Writer John Branch on Death in the Backcountry // Adventure Journal

John Branch was working as a manager at Costco when his wife suggested that he go to journalism school. He liked Costco, and says he’d work there again if he needed a job, but knew he that was not how he wanted to grow old.

As a kid, Branch “gobbled up the sports section” so it seemed natural to become a sports reporter. After getting a journalism degree, he worked at the Fresno Bee and later “got lucky” when a position opened up at The New York Times, where he has now worked for 15 years covering sports and California.

Since then, Branch has won almost every award in journalism and finds himself seeing what he can “get away with” at the New York Times. He’s written about climbing and skiing and surfing. He’s covered competitive dog grooming, and the yo-yo and lumberjack world championships. And he’s even written a few personal narratives, though he says he scared of writing a memoir.

Branch’s third book, Sidecountry: Tales of Death from the Back Roads of Sport is a collection of his best work including “Dawn Wall,” about the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It also includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning feature “Snow Fall,” which is a detailed account of the Tunnel Creek avalanche in Washington.

Adventure Journal talked with Branch about his career arc, this new collection and reporting from the fringes of sport, or, what he likes to call the sidecountry. Read the interview online at Adventure Journal.

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