Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Fine dining on Everest

The news that an Everest expedition plans to eat a series of gourmet meals all the way up the mountain was guaranteed to ensure a few headlines. Climbers on the Iceland Everest 2011 will have food prepared by an expedition chef and served on tables with linen, napkins and fine wine. Catalan chicken and boeuf bourguignon are just some of the delights that will replace the usual rehydrated mush. Alan Hinkes, a member of the climbing team, can be heard talking about the expected culinary delights on a recent BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Of course fine dining on Himalayan mountains is hardly a new phenomenon. The 1924 British expedition's provisions included quail in foie gras, 1915 vintage Montebello champagne and crystallised ginger, all supplied by Fortnum & Mason. Going further back, in 1906 Dr and Mrs Bullock Workman were said to enjoy champagne and 'jugged hare in tins' while climbing in the mountains of Kashmir. Meanwhile, on the 1930 international expedition to Kangchenjungu, Hettie Dyhrenfurth, wife of its leader GO Dyhrenfurth, was responsible for managing provisions and equipment. As the Manchester Guardian reported, supplies included "dainties and essentials ranging from caviare and pate de foie gras...to say nothing of a ton or more of chocolate. For liquid nourishment there are, among other things, 500 bottles of Munich beer, cases of whisky, rum, champagne, brandy and different kinds of liqueurs".

A serious amount of booze was also taken on the 1936 French attempt of Hidden Peak - "unnecessary luxuries" as Frank Smythe put it in a review of Himalayan Assault, the book of the expedition (Observer, September 28, 1938). Beyond this though, the review is an interesting account of the changes taking place in mountaineering during the 1930s.

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