Archive for January 2006

Review: Books

Over the years I seem to have collected quite a collection of books on mountaineering and climbing. I’ll be reviewing new ones as and when I get them but I thought I’d list a few of the better ones I’ve come across.

The Joy of Building

Tyler Durden: Guys, what would you wish you’d done before you died?
Steph: Paint a self-portrait.
The Mechanic: Build a house.- Fight Club (1999)

The DeckThere’s something incredibly satisfying about building something. Since finally buying a house The Susan and I have remodeled the kitchen and rebuilt the deck, along with a myriad of smaller projects.

It’s not that there weren’t times when I wished I could pay someone else to do the work, there were. Especially towards the end of the deck build when the weather turned bad and I was reduced to building in the garage. Or the time I turned my hand into a bloody mess with a mallet and then a hammer, both in the space of a few hours while finishing the kitchen counter.

But it’s yours, you built it. You get to go sit on it and drink beer in the sun.

Showing up

There are no prizes for just showing up.

Anything of value requires commitment. Just turning up isn’t going to get you anything. Nobody is going to give you credit for just being there. You get out what you put in.

I thought this was a Lance Armstrong line but it turns out it isn’t. So I guess it’s mine.

Climbing Food

Here are some general notes on food largely based on a trip I did last year when we climbed a route in the Elias Range in Southern Alaska. These are some baseline observations. I think I can improve on this food significantly next time around.

But first here are some basic rules I use for what goes into my pack:

  • Take food you like. Yes, I really happen to like PowerBars. I’ve gone to the trouble of trying lots of flavors and figuring out which ones I can eat and which ones taste like crap.
  • Try it at home first. If you can’t eat it at sea level in your nice warm kitchen then what’s it going to be like on the hill?
  • Some food is psychological, I like to eat gummies at the end of the day and look forward to that Protein Plus bar. To me it’s worth carrying a few because their value isn’t just in the calories.
  • When you’re not climbing you should be eating or sleeping. Take lots of good food to eat at basecamp so you can be well fed and well rested before the route. I’ll add another post of basecamp food sometime in the future.

On this trip we applied the Twight packing algorithm to the max and left pretty much everything behind. Here’s a list of what we ate each day. The route wasn’t short enough (7000′) and we weren’t fit enough to do it single push style so taking a bunch of bars and gels wasn’t an option.

Item kCal Weight (g)
2 Nature Valley granola bars 360 84
2 PowerBars 460 130
1 PowerBar Protein Plus bar 300 78
6 Gummy bears 40 20
3 Hard candies 70 20
2 Gu or Hammer Gel 200 64
Cytomax, dry power for 1 quart 285 75
Teas 0 20
1 Lipton Instant soup 68 17
1/2 Alpine Aire meal 330 85
Total 2113 573

This works out at 360 kCal for each 100g in dry food weight. For comparison 573g of fat would contain 5157 kCal and the same amount of carbohydrate or protein would contain 2292 kCal. So this is pretty close to the best possible amount of energy for a carbohydrate/protein diet.

Really high calorie foods like cashew nuts and salami have values around 600 KCal per 100g but these are fatty foods, which are harder to metabolise at altitude. Anything much fattier than that will be inedible. If you’ve found a way to consume and digest lard at then please let me know.

In the end we spun the five days worth of food out to six which wasn’t that hard seeing as we hadn’t been able to cook a meal one night. I think I came back with a couple of Gus and half an Alpine Aire (we’d split one in anticipation of another bad weather day).

According to CalorieLab I could have been burning anything from 600 to 1,400 kCal an hour. That would leave me at least six thousand calories short for each day. 3,500 kCal is roughly equivalent to loosing or adding a pound in weight. So over six days I’d expect to loose twelve pounds, which is pretty much how it turned out.

How could this be improved? Take less food overall? Maybe. For shorter trips you can definitely take a lot less and just accept that you’re going to be burning fat and muscle as fuel. I’m not sure this scales to longer trips. As it was the lack of calories started to grind us down by the time we hit the summit. Or try and carry food with a better or more useful energy to weight ratio and a high carbohydrate content.

Hopefully the weather will improve here and I’ll get to put some ideas into practice and report on my findings and a new food list.

Useful Links:

Calorie and fluid replacement during alpine mountain climbing
Nutritional Advice for Military Operations in a High Altitude Environment
Hammer Nutrition – free article downloads
Gym Jones – Knowledge – Fat

Solitary Confinement

This week I started doing hard time. My product team moved buildings and I got my own office. It was on a busy section of corridor so people dropped by to congratulate me on my new found status. After two years or so I’d moved up the corporate ladder high enough not to be forced to share a room.

Problem is, for the most part, I actually liked sharing an office. In fact in a decade of working the I’ve only had one other job that also merited an office all to myself. Come to think of it, that job, and that office, also felt isolating and impersonal.

Having a roomie to come in and shoot the breeze with every morning was pretty nice. Occasionally we’d talk about work but for the most part he’d tell me things I didn’t know; like about his brother working construction in Alaska. I’d reciprocate with trivia from my past or present.

People, well most people, aren’t designed to be loners. We’re instinctively tribal; used to eating, living and even sleeping in small groups. When will Corporate America get wise to this?

Review: Vasque Ice 9000 Double Boot

Ice 9000I finally managed to get hold of a pair of Vasque Ice 9000s this spring. Here’s an initial review of how I’ve liked them.

Out of the Box

At one point Vasque was making big claims about the weight of these boots. In fact they are no lighter than a traditional plastic boot retrofitted with a thermofit liner. My Scarpa Invernos weigh about 3.7lbs (each) with the stock liner and 3.4lbs with an Intuition liner, this is about the same as the Ice 9000. The sizing is however way off. I usually take around a 13.5 US. My La Sportiva Nepal Extrems are a 47.5. The Ice 9000’s give me roughly the same fit in a 12 US, about a size and a half difference.

Continue reading »

Gear: MSR XGK Stove Base

MSR XGK Stove BaseHere’s an alternative to the MSR Trillium stove base. It doesn’t cost twenty five bucks, is a better insulator and holds the fuel bottle of an XGK to make it more stable.

This is really simple to make. Get a scrap of 1/4″ plywood from Home Depot and cut it to shape. You need something large enough to give the stove stability with a pan on top of it and wide enough to hold the two loops of shock cord for the fuel bottle. The one shown here could be smaller, it’s really designed for basecamp use. Paint the wood with heat resistant stove or muffler paint and then add two loops of shock cord to hold the fuel bottle snugly in place.

The only downside of this setup is that it doesn’t fold up like the Trillium does so it’s pretty bulky. You can however build it so that it’s no wider than the back of your pack which means it still packs pretty well.

WARNING: Even with an MSR heat reflector under the stove base the wood will still get hot and may scorch. Objects under the wood may also get pretty warm. I had a Thermarest sleeping pad that got hot enough to delaminate.

Useful links:

MSR’s Trillium Stove Base