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Todd Skinner is featured in "Greenland Rocks!" in the April 1999 ADVENTURE.

Todd Skinner has done hundreds of breathtaking climbs—including more than 300 first ascents—in two dozen countries around the world.
Photographs by
Bobby Model
  adventure profile
Todd Skinner
Favorite Place
Bones Broken
Rock Climber
Lander, Wyoming, U.S.A.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
  Skinner's Head   "I don't care about the summits of mountains. The climbing is what counts."
  How do you describe your brand of adventure?
  I do free-climbing, without rope ladders. It tests climbers all the time and is the polar opposite of aid climbing. It's a form of disciplined gymnastics with an application in the wildest places you can find in the world.
  How did you get started?
  I grew up on a ranch in Pinedale, Wyoming, and my dad was a climber. When I was ten he took my brother and me climbing in the Wind River Mountains. I started with mountains, then moved on to the technical challenge of free-climbing.
  What was your scariest moment?
  I was climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park when a huge rock—probably four tons—rolled off the top with our ropes attached to it. The rock took three of four ropes and all our gear as it dropped 3,000 feet (915 meters) to the valley. Ropes were popping like firecrackers. I flew over the edge, and everyone thought it was the end. I was not happy about the scenario. I managed to clip onto the rope that wasn't cut and survived with only a few broken ribs. My partner, Paul Piana, broke his leg in five places.
  What was your happiest moment?
  When we finished climbing Trango Tower [in northern Pakistan]. We'd been on the wall for 60 days and were so beat up. It was akin to hitting your head repeatedly with a hammer. [Skinner's ascent was the cover story for the April 1996 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.]
  How do you make a living?
  I'm a climber with corporate sponsorships. I also do corporate motivational shows. But the main thing is to keep my training going.
  What else brings you joy?
  Buying and selling antique guns. My favorites are Winchesters, Colts, and Plains rifles. It's a good balance to the strong activity of climbing. I also like hunting elk and antelope. Hunting was an absolute part of growing up in Wyoming.
  Any advice for armchair adventurers?
  So many people don't take trips because they don't feel they have all the information they need. Places like Turkey or the former Soviet republics daunt people who wonder where they'll stay or what they'll eat. I'd say, "Go anyway! Get used to making decisions in the moment." I often do what you might call future back-thinking: When I'm an old man, what will I be delighted that I did?
  Anything we should have asked but didn't?
  Yes: "Who do you go with?" Mountains are powerful narcotics. They can wreck lives and end marriages. And they never diminish in importance. Once there's a mountain you can't get out of your mind, by some magnetism a team assembles to climb it. Sometimes they're folks you haven't met. For a climb, the mountain is 50 percent of the formula and people are the other 50 percent.


April 1999: Story preview | Forum | Profile: Todd Skinner
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