According to climber/photographer Cory Richards, climbing mountains isn’t about bragging rights; it’s about having an experience that enriches your life. He recommends choosing a mountain that both inspires you and suits your level of climbing progression. “If you’ve never put on crampons, please don’t go up Everest,” he says. “But definitely go to Mount Hood in Oregon and give it a try. After that, try Rainier in Washington, and then maybe Denali in Alaska.”
For those eyeing the Seven Summits, he says to choose an accessible one, like Kilimanjaro in Africa, which is less technical than the others but still tops out at over 19,000 feet. “It’s about starting at the level you’re at and building your way up,” Richards says. “That doesn’t mean staying in your comfort zone, but it does mean understanding the size of the bite you’re looking to take off.”
Cory Richards climbed and photographed Gasherbrum II in 2011, becoming the first American to successfully summit an 8,000-meter peak in the winter. His footage of the emotional aftermath of an avalanche that half-buried him and his team during the descent became the cornerstone of the award-winning film Cold, an honest examination of the risks of alpinism. He now shoots regularly for National Geographic magazine. Read his Adventurers of the Year profile.
Cory Richard's Gear Pick: Camera
“Never ever leave home without your camera. Take lots of pictures. Share them. Inspire others. Tell the story ... engage in it,” Richards says. “Most of the time, you can go a lot farther and a lot harder than you think, and telling that story is often the most inspiring thing you can do for those around you—not to mention for yourself.” Richards uses a Canon EOS 1D Mark 4.