Moving on from my last blog, I wanted to talk very quickly about one of the most important aspects of big days on the rock - nutrition. The first thing to say is don’t underestimate it – good nutrition is vital and can make the difference between success and failure. Whilst it may work to go to the sport cliff with just water and a pack of cookies, this approach simply doesn’t cut it on a big wall Secondly, this is not a science (well technically it is, but let me try to explain what I mean). Every body is different, and therefore each person will react differently to different foods. Whilst one person may feel the benefits of munching on dried nuts and fruit, the next may love pouring down powergell, and another may swear that jellybabies and chocolate milk is THE solution. Placebos can be just as strong as the real thing and if something works for you and makes you feel good, stick with it! I don’t mean to start preaching about the rights and wrong, the good and bad. I would just like to share some of the things I do that seem to work for me, in the hope someone else my find the information helpful.
The basic principle behind multi-pitch food is small and light. Whatever you take needs to be packed into your bag or pockets and carried up the wall. Small and light is not technically correct, a better choice of words would be nutritionally dense – to pack a big punch in a small packet. A great example of this would be a Power Bar – scientifically engineered to provide you with lots of fast acting, long lasting energy, all from a bar half the size of a Snickers. Power Bars come in lots of different types and flavours and so you can custom design your supply to work through the day – perhaps some fast acting Power Gell before beginning the crux pitch, with longer lasting slow release bar for the final upper pitches.
Power Bar has come a long way in the last few years and most of their products taste reasonably good. However, there is no getting away from the fact they are designed in a lab, and after a few hard pitches, I often find myself craving for something, well, a little more natural.
Eat Natural is a little company from the South of England, and they pride themselves on making great tasting snacks and cereals full of natural ingredients. “Packed with good wholesome stuff and nothing dodgy” is how the company describes its products - something I would have to agree with wholeheartedly. Eat Natural has been supporting my climbing with their bars and cereals for a few years now and they are something I enjoy every day, both at the cliff and at home. However, it is on long multi-pitch routes where the bars are truly worth their weight in gold.
As I said above, it is hard to argue with the scientific way Power Bar has designed its products to efficiently deliver the nutrients your body needs, but science is not everything, and the power of great quality comfort food should not be underestimated. Eating something healthy wholesome and tasty will not only give your body some of the fuel it needs, but will also make you happy – and the power of a smile can be very strong indeed! I tend to take a ratio of around 2 – 1 Eat Natural to PowerBar with me on a route, eating roughly 1 bar every 2 pitches, which seems to keep me going for most of the day.
The perfect Bivy meal... I wish!
If I am on the wall for more than one day, in the evening I try to eat as much “real food” as possible, often in the form of rehydrated soups, usually followed by a few bars for desert. In the morning, I usually take cereal and coffee. One useful little tip for saving weight and volume is to pack some cereal and some powdered milk together into a zip-lock bag - simply add water and you are good to go, no need to mess around with extra bags and bowls.
Ok, cool... Now its off to Sardinia to test out if any of this actually works!