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Alpine Climbers Chris Wright and Graham Zimmerman


Chris Wright left; Graham Zimmerman. - FOREST WOODWARD
  • Forest Woodward
  • Chris Wright left; Graham Zimmerman.

o you know what type II fun is? It's the kind of fun where you are miserable while you're in the throes of whatever you're doing, but it makes for the BEST stories afterward. Alpine climbing is the epitome of type II fun, to the point where alpine climbers have a joke about it.

"The best trait an alpine climber can have is a bad memory," Graham Zimmerman said, laughing. If they can easily forget about the freezing, sleepless nights, the cold days and the beating they willingly put their bodies through, they can always be convinced to go on another adventure.

Zimmerman and Chris Wright are two such climbers who live in Bend.

Wright ropes up in Pakistan - FOREST WOODWARD
  • Forest Woodward
  • Wright ropes up in Pakistan

right moved to Bend in 2005 for what he thought would be a summer and a winter season of climbing at Smith Rock State Park. He followed the path most local climbers do—he worked at local gear store Mountain Supply so that he could take off long periods of time to go on climbing trips, but still have a job waiting for him when he got back. In 2006 he realized he could get paid to take people climbing, so he started working for Bend-based Timberline Mountain Guides.

"I got really lucky because some guides work for companies in the Northwest that don't have a very healthy work environment, but Pete [Keane, the owner of TMG] is the opposite," Wright explained. "He makes you feel valuable, which is much more sustainable for the long term."

Zimmerman climbs in the Purcell Wilderness Provincial - Park in Bristish Columbia - FOREST WOODWARD
  • Forest Woodward
  • Zimmerman climbs in the Purcell Wilderness ProvincialPark in Bristish Columbia

right spent many seasons guiding on Mount Hood, now saying he's climbed the south side of Hood so many times he can't actually count them all. Although guiding can be somewhat repetitive, Wright can't imagine doing anything else. These days, he spends most of his work time guiding mountaineering trips in Chamonix, France, and ski trips in Lofoten, Norway through his guiding company, Now! Climbing. He's certified through the American Mountain Guiding Association and the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association as a mountain guide—a certification that "Men's Journal" compares to getting a Ph.D.

On the other end of the "climbing is my life" spectrum, Zimmerman has managed to achieve something that most climbers only dream of: he gets paid to explore rural and relatively unknown and document what he finds there through pictures and other media. When he's not off in the mountains, Zimmerman works as the creative content director of Bedrock Films. A recent film he produced is humorous one about learning to mountain bike with his partner, Shannon McDowell, and a bike-packing trip they went on together in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Although he does more than climb, mountaineering has been Zimmerman's number one passion for more than a decade (which is saying a lot considering he's in his early 30s), and he has the resume to prove it. He has numerous first ascents and was a Piolet d'Or finalist—like the gold medal of climbing. Mountaineering isn't his only interest, though.


he athlete stuff is great, and as an athlete you get your soapbox, and it's like, OK, what are you going to do with that?" Zimmerman said. He decided to use his platform to educate people about climate change and women's empowerment. "We all remember that one person who told us something that got us where we are today. I want to be an athlete brand based on inspiration and being nice to Mother Earth."

Zimmerman climbs in the Purcell Wilderness Provincial - Park in Bristish Columbia - FOREST WOODWARD
  • Forest Woodward
  • Zimmerman climbs in the Purcell Wilderness ProvincialPark in Bristish Columbia

Even though Wright and Zimmerman have somewhat opposite jobs, they lived together when Zimmerman moved to Bend, and when they go on expeditions together they are both chasing the same thing: First ascents in remote, unexplored places.

"As an alpinist my primary focus is trying to do things that have not been done before, in lesser explored areas in bigger ranges," Zimmerman explained. "I want to climb a big route on an unclimbed mountain that no one has heard of."

Both Zimmerman and Wright have been interested in exploring since they were kids. Wright thinks his interest stemmed as a reaction from having a scared and controlling mom who didn't want him to do much exploring as a kid, while Zimmerman grew up almost idolizing explorers like Ernest Shackleton and Francis Drake.


heir most recent expedition together was to the Karakorum Range on the border of India and Pakistan. The two of them went with Steve Swenson, another well-known alpinist who's been climbing there since 1980. Although bad weather kept them from any summits they attempted to climb, the trip wasn't a let down.

Wright and Zimmerman say expeditions allow you to get away from the rat race feeling of day-to-day life. When they are in the mountains there's no Internet, there are no daily errands to run and every decision you make feels like an important one, Wright described.

"Alpine climbing is the framework to go out there and make decisions that matter and make you feel like you're responsible for those decisions," Wright said. "You develop a genuine connection with the people and the place you're in. It makes you fully present. You experience being alive. And it's incredibly beautiful! Not just the view, but the feeling and the connection."

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