Climbing and Nutrition-pointers by Stephen Koch

Koch hydrating. GABE ROGEL
Why am I posting about Gels, Chomps and Tablets when my whole blog is dedicated to fresh, real food? Because even though that is how I eat every day, there are times when a solid meal is the last thing I would want. And since I do bike, run, swim and climb, and love doing those activities, I think it is fitting that I address this subject.

After my own difficulties with food and hydration on my last climbing trip, I decided to ask Backcountry.com athlete, mountaineer, snowboarder, professional speaker and coach Stephen Koch for a few pointers, both for winter and summer climbing. Here are recommendations that hopefully will help keep others well nourished throughout a day of climbing.

When asked about what foods to take climbing, Koch is quick to respond: "Talk to 10 different climbers, and you will get 10 different answers."

His advice: "Take foods that you like. It is difficult to eat when you are cold, tired, and stressed, so you will be more likely to eat something you enjoy.'' The important thing to remember is to keep getting the calories and fuel that you need by eating small amounts of food regurlarly. "Many mountains have been climbed on Mars and Snickers bars.'' Of course he does not recommend eating just chocolate for days on end, as appetizing as that may sound.

For winter climbs, Stephen recommends taking foods with more fat content, such as cheese and nuts. His favorite foods are salami (nitrate-free), sharp cheddar cheese, a good apple, and chocolate. He also takes along GU Energy GelRoctane Ultra Endurance Energy Gel and GU Chomps, enough for himself and his partner (more on Koch and GU).He prepares for the day with a solid breakfast, coffee, and a smoothie that he takes along for the drive to the climbing destination.

For winter hydration, he suggests about 2 liters of fluids for a day of climbing. Hot tea with honey is a favorite. If you bring water, make sure it is hot before you pack it. Keep it in a thermos, or insulated bottle. You can also wrap the bottle in a jacket inside the backpack, or keep it in your own jacket next to your body to keep it from freezing. He does not recommend using hydration systems. He mentioned the time when he was soloing the face of the Matterhorn, winter of 1997, and his hydration system broke and leaked. He has not used one since.

He does not advise eating snow for hydration, at least for prolonged periods of time, since it takes more energy to melt the snow in your mouth than the water it provides. On the 36 hour first free ascent of the Moonflower Buttress, Mount Hunter AK, Koch and his partner found themselves without the means to melt snow into water, as their stove had broken. So Stephen turned to chewing snow, only to find that, because his mouth had gone numb, he was chewing his cheeks and tongue along with the snow.

During summer, the recommended amount of fluids changes from 16 to 32 ounces each hour, depending on how hot, dry and/or humid the day is. Koch takes water, and uses GU Brew Electrolyte Tablets to replenish the loss of salt and minerals needed to maintain peak performance. If you know you will be crossing streams, or any other body of water, on your hike to the climbing spot, iodine tablets, a water filter, or a purifying wand are also good to bring along, in case you run out of water, or do not want to carry a lot of water (weight) to start with. He carries his own water in an old Gatorade bottle, which he attaches to his harness.

A couple favorite recipes...
Koch's Mountain Mix:
-Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips
-Sunflower/pumpkin seeds (optional)

Koch's Smoothie:
-Berries (frozen or fresh)
-Dr Mercola Miracle Whey Protein Powder Drink (vanilla)
-Fruit of choice
-1 Tbsp Barlean's Flaxseed Oil
-Few ice cubes
-Cashews (optional, for more fat)
-Granola (optional, for more fat)

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