This week’s conversation is with Chris McNamara, a Big Wall Climber and ex-wingsuit BASE jumper.

He is also the founder of OutdoorGearLab, one of the most popular outdoor gear review sites in the world.

Outside Magazine has called Chris one of the world’s finest climbers.

Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris’s life on earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan, an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris’s sanity.

He has climbed El Capitan more than 80 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records.

Chris has also authored five guidebooks to rock climbing in Yosemite National Park and eight other climbing guidebooks.

As a wingsuit BASE jumper, he claimed a slice of the “Golden Age of Wingsuit BASE first descents” by finding and jumping 10-plus significant new exits in the United States and Baffin Island.

This conversation is about meaning, it’s about creative expression, it’s about risk.

“Whether its BASE jumping, climbing, or other things, it’s all the same process. An exciting journey to something that is a little scary, definitely outside your comfort zone, but you have enough of a base or support group to think you can get there.”

In This Episode:

  • He had a love for climbing, eventually built up the courage to start climbing El Capitan in Yosemite
  • Saw base jumpers fly by him on El Capitan and was both scared and intrigued
  • What gave him the courage to base jump for the first time?
  • How he determines which risks are worth taking
  • What he was searching for when it came to base jumping
  • Experiencing the deaths of many friends and how that made him numb
  • His current relationship with death and why that led him to stop base jumping
  • Why climbing and base jumping are about creative expression
  • Developing self-reliance as a climber and how he’ll teach those same skills to his daughter
  • Why frugality was key in being able to start his own business
  • What he’s searching for… moments of flow
  • How he stays true to himself: surrounding himself with great mentors and constantly reading
  • Who have the been the most influential people for him? Ben Franklin and Alan Watts
  • The books that are most important to him: Man’s Search for Meaning, Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Homo Deus
  • Why he started OutdoorGearLab and reason they do what they do


Listen via: Apple Podcasts | Android | SpotifyStitcher | Pocket Casts |  RSS



“I think the big question for me is always, ‘Well, now that I see if it’s possible or not, is it really worth it?’ And that’s kind of a bigger question, which is, “What do I want to actually be doing with my life?”

“The most important thing is people, surrounding yourself with five key mentors at any one moment. Over time those mentors change, but it’s just so hard to do any better than having someone really inspiring that you can connect with regularly.”

“We’re so equipped now to take small bits of bad news and blow them way out of proportion. We should step back and say, ‘What are we really scared of and what should we be inspired by?’ and make sure we’re choosing the right things.”

“I think of what I’m doing as creativity for non-artists; creativity for people that just can’t play an instrument, can’t draw, take a photo. So why do people do anything creative? The only answer for me is that it’s the best part about being human.”

Related Podcasts:

  • Finding Mastery 195: Corey Rich, Director and Photographer, on Seizing the Moment
  • Finding Mastery 179: Dierdre Wolownick, Oldest Woman to Climb El Capitan and Mother to Alex Honnold, on Defying Expectations
  • Finding Mastery 108: Alex Honnold, adventure rock climber on Free Soloing El Capitan


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Co-Founder at

Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of OutdoorGearLab. Chris is also the founder and lead author of the rock climbing guidebooks publisher, SuperTopo.