Food is fuel for our bodies. No food no go. The quality of the calories is also important. On a South Pole ski expedition, a mountaineering expedition or any extreme and cold weather expedition your body is using huge amounts of calories each day to keep running. A climber or polar skier could burn 6000+ calories per day and it can sometimes be a challenge to replace that many calories so it is not uncommon for people to lose weight on these types of expeditions.
Sometimes fatigue and altitude can mess with your appetite and you just don’t feel like eating, but eat you must. I see eating on an expedition as part of your job. If you can derive some enjoyment from it that is a bonus, but even if you have to force it in it is part of your job to achieve your goal.
A South Pole ski expedition and a climb of Mount Vinson use slightly different types of foods so I will break them into two sections.
South Pole Food: The extreme cold, the physical act of skiing for 8+ hours a day, and pulling a heavy sled across uneven ground consumes huge amounts of calories. Plus food weighs a lot you have to think about the weight vs calorie count equation.
For a South Pole ski expedition you are looking for food that is light and calorie dense. I will break the food down into the different meals for the day.
Breakfast: Breakfast is important as you need to re-fuel from the calories used while sleeping and load up on calories to keep you going for much of the day. For breakfast we will have a hug serving of an oatmeal and granola mix with added dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, butter, and protein powder. We will also try and drink about 1L of fluids such as water, tea or hot chocolate.
Lunch: We don’t stop for lunch on a South Pole ski expedition. Your body needs fuel more frequently and stopping for an extended lunch break is not advised as you will get too cold. Therefore we eat pretty much every hour. We ski for 60 minutes and take a 10-minute break. During this break, we will have a drink of water, soup of tea from our thermos, and munch on our daily bag of trail mix. Each break you have a few handfuls of the mix consisting of nuts, dried fruit, cooking, chocolate and anything else you desire in this category. You have to be careful not to take foods that become too hard when frozen as you don’t want to break a tooth. We also pack a small chunk of cheese and salami wrapped in a small bag. This snack is frozen solid in the morning, but we put it in an inside pocket so our body heat will that it gradually. After about 4 hours of travel the snack is soft enough to eat and it is at a time when your body is craving a hit of high calorie food.
Pre-Dinner Snack: Once we get camp set up and get into our tents the first thing we do is eat. We start the stove to get water and hot drinks ready and pull out our snack food. One of my favorite snacks is melba toast and salami with a splash of olive oil for some extra fat and calories. We also pack chocolate bars and some salty snacks like chips and sesame crisps.
Dinner: Dinner consists of a huge helping of a freeze dried meal. These are actually quite good and contain all the calories and nutrients you will need on a trip like this. Each person will eat 1.5 or 2x serving to get the calories needed. This can be difficult to do as it is just so much food, but it is your job so you force it down. We will also have some hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) to go along with dinner.
Mount Vinson Food: For Mount Vinson we will be able to eat a wider variety of food as we will fly into base camp and do not need to transfer the food very far so weight is not as much of an issue. We will use some of the same foods as for the South Pole, but we can now add in foods such as pasta, hamburgers, quesadillas, pancakes, fresh vegetables and more. The higher we go on the mountain the more basic the food becomes and we need to think more about weight, but we can generally eat more normal foods like we may eat at home.