One of the most common questions we’ve been asked when we got back was what we ate and how was the food. Okay, probably the most common questions we were asked is, “Where did you go the bathroom?” Well, I’m not going to detail that, but if you must know, check out this National Park Service article on Clean Mountain Cans.
Okay, back to the food.
Breakfast and dinner was provided by Alpine Ascents. They also provided about half the lunches and we provided snacks to augment their lunches. The guides made each meal while we were on the mountain. Lauren made the dinners and Vern made the breakfasts. Both were quite good and there was lots of them. We were eating, counting lunches, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day. And we were always hungry. Everyone had seconds at every meal.
Before we left Talkeetna, the guides put together various options for our lunches and we just went through a buffet line of stuff and grabbed what we wanted to take. The recommendation was about 1 pound of lunch food per day. Most of us took about 15 – 16 pounds. In the second photo you can see we each have a white, linen type duffel bag we carried the food in. The lunches consisted of sliced sausages, bagels, trail mix, various types of cheeses, jerky, crackers and other assorted grab snacks. You could take as much or as little as you liked, but they sent Shelley back for more when her bag only weighed in at around 12 lbs. I supplemented my lunch with a jar of peanut butter (wow, am I glad I brought that) and we each had a couple of bags of beef jerky that Travis made for us before we left Boise. We also had lots of candy bars, Clif bars and other types of “power” bar snacks.
For our lunches we would usually eat them after we came back from a carry day or after we moved into and settled our new camps. We also would take portions of the lunches we selected, as well as the stuff we brought with us, and stuff our pockets each day we climbed. These snacks would be what we ate during our breaks on our climbing days. The peanut butter was heaven for me. I love peanut butter. I saw a guide bring a jar of peanut butter with him on Rainier and took the idea from him. We had Philadelphia Cream Cheese for the bagels as well, which was great. But the peanut butter spread out on the crackers was the best part of lunch for me. Little simple things like that really helped you get through a hard day.
We were introduced to our meals on the mountain the night we arrived at base camp. Lauren made cheese burgers. Yes, cheese burgers. Real cheese burgers. This would be typical of the food we had for dinner. On other nights we had an Indian curry dish, burritos, stir fry with chicken, tuna macaroni. You get the idea. Nearly every meal also had some type of soup to go with it. Navy bean soup, split pea, chicken noodle or something along those lines. Of course you could add cheese to your soup if you’d like. In fact, you could add cheese to just about anything if you desired.
On a couple of occasions Lauren even made miniature pizzas for everyone. She even made them to order for those of us who dislike mushrooms. Otherwise they were cheese, olive, mushroom and pepperoni pizzas. You could even order them with extra cheese if you’d like.
Someone asked me why not just use Mountain House dinners? I’m not really sure why they don’t use them. We did have a Mountain House dinner at Camp 5. I remember seeing them preparing that meal. We also had macaroni and cheese at Camp 5 one night. My guess is they don’t use them due to the expense and they are all dry foods. Believe me, the hamburgers and the pizza were huge moral boosters. We had hamburgers at base camp that first night and then again on our first night at Camp 4. Having that type of real food really does something for you physiologically.
Breakfasts had a bit less variety but they were just as good. French toast with bacon, pancakes (with or without blueberries!) with bacon, Denali Delights (which was half of a pan-fried bagel, cheese and ham). There was other breakfasts cereals and various breakfast bars. The french toast and pancakes came with either maple syrup or strawberry spread.
Then we moved to Camp 5 (17,200 feet). See, you go as light as possible when you move up to Camp 5. It was a long day and you can’t take your sleds so everything goes on your back. It’s still a double carry day, but that just means your load coming down when you leave is really heavy. So, you go as light as possible. Which means the food and the kitchen takes a backseat. This was when the Top Ramen made its first appearance. Now Top Ramen is good stuff. The dinners at Camp 5 were still pretty good. After we got back from the summit we had Top Ramen before we went to bed. However, the breakfasts lacked a bit to be desired. I discussed this on my evaluation form with them over this past weekend. The breakfast at Camp 5 were the weakest part of the food chain. It consisted of some type of hot cereal that was just nasty. We came to simply calling it porridge. Yes, that was meant as an insult for those of you who like porridge. No one, except Scott (who liked everything), seemed to like it much. Luckily we only spent a couple of days up there so we only had two full breakfasts. Breakfast on the day we moved back down to Camp 4 was……well…..I don’t even remember what that was actually. I think I ate it, but we had only about 3 hours of sleep in the preceding 30 hours (including a 17 1/2 hour summit day) and that morning is still a blur to me.
On our last night on the mountain we didn’t erect tents when we arrived at Camp 1. We found an old camp site with a posh tent hole and some decent tent platforms. As you remember, we just slept out under the stars that night. Same with the kitchen. Lauren and Vern mixed up some leftovers for all of us and it turned out to be a turkey stuffing type mash. It was actually quite good. I love turkey stuffing and that’s what it tasted like. So once you got past the texture (it was a bit creamy and mashy) it was good.
Overall the food was excellent. It really made for a great moral booster every night and each morning (except at Camp 5). Both Lauren and Vern were great cooks and they made lots of each meal so you never went hungry. Which was good since we were working so hard every day.