Eat your way to summit success

by on 8th August, 2014

This week Tom remembers how important nutrition is when taking on peaks in cold conditions, all part of a mountaineering course.


Tom writes:

“The clouds whisped over the creamy white summit of Cairngorm, creating a game of show and tell of the mountain’s lethal mashed potato cornices.

That February morning in Scotland’s Highlands was a blessed one – it wasn’t blowing a gale for a start. We could generally see more than 5m ahead (but no more than 10m), and I’d already learned ice axe arrest skills and how to assess avalanche risk.

13.00. The most important time of the day, along with breakfast, second breakfast, snacks, tea and snack before bed. Lunch.

I’d splurged almost all the money I had left on this two-day mountaineering course. Here, I learned a stomach-gurgling lesson in mountain survival.



Summit success – eat to the top


Sorry lunch

My friends unpacked flasks of tea, sarnies, cakes, nuts all manner of items. They were hungry. And wanted to stay warm.

I produced my scran. A tub of hummus and a bag of value supermarket carrots. This does not a mountaineer’s lunch make.

The first carrot was quite nice, slathered as she was in ice-cold hummus. The second lacked a certain something. Sustenance. The third was just…just…carrot. Munching on a vegetable ice pop. The hummus was freezing up, too.

I was getting cold. My legs felt empty. I had another munro and four hours of walking in snow and mountaineering skills to cover.

I was light-headed, my teeth felt like crumbling to dust as they bashed another carrot in my gub. I dreamt of the teas made by Leith Franklin Academical Beige Cricket Club. Pasta. Roast Dinners. Chorizo. Even celery had a certain ring to it.

My friend Mairi spotted my measly rations, took pity and started a collection of donated nibbles, and I ate like a king. I got a cup of tea too. The price to pay was three hours of donkey braying at the carrot-hummus man. Luckily my teeth had survived and I could smile.

A most important mountaineering lesson was learned. Food. Warmth. I knew it was silly, but I’d had no money. I had bought a bottle of wine for the night before though. Priorities. I was lucky I was with other people.

Mountains and especially mountains in winter command respect. I disrespected that.

Now, I always carry snacks, always advise people to carry more than you think you’ll need. It’s all part of the fun, eating more calories than you burn off.

South America – with its huge mountains and freezing high altitude walks – is a place to make sure you eat well.


Top 3 favourite snacks:

Dark chocolate (any chocolate will do as long as it’s not white)


Jaffa Cakes

Whisky (I know it’s four, but a wee dram at the top is great).

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