Published on: 09/13/2022
Vegans and Climbing
Vegan diets and rock climbing may seem like strange bedfellows at first. But when you factor in the environmentally conscious attitude of most climbers, their switch to a plant-based diet makes a lot more sense. Research shows that the production of vegan foods has a significantly lower impact on the environment than the production of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
Vegan Climbers and Nutrition
A busy rock climber at the higher end of performance can expect to burn almost one thousand calories per hour. Correct nutrition through a balanced diet is important to vegan climbers with that kind of output and the level of muscular strength and endurance required. In the past, vegans had to get creative with their recipes, endlessly pour over ingredient lists, and generally put a lot of effort into ensuring that what they were eating was both vegan and nutritious.
Healthy Eating for Vegan Climbers
Many vegans still enjoy getting creative with their recipes. But the widespread use of the Vegan mark on foods and the rise of nutritious, pre-packed, vegan meals have made things more accessible in recent years. The right mix of nutrients, protein, and complex carbohydrates is vital for vegan climbers.
Food Sources for Vegan Athletes
Recent food fads have led to misconceptions about carbohydrates. Some people believe that if they eat carbs, they will automatically gain weight. Vegan climbers (really all climbers!) need to eat things like whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, and banana to perform well.
Sports medicine tells us that glycogen levels play an important role in athletes’ performance. Only when you eat the right amount of carbohydrates can your muscles grow and repair correctly.
Athletes also need adequate protein to build muscle. Vegan athletes get their protein from sources like almond butter, beans, tofu, and tempeh – all healthy meat alternatives.
Steph Davis has topped out some of the hardest routes on earth. Born in 1973 in Illinois, Davis was not an athletic child. The piano was her focus until, at age eighteen, she was practicing for up to six hours a day. Steph credits her music tuition with her discipline and methodical approach to climbing.
She was introduced to climbing relatively late. In the spring of 1991, a college friend offered to take her on a trip. Davis fell in love with the sport instantly. After performing well at university, Steph graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
She pursued a master’s in English literature program at the University of Colorado. This allowed her to climb in her free time. But after graduating, Davis decided to pursue climbing as her primary focus. This didn’t sit well with her family, who struggled to understand her path.
She eventually started to earn a better living through sponsorship from companies like Clif Bar, Five Ten, and Black Diamond. In 1998, Patagonia made her a brand ambassador, helping her to achieve financial security and providing a sense of validation. Her years of dirtbag living had paid off. But Davis continues to love simply to this day.
She’s the first woman to free solo a 5.11, the first woman to summit all the peaks of the Fitzroy Range in Patagonia, and the second woman to free climb El Capitan in a day. Davis was also the first female climber to summit Torre Egger.
But this climber is also known for her diversity within the sport and advocacy of the vegan diet. She easily transitions between sport, expedition, and free solo climbing styles and has serious credits to her name in skydiving and base jumping. Vegan since 2003, Davis is also known for sharing her plant-based recipes online (don’t worry, we’ve put a link below). It includes some protein-rich options for out on the trail and some sweet treats.
Steph Davis is among the iconic vegan athletes of our era. She’s one of the best climbers of her generation – irrespective of diet or gender. Her love of delicious, meat-free meals makes her even more of a hero. Vegan climbers don’t get more interesting than this one.
Find out more about Steph Davis from the links below:
Ashima Shiraishi is a climber we’ve covered before. Last time, we talked about her unusual upbringing, eclectic interests, and idiosyncratic wardrobe. But Shiraishi also loves animals, avoids animal products, and follows a plant-based diet.
Ashima was born in 2001 to parents who were already in their fifties. Both were artists, her father being the founder of an experimental dance group and her mother creating the group’s outfits. After the child’s birth, her mother became the family’s main breadwinner, working at a Japanese clothing store. Ashima’s father, Hisatoshi, stayed home to look after the child.
He made it a priority to spend as much time as possible outdoors. This meant many hours spent in New York’s Central Park. It was here, at the age of eight, that Ashima was introduced to bouldering at a spot called Rat Rock.
Since then, Shiraishi’s talent has developed so rapidly that she’s often referred to as a prodigy. She’s the first female climber to tackle a V15 boulder problem successfully and holds the record for being the youngest person to climb a 5.15d. Her competition climbing results are equally impressive, with wins in the IFSC World Youth Championships in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Ashima has publicly stated that she is a vegan. Though she’s also mentioned that it’s not something she cares to discuss too much. There’s also some suggestion that, like Alex Honnold, Ashima mostly follows a vegan diet but isn’t rigid about it. To borrow a quote from her Instagram page:
I decided to go on a plant-based diet 2 months ago for environmental and ethical reasons cuz I love animals.
From what we could piece together, Ashima has been vegan since 2018. Though she’s been a little quieter recently, Shiraishi is sure to capture the climbing world’s imagination on her return. She’s currently enrolled at UCLA.
To find out more about Ashima Shiraishi or to follow her social media, check out these links:
Originally from Dehli, Prakriti was once a fashion designer. She left the city to travel, eventually settling in Himachal in Nepal. Here, she fell in love with the mountains and began climbing.
On May 12th, 2022, Prakriti Varshney made history. Her achievement? She was the first vegan woman to summit Everest. This might seem an odd thing to celebrate at first. But not only do vegan mountaineers have to go without meat, eggs, and dairy for nutrition, but they also must do without wool and leather for their gear.
Varshney has been vegan for five years. When crowdfunding for her Everest expedition, she stated that part of her motivation was to break down the myth that vegan climbers were weaker. On her climb, she ate Sherpa food, typically dahl and roti. These dishes of lentil curry and flat, airy bread are delicious – and also usually vegan!
Find out more about Prakriti at the links below
Who other vegan climbers should we follow? Let us know in the comments!