Jimmy Chin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jimmy Chin
Jimmy Chin speaking at the University of Michigan
Alma materCarleton College
Occupation(s)Climber, film director, and photographer
Known for
SpouseElizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Jimmy Chin (born c. 1973/74)[1] is an American professional mountain athlete, photographer, film director, and author.

Chin has been a professional climber and skier on The North Face Athlete team for over 20 years.[2] In 2006, Chin achieved the first successful American ski descent from the summit of Mount Everest with Kit and Rob DesLauriers. Five years later, Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk captured the first ascent of "Shark's Fin", a granite wall on India's Meru Peak.[3]

Chin's work documenting expeditions and climbs has been featured in numerous publications, including National Geographic,[4] The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Outside magazine and others. In 2019, Chin was awarded the National Geographic "Photographer's Photographer Award" by his peers. His first book of photography documenting his career in the mountains, There and Back, became a New York Times Best Seller in 2021.  

Chin co-directs with his wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. Together they directed the documentary Meru, which won numerous awards including the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival[5] and was shortlisted for an Academy Award, and Free Solo, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature,[6] a BAFTA[7] and seven Primetime Emmys.[8] Free Solo had the highest-grossing opening weekend in history for a documentary. The film eventually grossed $29 million dollars in the box office. Chin and Chai's 2021 documentary, The Rescue, chronicles the Tham Luang cave rescue. The Rescue won numerous awards, including the People's Choice Award at Toronto International Film Festival,[9] and was also shortlisted for an Academy Award. Chin and Vasarhelyi are currently working on their first scripted feature, Nyad, starring Annette Bening and Jodie Foster about Diana Nyad's historic swim from Cuba to Florida.[10]

Climbing career[edit]

From 1999 to 2001, Chin organized climbing expeditions to Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains. He signed a sponsorship agreement with The North Face in 2001.[11]

In 2002, he was asked to join a National Geographic expedition to make an unsupported crossing of the remote Chang Tang Plateau in Tibet with Galen Rowell, Rick Ridgeway and Conrad Anker. The expedition was featured in National Geographic's April 2003 issue[11] and documented in Rick Ridgeway's book The Big Open.

In 2003, Chin headed to Everest with Stephen Koch. They attempted the direct North Face via the Japanese Couloir to the Hornbein Couloir in alpine style (eschewing supplemental oxygen, fixed ropes, and camps). They were unsuccessful and both were nearly killed in an avalanche.[citation needed]

In May 2004, Chin climbed Everest with David Breashears and Ed Viesturs while filming for Working Title on a feature film project with Stephen Daldry. Chin later accompanied Ed Viesturs to Annapurna in 2005. Viesturs successfully climbed Annapurna and finished his quest to climb all of the world's 8000-metre peaks without oxygen. Chin photographed the expedition and the story was featured in the September 2005 issue of Men's Journal.[citation needed]

In October 2006, he achieved the first successful American ski descent of Mount Everest with Kit DesLauriers and Rob DesLauriers. They skied from the summit and are the only people to have skied the South Pillar Route on the Lhotse Face.[citation needed]

In May 2007, Chin joined the Altitude Everest Expedition as a climber and expedition photographer in an attempt to retrace George Mallory and Sandy Irvine's fateful last journey up the North Face of Everest.[citation needed]

In 2007, Chin ventured to Borneo with Mark Synnott, Conrad Anker, and Alex Honnold to make the first ascent of a 2,500-foot overhanging alpine big wall at an elevation of 14,000 feet on Mount Kinabalu.[12]

In 2008, Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk made their first attempt on the "Shark's Fin", a 1,500-foot blade of granite leading to the summit of 21,000-foot Meru Central, in India's Garhwal Himalaya range. They spend 19 days on the wall but are forced to turn back just 100 meters short of the summit.[13]

In 2009, on an expedition to Chad's remote Ennedi Desert, Chin, Alex Honnold, Renan Ozturk, Mark Synott, and James Pearson made numerous first ascents of sandstone towers and arches.[citation needed]

Outside of major Himalayan expeditions, Chin has participated in numerous exploratory climbing and skiing expeditions to Baffin Island, Borneo, Mali, Chad, the Pitcairn Islands, Antarctica, and other remote regions of the planet.[citation needed]

In April 2011, Chin survived a class-4 avalanche in the Grand Tetons, his home mountain range.[14]

In October 2011 Chin, Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk made the first ascent of the Shark's Fin route on Meru Central in the Garhwal Himalayas in India. They had tried the same climb in 2008, but were forced to turn around 100m from the summit.[15] His film of the climb, Meru, was released in theaters in 2015.[16]

In 2017, Chin and Anker established a new route on Ulvetanna Peak, called The Wolf's Fang, in Queen Maud Land, in Antarctica.[citation needed]

In 2020, Chin, Anker, Jim Morrison, and Hilaree Nelson climbed and skied Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica, in a one-day push. The team spent less than 48 hours at the mountain. They went on to attempt to climb and ski the French Route on Mount Tyree, the second-highest peak in Antarctica but turned around due to high avalanche danger.[citation needed]

Filmmaking career[edit]

Chin began filming in 2003 under the mentorship of Rick Ridgeway. He was a cinematographer for the National Geographic television special Deadly Fashion. He later worked with David Breashears, shooting Ed Viesturs climbing to the summit of Mount Everest. He worked as a cinematographer with Chris Malloy of Woodshed films on the feature documentary 180 South.[citation needed]

In 2010, Chin started the commercial production company Camp 4 Collective with Tim Kemple and Renan Ozturk. He sold the company to his partners in 2014.[citation needed]

Chin collaborated with his wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi to produce and direct the feature-length documentary Meru, about his 2011 climb.[17] It premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, winning the US Audience Documentary Award.[16]

Alex Honnold and Chin started climbing together in 2009 but it was not until 2015 that Honnold chose Chin and wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi to film his process of climbing up El Capitan.[18]

On June 3, 2017, Chin led a team that filmed Alex Honnold on the first ever rope-free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Collaborating again with Vasarhelyi, they produced and directed the feature-length documentary Free Solo.[19] Free Solo went on to win the People's Choice Award: Documentaries at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival,[20] the 2018 BAFTA Award for Best Documentary,[21] and the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[6]

Chin and Chai's 2021 documentary, The Rescue, chronicles the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, during which twelve boys belonging to an association football team and their assistant coach were rescued from inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand. The film, which premiered in select theaters in October 2021, won the People's Choice Documentary Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and received generally positive reviews.[citation needed]

The 8-part documentary series Edge of the Unknown with Jimmy Chin premiered on Disney Plus on September 7, 2022. Chin and Chai co-directed and produced 2 episodes, while Chin was featured throughout the series.


Chin has worked with charities and campaigns supporting environmental rights. He has given master classes for the Rowell / International Campaign for Tibet to support Tibetan wildlife and culture. He has also partnered with the American Alpine Club to create an intentional resource for grieving. His work with The Access Fund supports national monument rights. Chin sits on the board of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and a contributing member of the Conservation Alliance since 2001. Chin is also a member of the SeaLegacy ocean conservation project.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Chin was born and raised in Mankato, Minnesota, and graduated from Wayland Academy. Both his parents are from China, his father was born in Wenzhou, and his mother was born in Harbin.[22] They both worked as librarians.[23]

He is a 1996 alumnus of Carleton College,[1][24] where he received a BA in Asian Studies.[1] He first became involved in climbing while at Carleton.[25] After college, he became a climbing "dirtbag", despite his parents' disapproval. He serendipitously discovered photography when he borrowed his sleeping climbing partner's camera to take a photo. They sold the picture for $500, and this started his photography career.[26][11]

On May 26, 2013, Chin married film director and producer Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.[27] They live in Jackson, Wyoming, with their daughter and son.[citation needed]

Notable ascents[edit]


  • Meru-Sharks Fin, FA of East Face VII 5.10 A4 M7, India
  • Mt. Everest, South Col Route, Nepal
  • Ulvetanna, FA of the Anker Chin Route, VII 5.10, A3, Antarctica
  • Mt. Kinabalu, FA V 5.12 A2, Borneo
  • Kaga Pomori, FA IV; 5.11R South Face, Mali, Africa
  • Chiru Mustagh, first ascent Southeast Ridge, 21,000 ft., Xinjiang, China
  • Free solo of the Grand Traverse, Grand Teton National Park, 12 hours car to car
  • Tahir Tower, FA VII 5.11 A3, Kondus Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan
  • 15 one day ascents of El Capitan
  • Native Son, VI 5.9 A4, Pacific Ocean Wall, VI 5.10, A3+
  • Beatrice Tower, FA VII 5.10+ A3+, Charakusa Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan
  • Fathi Brakk, FA VI 5.10+ A3 WI4, Charakusa Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan

Ski mountaineering

  • Mt. Everest, South Pillar Route, first American ski descent
  • Tai Yang Peak, first ascent and ski descent, Xinjiang, China
  • Chang Zheng Peak (22,800 ft.), first ski descent, Central Rongbuk, Tibet
  • 25 ski descents of the Grand Teton
  • First solo winter ski descent of the Grand Teton
  • Skied the Grand Teton, Middle Teton and South Teton 10 hours car to car
  • Skied multiple lines off all the primary peaks in the Teton Range including the Newcomb Couloir on the north face of Buck Mountain, the Spooky Face on Nez Perce, the Amore Vida on the South Teton, the Glacier Route on the Middle Teton, the Colvin on Mount Owen, the East Face of Teewinot and the Skillet on Mount Moran among others.
  • Denali, West Buttress, Rescue Gully


  • There and Back (2021)


Feature documentary producer / director[edit]


Film awards and honors[edit]

Award/Honor Category Title Result
Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature Free Solo Won[29]
Meru Short Listed
The Rescue Short Listed
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Meru Won
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program Free Solo Won[30]
Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within an Unscripted Program Free Solo Won
Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program Free Solo Won
Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program Free Solo Won
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Free Solo Won
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Free Solo Won
Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score) Free Solo Won
Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Documentary Free Solo Won
The Rescue Won
Opening Weekend Gross Highest Grossing Documentary Ever Free Solo Won
British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Documentary Free Solo Won[31]
The Rescue Nominated[32]
Producers Guild of America Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures Free Solo Nominated[33]
The Rescue Nominated[34]
Directors Guild of America Best Director for a Documentary Free Solo Nominated[35]
The Rescue Nominated[36]
Critics Choice Awards Best Director for a Documentary The Rescue Won[37]
Best Score for a Documentary The Rescue Won
Best Cinematography for a Documentary The Rescue Won


  • Nominee Piolet D'Or International Climbing award[38]
  • Outside Magazine's Adventurers of the Year 2012[39]
  • American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Sports and Adventure Winner[40]
  • Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) Foundation's Award
  • National Geographic and Microsoft Emerging Explorers Grant
  • Galen Rowell Memorial Photography Award
  • Lyman Spitzer Adventure Award: K7 Climbing Expedition
  • Polartec Grant Recipient: K7 Climbing Expedition
  • Honorary Doctorate, Sustainability Science, Unity College, Unity, Maine
  • Carleton College Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement[41]
  • National Geographic Photographer’s Photographer Award
  • National Geographic Further Award (2020)[42]
  • Murie Spirit of Conversation Award[43]
  • Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival for Meru (2015)
  • Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for Free Solo (2018)
  • GQ Man of the Year (2021)[44]
  • Ken Burn’s American Heritage Prize[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Pipsters", Paumgarten, Nick, July 25, 2015, The New Yorker
  2. ^ "Jimmy Chin - The North Face Mountaineer, Photographer, and Director". www.thenorthface.com. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  3. ^ "First ascent of the Shark's Fin route, Meru Peak".
  4. ^ "Jimmy Kuo Wei Chin - National Geographic Society". www.nationalgeographic.org. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  5. ^ "Climbing Film 'Meru' Wins Audience Choice at Sundance". Adventure. 2015-02-01. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  6. ^ a b Slavsky, Bennett (25 February 2019). "Free Solo Wins Oscar for Best Documentary (Videos + Photo Gallery)". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  7. ^ "Documentary - Free Solo". www.bafta.org. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  8. ^ "Free Solo". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  9. ^ "The Rescue Wins TIFF People's Choice Award for Documentary". POV Magazine. 2021-09-19. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  10. ^ Grobar, Matt (2022-03-16). "'Nyad': Rhys Ifans Joins Annette Bening & Jodie Foster In Netflix Biopic From Oscar Winners Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi And Jimmy Chin". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  11. ^ a b c Andrew Bisharat (2 February 2018). "Photographer Jimmy Chin on Mastering the Art of Chill". National Geographic.
  12. ^ "Throwback to Alex Honnold's Borneo Big Wall Dyno". 29 April 2021.
  13. ^ "Jimmy Chin Remembers Shark's Fin, the Summit That Launched Him to Stardom".
  14. ^ Breslow, Peter (July 3, 2016). "The Beast Born of Snow". NPR.
  15. ^ Hayden Carpenter (20 January 2015). "Climbing Film "Meru" Makes it into the Sundance Film Festival". Rock and Ice.
  16. ^ a b "A Filmmaker's Epic Journey to the Peak of Meru". National Geographic. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  17. ^ Lisa Chase (12 September 2018). "Free Solo's Director Doesn't Give a F**k About Climbing". Outside Online.
  18. ^ "How Jimmy Chin Filmed Alex Honnold's Death-Defying Free Solo". Magazine. 2018-09-27. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  19. ^ "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". 3 June 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  20. ^ "TIFF 2018 Awards: ‘Green Book’ Wins the People’s Choice Award, Upsetting ‘A Star Is Born’"
  21. ^ [1], 10 February 2019
  22. ^ "Why Jimmy Chin Takes Pictures While Climbing and Skiing Mountains", Mark M. Synnott, 10 August 2015, National Geographic
  23. ^ "Photographer Jimmy Chin on Mastering the Art of Chill". 2 February 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  24. ^ Anon., "Jimmy Chin '96: A Mountaineer in Manhattan", Carleton Now.
  25. ^ "Jimmy Chin Just Can't Stop Climbing". Esquire. 20 April 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  26. ^ "A Mountaineer in Manhattan". 27 July 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Elizabeth Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin". The New York Times. May 26, 2013. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  28. ^ "'Free Solo' Director Jimmy Chin Will Be Your Photo Instructor". Condé Nast Traveler. 2018-12-05. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  29. ^ "Browser Unsupported - Academy Awards Search | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". awardsdatabase.oscars.org. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  30. ^ "Free Solo". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  31. ^ "DOCUMENTARY - Free Solo". www.bafta.org. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  32. ^ "2022 EE British Academy Film Awards: The Winners".
  33. ^ "'RBG,' 'Free Solo,' 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?' Land Producers Guild Awards Documentary Nominations". 2018-11-20. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  34. ^ "PGA Award Nominees for Documentary Motion Pictures". Producer's Guild. 2021-12-10. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  35. ^ "DGA Announces Nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Television, Commercials and Documentary for 2018 -". www.dga.org. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  36. ^ "DGA Announces Nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Television, Commercials and Documentary for 2021 -". www.dga.org. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  37. ^ "2021: 6th Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards – Winners | Critics Choice Awards". Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  38. ^ "Americans, Slovenians Win Piolets d'Or". Climbing. 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  39. ^ "2012 Outside Adventurers of the Year". Outside Online. 2012-04-09. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  40. ^ "MAGAZINE EDITORS CHOOSE THE COVER OF THE YEAR". www.asme.media. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  41. ^ "Carleton College".
  42. ^ "Jimmy Kuo Wei Chin - National Geographic Society". www.nationalgeographic.org. Retrieved 2022-02-08.
  43. ^ "News Release: Jimmy Chin to Receive Murie Spirit of Conservation Award". Teton Science Schools. 2019-05-01. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  44. ^ "GQ Men of the Year". GQ. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  45. ^ "2019 Recipient". Ken Burns American Heritage Prize. Retrieved 2022-06-27.

External links[edit]