Book Review: Training For The New Alpinism: A Manual For The Climber As Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston
Training For The New Alpinism is THE training book for mountaineers of all levels and ambitions. It provides a roadmap for you to achieve your own personal mountaineering goals, but “for those who dare to try, this book can take you as far as you have the will to go” (441).
Steve House and Scott Johnston have achieved more in the mountains than most people will in a lifetime. Steve House is a world class mountaineer and Patagonia Ambassador. Anything he does in the climbing world is watch closely because it’s calculated, planned, and usually successful. Scott Johnston coaches world class nordic skiers and is Steve’s climbing partner.
House and Johnston are practically unstoppable in the mountains and they’ve done it by following a plan. Training For The New Alpinism embodies their knowledge in a textbook like format. You can read this book like a textbook and consider it a university course in alpinism or keep it on your coffee table to thumb through and read a wise snippet of wisdom on any page. Either way, owning this book will improve your climbing.
Patagonia Books published this tome on 464 pages of recycled paper. This paperback book weighs in at 3 lbs 5 ounces. And this alpinist focused exercise physiology training manual is laid out like a textbook. It’s easy to follow and well designed. There are plenty of eye candy photos of inspirational alpine routes and thought provoking essays by climbers we all idolize like Ueli Steck, Mark Twight, the late Andreas Fransson, Peter Habeler, and Will Gadd. The meat of the book focuses on how to climb better and why.
Training For The New Alpinism is designed to set anyone up for success. Whether you live in Kansas and work in an office or you’re planning to put up new routes in the Himalayas, this book applies to you. Throughout the 14 chapters you’ll learn about:
- Endurance and Strength Training Theory and Methodology
- Planning and Application For Nutrition
- Altitude Adaptation
- Mental Fitness
- Goal and Strength Assessment
The book is packed full of training secrets that are backed up by hard evidence (references included) and proven success stories. To climber harder, you need to do more than just climb more. You need to focus on a long term training regimen that builds your overall base. Follow the plan and you will see major improvements in your climbing abilities. The key is to take the knowledge to heart and follow through with this plan over time. If you stick with it for a week or two, then quit, you’ll get nothing out of it.
Training takes years during which you’ll peak multiple times. Plan your training correctly and you’ll be able to achieve any climb. Success in the mountains comes from the hard work you put in first. Read this book and apply what you learn. From heart rate training to nutritional training to Scott’s Killer Core Workout to how the body works to endurance training, this no-nonsense book has you covered.
After I read this book once, it sits out as a reference guide to help me focus my training – and I have a long way to go! I’ve read this book cover to cover and I still pick up things I will apply, such as:
“Three rules of thumb: Don’t retreat or make any important decision (1) in the dark, (2) with your heart rate over one hundred, or (3) on an empty stomach” (406).
“The advantage of carrying water as opposed to some other weight is that you can pour it out at the top of the hill climb and make a fast descent without trashing your knees” (234).
“You must cultivate a sense of detachment from your fear. Our goal is enough detachment and enough awareness that you notice the first moment you begin to sense fear. When it comes up in your brain or more often in your gut, repeat to yourself that fear is information, and that you don’t let fear control your emotional state” (388).
The aerobic base “allows for the enhanced ability to do prolonged (from two minutes to many hours) periods of moderate work without incurring so much fatigue that you have to slow down or stop the exercise” (102).
It’s hard for me to have any complaints about Training For The New Alpinism. Everywhere you look online, it’s all five star reviews. But I do have to agree with Lou Dawson at WildSnow, I wish there was more ski mountaineering focused training information. I feel that a bit more skiing focus would make this book complete for me.
Yes, the training still applies to ski mountaineering and I’m following the recipe with the intention of being stronger in the mountains. I may do less of the 15+ variations of pull ups and more leg focused exercise and endurance training, if you know what I mean.
Attempting to apply all of the info in this book is a challenge. I’m putting small pieces together and trying to complete the puzzle. Already feel like I’m a stronger climber. I’m excited to see how I improve after focusing my training and applying more knowledge.
If you have a bucket list of mountains you want to climb, buy this book. The pictures are stunning. The information is top notch and well written. Training For The New Alpinism is the new go-to source for alpine specific training. It’s going to sit next to Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills, Free Skiing: How To Adapt To The Mountains, and other treasured books on my shelf or desk. Buy a copy today and enjoy.
Patagonia Books also published The New Alpinism Training Log that may be worth purchasing too, although I have not seen it in person. You can also read more about Steve House in his book Beyond The Mountain.