Many Faces Profile: Graham Zimmerman
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“Finding terrain that nobody’s ever been to or explored before — in a world where it’s hard to find undiscovered places — is an extremely special experience.”
Man and Mountain
When Graham Zimmerman looks at a mountain, he’s doing more than admiring its beauty; he’s analyzing a canvas. If he can paint a line from base camp to the summit and back that rewards climbing and safety with breathtaking views, that’s where he plans to be.
“Using mountain space as a pallet on which to draw,” Graham said, “That’s something that really fascinates me. The perfect line literally represents pleasing views, a safe route and technical climbing, but it’s also a line from which we can draw inspiration. A personal line of discovery that’s different for each of us.
“It’s about creating the purest relationship possible between you and the mountain. It’s clean,” Graham said. And that’s Alpine style climbing in a nutshell. As opposed to setting up a fixed line of stocked camps, this is — by definition — mountaineering in a self-sufficient manner, carrying all of one’s food, shelter, equipment and the rest with you. Graham can sum it up in three words: “Fast and light.”
“There’s this notion that if you have enough equipment, you can do anything, but we hedge as far away from that as we can. It’s getting up these mountains by fair means,” Graham said. “It’s a super pure experience that very much adheres to ‘leave-no-trace’ ethics. It’s a leave-only-foot-prints and take-only-photographs kind of thing.”
It’s all in the Gear
Which means the equipment he does take is highly calculated. “Instead of having a bunch of stuff on the mountain — leaving camps and garbage — we’re going out there with three guys, a backpack each, two ropes total and climbing gear,” Graham said.
Always on the gear list: the Armitron Adventure watch.
“Time is everything. It’s crucial,” Graham said. “When you’re ‘in it,’ you can lose track pretty easy. Time dictates when you eat, drink, sleep; it tells us when the sun is up and down and that dictates when it’s going to heat up or cool down.”
And because his model can read barometric pressure, he and his partners can predict the weather in real time. “It essentially tells us when it can be more dangerous or less dangerous,” Graham said, noting that in a high stress situation all information is good information. “It’s kind of a no brainer,” he said, because knowledge equals peace of mind and that equates to a freer experience and better appreciation of the surrounding terrain.
And that’s the thing with Graham. The more you speak with him, the more you discover his climbing is about more than just scaling mountains; it’s a lifestyle that revolves around camaraderie, mentorship, trust in and learning about self, engaging in the innate exploratory human condition and — perhaps most of all — creativity.
In fact, no matter how “antagonistic” a mountain might feel at times, his introspection atop the world has built within him a philosophical foundation that feeds into his unceasing need to illustrate the ephemeral, almost ethereal landscape he has the privilege to witness. On the mountain, he’s equal observer and participant, and that experience bleeds into written articles and videos that blend humanity into a mountainous landscape of seeming magical realism. His work can be found in Alpinist Magazine and through his film company, Bedrock Film Works.
“It’s pretty special to find and develop a skillset — content creation in this instance — from a passion I’ve had for so many years,” Graham said. “To capture those experiences and use them for other diverse projects from home in order to help fund the next expedition is something amazing.”
The next expedition isn’t far off. In a few weeks, Graham and his climbing partners will be off the grid for two months navigating the Pakistani Karakoram, one of the greater ranges in Asia. His last trip there in August 2015 resulted in he and Scott Bennett’s first ascent on the Southwest Ridge of K6 West, a peak that’s more than 23,000 feet high. The send earned he and Scott The American Alpine Club’s 2017 Cutting Edge Award.
Graham noted that the trip “from 2015 only marks a progression point from which we can push forward onto bigger and better things.” Or mountains. The Karakoram has 14 peaks above 8,000 meters and — needless to say — Graham’s rather excited.
“I feel really fortunate that I found climbing as an inspiration when I was younger,” he said. “I think my parents thought I was going to do the first course and get climbing out of my system.” Graham laughed a little before adding, “That turned out to not be the case.”
What are you inspired by? Get wound up by your passion. What’s your adventure? The time is now.
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