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Physical, psychological, and technical aspects of alpine climbing at the bleeding edge
|| (4.00 of 5)
|Extreme Alpinism (1999)
Mark Twight & James Martin
Zen and the Art of Mountaineering Maintenance
The Essential Gist: Mark ‘House of Pain’ Twight obsesses about fine-tuning his body and mind in preparation for Nietschean Will-to-Power challenges in the alpine arena.
60-second summary: This is a bizarre book. Imagine a mellower Stevie Haston was asked to write a book about alpinism while under the influence of mild recreational narcotics. One suspects that Twight was commissioned to write a so-so, humdrum ‘How-To’ type book full of bland advice about Gore-Tex and jumars - but they picked the wrong man. Twight can’t help taking advantage of an opportunity to gush earnestly about his intense vision of the alpine game. He ‘emotes’, as our American cousins are fond of saying, in an entertainingly idiosyncratic way, picking out seminal moments from his frightening climbing career to illustrate his philosophical theses with little narrative homilies. Twight’s Weltanschauung is often dark. What other ‘instructional’ book would have a section on ‘Death’, complete with illustration of a graveyard? The sections on training and nutrition are also almost neurotically obsessional, going into fabulously earnest detail about meditation techniques and the like, as well as body-ripping weight-training regimes. For cynical British alpinists, still largely imbued with the ‘train-in-the pub’ mentality, this will provide lots of hilarity but despite all the ridiculously over-professionalised advice there are still lots of valuable nuggets of advice embedded in the enjoyably over-the-top text. The run of the mill stuff about gear, clothing etc is authoritative too (one suspects the ‘... and James Martin’ tagged onto the co-authorship credit in smaller font suggests the late drafting in of a sweeper to tidy up these more prosaic aspects of the book, while Twight concentrated on the visionary stuff). Overall, despite the risible triteness of much of the writing (‘Age and experience synthesised into maturity for me’), Extreme Alpinism is a quirky, sometimes useful, but always entertaining tome which probably tells you as much about the whacky mind of Mark Twight as it does about modern alpinism.
Characteristic excerpt: ‘This is about obsession, the addiction of going harder, higher, for longer. About the times you got away with it and survived when others did not. Death in the mountains can be as ugly as a falling stone surprising an innocent hiker on the trail. Or it can be as beautiful as seven men struggling through a storm day after day, giving everything they have to life and living it. But one by one they die. Slowly. From cold, from exhaustion, from having fought so hard. Until only two remain. I say this is beautiful because the greatest human act is the act of survival.’
Like this? Try these... Ice World, Jeff Lowe. Climbing Ice, Yvon Chouinard.
|Like this, read Layton''s book.
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