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Patagonian Dispatch: The Power of Empanadas

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Probars? Energy chews? Gels? Nah. In this dispatch from Patagonia, Black Diamond Content Editor Andy Anderson reports on the breakfast of champions for the austral summer climbing season. 

Coming to Patagonia to climb, I expected to be fully captivated by the towering summits of the Fitz Roy massif, which have periodically emerged from the clouds to taunt us during this ongoing spell of inhospitable weather. What I didn’t expect to develop was a near habitual daily consumption of Argentina’s finest go-to snack food, the empanada. Constructed with a circular dough crust called a tapa, and traditionally filled with ground beef, chicken, vegetables, ham and cheese, spinach or a number of other fillings, empanadas offer a quick and highly satisfying caloric punch for a minimal price. I can say without shame that I ate six just yesterday. Dozens of cafes and panaderias offer an array of empanada options that form the pyramidal base of many a climber’s diet. Their pastry-like texture and hearty fillings make them appealing at any meal, which has been particularly helpful in making the switch to the sleep-in, stay-up-late way of life here in Argentina. We’ve eaten them cold on the trail and hot out of the oven, first thing in the morning and just before bed.

Empanada-making parties are also the ideal setting to gather the climbing tribe to eat great food, share stories and maintain psyche during particularly nasty weather. A few nights ago, we were fortunate enough to be three of over 30 climbers from around the world that congregated around a table covered in assorted fillings, in the midst of a Patagonian rainstorm. As the oven cranked out everyone’s various creations, laughter drowned out the sound of the wind, and the vino tinto and cheap Quilmes beer flowed all around, it became a lot easier to ignore the fact that no one was in the mountains, doing what they really came to do. How many calories are contained within a single carne empanada I can only guess. What I do know is that we will certainly appreciate them as soon as we’re able to get into these absolutely stunning mountains.