We took a lot of High Altitude Food with us for our Mt. Spantik (7027m) expedition which we successfully summited on 10 July 2018 at 1015hrs. This post is all about the selection, importance and review of High Altitude (HA) food. I think it is an extremely important aspect of all expeditions and, therefore, should be known to all climbers, particularly upcoming athletes.
We took 16 packets of Expedition Foods with us which included a mix of Breakfast, Dinner and Dessert dishes. We were a team of 6 climbers and we thought 16 packets were enough for us due to two reasons: (1) we had also bought a lot of other food stuff that included soups, noodles, biscuits etc., and (2) 16 packets were all that we could afford!
Anyways, we took a mix of all our HA food during our first rotation to C-1 (5085m). We stayed 2 nights here and it was also the first time most of us tasted these food packets. We also tried all the other food we had brought. It soon dawned on us that we were extremely short on Expedition Foods as these food packets were the only thing that tasted good and were bearable for all of us. Although we were not at a high enough altitude yet, we could see that the higher we would go, our dependency on these would gradually increase!
At basecamp we re-rationed everything for our next rotation. We, now, were very worried about our food supplies. We had a lot of it and so little of it at the same time. Among the 6 of us we had about 8~9 packets left with about 8 days of climbing left. 8 days - only if the weather remained exceptionally good (which it didn’t btw!). Anyways, we divided, rationed, repacked and we went. At C-3 (6300m) we had nothing left. On our first night we had one dinner packet and one breakfast. All 6 of us divided it with 2-3 tablespoons each. It was brutal. None of us could swallow the noodles, soups and biscuits we had. Maybe 1 or 2 biscuits but nothing else. After summiting, when we returned to C-3, we couldn’t even finish a bowl of noodle soup. It just wouldn’t go down. Eventually, one bowl had to be finished by 3 people. So we learnt an important lesson! Take an abundant supply of the right High Altitude Food, particularly Expedition Foods!
HA freeze-dried foods are the go-to food for all extreme sports that require endurance and involve wilderness. These packs of food come in varying flavors and by numerous brands. They are preferred due to their small size/weight, taste and their ability to be ready within a couple of minutes (approx. <10 min). Expedition Foods stands out among these brands. It not only has a huge range of meals (including halal and vegetarian options) but they taste awesome, have great consistency, are visually pleasing and easy to prepare even in the worst of conditions, and are remarkably satisfying. Even an 800kcal packet can suffice for 2 people. With other food types, one always feels an urge to have something more (we did!) which is not always possible at high altitudes. Expedition Foods leaves you satisfied and nourished. Below is the list of meals and desserts we tried with a short description and ranking stars (out of 5).
We had the following:
1. Fish and Potato in Parsley Sauce (1000kcal). ★★★★★ A slightly mushy potato-based paste with bits of fish. Exceptionally delicious. The best one that we tried.
2. Porridge with Sultanas (1000kcal). ★★★★★ Awesome breakfast, just like you’ll make at home.
3. Scrambled Egg, Potato and Mixed Peppers (800kcal). ★★★★ Awesome. However, it doesn’t get fully soft. Chunks of potato and pepper stay a bit on the hard side. Tasty but gets a bit difficult to eat at high altitude.
4. Macaroni and Cheese (800kcal). ★★★★★ Awesome, delicious and wonderful. Maybe even better than home!
5. Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta (450kcal). ★★★★★ Wonderful taste and all the right ingredients in the right amount.
6. Dessert Range - Custard with Mixed Berries, Chocolate Chip Biscuit Pudding, Custard with Apple. ★★★★★ All wonderful with the right consistency and right flavour. The key is to pour the right amount of water as specified. Don’t overdo it.
Tips and take away:
Based on our experience, I would like to present the following few points. Although they are more of a reminder to self but I hope they’ll be helpful to all upcoming athletes, mountaineers and adventure seekers!
1. Learn from all your experiences/expeditions about what food type suits you.
2. Pack the right amount of ‘right’ food.
3. Prepare a schedule for all your meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and allocate the right food in the right quantity.
4. Make dedicated packs of food for all the high camps with rightly proportioned quantities. Do this activity before leaving your home instead of doing it at the basecamp. Repeat it again at the basecamp too.
5. Don’t just buy all the stuff you find in supermarkets. Tea/coffee and biscuits might be fine for all the camps but think before getting too many soups, noodles, canned food etc.
6. Discuss with all the members about preferences.
7. Choose freeze-dried food. It’s small, light (both weight and effects on stomach), tastes good and has a wide range of flavours. Try Expedition Foods!
Happy Mountaineering! Happy Climbing!
Regards, Fausz Naeem Chaudhry