Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Tuesday Night Bouldering

TNB: Big Wall Soloing Sustenance – Cookies vs. Bugs

While cookies have fueled Alex Honnold’s big wall solos and a birthday challenge, Meghan Curry plans to solo El Cap while eating … insects.

Lock Icon

Unlock this article and more benefits with 50% off.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

40% Off Outside+.
$4.99/month $2.99/month*

Get the one subscription to fuel all your adventures.

  • Map your next adventure with our premium GPS apps: Gaia GPS Premium and Trailforks Pro.
  • Read unlimited digital content from 15+ brands, including Outside Magazine, Triathlete, Ski, Trail Runner, and VeloNews.
  • Watch 600+ hours of endurance challenges, cycling and skiing action, and travel documentaries.
  • Learn from the pros with expert-led online courses.
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

If Half Dome was a food, what would it be? Bon Appétit magazine
tracked down chef extraordinaire Alex Honnold to get an answer to that query as well as a little cooking advice.

In response, Honnold answered, “I don’t even know how to take that.”

But after some thought, Honnold had a flood of ideas: “The first thing that came to mind was a big lump of mashed potatoes, a pile of polenta or something,” said Honnold. “Or! Maybe a taco. It does have that kind of shape. Despite what you may see in pictures, it’s actually taco-shaped.”

The interview continued with questions such as, “So you live in a van, which is awesome. But how does that whole ‘kitchen thing’ work out?”

When Honnold was asked, “What foods fuel a man who scrambles up Yosemite’s Half Dome in under an hour and a half?” he answered, “Cookies.”

On another soloing binge, for his 29th birthday, Honnold challenged himself to solo 290 pitches in a day. In the video outtakes of his birthday challenge (see below), Honnold said that he “cookie-loaded” the day before by eating a “shit-ton” of cookies.

Meanwhile, 29-year-old Meghan Curry from El Paso, Texas, plans to solo-aid climb the 26-pitch El Cap route Mescalito (5.7, A3) this fall
surviving on … insects.

[UPDATE: Curry will begin her mission on September 28th. She climbs to help raise funds for Little Herds, an Austin-based non-profit, via a crowdfunding campaign beginning September 9th.]

“Or! Maybe a taco. It does have that kind of shape. Despite what you may see in pictures, [Half Dome] is actually taco-shaped.”

Her favorite bug? Waxworms.

If this evokes images of a lone woman high on an exposed cliff face, searching crevices for critters and popping them into her mouth, then you’re not alone. I thought the same thing. But Curry’s mission, dubbed BugWall, is actually much more “normal” than it at first appears.

Curry will be carrying along a supply of edible insect products—not bags of bugs, but cooked goods. She’s working on specific BugWall recipes, such as cricket leather (like fruit leather, but smashed crickets), energy bars made with cricket flour, cricket granola, tofu from mealworm flour, and, specially designed for the climb by an edible insect company (and BugWall sponsor), vacuum-packaged bug chili.

She says she will bring a little dried fruit, too, but all her protein will come from insects.

Curry, an entomologist by training, is climbing El Cap on bugs to promote the idea of edible insects as a sustainable food source to feed the world’s growing population. Curry believes that edible insects have “massive global potential to improve nutrition and micro economic growth.”

Meghan Curry on a solo-aid climb. [Photo courtesy of Meghan Curry]

“If bugs can fuel my grueling two-week ascent of El Capitan,” Curry told Rock and Ice, “then they may deserve a place on your next adventure too.”

A climber of 10 years and a veteran of five big-wall climbs, Curry claims that edible insects are “the perfect solution for endurance pursuits like big wall climbing,” since they are packed with protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals.

“Our food attitudes can, do, and must change,” Curry said.

“We’re afraid of what we don’t know. The more we learn about edible insects, the more normal the idea becomes.”

I asked Curry what would happen if she found a little critter on the climb—would she eat it?

She said, “Depends on the bug. There might be some ants up there that I’d probably eat. Human waste could be an issue on the climb, so it depends where I find them.”

Like Bon Appétit, I also contacted Alex Honnold for his professional food opinion.

Honnold said, “Two weeks? Edible insects? Are they seasoned? Does she like, put spices on them or something?”

So there you have it. But the question still remains: Which are better for big-walls, cookies or bugs?

Follow Meghan Curry’s journey this fall as she shares her climbing woes and insect-eating experiences live via Twitter (#BugWall) and on her blog, Bug Vivant.

Find more information on edible insects and gourmet bug recipes, such as grasshopper kabobs, waxworm tacos and “Three Bee” salad, on Bug Vivant.

Outtakes from Alex Honnold’s 29th Birthday Challenge: