One former news editor of the Good Five Cent Cigar now spends his time climbing mountains and leading adventurous expeditions as a freelance writer.
University of Rhode Island alumnus Ryan Wichelns is a freelance outdoor writer that has gone off the beaten path with his career since earning his undergraduate degree in journalism in the spring of 2016. Since graduation, Wichelns has written for various outdoor publications, including Eastern Mountain Sports where he is the current Editor-in-Chief of the magazine.
“I started hiking locally, close to the Adirondack mountains, then slowly progressed into bigger mountains- ice climbing, rock climbing and eventually glacier mountaineering,” he said.
Wichelns also has his own website, RyanClimbs.com, that presents pictures, text and videos of his expeditions. One of his more memorable adventures was comprised of a journey to the Alaskan outback. Wichelns’s self-published piece, “Beginner’s Luck,” is a detailed account of the expedition, including map animations, go-pro footage, still-photos and detailed text on the challenges Wichelns and his team overcame.
Wichelns spent a year planning for the trip, and was accompanied by three close friends. He spent a month exploring a region of Alaska that does not see much human activity. As a result of this extensive trip, Wichelns gathered an immense amount of material.
“After my trip to Alaska a couple years ago I came back with a 3,000-word feature story, plus tons of still photos, videos and audio clips,” he said.
Wichelns added that the trip was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done, but there was never a point where he felt overwhelmed or unprepared.
“My two goals with the Alaska project [were] gathering as much information about that area as I could and putting it in one place; so future people like me, climbers, have access to that knowledge,” Wichelns said. “Number two was creating a story so that someone who is not a climber can look at and enjoy it without feeling in over their heads.
According to Wichelns, getting into freelance writing is a long and frustrating endeavor. The process involves pitching ideas and getting rejected, as well as being persistent when trying to get a publisher interested in your pitch.
“Eventually you develop a relationship with an editor,” Wichelns explained. “I sold my first pitch when I was at URI, and since then, I’ve worked more and more at it and built those relationships to where I’m at now.”
Developing new methods of digital media storytelling has been Wichelns’s focus for his career as a freelance journalist. He said the goal of his big trips is to gather as much media as possible.
“GoPros, still camera, interactive maps [and] different animated graphics are some tools we use to tell a story,” Wichelns said. “The key to what I am interested in is how all of those pieces are combined into a website, and the idea is that it is far more detailed and allows the viewer to feel like they are actually there.
As a recent graduate, Wichelns has experimented with what he can do in the field of journalism.
“You spend so much of college figuring out what you want to do, and by the time you graduate you spend a lot of time figuring out what it is you don’t want to do,” he said. “Your best bet is to find something new, do something innovative, something different from what other people are doing, and experiment with it.”
Wichelns is currently planning to embark on an expedition to Patagonia, Argentina. He plans to target various unclimbed peaks in Patagonia, but the expedition itself has yet to be officially announced.