Book Review: Extreme Alpinism

“The harder you are to kill, the longer you will last in the mountains.”

Twight describes cutting edge alpinism at the turn of the century. As a community we have made advancements over the past decades that are made obvious from this book. What we known now has been built on the shoulders of Extreme Alpinism. This book can be looked at as a cross sectional view of everything we knew at this point in the development of modern fast and light alpinism. It is clear that Twight sits on the forefront of what is happening in the world of alpinism, but today this book should be read to gain perspective on how far we’ve come rather than an all stop how-to.

extreme alpinism

From the perspective of a climber; somethings are still valuable others clearly wrong (or simply done better today) while others could easily be confused for correct. I will get into these more later on. Most of what is described is an advancement over and above the majority of the mountaineering world had done to date and still does today. His book covers every topic you could possibly want; the mental game, training, nutrition, gear, techniques. Twight has since heavily influenced the brand new Training for the new Alpinism, a cross section of today’s knowledge base for preparing for alpine events. For more up-to-date information read Freedom of the Hills.


Of the many aspects of this book that are questionable this chapter seems the most relevant today. It covers the mental game, your attitude and character when tackling goals as big as giants. The type of person and the perspective to make smart decisions hasn’t changed all that much since 1999 in alpinism. We will always have to accept fear, failure, experience suffering, and be open to learning through experience. Gain the perspectives of a master at the top of his craft here.

Training & Nutrition

This chapter is an interesting read, but with Training for the new Alpinism out there read it only for perspective not learning. You can see the beginnings of a comprehensive endurance mindset that has good thought behind it but has since been proven wrong. I consulted several doctors on the physiological concepts he describes to which they disagree – one saying “That’s a nice thought but the theory is very far removed from reality. It’s like saying sparking gasoline makes my car go forward every time, therefore if we light our tents on fire we will go forward”. I can appreciate this as we looked up research papers which disprove these theories as recently as 2012. So good on you Mark.


Gear and apparel has clearly made the most advancements of everything discussed in this book in just the last two decades. How could they have known new shell systems, ATC’s, leashless climbing, rope improvements and proper ice screw placement were beyond the scope of the imagination. One thing hasn’t changed though – There is no perfect glove system.


Twight covers techniques that if we remove dated equipment from the equation is quite a good resource for ascending, descending, and how to stay alive. He makes us consider the realities of what alpinism entails. Death and injury are a very real risk that should not be completely disregarded. The importance of selecting a partner with similar values, which I will cover in a later post, becomes evident that it is more important than selecting the right crampons.

Peppered throughout the chapters are harrowing tales of climbing each with its own distinct moral. It is clear that we are all audacious enough to think we can tackle these legends. Who do we think we are?!

In the end, climbing is anarchy, so you can do what you want – Mark Twight

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