For many of us, our introduction to Jimmy Chin came by way of his 2018 documentary, Free Solo, which followed legendary climber Alex Honnold on his quest to become the first person to ever climb El Capitan’s some 3,000-foot vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park. The feat alone is a staggering one, but to do so unsupported and unassisted was even more outrageous. Naturally, Honnold’s success not only defied all expectation, but it blew the minds of audiences around the world, making the documentary an instant hit and sending the sport of climbing into the stratosphere.
Honnold may have been the star of Free Solo, but Chin proved himself to be ever the iconic filmmaker. His sensitivity was palpable, as well as his deep admiration and respect for Honnold and the outdoors. The truth is though, Chin has been a renowned figure in the outdoors for some time, known for tackling incredible feats of his own, embarking on jaw-dropping expeditions, and sharing stunning images from his skinning and climbing adventures around the world.
As a father of two, Chin splits his time between New York and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with his wife and fellow filmmaker, Chai Vasarhelyi. To keep such a busy schedule might seem incomprehensible, but you forget that this is a man whose entire being seems to thrive on adrenaline and the unknown. Still, Chin knows the importance of keeping routine – or at least the semblance of a routine. In a recent interview with GQ UK, he revealed that he always travels with supplements but ultimately, it’s movement that keeps him grounded and sane.
“I’d say movement really is the thing in my toolbox so to speak that keeps me grounded. I’ll do some core exercises, yoga, and pushups in a hotel room, use the hotel gym or go for a run when I’m travelling. I’d call that stuff maintenance, mostly. The biggest thing that keeps me grounded, though, I’d say is being outside and in the mountains. It keeps me sane. There’s nothing like being outside to help you get really present,” says Chin.
When it comes to the diet that fuels such arduous expeditions outdoors, Chin admits that he typically doesn’t eat anything before a workout, keeping his meals light. He sips on matcha tea mostly in the morning for something warm, before having a smoothie or granola and berries and yoghurt for lunch. “Smoothie can be a lot of things, including frozen fruit, banana, kale, almond milk, and yoghurt,” says Chin. “At dinner, I try not to go completely crazy. But what I have really depends on where I am. When I’m home – because eating on the road can be all over the place – I try to keep it light.”
But when it comes to climbing, Chin reaches for a lot of freeze-dried foods, even though he prefers real foods. “We bring a lot of hard salamis and cheese as comfort food, especially because they’re so durable. Of course, we’ll eat the local foods as well, whether that be rice or patties or whatever really is available,” he adds.
Speaking about the trust he’s developed, both in himself and the team around him, during such expeditions, Chin admits that not every decision is a successful one, but the key is to put your “best efforts forward.” As he told the publication, “Sometimes you don’t have control over the variables that may not allow for you to accomplish your goals. But it’s how you manage those anxieties in the moment to make the best possible choice for you and your team.”