Every story comes about differently. This one, a cover profile of Cory Richards for Outside's August issue, started when I called Cory to talk about his coming attempt on Everest without supplemental oxygen in early 2016. We'd known each other loosely since 2009. I was reporting a standard Himalaya season preview for Outside's website, and Cory answered my standard-season-preview questions. Then he said, "I've dealt with some hard things in the past few years -- PTSD, my divorce, a general unraveling of self. If you want to talk more about that, we can go down that road a different time." Of course my interest was piqued, so a few months later, when Cory returned to Colorado after summiting the Big E, I drove down to meet him in Boulder, where he lived at the time. We spent the afternoon at his apartment and a neighborhood restaurant, talking about anything and everything, including the ugly parts. Our conversation became the basis of a pitch I sent to my editor at Outside, Jonah Ogles.
Jonah assigned the piece at a standard feature length, but over the next six months, as I reported my profile of Cory and spoke to secondary sources, I realized how much further the context extended. I ended up speaking to many more adventure athletes who had experienced their own traumatic events in the same field, and had dealt with similar personal fallout. Some had talked publicly about what happened; others hadn't. Yet their stories came to support Cory's tale in a remarkable way. (I've since heard from a number of readers who endured similar circumstances.)
Outside ended up running the story at nearly twice its assigned length, and hired famed portraitist Nigel Parry to photograph Cory for the cover. I was just happy to see it come alive after working on it for more than a year.
One of the fringe benefits to reporting the story was a two-day trip I took to meet Cory in Montana last February. We needed a closing scene for the piece, so I flew to his home of Bozeman and we went skiing at Big Sky the following morning. The conditions were mixed, but around 11 a.m., we lucked into first tracks down a 1,500-foot couloir with six inches of perfect powder. We had to hike an exposed ridge to reach it, which is depicted in this picture of Cory below. But the descent made the brief periods of stress worthwhile.
Montanans have a sense of humor when it comes to protecting their backcountry ski stashes.