Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast, and High is a great book that is about way more than mountain climbing. Written by Mark Twight and James Mason, it covers a wide range of topics about mental and physical conditioning, sports nutrition, and outdoor clothing systems that are just as applicable to ultralight backpacking, backcountry skiing and other high commitment adventure sports as they are to mountaineering and climbing.
My friend Chris, a seasoned mountain climber, turned me on to this book when I was experimenting with different clothing and layering systems for winter hiking and climbing in New England. Chris had adopted the vapor barrier layering system described by Twight and found that it lets him carry less fuel because he sweats less and doesn’t have to melt as much snow to make water. After reading Twight’s thoughts on the subject and his rants about the exaggerated marketing claims of outdoor clothing manufacturers, I also gave his system a try and found that it works great: my clothing weighs less, I have much more freedom of movement, and I barely sweat.
There are many other aspects of this book that have proven useful to me and where I can identify with Twight’s approach to climbing and preparation. But I believe that I have benefited the most from his discussion of failure in the context of mountaineering and its parallels to the other adventure sports I participate in. Too many people view mountain climbing as a goal oriented sport and not an experience-based one where the simple act of climbing is more important than attaining the summit. Regardless of your sport, it is important to learn when to turn back or bow out, while you can still control your risk level, rather than letting a bad situation control your actions.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
Written 2012. Updated 2017.