Mountaineer Rick Ridgeway spent five decades traveling to uncharted regions, conquering the world’s most treacherous mountains, sometimes before anyone else. Here are his keys to achieving peak performance. — As told to Charles Thorp
I’ve always had a passion for books, and I’ve been a big reader since I was a boy. It’s had a profound effect on my life on multiple occasions and initially inspired me to become a climber. I read a National Geographic story about the first American to climb Mount Everest and wanted to be like him. That guy was Jim Whittaker, and little did I know he’d be the leader of our first American ascent of K2 in ’78. It was around the time of my own K2 ascent when another book came out called The Snow Leopard. The naturalist George Schaller, who’s the main character, become my mentor and one of my best friends. I set up an expedition with Galen Rowell, Conrad Anker, and Jimmy Chin to find the birthing ground of the chiru, an endangered Tibetan antelope, to supported George’s research and help protect the animal. It was the most meaningful trip of my life. My home has a room where I’m completely surrounded by books, including the first one I bought when learning to climb called Freedom of the Hills. That room is one of my favorite places to be.
Redefine Peak Condition
I don’t remember any of my friends who were climbing back in the ‘60s or ‘70s ever going to a gym. None of us had a training regimen. We just climbed all the time and went on long hikes to get to the mountains before expeditions. The on-foot approaches to the landmark climbs people are familiar with were a lot longer than they are