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We all have our own reasons for reaching the summit. For some, it’s the view. For others, it’s the challenge of seeing how far they can push themselves. For me, it’s a little bit of both. But more than anything else, it’s my summit sandwich.
I am an incredibly food-motivated person. I’m also hungry a lot, which is usually a great combo when it comes to accomplishing my goals in the outdoors. Unless, of course, I forget my lunch bag in the car when heading out for an eight-hour ski tour. But that’s another story. Running out of food makes my palms sweat, and I prefer to avoid it.
When I’m eating breakfast, I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat for lunch. At lunch, I’m planning dinner. At dinner, I’m bursting with excitement for dessert. There’s not much that can get me up the trail faster than the promise of an excellent summit sandwich, which has become an almost sacred component to any outdoor adventure, no matter the season.
Brie, fig jam, and arugula on a fresh baguette? Sounds like the perfect way to soak up a snowy summit in the Tetons (while pretending I’m on a luxurious French vacation). A thick turkey club with extra bacon? I can’t think of a better way to take in a glowing desert landscape. It’s hard to feel motivated to hoist myself to the top of a mountain without a reward I can sink my teeth into; literally.
There’s really nothing worse than getting to a summit, digging through my pack, and realizing all I have are a few stale granola bars. Plus, a good sandwich has all the nutritional components to keep me energized on a hike: a mix of fat, carbs, and protein keep me moving mile after mile. While I’m not overly meticulous about the macronutrient breakdown of each sandwich, I aim to go heavier on the fat and carbs, with a little protein. Since I’m eating it on the summit and about to descend, my heart rate typically goes down so it’s easier to digest a variety of complex foods, while on the ascent (especially if I’m moving fast), I’m a little more limited to easily digestible carbs.
Nature’s wonders are incredible on their own, sure, but why miss an opportunity to make the whole experience even more memorable? And if you really want to get in the weeds, that moment might actually be scientifically proven to stick with you even more with the right treat to accompany it; the nostalgia triggered by taste and smell is a powerful thing. Kind of like how the taste of Froot Loops will forever bring me back to car camping with my family as a child. It was the only time we got to eat sugary breakfast cereal, and an incredibly effective way for me to associate sleeping in the dirt with a sweet reward. Years later, I still feel the same way.
While I’m sure we can’t all agree on what the best summit sandwich is—I know some die-hard PB&J folks who wouldn’t even consider messing with a savory mashup, and others with more bougie requirements—my wish is that we can all agree on the importance of some sort of tasty stacked goodness to accompany us on top of each peak we climb.
And yes, if the summit totally sucks and the wind is howling and you’re super cold, it’s OK to eat your summit sandwich not on the summit. Just as long as you don’t totally forego the hearty treat you deserve.
Recipe: The Summit Baguette
- 1 small baguette, sliced in half
- 2 Tbsp. fig jam (or any jam of your choice)
- 3 oz. sliced prosciutto
- 3 oz. brie cheese, sliced ¼-inch thick
- Big handful of arugula
- 3 tsp. mayo
- Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
- Spread jam on one half of the baguette.
- Layer prosciutto and brie on top. Add arugula, then drizzle a little bit of balsamic over everything.
- Spread mayo on the other slice of baguette and layer it on top.
- Wrap up with foil or reusable Bee’s Wrap, and tuck it into your pack for the summit.