On Top of the Western World

By Dusty Wunderlich

In Sports Applications

April 06, 2010

PDF Article

Dusty Wunderlich uses CrossFit training to scale Aconcagua—the highest mountain outside Asia.

Located in Argentina, Aconcagua is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere and measures 22,841 feet (6,962 meters). My attempt on the mountain would be my fourth time attempting a peak above 19,000 feet. Our group comprised mostly endurance athletes who spent a tremendous amount of time running, swimming and cycling. It was great to watch the performance of all the athletes and discuss fitness training for high-altitude peaks.

During our down time I had numerous discussions with John Race, owner of Northwest Mountain School, about his thoughts on fitness and nutrition on high-altitude peaks. Race is one of the most successful and safest guides on the planet, with over 60 expeditions worldwide under his belt. His experience and knowledge about mountain athletes is priceless. We discussed CrossFit in great length, and Race believes the program is among the best he has seen for high-altitude training.

Before he came across CrossFit, he would tell his clients to continue doing the cardio training they were doing but add in manual labor. He would advise them to go shovel snow, dig a ditch or build a fence because so much of expedition living is manual labor or, in CrossFit terms, “functional fitness.” During the climb, I was always thinking about the functional movements we were performing, and I had no doubt that my work capacity and my body’s ability to adapt to less oxygen were a combination of metabolic conditioning and strength training in the CrossFit setting.

Free Download


8 Comments on “On Top of the Western World”


wrote …

Cool article. Topping out on Aconcagua is a grea accomplishment, but I'd love to see an article about CrossFitters doing an alpine-style ascent, rather than using seige tactics. Fast and light is more in the CrossFit style, and it's a better, more impact-free way to climb.


wrote …

Great article Dusty. Congratulations on your accomplishment and good luck in the future.


wrote …

Dusty, loved reading your article!

Especially the about expeditions, for a moment I was on those mountains :-)

& Climbing mountains is good for the soul :-)


wrote …


as a former member of the military I caution you about what i call "training the suck" as you mentioned in the last part of the article. In my personal experience, being as fit and healthy as possible is the best way to combat the suck, i.e. sickness/sleep deprivation/food deprivation.

You may gain a mental edge by training sick, but physiologically I don't think it creates any adaptation in preparation for the next time you are sick/tired etc.

Either way it was a fascinating and informative article, Thanks!

Chad McKay


wrote …

Great ideas about shocking the body, towards the end! I love the idea of midnight workouts and low calorie exercising. I do agree with Chad, though. Thank you for that point of view. You have me researching....



wrote …


You are the man. Really enjoyed the article. I feel fortunate to train with you.


Cole Rashmi wrote …

Great article, Dusty. Congrats on your accomplishment, your non-profit and all the good work you do. Thanks for sharing.


wrote …

Great article. It's been great getting to know you and your uncle. You guys are both animals. I'll see you at the Fittest of the Sierra. It's going to be an awesome event!

Leave a comment

Comments (You may use HTML tags for style)