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Trail Sense
Importance of Food


Chicago Basin

In the summer of '09 while we were in Colorado climbing the Fourteeners, we often times found ourselves hungry. The problem was we were burning more calories than we were consuming. The lack of food affected our performance in the mountains. There were a couple of food shortage days that really stood out ...

We had just finished with the eastern San Juans (San Luis, Redcloud and Sunshine, Handies, and Uncomparhge and Wetterhorn.) After another long drive, we stopped in Montrose and stayed the night in a motel. We needed to dry out and repack for a big trip to the Chicago Basin peaks.

The next morning we had yet another long drive to a trailhead. After a short wandering session trying to find the unmarked trailhead, we did not even start walking until the afternoon. Sixteen miles later we made it to the basin.

Lucky for us, our friend, Nick, was already there and helped us with our evening chores. Because we were packing as light as possible, we did not carry much food. For dinner we had instant potatoes and were asleep as soon as possible.

Early the next morning we were up and trying to climb two peaks. The snow was soft and deep. Walking took a lot of strength and by the time we summited and descended the first peak (Sunlight), we had used all of our energy. We were starving.

Without climbing the other peak, we returned to camp. We crawled in the tents hungry and waited for a storm to pass. After a short nap, we woke up, still starving. For dinner we were planning on eating a freeze dried meal. Looking at the label of our two serving entree, we found that each serving had less than two hundred calories. We were burning over 6000 calories each day! We knew that we needed to eat more, the only problem was, we did not have anymore food. Carefully we rummaged through our food bags and planned exactly the food we thought we would need for the next day - breakfast, lunch, and trail snacks. After setting the selected next days' foods aside, we proceeded to eat everything else we had. With the pasta meal we had instant soup, grits, and all the snacks that were available.

After dinner we carefully re-hung our food bag. We knew the importance of what little food we had left.

Up even earlier the next morning, we ate a snack and left to climb Windom and Eolus. Returning to camp, we quickly packed and hit the trail. It was a sixteen mile hike to return to the trailhead. Hungry before we even left camp, we did not have enough food for the hike out; but if we had not eaten the food the night before, we would not have had the energy to climb the mountains. On the trail, every step was one closer to more food. By the time we reached the car even Jake's (the dog) food looked good to us. We didn't think he would mind sharing!

A couple of lessons we learned. First, we had to pack to satisfy both our hunger and our goals. We were trying to climb all of the Fourteeners, that was our goal. We needed food to reach our goal; but too much food might add too much weight and prevent us from reaching the summits. Second, we needed a good dinner for our bodies to rebuild through the night. It is tough to spend the night tossing and turning - hungry as a bear and still having to climb the next day. Eventually we learned the simple lesson, when we ate good, we climbed good. It was that simple.

Over the next few weeks, we will cover food topics in the Trail Sense series. Join us for some scrumptious ideas.

Happy good eating trails

Trail Sense Food Links

Importance of Food

An Edible Diet


Kitchen Extras



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