Climbing Cookies: Delicious, Nutritious Crag Fuel

Alex Honnold fuels his free-solos with cookies—his favorite are chocolate chip—and he crushes everything from 290 pitches on his birthday to biking hundreds of miles to climb all of California’s 14,000-footers.  You should give in to the cookie temptation too.


Why? Well for one, you’ll be one step closer to being Alex Honnold. For another, you’ll save money—one chocolate chip Clif bar offers only 250 calories and costs $1.25 when bought in bulk. Also, why eat a gelatinous chocolate-chip-flavored hunk of organic brown rice syrup, soy products, and rolled oats when you can just eat a chocolate chip cookie?

Here’s my favorite recipe for Climbing Cookies, adapted from several no-bake cookie recipes. They’re simple to cook (can be made on a camp stove), inexpensive, and are slightly “healthier” than your traditional chocolate no-bake or chocolate chip cookies:

climbing_cookies_coffeetapeclimb1½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup maple syrup (add an extra ¼ to ½ cup for sugar-lovers)
½ cup milk
Pinch of salt
½ cup nut butter (almond butter is delicious, peanut butter is yummy and less expensive, and sun butter could be good too)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking or whole oats (use quick-cooking for a smoother texture)

Optional: add one cup of dried fruit (raisins, craisins, whatever sounds good with your nut butter of choice), chocolate chips (for extra Honnold yumminess), your favorite nuts or seeds, or a combo of the above!

Note: Feel free to experiment with additional ingredients, such as adding ½ cup of shredded carrots, shaved coconut, or dried edamame (great plant-protein!) to your cookies for added nutrition and to keep things interesting.


  1. climbing_cookie_coffeetapeclimb2Combine applesauce, maple syrup, milk and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil for one minute then remove from heat.
  2. Stir in nut butter and vanilla until smooth. Then stir in oats until completely coated.
  3. Drop mixture by the spoonful (about 2-3 tablespoons at a time) onto parchment-lined baking sheets and allow to cool until firm. Your cookies will last for up to two weeks in the refrigerator should you have that much self-control. 

Yields: Approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Why are these cookies good crag fuel? They combine healthy fats, protein, complex carbs and simple sugars to keep you fueled and recovering between climbs. The simple sugars from the maple syrup—which also contains antioxidants and boosts immune system health—and apple sauce are easy for your body to break down immediately and will fuel your next climb as well as aid recovery from your previous climb. The protein in the nut butter will also help with recovery, as studies have shown that adding protein to your recovery carbs (in a 4:1 carb to protein ratio) reduces muscle damage by up to 56 percent compared to only eating carbs. The fat and fiber in the nut butter and the fiber in the whole grain oats will help you stay full for longer and power you throughout the day, unlike just eating simple sugars, which your body uses right away.
Climbing cookies are calorie dense and pack small, so you can easily carry a few in your pack—or chalk bag if you’re obsessed with going super light—on multi-pitch days without worrying about extra weight. And, unlike that ancient, crushed bar in the bottom of your backpack, you’ll actually want to eat these cookies, even when they do get a little squished: Voilà, tasty granola!

Originally published July 6, 2015, on 

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