I'm realising that food and resupply, keeping myself fed well enough to keep going, might possibly be the biggest single challenge on the haute route. You can feasibly walk hut to hut, meal to meal on the GR10 or GR11. This is not really possible on the HRP, at least not the whole way - there are sections where you need to carry food for a week or more.
Staying in huts would also be very expensive, and I don't enjoy other people's snoring! In addition, I'm a vege that eats fish (aka a hypocritarian) so fats are harder to come by, especially in France (where vegetarianism maybe considered a Disease of the Mind) and Spain (where it maybe considered an Affront to the Church). I paid 16 euros for a one egg omelette last year on a section of the HRP, in Refuge Wallon…the vegetarian option. Pourquoi? Je ne sais pas!
But its not just for negative reasons that I'll be wild camping and only taking a meal and a room here and there - wild camping is a big reason I go out, and the Pyrenees is a perfect place to do it. Then again, food is heavy, I sort of resent carrying it, and the usual feast of perambulating Kings en Continent, dried sausage, isn't an option. No, ham is not a vegetable, at least until week X when I really don't care anymore and my old teenage habit disintegrates in a weak moment, finally faced with a meal with a face ordered by accident.
Until then forewarned is forearmed, so I thought I'd better equip myself with a little more knowledge. Maybe they are of use to you. I've split the links into 2 camps, the first about nutrition and the second being more practical. I haven't included any info about ready made meals because I don't use them.
A good intro: http://www.aktrekking.com/food.html
If you only read one link, read this: http://thru-hiker.com/articles/pack_light_eat_right.php
Nutrition in practice: http://www.andrewskurka.com/advice/nutrition.php
Supplementary info on GI and metabolism: http://www.journeymantraveller.com/p/thermoregulation.html
http://www.hikinginfinland.com/2010/10/food-for-thought-ii.html (do check out the comments also)
To start with, I've been reminded of a few really handy basics in the links above
- You need to increase your calorie intake, especially after a few weeks, by alot. The exact amount depends on who you are, what season it is and what you are doing, (and who you read!)...but we're looking at maybe double, sometimes more - if you are out there, you are working hard. Eat the same as normal and you'll be using your fat reserve and therefore lose weight, which is acceptable but only for a while.
- Fat is the most efficient energy source for weight and burns slow - eat nutella/peanut butter/butter/olive oil/cheese/egg yolks/ice cream and donuts on your long walks. But there's a limit to how much fat your body can process as energy without....
- Carbohydrates are both sugars (simple, burn fast/hi GI) and starches (complex, burn slow/lo GI) - breads, cereals and other grains, potato, sugars and fruit - also contain high energy for weight. But check this out:1 teaspoon of sugar (carbohydrate) weighs 5 grams = 20 Calories. 1 teaspoon of butter (fat) weighs 5 grams = 45 Calories. Aaaah, so thats why Tibetans drink Po Cha on the high plains.
- The body actually prefers both Fat and Carbs to protein for muscle building as well as energy. However,
- Protein is still needed to regulate nervous systems, organs, heal muscle tissue etc. Good job the cheese and fish is great in both countries.
- Your body needs salt in order to absorb fluids - eat a little more of it when working hard physically.
Hang on though, I do have some experience of my own... and my body often tells me what I need. I often crave potato when I'm out, also soups, juices really hit the spot - easily digested slow burn complex carbs. I can tell you it takes me about 25 minutes to start to metabolise solid carbs - I can feel it starting to happen when I'm walking. Sweets/candy can make me ratty and irrational - crash and burn, as Skurka warns. I worry about food though, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Last year, we found food planning to be harder than expected because we chose to wild camp away from the refuges. These high mountain huts are often so busy catering for their boarders in the summer that they can't or won't sell you much at all to take away with you - the odd bag of nuts, maybe some long life bread, cheese spread if you're lucky. You can't count on them for resupply alone, you have to go down to the villages. Both of us lost 6-7 lbs each in 15 days, which is obviously not sustainable over a longer time-frame. As the body gets leaner it needs more calories because the margins got smaller, and fat is slower to burn - easy to put on, hard to take off, right? The higher altitudes curb my appetite as well, it is harder to remember to eat as often or as much as I need to. My concern is that on a longer walk like the HRP I could miscalculate resupply and then make bad decisions about route or weather because I was hungry. For what I can tell, the last third of the trip where navigation and water supply are more of a challenge, is also the section with the least shops!
Food paranoia set in until I planned better, now it's my walk again. I've started on the usual homemade prep but this time at volume, adding drop boxes for my co walkers to bring out, and of course I'll buy whatever I can find on the way. I'm used to making up rice, cous cous and pasta meals with a good variety of nuts, seeds and some fish every few days if possible. I always pack rehydration powders, rocksalt and olive oil, but I've also added a few things to my shopping list after this initial reading - powdered custard, instant mashed potato, TVP/soy protein, marrowfat peas, and I just found some Nido, full fat powered milk, in the 'specialty' section of Sainsburys. I've been reminded to link to these dried veg as well. Finally, its worth checking out asian food stores - dried seaweed, pak choi and anchovies were supplied by my fine local chinese supermarket.
If you have other links or experience you can share, and I'm sure there are many out there who can, please do so (veggie or otherwise).
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