Cory Richards is a busy man. The SCARPA athlete and Himalayan climber/photographer has found a new appreciation of remote in the abyss of Antarctica and will soon be focusing his photographic expertise on dinosaurs before returning to the vertical wilderness of northern Russia and Canada. It’s man vs. self as he juggles both athleticism and photography career paths. They often overlap, but Cory doesn’t sweat it, as he’s learned how to handle himself when they don’t.
You’ve recently come back from Antarctica. What are the similarities and differences between high altitude and arctic climbing?
Really, it comes down to the cold. While you don’t have to drink as much to stave off altitude-related illness in the arctic, you end up trying to hydrate just as much to stay warm. One of the most striking things that I found in Antarctica is how remote it truly is. We think of the Himalaya as this immense massif that somehow epitomizes the gold standard of alpine climbing. Honestly, I felt the environment in Antarctica was even more “real” in that regard because you are truly self-reliant. It’s mostly by default because it’s a frozen continent, but if anything goes wrong, you’re hooped.
You’ve got an assignment shooting dinosaurs. How did that come about? And, is it nice to do something that doesn’t involve freezing?
It’s pretty funny actually. I’m so excited to go work in an environment where I don’t have to sign a disclaimer that says I accept the fact that I’m slightly sideways and might die. I’ve built my photographic career on expeditions, and digging up dinosaurs combines that ethos with science. For the publication, my background became a convenient way to tell the story of Paleontology in very “fun” and after-paced way. But, as for the not freezing, well, I kind of like that part. In all honesty, I might miss it a bit.
This fall you’ve got a full plate – heading to northern Russia, then to the Cirque of the Unclimbables. It seems like one trip trains you for the next. Would you agree?
Trips are good training for trips, but they also keep you from achieving pinnacle form. I do my best to maintain and I believe the travel helps with that. However, I also believe that if you want to be at the absolute top of your climbing game for a specific objective, be it in the high mountains or a local crag, it requires a steady period of dedication—being in one place and just training your ass off for that one goal. My life is different right now – it’s more about telling the story of the adventure and the places in between. I do my best to regain what I’ve lost as far as fitness.
Trail running seems to be a part of your training. How are the SCARPA Sparks working out?
I use them every session. They’re light and versatile. Most of my running is trail based, so they’re perfect for that “in the shoulder” season here in Boulder, Colorado where one day it’s packed snow, the next mud, and the next hard dry dirt. They’re my go-to for all conditions. And, they’re comfortable too.
Is it difficult to maintain your photography and athleticism at the same time? Are they ever in conflict with one another?
Always and never. They have to be working together, but they also detract from one another. I believe dual careers have a natural ebb and flow. Recently, I’ve been focused on the photography/adventure side of things, but I feel that inevitable draw and lust for the hills coming back strong. The next cycle will be about climbing and reconnecting with myself in that arena, and, of course, taking pictures of the journey. I hope to keep these careers for as long as I can.
In your opinion, what’s the perfect setup for doing both?
Understanding that you’ll never be perfect at both things at once, and allowing yourself that space. If I were to try to do some of the climbs I’ve done in the past right now, it just wouldn’t happen. That said, within a year I hope to be climbing harder than I ever have. I think the key to having dual careers is understanding that they both have unique space in your life that’s occupied more fully by one or the other at different times. You can’t stress out when one is ebbing.
Lastly, since doing the movie Cold, do you have any other cinematic projects in the works?
Lincoln Else and I just finished a very short interview/perspective piece on 50 years of Americans on Everest. It may or may not grow into something larger. We are letting the content lead us. Keith Ladzinski and I worked on a piece for the National Geographic Channel that profiles the Antarctica trip that’s coming out in September. We’re psyched to see it on the channel.