I have eagerly consumed many accounts of early mountaineering expeditions in which the mountaineers always eagerly consumed Kendal Mint Cake (KMC). I got the impression that they would have found it unthinkable to set off without it.

Note that it is difficult to digest anything at very high altitudes, because digestion involves oxidation. Sugar, a simple carb, is the easiest thing to digest, and that is about all KMC is.

Wikipedia, Kendal Mint Cake says:

Sir Edmund Hillary and his team carried Romney's Kendal Mint Cake with them on the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953.[2] The packaging currently includes the following: “'We sat on the snow and looked at the country far below us … we nibbled Kendal Mint Cake.'[this quote needs a citation]

A member of the successful Everest expedition wrote – 'It was easily the most popular item on our high altitude ration – our only criticism was that we did not have enough of it.'”[2]

Mint cake was provided for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917, which was led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.[13]

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman included mint cake in their supplies for their 2004 motorcycle trip around the world in Long Way Round.

The Kendal Mint Cake is also a standard part of the 24-hour ration pack issued to the Irish Defence Forces.

The basic ingredients (sugar and peppermint flavoring) -- and the picture in the link above -- seem very similar to the York Peppermint Pattie, which

was first produced in York, Pennsylvania, by Henry Kessler at his York Cone Company in 1940,[1] for sale in the Northeastern United States, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Florida.

The preeminence of Mint Cake in extreme expeditions may simply be because it got a much earlier start than the Peppermint Pattie, but were there other factors in play also? Is there any evidence that PP even tried to compete in that niche?

(I have no connection to the producers of either.)

  • Seems to be a British vs American going on too...
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 17 '17 at 20:51
  • 1
    Maybe it all dates back to the Wars of the Roses?
    – gerrit
    Nov 18 '17 at 11:13
  • @gerrit If the future Henry VII had not had Kendall Mint Cake to give him that extra spurt of energy, we would be living in an alternate universe ? If we believe Hugh Everett, that universe and many others exist.
    – ab2
    Nov 20 '17 at 21:26
  • 1
    I've never heard of a Kendall Mint Cake before.
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 22 '17 at 15:40

I've eaten both. They really don't have anything in common besides containing a lot of sugar and peppermint flavoring. There may be several variants of mint cake now, but the stuff I was eating in the 70s and that Edmund Hillary was eating on Everest was literally a block of sugar flavored with peppermint oil. There was no chocolate coating, and it was hard as a rock. I didn't find it a treat at all, but it was indestructible and highly resistant to spoilage.

The filling in York Peppermint Patties is soft and creamy. It contains lecithin, emulsifiers, and egg whites, along with the sugar and chocolate. None of that in the classic mint cake. The lecithin and egg whites would make it much more susceptible to spoilage, though modern preservatives may partially address that problem.

I much prefer caffeinated gummi bears these days. but then I don't have to march through tropical climates for two weeks to get to the mountains.

  • 1
    @CharlieBrumbaugh I was just trying to point out that the question is based on a false premise: Kendal Mint cake is NOT comparable to a York Peppermint Pattie. Nov 17 '17 at 21:51
  • That makes more sense Nov 17 '17 at 21:53
  • 2
    A sealed pack of kendal mint cake that was kicking around in my kayaking emergency bag for several years (it was 4 years out of date) in fluctuating temperatures was perfectly edible (though so crumbled I had to tip it out of the packet). I doubt many foods can handle that. This wasn't the chocolate coated sort, and I doubt the old mountaineers used the chocolate type either
    – Chris H
    Nov 18 '17 at 12:10

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