On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know legendary mountaineer, outdoor adventurer, author and conservationist, Rick Ridgeway. I first learned about Rick back in the early 90’s, when I read his mountaineering classic, The Last Step, which details the 1978 first American ascent of K2. Rick was an early hero of mine, as I admired his tenacity, grit and determination in the mountains. But it turns out, the world’s high peaks we’re just one chapter in Rick’s life: a life that’s been filled with adventure, catastrophe, enduring love, and heart-wrenching loss.
A few months ago, I caught wind of Rick’s new memoir, Life Lived Wild, which came out via Patagonia Books on October 26th. The book describes the many adventures in Rick’s life – everything from a gripping stay in a vicious Panamanian jail at 24 years old, to one of his closest companions dying in his arms on a remote Chinese mountain, to traverses in remote regions of Tibet and Borneo, to the windswept and frigid summits of Antarctica. After finishing the book, I finally understood why Rolling Stone magazine once dubbed Rick, ‘the real Indiana Jones’.
This last fall, I was fortunate to catch up with Rick when we talked for almost 3 hours over the course of two separate interviews. It would be impossible to cover Rick’s whole life in such a short amount of time, so we talked mostly about his early years. At the end of it, I was left mesmerized by Rick’s stories – but more importantly, I was touched by his honesty, his humor, his grace, and his enduring wisdom.