Mark Twight became a bold and extreme alpinist in the late 1980s with a knack for climbing hard ice, dangerous peaks, and surviving with skill and smarts. Some of his wildest ascents were in the Canadian Rockies, the Alps around Chamonix, and the Himalayas, including attempts on Nanga Parbat, one of the most difficult and dangerous 8,000-meter peaks, and the big one, Mount Everest. He also is a writer with a no-nonsense, tell-all, in-your-face approach to alpinism. His writing is unapologetic, arrogant, and narcissistic but always riveting. The following selection comes from his intensely personal memoir of essays Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber.
“Death plays a huge role in why men climb, in the way they climb and why some of them eventually quit climbing in the high mountains. Alpinism often means high risk and the loss of life. Your friends may die up there in the clouds, in storms, swept away by avalanches, or cowering under a volley of stones. Perhaps they’ll freeze to death alone at the bottom of a deep, dark crevasse or sit down to rest and never get up again. This is the long fall, where the sky is rose and the mountains have never been as beautiful as they are today. Life bleeds away from a head injury, unnoticed. It’s about climbers dying doing what they love and spectators speculating, judging, and maybe having the last world. Alpinism is the story of men and the risks men take, the ones they are equal to, the ones they barely get away with, and those risks that kill them. It is about obsession. The danger and the glory, the addiction of going harder, higher, longer. Sometimes we get away with it, we survive when others do not.”
Buy Mark Twight’s book:
Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber