Solo Summit of Mt. Ballyhoo

Updated: Dec 21, 2019


Sunlight began to break through the desiccating overcast of a winter afternoon in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Within an hour I found myself at the bottom of Mt. Ballyhoo; a modest peak rising from the tundra of Amaknak Island in the Aleutian chain.


The mountain, statistically, it in no way foreboding but there are cliffs and snow and enough avalanche risk to give the solo alpinist reason to pause. An ice axe and crampons found their way into my pack, alongside a pair of Olympus film cameras.

High winds the day before scoured much of the snow from Ballyhoo's southern ridge, and conditions on the mountain were perfect. In the lee of the mountain's undulations were pockets of drifted powdery snow. On the high points between clung a thin crusty layer of snow and ice.


I picked my way around the drifts and soon found myself on the summit overlooking the Bering Sea.


The following night, I developed the film using some expired Ilfosol 3 developer (the only option on the island). In order to use the old developer effectively, I clipped a test strip of three photos from another roll of Tri-X 400 black and white film and developed these three frames in the oxidized Ilfosol. This gave me a baseline against which to adjust my development times. I was short on fixer as well, and had to dilute it below the recommended 1:4 ratio. I estimated the final ratio of my fixer to be about 1:6, and again guessed at the appropriate timing adjustment for that stage of development.

You can see the final results below! My guesswork seems to have worked out alright, even if the images are a bit sloppy. I actually really like the way they turned out... there is something about the messiness of the images that I find endearing; a contrast to our modern cameras with their sterile digital precision. It is exactly the type of authenticity that drew me to film in the first place.










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© 2018 Kevin P. Lyons