It was around 1 p.m. and the hordes of shirtless gym rats were at the crag rummaging through their alpine packs, dumping out first-aid kits and shiny new quick draws, desperately searching for that last Clif Bar. Watching them devour what honestly looks like a hunk of really nicely packed cow shit makes me want to barf. Sure, there’s a sick-as-hell climber on the packaging, and yes, flavours like Peanut Toffee Buzz sound incredible, but don’t get sucked into the hype.
These dense turds do have their place, however. Ueli Steck has said that he took half a Clif Bar up Annapurna (without the packaging to save weight), and even I took a few up the gruelling, intense technical climb up Mount Marcy this winter. It was the right amount of fuel I needed to keep me alive in that alpine environment.
The crag is not the Himalayas. It takes 5 minutes to hike to the cliff, and we’re climbing single pitch routes in the sun all day. So why the hell would you suffer and eat nothing but Clif Bars, Gatorade, and Goo? Because of the climber on the packaging?
When I’m out for the day and climbing single pitch routes at an easy access crag, I can honestly tell you that half the weight in my crag pack, is dedicated solely to food, and instruments/tools to cooking that food.
This is my camp kitchen. I literally bring it with me every single time I go climbing. Right around 1 o’clock, I stop what I’m doing, find a flat area to set up my picnic blanket, and begin cooking. I bring olive oil, spices, broth, a spatula, a frying pan, a pot, a cutting board, and oh yes, a cheese knife. I will bring flour and water, and pan bake my own crag bread. I cook everything on the BioLite wood burning stove (comes in handy charging my iPod/speakers too!). Just yesterday, I spent an hour making a fabulous meal at the base of a classic route, and everybody just stood there staring at me. They were clearly super jealous. Having a hot meal can make the difference between sending and not sending. Next time you chow down on that Mr. Hankey shaped protein bar and head up on your proj, ask yourself, “am I failing because I’m weak, or am I just friggin’ hungry??”
Do yourself a favour, put together a crag kitchen kit, and practice making a few hot meals at home before venturing outside. Perfect your recipes, and you’ll be the envy of every other climber at the crag. You’ll be # 1, while everyone else is stuck eating # 2’s.
Let me know how you guys do!
To get you started, here’s a fantastic crag recipe for “Vegetable Polenta Cakes”:
5 C water
1 C cornmeal
2 tbsp sweet peas
2 tbsp corn
2 tbsp red pepper (diced)
2 tbsp parmesan
1. Bring water to a boil, season with salt. Whisk in cornmeal, corn, peas & red pepper. Continue stirring until no longer grainy. Add parmesan, white pepper and nutmeg to taste.
2. Once polenta has thickened (approx. 30 min) Pour mixture into a saran lined baking dish. Add a second layer of saran wrap on top & smooth down directly onto polenta. Chill for 2 hrs.
3. When ready to make polenta cakes, lift polenta out of the dish, remove saran wrap & place polenta on cutting board. According to desired shape-use either round cookie cutter or cut polenta into large squares.
4. Place saute pan over med heat & add 1 tbsp olive oil. When oil is hot, add cakes & cook until golden brown on both sides (turning as little as possible).