Friday, February 18, 2011

The Little Boil That Could


Ed Davis between boils in 2006


The Little Boil That Could

“Do you have a Davis yet?”

I can’t remember where I first heard these words uttered outside my group of friends, but I do recall being a bit stunned. How could these total strangers in a camp on Mt. Rainier know about the Davis Boil?

It all began in 1983 on the West Rib of Denali. For the nine of us, this was our first big-mountain expedition. We learned quickly that severe cold and hard work require massive quantities of food. One friend in particular, Ed Davis, demanded near immediate caloric satisfaction and from this deep need the Davis Boil was “discovered.” Each day, hunched over a stove in the tent, Jeff, Mark, and Ed would watch eagerly as the water slowly, painfully worked it’s way to a boil. And every day, at the same moment in the process, Ed would blurt out, “that’s good enough, let’s eat.”

As it turns out, there was method to his madness. For Ed, the moment when bubbles began to dance on the bottom of the pot, the water was hot enough to make soup or a freeze-dried meal, precious seconds before a rolling boil was achieved. The protests of his tent companions explaining that the higher they got the colder a Davis Boil became had little effect. A natural phenomenon had been embraced wholeheartedly and has since gained the respect of outdoor athletes everywhere.

In the intervening years, the science surrounding the Davis Boil has been well studied in the field. Other, perhaps more disturbed minds, have identified important stages of a Davis. Pre and Post Davis. Early Pre Davis and Late Post (very early Rolling) Davis. Much work has yet to be done. Certain backcountry foods (and people) are more accepting of a Davis Boil and the long term effects of consuming food prepared with water at the temperature of a Davis has yet to be carefully observed. And what of the effect on the olfactory senses of tent mates over the long haul when freeze-dried meals are the staple?

So next time you’re feeling that deep down need for immediate satisfaction in the teeth of the storm, whisper a quick thanks to my buddy Ed and then shout out "that’s good enough, let’s eat!”

Posted by: Kaj