Biopsies from the vastus lateralis muscle of seven participants in the Swiss expedition to Mt. Everest and Lhotse in 1986 were taken before departure to and after return from high altitude, and used for measurements of maximal activities of 12 reference enzymes of anaerobic and aerobic-oxidative metabolic pathways. The results indicated that strenuous exercise at high altitude induced increases in enzyme activities of glycolysis and decreases in enzyme activities of terminal substrate oxidation (the citric acid cycle, fatty acid oxidation, ketone body utilization, respiratory chain). The decreases in enzyme activities of aerobic-oxidative metabolism were related to similar decrements in mitochondrial volume density, which suggests that the enzymic changes resulted from a loss of mitochondrial structure rather than from qualitative changes of the mitochondrial population. These changes indicated that strenuous exercise may intensify the stress of high-altitude exposure and, thus, induce an aerobic to anaerobic shift of muscle energy metabolism.