I worked on this for Patagonia and for the life of me can't recall if we ever agreed that was worth printing. I think it was headed somewhere but the word-count limitations kept me from writing the details I wanted to cover.


Climbing's brightest moments resulted from expression of Light and Fast ideals. Protagonists considered style paramount, believing the pursuit itself more important than the objective. To understand this we need only look down at the shoulders supporting our feet.

Mummery was one of the first climbers to understand that "light is right," referring to both style and equipment. He used prototype, insulated clothing and a silk tent during his 1895 Nanga Parbat attempt when he and Raghobir Thapa reached nearly 7000 meters. Paul Preuss simply carried less gear, taking more personal responsibility instead. He did away with the rope altogether during his (1911) 1st ascent of the east face of the Campanile di Basso in the Dolomites.

Climbing fast hinges on going light. While most Himalayan expeditions resembled military campaigns, Buhl, Diemberger, Schmuck and Wintersteller climbed Broad Peak (8047m) in what they called "Westalpinstil." Utterly alone on the Baltoro glacier, the foursome did not use porters, and fixed less than 300 feet of rope, though the weight and bulk of 1957-era gear forced them to ferry loads between three camps. Eighteen years later, while Chris Bonington's expedition spent months sieging Everest's southwest face, Reinhold Messner partnered Peter Habeler to refine the "Westalpinstil" idea. The pair climbed a new route up Hidden Peak (8068m) in just two days using pure Alpine Style.

I defined myself as a climber during the rapid evolution of the 1980s, when Bohigas and Lucas climbed Annapurna's massive, technically severe south face in Alpine Style, when Escoffier and Profit enchained multiple routes into single, marathon days in the Alps. These consciousness-broadening climbs allowed me to imagine adventures of ever-greater magnitude. But I took small steps, as gear, clothing systems and self-confidence were slow to match ambition.

I practiced Light and Fast theory in the Alps. I'd leave Chamonix wearing little more than a windshirt with ice tools in hand, run up a couple of classic north faces, and return home the same night. In the Pamirs I blitzed the 10,000-foot high Czech Route on Peak Communism. Later, as equipment evolved parallel to my attitude, improved performance meant I dared wear and carry even less. In 1994, dressed lightly (for an Alaskan peak), Scott Backes and I flashed a new route on Mount Hunter's north buttress. The 72-hour roundtrip made my appetite swell. Still, I was hesitant to bite off more than I could chew.

Bruce Lee wrote that, "men of talent have to be encouraged and goaded to engage in creative work." So it wasn't surprising that Rolando Garibotti and Silvo Karo's "day climb" of Fitzroy's 2300-meter southwest face motivated Scott Backes, Steve House and I to streak up Denali's Czech Direct (CZD). Stripped for speed, Steve and I tested breathable, stretch shells, and for once our clothing did not fight every upward step.

The CZD brought us close to ideals expressed by Preuss, Walter Bonatti, and Messner. From the heights attained by piggybacking on their achievements, I saw a future inseparable from history, and by simplifying the gear that filtered my experience I realized climbing mountains is only distantly about the summit.

Mark Twight
Mark Twight