UnTapped recently returned to the International Mountain Equipment in North Conway, NH for the 25th anniversary of the Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest. Climbers flock to the best ice in New England to learn from the most renowned guides and interact with the extensive, east-coast climbing community.

Alpine climbing is hard, the days are often long and frigid, so it requires solid nutrition to perform well and stay warm. Many foods freeze when things get chilly, but maple syrup does not, making it the optimal fuel for cold alpine adventures. While at the festival we caught with New England Ice Climbing legend, Nick Yardley, to hear his stories.

1. How much of your life have you dedicated to climbing?

I started climbing seriously around the age of twelve and have been hard at it ever since so that makes 40 years of suffering! I was able to come to the USA in 1986 on an H2 work visa based on my climbing experience and background, something that I’ve always been very grateful for.

2. Is there a peak you’ve climbed or an experience in the mountains that stands out above the rest?

I’ve definitely had a few, some good, some bad. On the good side, climbing Mount Blanc with my brother for the first time when we were just sixteen was really cool. My first visit to Nepal in ‘86 and putting up some new routes on Paldor in the Ganesh Himal was very rewarding, but then being robbed by bandits at base camp and having to walk out three days with just a left sneaker and left inner boot, not so cool! Arriving in the USA in December of that year was very special to me. At that time, I didn’t know any of the routes so going to places like Lake Willoughby and Cannon for the very first time to guide having never climbed there really sharpened my skills.

Recently one of my most enjoyable times was a visit to the Banff area to climb ice with my daughter; it’s very special to share such cool and famous big ice routes with her.

Oh, another on the not so pretty front: being avalanched at 1,500′ on Langtang Lirung was not a fun time nor was getting pummeled by falling rocks on a climb in Chamonix!

3. Is it true that you are one of the founders of MWV Ice Fest?

Indeed. 25 years ago Rick Wilcox and I decided to run the very first MWV Ice fest. Jeff Lowe gave clinics, Marc Twight gave one of the best show’s I’ve ever seen, even to this day, and the rest is history!

Photo credit: Al Cattabriga

4. Before you head out for a day of climbing, what do you use to fuel up?

For breakfast I’m very much an oatmeal and maple syrup kinda guy. It gives me the slow and steady release of energy through the early part of the day. It’s stick to your bones plus tastes delicious.

5. Continually eating throughout the day is important to maintain strength and stay warm in the alpine. What snacks do you typically have in your pack for a day in the mountains?

The type of climbing I do now is very aerobic, no ropes, just moving fast and light with a good friend over moderate terrain. In this type of environment, there’s little stopping so I load my pockets with a combination of UnTapped syrup packets and sliced up cheese and salami. It’s real food when I need it. Often the temps are well below freezing, but this combo never freezes up, is easy to fuel, and tastes so good! For liquids, I’m a hot tea kinda guy, ideally ginger or similar laced with maple syrup. (Editor’s note: stay tuned for UnTapped Ginger Mapleade coming soon.) Carrying water sounds like a great idea, but drinking cold, almost frozen water in the middle of winter can reduce core temps. Hot tea fuels mind, body, and soul.

Nick, left, and his buddies raise a toast.

6. What other sports/hobbies do you fill your time with over the few months that aren’t wintry and cold in New England?

Outside of climbing, fly-fishing and trail running keep me sane, happy, and out of trouble.

7. You’re originally from the UK, do folks use much maple syrup over there?

Maple syrup doesn’t really go well with black pudding (ahem, dried pigs blood), so not so much of it back home. Maple was one of the great discoveries I made when I first came to the USA. Nowadays in the summer, I spend a great deal of time running on the trails at Cochran’s in Vermont, iso t’s really cool to know that the trees I run through fuel me in my races and mountain adventures.