A Mankato native who found fame as a climber can now add "Oscar winner" to his glittering resume.
Jimmy Chin walked away from Sunday night's Academy Awards with the Oscar for "Best Documentary" along with his wife and co-director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
They won for "Free Solo," a National Geographic documentary about the attempt by rock climber Alex Honnold to free climb El Capitan's 900-meter vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.
Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi were presented with their Oscar by Helen Mirren and Jason Momoa, with Chin unable to contain his shock as he said "Oh s---" as he arrived on the dais to give their speech (which you can see at 0:43 in this video).
Born and raised in Mankato, attending Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault and later Carleton College, the Star Tribune notes, Chin struck out on a career that combined climbing and photography.
This in turn led to filmmaking, with Chin and Vasarhelyi previously teaming up for the acclaimed 2015 movie "Meru," in which Chin and two other expert climbers embarked on the treacherous climb of Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas.
For "Free Solo," the National Geographic explains that Chin was among the climbers/cinematographers who filmed his friend Honnold complete the historic achievement of becoming the first person to ever free climb El Capitan.
The harrowing filming process Chin and others had to carry out is described below:
No one is allowed to whisper, sneeze, drop a lens cap, dislodge a pebble—any of which might create the distraction that sends him hurtling to his death. Most important, no one is allowed to talk to Honnold about the epic climb, at least not directly. This is to avoid putting any pressure on him but also to keep from upsetting his precisely calibrated mind-set, a mixture of acute concentration, bulletproof confidence, and deep Zen calm. Instead of using the term 'free soloing,' which means climbing without ropes or safety gear, you use his preferred euphemism—'scrambling.'