February 23, 2021
Welcome to the first post of our two-part series highlighting vegan and vegetarian rock climbers—where they climb, what they fuel up on before heading out, the snacks they bring with them to “the crag” (i.e. the climbing area), and what they like to eat for a fast recovery. Keep reading…
Kate Kistler, a graduate student in viral evolution, has been on the road since COVID started. A climber for ten years and a vegetarian for the same amount of time, she says that her friends originally convinced her to try a meat-free lifestyle. “I also read a bit about the environmental impacts of meat farming and was pretty alarmed by it. Now I’m mostly vegetarian out of habit, and with a vague sense that it’s probably the right thing to do.”
Kate’s favorite climb is in Rocklands, South Africa: “The entire climb is good movement. Not too tall, so it’s nice and safe. It’s the first climb I do every time I go to Rocklands, so there’s a bit of nostalgia. Plus it’s a beautiful round boulder on top of a plateau overlooking a beautiful South African vista.” Before heading out, she likes to eat eggs and potatoes with lots of hot sauce, and always brings a garbanzo bean salad (garbanzo, cotija, peppers, cukes, cilantro, red pepper flakes, lemon juice) with her to the crag.
“Having a dietary restriction makes me slightly more cognizant of what I’m eating than I might be otherwise,” she says, adding that she pays special attention to her protein intake. Nuggs, with RedHot buffalo hot sauce and blue cheese—if she’s “feeling fancy”—is her favorite post-workout meal.
Jake Croft, a Seattle-based PhD student in biochemistry, has been climbing for nine years. “South Africa was my first international climbing trip and I was blown away by Rocklands,” he says, adding that his favorite climb is a route called Cedar Spine: “It’s beautiful, tall, and the movement is really cool.” A vegetarian for a little over a year now, Jake says the transition was gradual, but mainly spurred by moral and environmental reasons: “Initially it kind of happened because I was living in the attic of my friend’s apartment building and I didn’t have a fridge so I stopped buying meat. But I would still eat it when I went out.” His meat-free lifestyle was cemented when he moved in with his girlfriend, who was also vegetarian, and completely stopped eating meat without even realizing it.
On climbing days, he usually eats a quesadilla for breakfast and brings blue cheese and Triscuits with him to the crag. Tortellini with pesto is his go-to recovery meal, and he likes to supplement it with a protein shake. “Lately I’ve been into veggie sushi,” he adds. “Whichever roll has the biggest avocado portion. But also Oreos. Mega Stuf, of course!”
In terms of how becoming a vegetarian has affected his climbing, Jake hasn’t noticed much of a difference. “I’ve had personal bests in both sport climbing and bouldering this year, so it definitely hasn’t been detrimental at all,” he says, adding that there are too many other factors to say if it has played a positive role in his performance. “Before becoming vegetarian I didn’t think too much about protein, though—and now I try to get as much as I can, and I think I often end up getting more than I did when I ate meat. So that’s probably good for my recovery.”
Frannie Taylor, a climbing coach and waitress, splits her time between Montana and Wyoming. A climber for 11 years, she completed her hardest route this past summer in Wyoming. Of the climb, she says “I think I enjoyed it so much because of the interesting and challenging movement. It has a very tension-filled couple moves with heel hooks, toe hooks, and some drop knee action, which is always a good time.”
Frannie’s vegetarianism started when, as an eight-year-old, she watched her dad kill a catfish and decided she didn’t want to kill animals to feed herself. She now cites other reasons for her diet, including sustainability, deforestation, and the atrocious treatment of farm animals. “Recently, I have been trying to be more conscious about waste when it comes to my crag snacks,” she says, adding that homemade protein balls, sesame sticks from the bulk section, and dried figs are three of her favorites. “This sounds so weird, but I have developed an obsession with Brussel sprouts. I love them so much and I will cut them up into fourths, drizzle them in olive oil, add some minced garlic, and bake them till the outsides are a little crispy.”
After workouts, Frannie usually drinks a chocolate-flavored Gnarly Nutrition Vegan protein shake and recovers with one of her favorite meals: curry, tofu ramen, a veggie pasta dish, eggrolls, or a homemade pizza. “I am currently training very hard,” she says. “So I am trying to sneak in as much protein as possible and often put eggs on top of dishes and things like that.”
Andrew Cassidy, an engineer based in Boulder, Colorado, has been climbing for 11 years and says that all of his favorite climbs are the ones that have taken him the longest. “I usually have ‘fun’ on climbs I do quickly, but the amount of time invested really makes the memory. I’m primarily a boulderer, but have dabbled in all forms of rock—NOT ICE—climbing.”
Andrew’s vegetarianism began as a quest to do less harm to sentient beings. “I’ve been some form of veg-curious or meat-avoidant since I was 16,” he says, adding that there have been long stretches where he was a full-on omnivore. Clif Builder Bars, a classic PB&J, Lenny & Larry’s protein cookies, and dried mango slices are a few of his favorite crag snacks, as well as Mamma Chia Squeezes, because it “makes you feel like you’re eating baby food.” He says the strongest he’s ever been was when he was climbing outside full-time and adhering to a pretty strict vegan diet.
Andrew’s favorite recovery meal is the Western Beyond Burger and fries from Carl’s Jr.—known as Hardees to those on the east coast. “My goal this summer, which I rarely accomplished, was to go to Mt. Evans Area A after work, climb, and try and make it to Carl’s Jr. before it closed. It was a very rare treat to send and hike fast enough to make it for the Beyond Burger.”
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back soon with more tips and meal inspiration from another group of vegetarian and vegan climbers!