The Alchemy of Action


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by Doug Robinson

From the Publisher:

Why do people climb mountains? Because it gets us high. Here is the surprising answer to that age-old question. The unfolding story of the Alchemy of Action leads to psychedelic transformations deep in the brains of adventure athletes everywhere, whether they run, ski, surf…

Altered states of consciousness have often been reported by adventure athletes such as rock climbers, trail runners, big-wave surfers, ski mountaineers, etc. Their challenges vary, but all show similar patterns of psychic response: their consciousness gets altered. We struggle to label those altered states with names like runner’s high, peak experience, or summit euphoria. And we take a stab at explaining them as adrenaline junkies or with beta-endorphin. Both of those popular ideas turn out to be wrong. What is it then? We noticed that their altered states all share many characteristics with the effects of psychedelic drugs. The challenging nature of their pursuits all share the qualities of seeking physiological stress under conditions of controlled fear. Anandamide is demonstrated to rise sharply in endurance athletes which makes a convincing case for a psychedelic explanation for the altered states experienced by adventure athletes.

Praise for the Book:

“Doug Robinson is John Muir meets Jack Kerouac, a 19th century mountain man on a 20th century journey, a seeker, a visionary. He is that rare treasure: a mountain man who can write, and he writes like a poet. This book is part memoir, part reporting and part scientific exploration, written in a very accessible way. He’s out on the fringe of something that affects anybody who has the remotest interest in the range of human experience.” — William Boyles Jr., Apollo 13 screenwriter

“Our guide is a friendly and folksy Roshi, whose light touch helps his readers tackle technical ground.” — Brad Rassler, Sustainable Play

About the Author:

Dr. Doug Robinson is a lifelong climber, ski mountaineer, trail runner and guide. His climbs have been chronicled in National Geographic and Sports Illustrated and on ABC Sports. He was instrumental in founding Outside Magazine, the American Mountain Guides Association and Patagonia. Now he tackles the age-old question: “Why do people climb mountains?”


Paperback: 188 pages
Publisher: Moving Over Stone; first edition (October 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978–0-9898551-0-5
Product Dimensions: 9 x 3 x 0.35 inches
Shipping Weight: 13 oz

Additional information

Weight 13 oz
Dimensions 9 × 3 × 0.35 in