Monday, June 28, 2010

TR: Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Peak: Mount Belford and Mount Oxford
Location: Sawatch Range, Colorado, USA
Elevation: 14,197 (Belford), 14,153 (Oxford)
Route: Standard Route from Missouri Gulch (Class 2)
Distance/Elevation Gain: 11 miles RT/5800'

About that whole "not posting" thing... yeah, I've just been busy finishing up field school and climbing 14ers.

Last week, I met up with Laura, a member of the MDA forums for a primal excursion into the mountains of Colorado. Our intended destination was the Blanca massif in the southern Sangre de Cristo mountains, but due to the aftermath of a helicopter crash that occurred during a rescue operation last week, the Colorado National Guard had closed the area and we had to come up with a backup plan.

So, after several hours of driving, we ended up in the Sawatch range at the Missouri Gulch trailhead near Vicksburg, Colorado, just west of Clear Creek Reservoir. Our plan was to backpack in a little ways, camp near treeline, and then spend two days climbing the three 14ers in the region. We started backpacking up the trail at about 17:00 and camped near the ruins of an old cabin just below treeline at 11,200'. Upon reaching the campsite, we set up the tent, filtered some water, and hung the bear bag before going to sleep around 22:00. We awoke around 05:00 the following day and started up the trail to Mt. Belford and Oxford at about 05:45. It was plenty light out by that time so we didn't need headlamps. It was VERY windy.

Laura and her dog (Chewie) at our camp site

I reached the summit at about 08:00 and tried my best to stay out of the wind while I waited for Laura and the dog. At about 08:45, I started heading over to the saddle to Mt. Oxford while Laura tried to make a phone call from the summit (cell service is pretty sketchy there). I reached the summit of Mt. Oxford at 09:45 and enjoyed a hardboiled egg as a summit treat.
We returned to camp by mid-afternoon and attempted to take a nap (though the wind was really noisy and made this difficult). Around 19:00 or so, we started cooking our paleolithic camp dinner: ground beef, a sweet potato, red pepper, and avocado.

We cooked the ground beef first and then used the fat that remained in the pan to cook the sweet potato. This was much more efficient than trying to bring any sizeable quantity of healthy cooking oil would have been, and definitely a practice to consider employing to save space and weight in one's pack when doing an overnight trip. Furthermore, if you plan to do an extensive amount of actually
cooking food, I'd recommend getting a white-gas stove, such as the MSR Whisperlite. Stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket or the Jetboil are easier to use, but they are far less fuel-efficient. A medium-sized (I think 12 oz or so) bottle of white gas fuel will easily last several days.

Night 2, cooking ground beef for dinner on my MSR Whisperlite

For snacks while hiking, we took Larabars, Kind bars, beef jerky, and bags of homemade trail mix (nuts and fruit dried without adding sugar or chemicals).

One of the important things to consider is that if you want to eat totally primal while backpacking, the food you bring is inevitably going to weigh more and take up more space in your pack. For a one, two, or even three-night trip, this shouldn't really be an issue, but it has the potential to present more challenges for longer trips.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post about this conundrum...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I ate bread and the world did not end

Also, I didn't gain any weight, binge out on crappy food, or go on a rampage and kill small woodland critters. I didn't turn into a carb-zombie or immediately lose all my energy.
As I stated a few posts back, I'm currently taking a Field Geology course, which involves spending most of the day hiking around and mapping the geology of a given area. This course is part of my senior capstone as a geology major, and thus far, the weather has been good and the class has been relatively enjoyable. The past two weeks have been spent mapping Upper Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks along the Elk Range Thrust near Brush Creek, an area to the northeast of Mt. Crested Butte.

Because of all the hiking we've been doing (this area has much more topographic relief than Beaver Creek -- where we looked at Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks the first week), I have been bringing sandwiches with lunch. And I don't worry about the carbs in the bread, because after lunch, we get up and keep on hiking, and they get used to fuel me for the remainder of the day. Many of the arguments against bread rest on the fact that it is simply "empty calories" and doesn't have the vitamins/minerals/etc that other carbohydrate sources such as fruits and veggies do. While this is true, I'm not under the illusion that bread is anything other than a convenient way to eat meat/cheese/avocado/mustard. I'm eating it because it's convenient, not because of it's nutritional value. And, in certain settings, convenience is something that should be considered.

Sandwiches are convenient for this type of activity -- they don't take up a lot of space in my pack (a tupperware container with salad would take up a lot of space, and realistically, it wouldn't fill me up with all the hiking we've been doing), and I can eat them quickly. If I was out hiking on my own just for the hell of it, or even doing some sort of field geology project on my own, I might consider bringing something a little more complicated and grain-free, but that isn't the case. This is a class, and the goals of the group as a whole outweigh the preferences of the individual.

However, enough with that... back to the original topic: grains and their place in the human diet.

As a future scientist, I have a good understanding of the concepts of evolution and how they relate to human physiology. Saying "I believe that we evolved as hunter-gatherers" is, to me, the equivalent of saying "I believe in evolution." There's nothing to believe -- either you look at the evidence and accept it or you're an ignorant ultra-religious nutjob (I'm not going to sugar-coat that one). And if you stubbornly argue that an animal-based diet didn't play a role in human evolution, then you're just plain ignorant.

For the vast majority of human history (and by human, I mean to include everything since the evolutionary split humans and chimpanzees, which occurred sometime between 4.6 and 6.2 million years ago), grains have NOT been a part of our diet. We ate meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. However, at this point, I don't see this as a reason to avoid them entirely. It's easy to see how grains -- especially refined ones -- can, in large quantities, lead to a plethora of health problems, but eating a slice of two of bread once in a while is not the same as eating a bagel with cream cheese and jelly for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch and a bowl of pasta/rice with dinner on a daily basis.

I don't think that grains should be the basis of the human diet. The fact that they were not a part of our evolution, however, does not mean they're inherently bad. Equating the fact that they weren't part of our evolution with the idea that they are the root of all evil is a bit on the absurd side.

In my opinion, a considerable amount of the stigma associated with grains among the primal and paleo communities comes from the recent hype surrounding the concept of eating "whole grains." As a result of this hype, numerous food companies have introduced the "whole grain" line of products that are still loaded with refined corn products and artificial sweeteners, making them just as unhealthy as their "pre-whole grain" products. It is probably true to say that most people don't read ingredients on boxes and will buy something solely based on some sort of label touting its "healthy" qualities, despite how healthy it actually is. I read the ingredients on everything I buy (if there are ingredients to be read... hard to do that on a stalk of broccoli though).

I read the recent post regarding lectins on Mark's Daily Apple. Frankly, that in and of itself didn't really present any reason for me to completely eliminate grains.
Some people with certain medical conditions, food sensitivities, and allergies would probably be better off avoiding them. I'm not one of those people. So, what about this post? Well, first of all, demonizing grains by equating them with carbs in and of itself doesn't work, especially in the proper context. This goes back to the difference between taking a sandwich on a hike because it's convenient and gorging oneself on pasta and bagels and ice cream while sitting in front of the TV all day.

The conclusion that I have drawn is that while grains should not be consumed in large quantities or on a regular basis, they are not inherently toxic when consumed occasionally and in small amounts. I'm not going to go back to eating them every day, but if I'm not going to worry about taking a sandwich on an all-day hike or climb.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gluten-Free/Grain-Free Chocolate Raspberry Muffins


1/2c coconut flour
1/4c almond meal
5 eggs
1/4c whole milk
1/4c full-fat sour cream
5oz. organic raspberries
2 tbsp 100% cocoa powder
1/2 tsp stevia
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Butter or coconut oil to grease muffin pan

Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, and mix in milk, stevia, salt, sour cream, butter. Wash raspberries, and carefully stir them into the mixture.
In a seperate bowl, mix together coconut flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Slowly fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
Evenly divide mixture into a greased muffin tin.
Bake for about 15 minutes.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fajita Marinade

I'll buy a beer for the first person to tell me exactly why a marinade mix needs corn syrup solids. Actually, I know the answer ... it's all part of the great American eCORNomy. Along with salad dressing, marinades are another thing that I've been experimenting with making ... because all the stuff they sell in the store has some kind of corn or soy product in it.

I used this marinade for fajita meat (which can be eaten in traditional fajitas or as a fajita salad if you do the grain-free thing), but it could be used on anything to add a bit of Mexican flavor to it. Did I mention that I love Mexican food?
Juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper.

Mix cilantro and lime juice, then add the spices. Use as a marinade for just about anything. My personal favorite is bison fajitas.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TR: Little bears on Little Bear

Oh yeah ... first 14er of 2010! Little Bear Peak ... arguably one of the toughest 14ers in Colorado (in fact, I'd say it ties with Capitol Peak for the title of "Most Difficult Colorado 14er").

Peak: Little Bear Peak
Location: Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado, USA
Elevation: 14,037'
Route: Hourglass Gully
Distance/Elevation Gain: 13 miles RT/6200'

I wrote a trip report and posted it here.

One question that came up among the group was whether Little Bear was harder than Capitol, which most regard as the most difficult 14er in Colorado because of the extremely exposed knife-edge ridge that must be crossed on the standard route. After a bit of thought, I concluded that they are really about equal -- Capitol is more mentally challenging due to the exposure on the knife-edge (and most of the rest of the route to the summit after crossing that), but Little Bear was more physically challenging.

Though the actual mileage for each peak is pretty similar, the Capitol Creek Trail is a pleasant, scenic hike, and the grade is not too strenuous. The approach up the Lake Como road is nothing short of someone's version of hell. It's extremely hot, there isn't much vegetation (for shade), the road is really rocky, and the grade is pretty steep. Hiking up the first part of that road, I was almost worried that I wouldn't have enough energy for the summit attempt the following day.

On the other hand, the climb up the hourglass (keep in mind, it was full of snow so rockfall was not a very significant danger) was extremely fun. I'd say it probably averages around 40 degrees, and it doesn't get any steeper than 45, which is, for me, steep enough to keep things exciting but not so steep that I get nervous. Capitol was a fun climb, but the exposure on the ridge did scare me a bit.

I will say this though: I would definitely be willing to climb Capitol again, and if there's one 14er that I really would not want to climb again, it would be Little Bear. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun climb, and the views from the summit were spectacular, but I'm relieved to be able to check that one off the list.