As a climber, I face a lot of challenges: route finding, dealing with fear and pushing past it, managing risk and judging objective dangers like rockfall and lightning, and finding hippie-worthy food in some out-of-the-way places.
I’ve done a lot of things I think are tough: cranked out 7,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in one day, kept moving for 14 or 15 hours at one stretch, gone hours without food and water, climbed unprotectable rock at my technical limit, and even run out of organic oatmeal in a place six hours from a Whole Foods store.
A lot of outdoor-folk are familiar with a kind of voluntary suffering in the name of finding meaning: we’ll carry heavy packs, scare ourselves, sleep on the ground in exchange for desert sunsets, and indulge in alpine lake baths. The things the mountains teach, we can’t find anywhere else. We feel tough. We are tough. Once we return from our vision quests in the wilderness, we feel like there’s not much we can’t do—or at least aren’t afraid to try. Especially things like wheatgrass shots, kale chips, and ginger kombucha. Is there something about hiking, climbing and mountainbiking that turns us into foodies, too?
Maybe with the expanded worldview that comes with experiencing awe in majestic landscapes, we acquire an awareness of the environment, how our actions affect the world, and how the world affects us. And that fosters a consciousness about what we put in our bodies. We pay attention. We eat organic. We peruse grocery store shelves for superfoods. Maybe, as athletes, we want to provide ourselves with the best fuel for our adventures. Or maybe we’re just trendy.
Do you ever get anxious a couple days into a climbing trip and start thinking about how far you are from a grocery store that sells coconut water? Wondering if, when you get off the mountain, you’ll be so desperate for a meal that you’ll go ahead and order an omelet even though your server can’t verify the eggs are cage-free? Ever drink a cup of non-fair-trade coffee or a beer made with hops grown at a farm that doesn’t properly rotate its crops? I do sometimes.
Thankfully, I also eat a lot of Kate’s bars, which helps me offset my conscience. It’s possible that I use them to rationalize other poor food choices, like the dozens of bags of Fritos I eat out of post-hike-out delirium; or the donuts I sluttily gorge myself on without knowing anything about their ingredients; or the “Hey-I’m-Back-on-Solid-Ground” huevos rancheros from any diner that will make it. Come on—I ate sustainably for several days beforehand and had three Kate’s bars yesterday—they have flax seeds and stuff!
Bravely (maybe even heroically?), I stare down challenges–the foreboding, daunting mountainsides, and the aisles of small-town grocery stores with limited selections of organic produce.
Brendan Leonard is a Kate’s ambassador, climber, biker and Contributing Editor for Adventure Journal, Climbing Magazine and The Dirtbag Diaries. When he’s not climbing epic peaks or cruising the country in his 2005 Chevy Astro van, you can find him banging out prose about his adventure pursuits at semi-rad.com.