Mankato native snags Oscar nomination

Director’s film “Free Solo” is nominated for Best Documenty

Kolby Spomer
Staff Writer

When one thinks of extreme climbing, one of the last places to come to mind is the Midwest. There are no mountains in sight and what hills are in sight would hardly be considered “extreme”. Despite this, one of the world’s foremost climbers in the world was born right here in Mankato, Minnesota. Jimmy Chin has climbed all over the world, taking breathtaking photos for the likes of National Geographic and Outside Magazine.

As Jimmy has moved on in his life, he has started experimenting with film. His first feature film “Meru” was an instant climbing documentary classic, garnering praise for its pacing and incredible shots. “Meru” was so well liked that many thought it a shoo-in for the Academy Awards Best Documentary category, but it fell just short. Jimmy, ever the self-pusher, took it upon himself to create an even better documentary. Thus, “Free Solo” was born.

A documentary following Alex Honnold as he attempts to become the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000 foot high El Capitan wall. Free solo climbing, for those who don’t know, is a type of climbing in which the climber goes up the rock with no safety gear. This is considered the most dangerous type of climbing for obvious reasons, and is attempted by very few people. Jimmy directed and shot the whole thing with a small team.

The honest and breathtaking shots are a large part of the reason as to why Chin was able to secure the much sought after Best Documentary nomination he missed out on years earlier.

But how did Jimmy Chin get from a young Mankato boy to one of the world’s foremost climbers? Well, it’s kind of a long story. It all started when Jimmy and his family went on a trip to Glacier National Park, as he recalls. “The beauty of the West and the mountains of Glacier National Park really blew my mind. I was changed forever.” This trip sparked the desire inside Chin that blazes to this day.

He graduated from Mankato and moved onto Carleton College. Once he finished getting his college degree, he moved into his station wagon and travelled with the seasons, climbing everywhere from Yosemite to Bozeman.

A couple years after this start, he sold his first photo for 500 dollars. The shot was clearly impressive, and started a new drive for Jimmy. After this, he found himself in a whole new world as his photography skills caused a small team to utilize him as a cinematographer in their documentary for National Geographic.

This, alongside their use of his photos, made him a more well known commodity in the climbing community. He then went around the world, taking pictures and shooting videos for all sorts of projects ranging from movies to documentaries to magazines.

All of this has lead to this moment, with Jimmy finally on the cusp of yet another achievement in a life full of them. Even if he fails to secure the Oscar, which is very unlikely, he has undoubtedly changed the world of climbing forever. Pretty good for some kid from southern Minnesota.

Feature photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

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