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Food Report

Deciding what food to take and where to buy it were some of the hardest decisions we had to make. Discussion on what to buy in India continued even in the shops and markets. Once we had decided that we would have to airfreight equipment out we also decided to buy all our hill food, except nuts, in England, as the cost of the air freight was only £1.05 per additional kilogram. Once one knows that this is all it costs it is very easy for things to get out of control.

On the whole the hill food worked well. It was designed for four people for twelve days. By the time that we arrived at base-camp we had all got heartily sick of shortbread so little of this was eaten on the hill. The other biscuits were also regarded as quite hard going and most of them were eaten at base-camp. The Primula and Salami were definitely the most popular food. The Primula went very well with the cheddar biscuits and digestives though it was rather fiddly. It is very important not to let Primula freeze as if it does it separates and becomes revolting.

The nuts bought in India were very expensive (by Indian standards) and unroasted. Roasting nuts is extremely tedious and took an inordinate amount of time so it is probably better to buy them in England. The boiled sweets were a random assortment from the supermarket. The chocolate eclairs were especially popular and all went. It would have been better if each person had bought their own personal favourites.

Base-camp food was less successful. We had decided not to take a cook in order to save money and avoid hygiene problems. Cooking in the cold and drafty mess tent on badly working paraffin stoves was not much fun. It was impossible to draw up a rota with people coming and going and some days not eating at all. It is probably better to take a cook simply so that it is possible to relax at base-camp and not squabble over duties. The amount of time everything takes is enormous, cooking meals, washing up and organising equipment. The result was that lunch was never more than a plate of noodles. Another reason for having a cook is that they would know how to use the local ingredients much better. As a result of these problems everyone got very fed up with the base-camp food. Towards the end of the trip however the Indian expedition did a lot of cooking for us which was extremely well appreciated.

We had intended to buy all our food in Uttar Kashi like the Bhrigupanth expedition the year before. Our L.O. however did not think much would be available there so all the food except for fresh fruit and vegetables was bought at a town an hour out of Delhi on the way to Rishikesh. With hindsight it would have been much better to have bought all the food in Delhi, especially as so much time was wasted there. According to our L.O. there is much more variety and the prices are cheaper.

Perhaps the best way to have improved the food would have been to take out more luxury items like the tuna. A few Vesta meals would have been very welcome and would not have weighed much. A lot of what was taken out was taken merely because it had been given to us, the golden syrup for example.

One jar of marmite would have been sufficient, though it was very nice on chapattis. The six tins of tuna were a godsend and made very nice potato fish cakes with the smash and onions. The golden syrup was good on porridge and was used exclusively as a sweetener in drinks as the Indian sugar was revolting. Amazingly all six tins of syrup were used. Thirty packets of Schwartz sauces were too many, only about fifteen were used. They do not work very well without meat. The food would have been much better appreciated if some meat had been taken. Only six of the packet soups were used. The packs of butter and the bread were a complete waste. Most of the bread was mouldy, check it very carefully if you buy any, and the butter melted and went rancid extremely quickly. Nearly all of the eggs smashed on the journey to Gangotri even though the L.O. had said that they would be alright. Take great care packing eggs, use a wooden box to stop them getting crushed as people will sit on them on the bus. It would be a good idea to make one porter responsible for the eggs and pay him extra for each one that arrives safely in base-camp. Do this even if your L.O. disagrees. The jam went well on chapattis. Only a small amount of porridge was bought as only unrolled oats were available and nobody was sure exactly what to do with them. If they are soaked over night then the result is like ordinary porridge. The Indian milk powder was not very good and only the English was needed. The pot noodles were very convenient on the walk in and for snacks at base-camp though it is difficult to cook them properly at altitude. More things like the sausage mix should have been taken as it provided one of the nicer meals. With the resupply we had an enormous number of oranges and apples. Lots of them were given away to Mick, George and the Indians but they never ran out. A few of the lemons and limes were used on pancakes, but after the eggs ran out they were useless. Any items not mentioned above were bought in roughly the right quantities.

There was a lot of wild life at base-camp despite the apparent lack of food. We soon found that our supplies were considered fair game. Any food left out in the mess tent would be dragged off or eaten on the spot. The only safe place in the tent was inside the plastic drums. They were extremely useful for this. We never discovered which animals were eating the food but feline and canine prints were spotted and a lot of birds.

Mount Support agreed to provide a free resupply at base-camp. Unfortunately the date for this and the exact items were not fixed. As a result it arrived only a few days after we did at base-camp, which was rather a waste and included a lot of things that we did not need at that time. Only the eggs were of any use as the few remaining ones had been dragged off by a large cat like creature.

Amazingly enough despite the bad planning nobody starved to death and the food did keep everybody going for the twenty-two days spent at base-camp. Probably the best way to plan the food would be to cook a few meals in England with the ingredients available and then plan a series of meals and calculate the exact quantities needed. It sounds like common sense but the expedition did not do it and regretted not doing so. The hill food which had been worked out on this basis was far more of a success.

Base-camp food freighted out from England

1 2kg tin of hot chocolate 2 (1) 0.5kg jars of Marmite
6 400g tins of tuna 6 2lb tins of golden syrup
50 50g sachets of Alpen 7 454g packets of Yeoman mashed potato
250g jar of Staminade 30 (15) bags of Schwartz sauces
17 (5) 1.5pt packets of soup 1 packet of sausage mix
4 (3) 2kg bags of powdered milk 41 (21) pot noodles

Base-camp food bought in India

5kg flour  
15kg (3kg) sugar 2kg (0.5kg) salt
10kg (7kg) rice 300 (200) tea bags
750g coffee 3 (1) jars of jam
120 eggs 6kg (4kg) oranges
5kg potatoes, far too little 2 large tins of tomato puree
60 packets of noodles 2kg green beans
4 cabbages 1 cucumber
4kg (2kg) apples 6 loaves of bread, mouldy and inedible
2 packs of butter, useless in the heat 3 (2) bottles of tomato ketchup
4kg milk powder, not used 100g of 4 spices, not used
12 garlic bulbs 4l cooking oil
1.5kg porridge, too little 2kg (1kg) lemons
2kg (1kg) limes 7kg onions

Resupply Food (approximate)

2kg apples, not used  
2kg oranges, not used 1kg lemons, not used
1kg limes, not used (4) cabbages
2kg green beans 2kg (0) aubergines, too fiddly
36 eggs, too few  

Hill food freighted out from England

12 400g packets of Digestives 12 250g packets of chocolate Hobnobs
24 200g packets of chocolate Homewheat 24 125g packets of cheddars
96 2 finger packets of shortbread 36 packets of jelly
12 50g packets of twiglets 66 sachets of Cup-a-Soup
98 sachets of hot chocolate 2kg bag of raisins
40 mars bars 40 double deckers
40 twixes 40 caramel wafers
78 Jordan's crunchy bars 48 packets of glucose tablets
12 tubes of primula 24 sticks of salami
6 250g packets of boiled sweets  

Hill food bought in India

2kg cashew nuts 2kg (1kg) almonds
2kg (1kg) peanuts  

next up previous contents
Next: The IMF and Liaison Up: No Title Previous: Guide to Customs
Jim McElwaine