The outdoor industry is collectively mourning a terrible loss with the recent deaths of climbers Jonny Copp and Wade Johnson. They and fellow climber Micah Dash (who is, as of this writing, still missing) were attempting a new route on Mt. Edgar’s Minya Konka massif, in China’s Western Sichuan Province, when an apparent avalanche swept across their path.
I only knew Micah and Wade distantly, and send love, strength and condolences to their families and friends, as have hundreds of people from all over the world, whose support continues to stream in at an impressive volume via Facebook and the Adventure Film Festival blog. (Facebook, I am learning, can have some real heart, when used toward the good of a thing.)
Jonny was an early member of Nau’s community of Influencers, those artists, athletes, and activists who unabashedly rock our world through their authentic pursuit of their passions in outdoor sport, design, and environmental and social activism.
We established the Influencers early on, knowing we would need a community of peers not only to review our products each season, but also to keep us real; to remind us, when wandering astray, of our priorities, which are, simply put, to move, be moved, and move others.
Through his work as a climber, photographer, filmmaker, and Director of the Adventure Film Festival in Boulder, Jonny was, in his never tiring, slightly goofy, and always humble way, an Influencer to a tee.
As the photo editor at Nau, I first met Jonny through his eyes. I was immediately drawn to his photographs and films, not only for the way they captured the breathtaking rarity of the people and places he knew, but also for their clarity and honesty. There wasn’t a lot of clutter, just clean lines, clear faces, and a direct route from me, the viewer, to the essence of whatever he was trying to convey, whether it was to get me outside, to show me someone’s spirit, or to make me laugh my ass off. His view to the world was rare, curious, courageous, real, fresh, funny, and inspiring.
As was Jonny himself. During Nau 1.0, we met or spoke every few months, and I always looked forward to those meetings. I was impressed (given his lifestyle) with his ability to sit still, to look me in the eye, hear what I had to say, offer constructive feedback, and to tell tales of his mindblowing adventures without ever spinning off into a space of self-congratulatory bravado.
We tossed around how, then when, we could fold his work into our ever-evolving efforts at Nau. Things never lined up, not for lack of trying, but only because Jonny was always about to leave, or already gone, off to his next best thing.
There never seems to be enough time. This can be an annoying thing, but occasionally a good thing, too. Jonny made the most of this – not wasting a single moment of his very full, but far too short, life. Thinking about my own experience of this man, I am also reminded that sometimes a blip in time is all it takes to reveal a powerful force. I did not need to know him for years to recognize how profound Jonny’s impact on our world would be.
I will miss his bright eyes, his crushing hug, and his ear-to-ear smile, but I will not miss his inspiration, because that will stay right here, in his lasting work and in my mind, a little nudge from Jonny here and there, keeping me motivated, keeping me real.
Love to you, Jonny Copp.
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(photos gently borrowed from coppworks.com and adventurefilm.org, and I am hoping that in this case it’s ok…)