Don’t eat alone in the mountains….or, what to eat when you’re climbing

Mountain food is a highly personal subject. I haven’t done quite enough climbing to have a 100% set opinion on this, but I’ve done enough to a least have a sense of my opinion.

First off, check this out. This guy was alone in the mountains and started to choke on some food. As he was losing conciseness he managed to use his ice axe and a fall down a slope (into a rock) to perform the heimlich on himself. Simply amazing. 

That being said, I expect to be able to avoid this sort of thing because I don’t climb alone. Many do, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I just prefer the company and the added safety provided by another human being by your side. But of course, we still have to bring food with us. So what do we bring? 

Thus far, it’s been combinations of snack foods and small meals. It’s ranged from gummy bears to nuts and granola bars and energy bars to bagels with peanut butter and summer sausage and cheese and crackers. On the two “big” climbs I’ve done (Adams and Shuksan), we were given good advice from our guide that we failed to heed: bring with you into the mountains things you’d normally like to eat. For example, he told stories of guys who would bring a wrapped Chipotle burrito into the mountain. Or cold pizza. To us, this sounded insane. The extra weight alone seemed daunting. But we came close. The night before the Shuksan climb we stood in the supermarket (stocking up) and even parroted back those words of advice from our guide, and thought about getting small pizzas to cook the night before and bring with us. But, we elected not to do this. Fail. 

Overall our choices haven’t been bad, just overall subpar as far as quality. After 8 or 9 hours of climbing up a glacier (half of that in the dark) a power bar does perfectly fine for me. But at camps and prior to the alpine zone, the idea of having a small (cold) pizza sounds pretty ideal. In fact, the other member of our team on Shuksan had a Subway sandwich that he brought with him. Brilliant! 

In the future, we’re going to do better with this. Snack food is still a must. I remain steadfast in my opinion that sitting on a glacier during a short rest stop is the last place I’d want to try and eat that pizza…a handful nuts and dried berries does the trick. But at longer rests and at camp, bigger and better food is a must. 

One thing that’s come up a few times is coffee: apparently a lot of people need to drink their coffee in the mountains. That’s fine. To me, though, the idea of drinking anything that increases your need to urinate seems counterproductive. The chance of having a few hours without the ability to get to a safe place to urinate is high enough that plain old water seems like the best path. 


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