Food to eat on an Arctic expedition
Epic adventurer Felicity Aston MBE, and a team of 10 extraordinary women, ventured to the Arctic in April this year to complete their ground-breaking Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition – a difficult and dangerous journey to the top of the world.
Together, the inspiring women from countries all over the world, skied over 80km of ice and snow. They completed their mission in just seven days and have since returned home.
And what was a key factor in helping them achieve this incredible mission? Food, as Felicity explains.
The importance of food
“Many people leave food as an after-thought,” Felicity says. “But it has such a vital role in an expedition like this. Eating plays a huge part in what you do. Each day you’re just doing three things: sleeping, eating and moving, so food is so important.”
Felicity and the team took with them a wide range of foods to eat for their daily meals. They planned out their day-to-day meals, piled them up on their sledges, and pulled through the snow each day. Meals included a big breakfast, lunch and a four-course dinner, which consisted of an instant soup, noodles, and a Summit To Eat main and dessert. They also snacked on protein bars, bags of dried fruits and trail mixes, as well as chunks of marzipan for that occasional high-sugary treat.
“I’ve rarely come across anyone who doesn’t like marzipan,” Felicity says with a smile.
Keeping up morale
While nutrition was important in keeping up the team’s energy levels, using food to keep up morale played a more crucial role, as they skied across some of the world’s most challenging terrain. This included navigating moving sea ice, thin, cracking surfaces, and pressure ridges – high walls of ice, often 50ft wide that can stretch for miles.
“Morale makes a difference,” Felicity says. “How food can help with morale is often overlooked. Yes, you should have the right calories and eat in the right way, but the morale aspect of food is really important and heavily overshadowed by nutrition.
“You might have, say, a lovely beef stew planned for dinner on one particular day. If you’re having a really tough skiing day, with tough terrain to navigate, knowing you’ve got that stew to look forward to will help push you through and get you through the day.”
She says: “Food also affects and highlights where your heads at – and being mentally strong can be more important that being physically strong. You might be physically healthy and fit enough to do an expedition, but if you’re not in the right state of mind you’re going to struggle.”
Providing the team with a variety of meals was also important in helping with morale and pushing each person further as they neared their arctic destination.
“Everyone needed something to get them going, but everybody likes different things,” says Felicity. “Food that might excite one person, might not work for someone else. So we made sure we had a range of meals to get people through each day.”
Felicity says she chose Summit To Eat products as part of their daily meals because they offer variety and something different to other hiking and expedition foods.
“A lot of dehydrated foods look the same,” she says. “They have the same texture and same colour. But Summit To Eat products look like real food and there’s so much variety. Unlike other ranges, their products are also halal foods, which was very important for two of our team members.”
Getting nutrition right
When it came to the necessity of nutrition, Felicity says carbohydrates and protein were equally important, and the team had lots of each in their daily meals. But eating foods with lots of fats was also crucial for surviving the -40˚C temperatures.
“You need carbohydrates to give you energy, and protein helps with your recovery. But fats are important to help keep you warm in the very cold environment. They give you energy but it’s a slow release of energy, and that’s what keeps you warm.”
Eating on the go
While enjoying a sit-down breakfast and big dinner at the start and end of each day, the team didn’t stop for lunch. This is because they followed a strict routine in which they only stopped for a ten minute-break after every 90 minutes of skiing.
“After 90 minutes, people are usually tired and ready for a break. But if you stopped for longer than 10 minutes you’d get very cold.” says Felicity. “It was important to keep up that routine, especially with a large group of people. So we’d just fill our pockets with things to nibble on, like dried fruit and a trail mix, and eat lunch on the go.”
Completing their mission
The women stuck to that strict and demanding routine each day until they finally arrived at their destination. A moment that Felicity says brought so much emotion as she watched their reactions upon reaching the North Pole.
“Each woman had their own way of marking the moment and had their own reaction,” she says. “It was really emotional. A real moment of pride.”
Summit to Eat are proud to have provided the Women’s Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition with delicious breakfast, main meals and desserts for their extraordinary challenge. You can see some of the range of foods on our meals page. If you’d like to read about other inspiring expeditions, like Felicity and her team’s, please take a look at our blog.