Photographer Jimmy Chin makes a living exploring and capturing some of the world’s most beautiful and hard-to-reach places. He’s taken his cameras and crampons to spots from the face of Yosemite’s El Capitan (for National Geographic’s Academy Award-winning Free Solo) to the Shark’s Fin peak of Mount Meru in the Himalayas (for the documentary Meru).
Chin’s thirst for adventure and epic visuals makes his work both risky and rewarding. We spoke to him about the life and travel lessons he’s learned on roads and peaks, and how his experiences might help readers get through challenging times. We chatted April 1, 2020, as Chin holed up with his wife and young children outside Jackson, Wyoming, during the coronavirus crisis.
As a climber and adventure traveler, you face the unknown often. How do you come to terms with it?
I’ve spent the past 20 years on many expeditions. I guess we choose to face the unknown. There’s something about it that I’m drawn to, that experience of facing the unknown and exploring places that are very remote. But I definitely experience fear, trepidation, and anxiety. It’s just a matter of not letting the unknown overwhelm me, and doing all I can to plan and prepare for things I can control.
What’s facing uncertainty like as you isolate with your family in the Tetons?
We can’t travel right now, so we’re doing what we can do—trying to get outdoors once a day, doing cleaning and lots of house projects. The kids keep cross-country skiing in the yard and building snow forts. Getting the blood pumping has physical and emotional benefits.
How can you get outdoors and stay safe in uncertain times?
I just did a PSA here in Wyoming about staying safe in backcountry. Because even though people will go out into the wilderness, right now, medical and rescue services are really strained. So going into the backcountry requires a lot of preparation and thought. You don’t want to be put in a situation where you are requiring rescue. It’s a time to keep things mellow.