Base Camp Food has been honoured to support Nick Hollis of the 721 Challenge for his South Pole crossing. Nick has taken up the challenge - climb the 7 summits, cross the 2 poles and row the Atlantic ocean - to raise money for important environmental and socio-economic causes. Nick has recently come back from his South Pole expedition, with his meals and nutrition supplied by Base Camp Food. Read the following article where we asked Nick all of our burning questions to find out about these incredible acts of human endeavour.
How important is good food/nutrition intake for you?
Essential. As an endurance athlete & adventurer, I've learned from experience the longer and more challenging the expedition, the more critically important nutrition becomes. Firstly, I need a nutrition plan that ensures I have sufficient energy available when required and supports my recovery – especially important on more extended expeditions/events. It's immediately apparent when my glycogen reserves have depleted, and my blood sugar levels fall below normal. When this occurs, both my physical and cognitive performance rapidly decline. As a sports nutritionist, I'm meticulous about matching my macronutrient intake (carbs, protein, and fat) with my daily requirements. I also plan my nutrition strategy to ensure I consume sufficient micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) to ensure optimum performance and long-term health.
What's your favourite meal?
When on an expedition, without question, Expedition Foods Chicken Tikka with rice – I would add some flatbread, and it's as good as my local takeaway. However, during my recent South Pole expedition, when my energy output exceeded 10,000 calories/per day, I sometimes ate three freeze-dried meals for dinner and snacks. In this instance, I would eat the Chicken Tika (Expedition foods are ready to eat 5 mins after adding hot water) followed by a Real Turmat Pasta Bol and a Real Turmat Chilli Con Carne. I'd also add parmesan cheese to Pasta Bol and Chilli for extra flavour and calories. It has to be Fajitas at home – a brilliant way to consume loads of salad and veg.
What nutrition advice do you have for adventurers?
- Make daily food packs containing sufficient calories to fuel your daily activity levels. The calorie content of these packs will range from around 3,000 (flat walking) to 7,000 (Polar travel or high-altitude mountaineering). Ideally, each food pack should weigh less than 1kg unless they contain more than 4,500 Calories.
- Select food you'll look forward to eating – food is vital for a trip's morale. There's nothing worse than spending a day in challenging conditions, knowing that your evening meal isn't fit for your dog.
- Try meals in advance rather than taking a gamble, especially for longer trips.
- Have lots of variety – especially on more extended expeditions.
- Ensure you have a combination of 'real food' and snacks. Snacks are great for topping up energy levels during the day, but there's nothing better than an authentic meal in the evening - this is where high-quality freeze-dried meals come into their own.
- To keep the weight down, ensure all food items contain a minimum of 400 Calories per 100 grams. Tinned food tends to be heavy, whereas freeze-dried meals will keep your pack weight down.
- Ensure you have sufficient protein in each meal – aim for a minimum of 1.5g per kg of body weight. Freeze-dried meals are a good source (typically 20 to 30 grams), as are nuts, salami, and cheese. Protein powders can be a good choice. On more extended/physically demanding expeditions, the body uses a surprising amount of protein as fuel. Insufficient dietary consumption will result in the body metabolising its muscles.
How long did your South Pole crossing take?
The 1,200km crossing ended up taking 53 days.
You've climbed the seven summits. Which one was your favourite, and which was the most difficult?
My favourite was Mt Vinson in Antarctica – it's a breathtakingly beautiful place that resembles a scene out of the film Frozen. The most difficult was Denali in Alaska. I climbed Denali Alpine style with a single partner. Immediately after successfully summiting, an impending storm forced us to continue our descent right to the bottom of the mountain, which took an additional 19 hrs. I've never been so exhausted in my life.
What challenges did you face in your South Pole expedition?
Several challenges along the way, including a ten-day delay getting to the start point, storms during the early part of the expedition, and vast amounts of sastrugi for much of the route, made progress slower than expected. The runner on my pulk split, making it far harder to pull. However, the most frustrating thing was my sleeping mat which deflated every 90 minutes.
What advice do you have for adventurers?
Follow your dreams, but ensure you prepare well and take your time to gain the necessary skills and experience. Today, I see too many people attempting extreme challenges (such as Everest) with minimal experience. My recommendation would be to focus on the basics, such as navigation, camping, and cooking skills, before worrying about which ice axe to buy.
What inspired you to do the 721 Challenge?
When I climbed Everest in 2019, I did so as part of an Eco team. Collectively, we removed five metric tons of rubbish from the upper section of the mountain. When I returned home and reflected, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to conservation and the race against climate change. I have always been a massive supporter of the International Conservation Charity World Land Trust. I wanted to do something significant to support them with their Laguna Grande conservation project in Guatemala. After much research and soul searching, I set my heart on 721 Challenge.
To find out more about the 721 Challenge, click the link here https://721challenge.com/