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Denali food planning


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I am starting to plan out my meals for Denali and looking for assistance.  Does anyone have a meal plan from their Denali trip they are willing to share?  There are three of us on the team, with no food allergies or restrictions.   I have the NOLS cookbook, etc, etc.  I am trying to avoid recreating the wheel to by getting other meal plans then using those to create ours.   


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My main recommendation is to really think about how many calories you will need.  The camps on the West Buttrash are so close together that the days are very short, even the ones where we made a carry to a high camp and returned were never longer than 5 1/2 hours.  We budgeted 5,000 calories per day based on suggestions from a book, which ended up being way too much.  We could have easily gone with 3,500 per day.  Realize that you will spend more time not climbing than climbing, so a few days your caloric intake will be higher, while most days lower, but I think for me personally, 3,500 per day would have been plenty.

With all the down time, cooking became an activity.  I made a pretty good risotto from instant rice, chicken soup, freeze dried veggies, cheese, and salami. I would also experiment with the backpacking ovens to make pizza and cinnamon rolls.  Bring a fry pan to make pancakes.

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I'd say eat like a king. It's a great way to kill time and keep psych. Our dinners were usually some sort of precooked sausage/bratwurst, added to burritos, rice dishes, quesedillas, etc. Bacon for breakfast. Egg beaters. Tortilla pizzas turned out to be a real hit.

We spent a week skiing from a camp at the landing strip and 6 days or so climbing and skiing higher up. For 4 guys, our shopping list was (it probably evolved a bit at the grocery store):

-Camp Condiments-
Butter-4 cups of butter !

Oil- Two small/Plastic
Salt-pepper !
Hot Sauce-two bottles one mild !
Sugar-Small Bag !
Mustard Djon !

Coffee- 64oz !

Tea no caffeine- 3 boxes/Mint/Chamomile/Normal !
Tang- 16oz !
Emergency- 1 sleeve 30packets
Alpine Cider/Hot Chocolate ! No Cider
Whiskey- Normal
Beer (a few)

-Breakfast (16 Days)-
Granola - 5.5 Kilos (8 Days) (Powdered Milk 1KG)
Bacon- (4 Days)-Bagels- 16 Bagels (4 Days) Egg Beaters (4 Days + Cheese 16oz)
1 Peanut Butter+ 1 Jelly+ 12 (Bagels 3 days)
Hash Browns+ Cheese- 3 bags

-Filler Food/Lunches (16 Days)-
SNACK PACKS (Salts-Sugars etc) (Personal?) Smoked Almonds, Dried Fruit (Apercots,
Banna etc, Figs M&M peanuts) Shot Blocs 20 (Teague/Jason? Whats your snacks
like?) !
Roman Noodles- 35 Packages !
Idaho Potatoes- 8 Bags + Tuna 8 Cans !

Cheese- 5x2lbs 10lbs of Cheese (Sharp Cheeder, pepper jack)

Salami/meats- 5lbs
Soups- Miso Soups- 7 days worth
Candy- 50-60% Chocolate Bars x 10, M&M’s !
-Dinners (16 Dinners)-
(2 Low Mountain) Burgers- 2 Nights- 8 Jimbo Patties - 8 buns
(2 Low, 2 high) Mexican Surprise- 4 Nights- Tortillas 36, 4 packets of 4 Sausages,
Frozen Veggies 4 bags
(4 Low) Italiano-4 nights- 4 kilo pasta, 4 sauces (200ml) !
(2 High) Salmon with Cous Cous- 2 Nights- 8 salmon packet, 4 boxes- 8 in soups
(2 High) Turkey Sausages with Cous Cous- 2 Nights- 2 big Sausages (diced) and 4
boxes, 8 individual soups
(2High) Taste Bites with rice -2 night- 8 Bags Tasty Bites, 8 Bags rice !

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As others have said, you can eat really well on the West Butt.  I definitely took my fair share of dehydrated meals but on those weather or rest days it was nice to cook something good.  My biggest recommendation is take a frying pan and lid which you can convert into a makeshift oven.  I made pizza, cookies, and biscuits in there not to mention frying all sorts of stuff.  Well worth the extra weight.  You can't really have too many tortilla shells or cheese in my opinion.  Oh and if you can figure out a way to get crackers up to 14k camp without them crumbling you can trade it for just about anything.  Last piece of advice is take food you like....duh but just because somebody says x, y, or z is a great food with lots of calories doesn't mean you will like it.  Try it at home first, you don't want to cart the weight all the way up to 14k camp only to realize you don't like it.


Here is my spreadsheet.  Overall I was aiming for 3000-3500 calories.  I thought that worked out well for me.


Breakfast                                                    Lunch                                                                    Dinner                                Extra

*Also not on the above list was 2 tubes of biscuits, 3 tubes of pringles, cookie dough, and hard candy.

**A lot of those dinners were dehydrated as I wasn't going to cook up beans for a chili!  The extras soups I mostly made for a hot meal mid day and the puddings I made into hot chocolate drinks either morning or night.

***A "snack bag" was the following all cut up into tiny bit sized squares, mixed together and covered in powdered sugar (made it easy to melt in mouth if frozen, and the chocolate didn't make as much of a mess if left in the sun.)  1 of each: Cliff bar, protein bar, Milky Way, Snickers, and granola bar.

Edited by mthorman
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been up Denali twice, and would caution about carrying fewer calories.   if it gets cold (say -40' -- not that unusual) you will burn more.  if you get a protracted storm at 14k or above, you'll be glad to have more than you "need".

because most parties take 2-3 weeks for a summit trip, its nice to have "real" food. for a party of two, we took a 5lb canned ham both trips, and saw quite a bit of bacon with other parties.

remember how the boiling temperature of water drops at altitude.  rice and macaroni may not cook well at 14000'.  we carried a pressure-cooker on both trips to address cooking at altitude, and enjoyed beans & split peas at 17000'.  we were very popular with multi-party potlucks  -- do be sure to enjoy the potluck scene with European and Asian parties at 14k and 17k.  yeah, the pressure-cooker sounds heavy, but in my experience, over the course of a week or two, it saves more than its weight in fuel.

go heavy on the no-cook snack foods:  fudge was like gold - could trade for pretty much anything

more drinks and soups than you think you can possibly use! (and fuel, accordingly) MDs I climb with say most of what passes for altitude sickness is actually dehydration...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I appreciate all the advice.   Questions about food freezing.  Olive oil, peanut butter, honey, etc.  How did you deal with it freezing and becoming unusable?  What about keeping perishables (frozen meatballs) cold enough to use at 14

I tested out using a frying pan and lid, and so far have baked cookies, cornbread and biscuits.   Very easy, and doesn't use a whole lot of fuel.   It's more weight, but I really want to make sure my team eats well and has the energy for this climb.   fresh baked cookies could be a moral saver some evenings.

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Take dried potato, spices and butter to add to your freeze dried meals.   Put twice as much water in the meal as it says, let it sit a while then add some stuff to amp it up.   Take dried fruit and sugar to add to your breakfast cereal.

Take the food that you know you will like to eat.   Take the best chocolate you can buy (Toblerone) instead of M&Ms.  It may cost you more but you wont regret it.

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Go a bit later in the season, bring about 1/2 of food for your trip. Probably at least 50% of people on West Butt will leave early or bail from 14K camp, most of people leaving basecamp and 14K will have a ton of food and will try to leave it. 

The reason people don't summit is not because they are hungry, but because they did not train enough. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 3/4/2019 at 12:55 PM, glassgowkiss said:

Go a bit later in the season, bring about 1/2 of food for your trip. Probably at least 50% of people on West Butt will leave early or bail from 14K camp, most of people leaving basecamp and 14K will have a ton of food and will try to leave it. 

The reason people don't summit is not because they are hungry, but because they did not train enough. 


When you say  "Go a bit later in the season"  what time frame are you suggesting?


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  • 3 weeks later...

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