Intrinsic Motivation, Vitality, and High Altitude Mountaineering: Analysis of Seven Case Studies


  • J.C. Norling Colorado Mountain College
  • Mark F. Roark Utah State University
  • Dale R. Wagner Utah State University


self-determination theory, mountaineering, intrinsic motivation, vitality, acute mountain sickness


For outdoor leaders, understanding psycho-physiological factors can provide insight into college students' performance while on a mountaineering expedition involving exposure to high altitude (5640 m). This paper focuses on each participant's level of intrinsic motivation (IM), subjective vitality (SV), select physiological markers, and the presences of acute mountain sickness (AMS) based on the specified mountaineering context and altitude, through Cognitive Evaluation Theory, a sub-theory of Self-determination Theory. A multiple case study design (N=7) was employed; data were collected at select times during the expedition. Case's results reflect a sharp decline in SV level before descending, and similarly for IM with noted exceptions. IM and SV scores may have been a function of the physiological changes that occurred during high altitude exposure. Employing a deliberate participant data observation system in the field can improve leaders' understanding of participant's psycho-physiological status.




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