By Ryan Lampers
A little over a month ago, I embarked on a three-day solo fasting journey in the mountains, accompanied only by Mo, Jo, and Crag (3 of my pack goats). The idea wasn’t necessarily driven by a specific goal, just a personal challenge to test my willpower and understand what my body could endure without food. I thought this could be a fun little way of exercising my mental strength along with testing my physical limitations while fasting. The goal was to remain fasted for no less than 72 hours.
Loading up the goats, I headed to a familiar trailhead in Idaho, a place I knew could offer solitude, a chance to reflect after a demanding hunting season, and most importantly some possible mule deer sightings as this was in a winter range area. With 10 liters of water, a tub of electrolytes, a single meal of Wild Society’s beef Bulgogi, and essential gear for sub-zero temperatures, I set out to explore my capabilities in this challenging environment.
Starting the trip from the trailhead I’d already been 10 hours fasted. This was a 5-mile hike which would also gain me a good amount of elevation. Arriving just as the light was fading, I quickly found a flat, set up the tipi along with the stove, and quickly gathered a heaping pile of firewood. The temps were dipping and I needed a fire to dry the sweat from the climb in. As darkness set in I staked out the goats and fell asleep to a warm fire. The next day, a 4 to 5-mile uphill trek in the snow I observed the limited energy reserves in my body already. 36 hours in and the cold seemed more biting than usual along with a noticeable lack of endurance. The goats and I grabbed some good miles and glassed up a good amount of animals, including a couple of very nice muleys.
Waking up to a snowstorm on the third day, I realized my body wasn’t begging to go tear up the mountain. Despite the overall desire to hike, I realized my energy was pretty dang depleted. I made it a whopping 300 yards up the hill before retreating to the shelter to sit out the storm. Opting for a less strenuous route in the evening, I did manage to cover another 4 to 5 miles, but without much elevation. I’d now made it 72 hours and felt ok, minus the physical fatigue when hiking.
Choosing to extend the fast to 86 hours, I slept this one last night with an empty belly. I woke and decided to finally conclude the experiment not because I couldn’t go further but because I’d done what I’d set off to do, prove to myself that I could endure the challenge of not eating while in this mountain setting. There were no distractions, just my thoughts, and of course the never-ending desire to test my mental toughness. Mission accomplished. I finally ate my meal at the 86-hour mark and got it half-eaten before deciding to stop, hoping to avoid potential gut issues.
The 5-mile hike to the truck went smoothly but fatigue was still very much a factor as my body was exhausted.
That night I arrived home to see my girls and share the experience. The following morning brought very unexpected fatigue and soreness throughout my body. My Traps, triceps, back, and quads were all very sore which is something I don’t ever experience and haven’t for years. I concluded it was just the complete lack of recovery of my body due to the fast. The overall exertion without food was simply too much and my body was now feeling the effects and doing its best to recover.
Reflecting on this unique experience, I’m looking forward to trying it again with a different approach. Instead of starting the fast with a pre-fasted hike, I plan to reach the location, and then initiate the fast without intense exertion. This self-experimentation is less about achieving specific goals and more about understanding my body’s resilience without food, as well as proving to myself that I can endure in these less-than-perfect conditions.
Physical tests, be it during hunts or hikes, are a great way of challenging both body and mind. This fasting challenge, distinct from the usual adventures, provided a clearer gauge of my overall mental toughness. As more fasts become a part of my future, each one becomes an exciting opportunity for pushing boundaries, testing willpower, and uncovering what lies within the ears when faced with silence, hunger, and uncomfortable situations.