Jimmy Chin

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Jimmy Chin
Born (1973-10-12) October 12, 1973 (age 45)
Nationality American
Occupation Climber, Skier, Mountaineer, Director and Photographer

Jimmy Chin (born October 12, 1973) is an American professional climber, mountaineer, skier, director and photographer.

He has organized and led numerous climbing, ski-mountaineering and exploratory expeditions to China, Pakistan, Nepal, Tanzania, Chad, Mali, South Africa, Borneo, India and Argentina. His achievements include climbing and skiing Mount Everest from the summit, making first ascents of big walls and alpine towers in the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan and the Garwhal Himalayas of Northern India, and crossing the Chang Tang Plateau in north-western Tibet on foot.

Both in front of and behind the camera, he has been featured in numerous publications, including National Geographic, Outside and Men's Journal.

Expedition career[edit]

He organized several climbing expeditions to Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains early in his career and signed a sponsorship agreement with The North Face in 2001.

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 is featured in National Geographic's April 2003 issue 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 Coulior 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.

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 (Director of The Hours.) He later accompanied Ed Viesturs to Annapurna in 2005. Ed successfully climbed Annapurna and finished his quest to climb all of the world's 8000 meter peaks without oxygen. He photographed the expedition and the story was featured in the September 2005 issue of Men's Journal.

In October 2006, he achieved the first successful American ski descent of Mount Everest with Kit and Rob DesLauriers. They skied from the summit and are the only people to have skied the South Pillar route.

In May 2007, he 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.

Outside of major Himalayan expeditions, he has participated in numerous exploratory climbing and skiing expeditions to Baffin Island, Borneo, Mali, Chad, Pitcairn Island and other remote regions of the planet.

In 2011 Chin, Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk made the first ascent of Shark's Fin in the Garwhal Himalayas in India. His film of the climb, Meru, was awarded the Golden Piton by Climbing Magazine for Best Big Wall Climb of the Year and voted the #1 ascent of the year by Rock and Ice Magazine - and won the U.S. Audience Documentary Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.[1]

On June 3, 2017, Chin accompanied Alex Honnold on the first ever rope-free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.[2]

Filmmaking career[edit]

Chin began filming in 2003 under the mentorship of Rick Ridgeway. His first attempt as a cinematographer resulted in an hour long television special for National Geographic called 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.

In 2010, Chin started the production company, Camp 4 Collective with Tim Kemple and Renan Ozturk. He shot and directed branded content videos and commercials for such companies as The North Face, Pirelli and Apple. He sold Camp 4 Collective to his partners in 2014. His feature-length documentary Meru, co-directed with wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Their 2018 film Free Solo won the People's Choice Award: Documentaries at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.[3]


Chin has worked with multiple 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 Access Fund supports national monument rights. Chin is also a member of the Conservation Alliance, offering photography services in support of charity.

Personal life[edit]

Chin was born and raised in Mankato, Minnesota and graduated from Mankato West High School. Both his parents were born in China; his father was from Wenzhou and his mother from Harbin.[4] They both worked as librarians.[5]

He is a 1996 alumnus of Carleton College,[6][7] where he received a BA in Asian Studies.[6] He first became involved in climbing while at Carleton.[8]

On May 26, 2013, Chin married Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, a director and producer.[9]

Career highlights[edit]

Publications (most recent)

  • May 2012 Men's Journal: Feature article "Climbing Mount Impossible" about the most attempted and coveted first ascent in the Himalayas
  • May 2012 Alpinist Magazine: Feature article "The City and The Blade" about the first ascent of the Shark's Fin
  • March 2012 Climbing Magazine: Cover photo of Ivo Ninov leading on the Pacific Ocean Wall, El Capitan, Yosemite National Park
  • May 2011 National Geographic: Shot cover photo and feature article on Yosemite climbers
  • June 2011 Outside Magazine: Cover photo and feature article The Rainmaker is about his career as climber and photographer
  • September 2011 Climbing Magazine: Cover photo and feature article on climbing the Towers of Ennedi in Chad, Africa


  • Mt. Kinabalu, FA V 5.12 A2, Borneo
  • Meru-Sharks Fin, first ascent of East Face VI 5.10 A4 M7, India
  • Mt. Everest, South Col Route, Nepal
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro, Rongai Route, Tanzania
  • 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 510+ 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
  • 12 ski descents of the Grand Teton
  • Ski traverse and descent of the Grand Teton, Middle Teton and South Teton 10 hours car to car
  • Denali, West Buttress, Rescue Gully

Film Highlights

  • Meru (Directed and Produced by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, a film documenting his ascent of Meru - Sharks Fin. Winner of numerous awards including the Audience award at Sundance. Meru was also shortlisted for an Oscar in 2016)
  • 180 South (Feature Documentary/Woodshed Films)
  • Lost on Everest (Feature documentary project with David Breashears for Frontline about the '96 Everest tragedy)
  • Traverse of the Chang Tang (National Geographic Explorer)
  • On the Edge: Mountaineering with Conrad Anker (Outdoor Life Network)
  • Higher Elevation: Kilimanjaro (ESPN)
  • Journey to the Hand of Fatima (RUSH Channel)
  • Summit on the Summit (MTV Documentary)
  • On Assignment (Featured in National Geographic Short Film)


  • Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival for Meru (2015)
  • Nominee Piolet D'Or International Climbing award
  • Outside Magazine’s Adventurers of the Year 2012
  • American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Sports and Adventure Winner
  • 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 [www.unity.edu]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Filmmaker's Epic Journey to the Peak of Meru". National Geographic. February 25, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  2. ^ "Exclusive: Climber Completes the Most Dangerous Rope-Free Ascent Ever". 2017-06-03. Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  3. ^ "TIFF 2018 Awards: ‘Green Book’ Wins the People’s Choice Award, Upsetting ‘A Star Is Born’". IndieWire, September 16, 2018.
  4. ^ "Why Jimmy Chin Takes Pictures While Climbing and Skiing Mountains", Mark M. Synnott, Aug 10, 2015, National Geographic
  5. ^ "Photographer Jimmy Chin on Mastering the Art of Chill". 2018-02-02. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  6. ^ a b "Pipsters", Paumgarten, Nick, , July 25, 2015, The New Yorker
  7. ^ Anon., "Jimmy Chin '96: A Mountaineer in Manhattan", Carleton Now.
  8. ^ "Jimmy Chin Just Can't Stop Climbing". Esquire. 2016-04-20. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  9. ^ "Elizabeth Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin", May 26, 2013, New York Times

External links[edit]