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  • The author isn't the only one with a penchant for fueling climbs with doughnuts. Cheryl Wallace, of Boulder, had a tradition of stopping at Dunkin' Donuts before ice climbing in New Hampshire after a chocolate glazed fueled a particularly good day.

  • PAUL AIKEN

    Jenn Fields

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T he Great Doughnut Experiment started with a Fields-family urban legend about a magical doughnut and a long day of climbing.

One day in the fall, my husband was on his way to Eldo to climb with a friend. A little peckish, he stopped in the Eldorado Corner Market for a snack.

He chose … a doughnut. Cue horror-flick scream.

Eating a doughnut is radical to us. The way we eat is predictably, well, Boulder. The only sugar in our house is fruit, dark chocolate, honey. Soda? As if! So Jeremy came home that evening amazed by the unexpected power of the non-whole-grain food item that fueled his entire day of climbing.

I was incredulous. He defended the magical doughnut and cited Eli Helmuth as his secondary source.

Eli, a guide based in Estes Park, swears by eating things like Ben & Jerry’s for breakfast to fuel long days in the mountains. Fat, Eli points out, is slow-burning. The Donut Haus in Estes Park should sponsor his guiding business. A two-doughnut day, in the Book of Eli, is a big, long, full-on day outside at altitude.

In the Book of Fields, a two-doughnut day smells like a recipe for a muffin top.

I wanted to regard this whole business as a nutritional morass, but since I’m always hungry when playing outside, I’m always looking for a magic bullet. Suspicious but curious, I decided I should see for myself: Could a single (non-organic!) doughnut fuel an entire day of climbing in Eldo, or was it a fluke?

Thus began the Great Doughnut Experiment.

On our way to Eldo for the first time this spring, I searched for a doughnut shop on my iPhone; we had no idea where to get something as demonized as a doughnut in this town. It brought up shops in Longmont, Louisville, and one in Boulder that we couldn’t find.

We ended up at a grocery store. I felt guilty, dirty even, eating my maple-iced monstrosity. It’s probably mostly corn syrup, I thought with disgust even as I secretly enjoyed the sugar mixing with my (organic) coffee.

But I was hungry two hours later — hardly the full day of our urban legend.

Jeremy decided we needed authentic Eldo Market doughnuts, which perhaps have magical climb-all-day properties. The next weekend, we stopped there, and Jeremy grabbed an apple fritter.

“That’s not a doughnut,” I argued. “It’s a fritter.”

“That’s what I ate that day,” he replied.

“Oh. But I want sprinkles.” Guilty, dirty feeling? Gone. I was committed.

But the sprinkles did not last. At noon, I clutched a roll of belly flab over my harness, cursed the GDE for making me fat (not true) while leaving me unsatisfied and dug into my pack for a sandwich.

We held the final test last week, and around 1 p.m., rising crabbiness at the crag told me I was hungry despite the 10 a.m. fritter.

The GDE was busted. I felt dirty again. I wanted kale, raw almonds and a detox plan. But the truth is, I’m easily swayed. Over post-climb beers at Southern Sun one recent evening, our friends had some inspired ideas: doughnuts and/or beer as recovery food.

Let the GBE begin.

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