Elite Traveler Winter 2021

etr li at ve eler WINTER 2021/22 77

Left and below Panerai Submersible Chronograph Flyback Jimmy Chin Edition, $19,400, panerai.com

Chin’s first film, created along with his wife E. Chai Vasarhelyi in 2015, was Meru . Chin had first attempted to climb the Shark’s Fin route on Meru Central in the Himalayas with two others in 2008 but just 300 ft from the summit, he made the difficult but necessary decision to turn around for the safety of everyone. In 2011, the three returned to the Fin and made the first-ever ascent. Meru was highly acclaimed, but it wasn’t until he and his wife co-produced the movie Free Solo in 2019 that they won both a British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) and an Academy Award for best documentary. That documentary tracked the life and decision by Alex Honnold to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. One of the most harrowing and difficult climbs, Honnold did it all without ropes. Chin and a carefully hand-selected team of photographers caught the entire climb on film thanks to their incredible climbing skills, as well. “In this genre of alpine climbing or free soloing, Chai and I try to make films that tackle ideas and themes that are so much bigger than the subject matter,” says Chin. “We bring the emotions to light, the bigger picture than just the ascent.” Chin added that he and his wife are currently working on four films, including a documentary, The Rescue , about saving the school soccer team trapped in the caves in Thailand during a flood. So, what advice would Chin give to today’s aspiring climbers? “It’s important to stay open-minded, to discover something that really calls to you. Sometimes finding that thing is a lifelong project, and sometimes it just happens. You never know what you will find but keep an open mind.”

follow a traditional career path, but they also taught me about grit and determination and excellence and perseverance. I decided to make my own way using that, and to me that felt like a huge risk. I was in my 20s, and my parents saved their whole lives and put me through private school and college, and then I went and did this other thing. That risk for me was the greatest risk I ever took.” Chin says the fact that he was raised by librarians and “was fed tons of books” growing up fueled his imagination, and the idea of living an adventurous life took hold. “I have always felt an urgency in my life, even when I was a kid. I wanted to play more, I wanted to do more, I wanted to see more, to explore more. While I love everything I do, the core of who I am is a mountain climber and skier. Those are the passions that are the inspiration for my other work. Climbing was an entryway into exploring, experiencing and understanding human potential and the human spirit. And those are the stories I end up telling in my photography and filmmaking.” Chin is also very aware of the concepts of inclusivity and growth. In fact, he notes that when he was growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, “There were no alpinists, filmmakers, photographers that came out of Mankato, and there are certainly no Asian climbers and filmmakers and photographers, so there was no model for me to follow. I believe that the best way to create change is to lead by example, and I’m conscious of the fact that I didn’t have many people who looked like me to look up to, or to look to for direction, so of course I hope I encourage young Asian kids to look twice and say, ‘Oh yeah there is someone who does it and I can do that, too.’ It gives permission in a way that they didn’t have before. Not and you’re not getting it back and you can’t earn more, so you have to use it wisely.” “To me, time is the only true currency. You’re only spending it

because someone was saying that you couldn’t do it, but more just because you now see and realize that someone that looks like you is doing that.” According to Chin, climbing has changed him and has opened a lot of doors for him, as well, particularly in the world of filmmaking. “Climbing has offered me an opportunity to explore the physical world, to explore my personal inner world and my emotional world. The lessons I have learned from climbing are applicable to every aspect of life. It gives me access to the creative side of who I am, and from that the photography and filmmaking passions come to light.”

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