April 06, 2010
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.