The making of mountain feasts (Part 1)

This is a two-part piece on the super basics of mountain cooking and meal planning, written and co-developed with two of AMCI Mountaineering Club’s masters of supreme outdoor cookery: Dexter Macapagal and Hadjie Tecson. I shit you not—if you climb with them, you’re walking down a bit heavier.

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I was once a firm believer that you will survive a night up in the mountains for as long as you know how to boil water and shove a pack of instant noodles in a pot. And that, if it all came down to survival, there’s always an easy-open can of Century Tuna (and under the worst circumstances, a sachet of adobo-flavored Ulalammm and carinderia-bought rice).

Dekz and his sisig + booze. Hah!

It was only in June last year during the BMC season that I was able to taste tinola cooked from scratch—up on our Naguiling campsite, thanks to a batchmate. Lo and behold, a shocking revelation: you can eat well on high altitudes. Haha!

Here are some basic notes.

  • In the mountains, food is fuel. You’ll need to survive the next 90-degree vertical or the impending 1,000-meter ascent. If you’re not loaded, you’re not going far.
  • Meal planning. It’s that fun and tedious process of writing down and prepping up for what you will eat overnight or in the next couple of days. If you want to know how simple it is, let me summarize it: 1. count how many days you’d be up climbing, 2. count how many meals you will eat for that whole duration, 3. decide what to cook, 4. list down and buy the ingredients, 5. start packing, baby!

Ah, well, yeah easier said than done.

  • It’s actually dependent on a few factors:

Spoilage rate of the food. The quick guide is chicken before pork before beef—it translates to tinola, before sinigang na baboy, before kaldereta.

I kid you not. We make room for nice things when we climb. ❤ Photo by Rio Hernandez

Availability of water. It’s a wise decision not to cook too much soup when the water source is hours away and you would have to lug 4 liters of water on your way up.

Cooking and preparation time. Consider this—you are tired and you just want to crash right after you get to the campsite. Make the food prep as painless as possible and the eating quick. Haha!

Weight and bulk. I don’t like carrying a lot of canned things. They are heavy, they pack big (I’m small and I carry a 34+10L backpack, gets?) 😀

Preferences and restrictions of group members. Allergies, vegans, vegetarians, catholic friends on a no-meat Lenten sacrifice. Ask the members of the group what they prefer before meal planning. You don’t want a hangry person on a climb.

  • Allocating rice. There’s a simple and a complicated way to do it. Haha! The simple way is via guesswork: just to pack x kilos of rice, cook it up the mountains, and bring down what’s left. NOPE. Don’t do that. Hahaha! Here’s a better formula:

A = [(N/6) x M) x 0.5] + X

N = number of persons

M = number of meals with rice

A = amount of rice

X = margin of extra rice (1/4 or 1/2 kilograms depending on the group’s appetite)

Compute: 9 persons going on an overnight camp, three meals (dinner, breakfast, packed lunch on trail)

A = [(9/6) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [(1.5) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [4.5 x 0.5] + 0

A = [2.25] + 0

A=2.25 kilos of rice to be brought for the climb

Or .75 kilos to be cooked per group meal

Now you ask, can we not just make an estimate? Sure you can, but computing so that you have just enough will reduce the amount of excesses you’ll have to bring down.

  • Let’s try dat shit

So, how do we execute a meal plan? Let’s assume you’re going for an overnight hike at Mt. Tapulao. You are 6 in the group, and you will cook three meals: dinner (day 1), breakfast (day 2), lunch (day 2, which you’ll have to cook in the morning and eat on trail). Nobody has food restrictions. There is a water source near the Bunkhouse (alt. campsite).

Day 1 (Dinner) Day 2 (Breakfast) Day 2 (Lunch)
Rice Rice Rice
Tinolang manok Corned beef Bistek tagalog
Coffee Scrambled eggs
Vodkaaaaa ❤ Coffee
The Shopping List
Staples For the foodangs  
Camp Tissue Chicken breasts 1/2 kilo, cut to serving pieces and pre-cooked
Rollo Sayote 2 medium pieces
Cooking oil Garlic 2 cloves
Butane Onions 2 (for tinola and bistek)
Trash bags (for group trash) Pepper leaves 1/2 cup
Patis / fish sauce 1-2 tablespoons
Chicken cubes 1
Corned beef 2 cans
Eggs 6
Beef 1/2 kilo sliced thin
Rice 2 kilos, packaged in three at .67 kilos per pack
Coffee 10 sachets
All the damn seasonings (toyo, suka, salt, pepper, allspice, cumin seed powder lalalalala) (don’t buy, steal from your mother’s kitchen)
Juice 5 sachets (depending on how long the inuman is going to be)
Smirnoff Orange / Absolut Kurant 750 ml bottles x 2 (or more)

Now that’s super basic. I’ve seen friends cook prawns with gata and kare-kare. They are mountain cooking gods.

Part 2 is coming up in a few days. 😀

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Mt. Pulag via Tawangan: 12-hours of romancing with leeches and other gross tales

Yaasss! New year, new climbing season, new swarm of cuss words to learn in place of tangina (transl. sonuvabitch). The last one’s a resolution I made two seconds ago after realizing that I threw enough tanginas in our recent Pulag climb via Tawangan–yeah, enough to last the jail time of someone convicted with homicide.

How many times do we have to say it? Putangina, I’ve had it with mountaineering. *Keeps climbing anyway*

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Ang saya pa nila o! Pa-inom inom. Y’all be dead the following day! 😀

Now let’s talk about Tawangan because nobody ever talks about it. No, actually, let’s talk about Gina. Gina is a bloodsucking dirtbag and Gina’s kind is in abundance in this beautiful but infested trail. 

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Kung hindi lang sila madami, iaadobo ko ‘tong mga hitad na ‘to.

Tawangan, in summary, is: twelve hours of breathtaking scenery, of canopies that will dwarf people, river trekking, and well, leeches (and rain, and cold air, and suffering that’s sagad sa buto, atay, at obaryo).

To our guy friends, getting bitten by a leech is like having a period. Ayan sya, dugo lang ng dugo. But the period blood, you have to make salo. So swerte pa rin kayo. Lol.

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Believe me when I say, this place is so close to magic.

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See what I mean? I think it’s ideal for most first timers to use the Ambangeg trail, but I had the misfortune of going with a bunch of mountaineers who are looking for trouble. (Cue: Tangina mo, TL Thet Pajarillo! Hahaha!) 

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To the left is Team Leader Thet. Ano bang hugot mo? Ano ba gusto mong patunayan? You know, I barely tasted those Ritz Chips. 😀

The trek started at 5:30 AM in the sleepy village of—you guessed it right—Tawangan. Up to the second hour, it was a steady walk with a few river crossings, until we got deep enough to reach the wet core of the leech kindgom.

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We were still doing okay at around 6:30 AM. Natutunaw pa lang ang breakfast, maraming lakas, confident that we can reach the Saddle Camp in 10 hours. We were so wrong, beshiecakes.
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Then the trek started getting a bit harder, enough to remind us of the fun fun fun times at Mt. Candalaga late last year.
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Action shot! That guy with a white pack is UL legend Cecile Morella. Panis kayong lahat!

Around 1:30 PM, fatigue had set in. We had to do a short meeting to decide whether we’d still gun for the Saddle or just head to the nearer Camp 2 and get some fucking coffee. It rained for the most part of the afternoon and we were wearing some 50-peso ponchos that broke easily, so the prospect of having a roof on our heads seemed super attractive.

We were so drained by the time we reached the grassland. Zombie walk na mga kapatid. Pero may pictures pa rin.

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Gwapo pa rin, o ha! That’s Rio Hernandez, certified AMCI Tito, the owner of most of the photos used in this entry.
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Love team ng bayan at Junior Pulag!
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That’s Troy singing Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. Kidding, IDK WTF is happening. Hahaha!

Did we make it to the Saddle? Well, no. We settled at Camp 2 and huddled at the guides’ hut–it was empty on Sunday evening, thank yeezus. At 7-ish we back to being jolly people with rice on our mess kits and vodka + tequila on the side.

In truth, I wanted to go and trek to the summit at 3AM the following day but a super bad hangover (kasalanan ko ‘to, I know haha), a persistent fever, and a swollen right foot kept me from leaving the comfort of my bivy. Gusto ko na lang magpa-stretcher pababa, pero ma-pride ako, so trek poles na lang. Hahaha! 

To the guys who summited, congratulations! Fresh nila o, pero basa medyas ng mga yan! ❤

Mt. Pulag Summit
6/17 with the Pulag first-timers not even here. Wagi! 😀

Meanwhile in camp: fried rice before breaking camp and heading down via Ambangeg. Salamat tito Rio Hernandez for the photos! Sa uulitin. 😀

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