked out. I came to some minutes later and my face was bleeding.
How did you get from the mountains to a hospital?
Paraglider Tom De Dorlodot landed in the village and organized the rescue chain. A team got me off the mountain and we traveled by Jeep until a swollen river blocked our path. Local villagers carried me across a makeshift bridge, then we waited there for another Jeep. We got to the hospital eight hours later. I reaped the rewards of rule two there: having professionals on board.
How do you cope with setbacks like that?
I didn’t have much choice but to throw myself back into whatever work I could still do. As a freelancer, I had no salary to pay for the medical bills. I felt sorry for my ex-boyfriend who had to help me on a job carrying my equipment while I followed on crutches. My face had stitches and I had a very red eye. I think people thought I was a victim of domestic abuse.
What do you learn about yourself when you’re constantly exposed to danger?
Your weaknesses are revealed mercilessly. So I can be patient when it comes to photography, but I can’t be at all when it comes to taking care of my health. That’s changed now.
Have you got any tips for how to get an adrenalin rush without risking your health?
Camping doesn’t sound all that extreme.
You’ll be surprised at all the things you learn about yourself when you leave your comfort zone and simply immerse yourself in the outdoors.