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Jimmy Chin - Free Solo


Jimmy Chin is an award-winning filmmaker, photographer, and mountain sports athlete, who has documented dozens of expeditions for National Geographic and The North Face. In 2006 he was part of the first American team to climb, and then ski down the summit of Mount Everest. And in 2011 he made the first ever ascent of the 20,000 foot Himalayan peak known as the “Shark’s Fin”, which became MERU, the award winning documentary film.

His latest movie, “Free Solo”, which he co-directed with his wife Chai Vasarhelyi, features Alex Honnold climbing, without ropes, the 3,000 foot granite wall known as El Capitan.

Born in Mankato, Minnesota, in 1973, Jimmy Chin’s early fascination with climbing and the outdoors laid the foundation for his extraordinary journey. His parents, Chinese immigrants, initially discouraged his passion, but Chin’s determination and love for the mountains led him to pursue a life of adventure. Chin’s early climbing experiences set the stage for a career that would blend athleticism with artistic expression.

Jimmy Chin’s climbing achievements are nothing short of awe-inspiring. He has summited some of the world’s most challenging peaks, including Mount Everest and the Shark’s Fin on Meru Peak. His accomplishments as an alpinist and skier have earned him the respect of the global climbing community. Chin’s ability to navigate extreme conditions and conquer formidable summits reflects not only physical prowess but also mental fortitude and a deep connection to the natural world.

Chin’s passion for photography emerged alongside his climbing pursuits. His lens captured not just the technical aspects of climbing but also the raw emotions, camaraderie, and stunning landscapes that define the climbing experience. Chin’s images have graced the pages of prestigious publications, providing audiences with a glimpse into the world of high-altitude adventure. His photography transcends mere documentation, conveying the profound beauty and challenges inherent in the pursuit of lofty peaks.

In addition to his photography, Jimmy Chin has made a significant impact as a filmmaker. His co-direction of the documentary “Meru,” which chronicles the harrowing ascent of the Shark’s Fin, garnered widespread acclaim. The film received the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, showcasing Chin’s ability to translate the drama, intensity, and human dimensions of climbing onto the big screen.

Chin’s collaboration with filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi on the documentary “Free Solo” further solidified his status as a visionary director. The film, which chronicles rock climber Alex Honnold’s attempt to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2019. Chin’s skillful cinematography and storytelling expertise brought the gripping narrative to life, captivating audiences around the world.

Jimmy Chin’s influence extends beyond the realm of climbing and filmmaking. He has become an advocate for environmental conservation, sustainability, and diversity in the outdoors. Chin’s commitment to preserving the natural spaces he explores aligns with a broader movement within the outdoor industry to address environmental concerns and promote inclusivity.

Chin’s life and career embody a philosophy of relentless pursuit, creativity, and respect for the environment. His ability to seamlessly blend athleticism with artistic expression serves as an inspiration to aspiring adventurers, photographers, and filmmakers. Chin encourages individuals to push boundaries, embrace challenges, and find their unique voice in the world of adventure and storytelling.

Jimmy Chin’s journey from a passionate climber to a celebrated photographer and filmmaker underscores the interconnectedness of athleticism, creativity, and environmental consciousness. His achievements on towering peaks, captured through the lens of his camera, have not only left an indelible mark on the climbing community but have also brought the exhilarating spirit of adventure to a global audience. As a visual storyteller and advocate, Jimmy Chin continues to inspire individuals to embark on their own quests for exploration, creativity, and connection with the natural world.


00:00 | Trailer
03:23 Brian’s thoughts on the episode
06:13 Brian’s introduction
06:59 Sweating palms reaction to Jimmy’s new documentary film Free Solo
11:59 What Free Solo is about and how people connect with it
15:24 The mind-blowing concept and history of free soloing
19:39 What Alex Honnold learned about being perfect from free soloing up Half Dome
23:07 Why people climb
25:21 Alex Honnold’s relationship with Sanni McCandless28:56 Alex’ personality is one that allows him, or anyone in a high-performance situation, to succeed
34:59 Deciding whether, or not to make the film knowing that someone could die in the process
44:54 How Jimmy and perhaps Alex think about their own mortality
48:25 Jimmy’s most-scariest moment when climbing
50:35 The process of making the film and some of the production issues encountered
1:00:04 What happened on the day the climb took place
1:07:56 The Karate kick, the most intense part of the climb
1:10:52 How it felt for Jimmy to have completed filming
1:12:16 From Bafta to probable Oscar nomination
1:13:01 Nobody’s ever achieved anything great by being happy and cosy
1:14:31 Will this be Jimmy’s greatest film
1:15:33 How does Jimmy physically achieve what he does
1:16:43 His connection with nature
1:19:44 Jimmy’s daily practice
1:22:14 The best and worst days of his life
1:23:34 What are Jimmy’s super powers
1:25:14 What scares him shows why he makes the films he does
1:27:05 What we might be surprised to know about Jimmy
1:27:41 Did his Tiger mother influence him
1:28:52 You only protect what you love
1:30:14 Phone call to the 20 years old Jimmy
1:30:49 Best advice ever received
1:31:36 Success secrets
1:32:28 Brian’s summing up.


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