Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Light and Fast Diabetic Climbing Kit


I have this certain nostalgic notion that one can run through the mountains like a wild animal. A fantasy that, with the right level of fitness, gear and food are barely needed and I can just float... an impossible dream, but there are times when people have come close. Peter Croft traversed the enchantments with nothing but a water bottle with a peeled banana floating in it and a fig bar stashed on a distant summit.

Things are a bit more complicated for the type I diabetic. Exercise makes insulin more effective at processing blood glucose and the risk of a low blood sugar becomes greater on long days. To truly experience the freedom of the hills the diabetic must temporarily reduce the amount of insulin he uses and carry enough food to get him back to camp, the car, or his pack safely should a low blood sugar occur.

diabetic climbing kit-1

While running or multi pitch climbing I generally try and carry a few simple items stashed in pockets or the zippered pouch on my chalk bag:

A ziplock bag containing organic vegetarian gummy bears and two cliff shots. To treat a low blood sugar I eat a handful of gummy bears to quickly raise my sugar and follow up with a cliff shot to prevent me from going low again. This combination is quite effective and may, in fact, result in a high blood sugar. I choose these particular foods because they are squish resistant and consumable in a wide range of temperatures.

0-3 bars. Usually cliff mojo bars or plain old snickers bars (not when it is hot...they melt). This is food I plan to eat to stay energized plus a bit extra if I am forced to stay out longer then planed. These go in pockets.

Diabetic stuff. Blood sugar test kit, fast acting insulin (in a protective container...i use an old test strip vial) and two syringes. I can stuff these items and the bag of gummy bears in the bottom of my chalk bag, using the gummy bears as padding to protect the medical supplies.

If i am out all day bring more real food (sandwiches, fruit, chocolate, nuts, trail mix) to keep my energy levels up. In particular, I find protean and complex carbs very important to keeping my sugars well regulated, particularly in the morning. These will usually go in a small pack along with some extra clothing and my long acting insulin.

I take a shot of long acting insulin (lantus) in the morning and in the evening, I find that i need to reduce the size of the shots i take in the morning before a long day and the evening after and reduce the number and size of the fast acting shots I take throughout the day. If you choose to try such a program, consult your doctor first and be sure to test your blood sugar frequently and make notes of what works and what doesn't.

Hydration is vary important but is no different for the diabetic then for a normal climber. Carrying lots of water sucks and various strategies can be used to reduce the need. It boils down to wake up early, climb quickley and bring your water or know what you need to do to find/make safe water in the area you will be in.


Monday, December 15, 2008

The Most Important Thing

Eggs BenedictEggs Benedict, Icicle Creek Rd, Leavenworth WA

My doctor made me stop eating granola in the morning. It throws my blood sugar out of wac all morning. I need protean and complex carbs. Egg sandwich, peanut butter on toast. Coffee.

We climbers work our bodies hard and should feed them right. Protean in the morning buffers the effect of insulin and provides long term energy. Carbs before during and after exercise keep the livers glucose reserves up. None of those fad diets. Good wholesome food means more time on the rock. High protean is for people who sit still all day. Stay leant by eating right but eating less then you climb.

Putting the Science in Warming Up

Body tension?

In science, If you can't reproduce a result it is shit. Any screw ball can do something once.

Climbing is different. We'll work on a route for days or even years just to pull it off once.

This doesn't work when it comes to warming up, if you don't do it every time you climb your fingers will get hurt. As the weather gets colder, I have been striving to be more scientific about my warm ups; to develop a program that results in warm supple fingers and arms in any conditions. I've been making note of the things I do early in the day and keeping track of how my fingers fair throughout the day. My sample size is small (just me) but here are a few things I have found that seem to work:

1) Greet the Sun. Plan your day so the first bit of it is somewhere that gets morning sun.

2) The warm up starts on the hike in. Even if its only a few minutes, shoot to be sweating lightly by the time you touch rock... if this isn't happening put on more clothes.

3) "Coffee is my spinach." -Peter Croft. Drink something warm in the morning and throughout the day if you need it.

4) Do a little dance. If you aren't warm by the time you reach the rock jump around till you are. Do yoga, relive gym class, pretend you are Brittany Spears, Whatever. Just move into you start to sweat a bit then stop (If your clothes are soaked you went to far).

leavenworth oct 18-10

5) Work into it. Now that your blood is warm you have to get it into your fingers. Don't jump right on small holds, do some hand exercises ( I like the Metolius "gripsaver" pictured above; I can keep my hands in my pocket while I use it). Grip some holds from the ground. Keep your warm coat on and keep moving around to keep that blood warm. Stretch. As you warm up try some hangs and short links on the bits of the rocks you can reach. If your fingers aren't feeling it put on more clothes, jump around some more or go get soem coffee and wait for the sun.

6) Dress to rest. Bring enough clothes that you don't have to always be moving. I'm a wimp so this usually means a poofy coat or two.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Leavenworth Bouldering and Short Days

Have snuck out to leavenworth for two quick days of bouldering in the last couple of weeks. The rock is cold but the weather is dry and the sun makes the occasional appearance.

Its only a few weeks till winter solstice so the sun is low and often obscured behind the canyon rim but last trip out i made a mental list of places that get sun and when.

Swift water North (across the highway) -- Am
JY Boulders Am --short
Carnival Boulders --AM-short
Pretty Boulders -- AM, briefly in PM
420 Boulder -- PM/All day?
Ice Cube --PM/All day?
Twisted Tree --Pm/All day?
The Sword -- AM mostly on the namesake problem
The Egg -- AM
The Tin Man -- AM
Mountain Home Road -- Mid/All day?

Late fall and winter bouldering is a wonderful exercise in basic outdoors-person-ship. My advice is to bring warm clothes and plenty of food and go for it... you can allways swing by the sleeping lady for a cup of coffee if needed.

two late fall bouldering trips

two late fall bouldering trips

two late fall bouldering trips

two late fall bouldering trips

two late fall bouldering trips

two late fall bouldering trips

two late fall bouldering trips

Monday, October 20, 2008

First days back on the rock

leavenworth oct 18-3
The Fin, v7

After a couple of weeks cooped up with a pain in the arse of a tail bone injury I started to feel 100% mid week. I was partner-less and october in leavenworth can be a game of Russian Roulette...one wrong move and you could find yourself sucked in to a maze of beer gardens and lederhosen.

leavenworth oct 18-1
No Pain No Gain, v5

For two weeks I had been dreaming of a perfect little overhanging finger crack finger crack up in mad meadows and so a plan formed. 

leavenworth oct 18-5
The rewards of packing light are greater comfort and safety. —Jim Nelson

An unencumbered climber moving fast could enchain a number of (very) minor peaks in the icicle creek drainage.

leavenworth oct 18-2
First and only bivy. A honda accord and 3.5 crash pads make a surpassingly luxurious RV.

leavenworth oct 18-8
Brian from Central WA University working Mad Max, v7.

For the record: Sent "No Pain No Gain" on my 3d try and "Occum's Razor" on my 2nd (had worked both for one session previously) and worked some harder stuff.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

TR: The Passenger, 5.11+ IV 600ft

The Passenger SEWS
The Passenger, South Early Winter Spire. Bigger

How I Got Into This

Fitz Cahall moved back to town and, without bothering to unpack, headed for the climbing gym.

I spent a rainy afternoon haunting used book stores and ended up with a copy of Bryan Brudo's old guide book North Cascades Rock.

Fitz is a talented climber and writer (you need to check out his dirtabag diaries podcasts if you haven't yet). I met him working for the school paper at the University of Washington. He was a few years ahead of me and a much better climber.

The Passenger SEWS

A coworker first told me about the Passenger. He described it as pitch after pitch of 5.11 finger cracks up the steep South East face of South Early Winter Spire. I'd filed it away as a distant goal. Talking to Fitz, my ego got the best of me and I said I'd like to get on it.

An email showed up in my in box in early July; The conditions weren't getting any better. One Scorching Saturday afternoon, I loaded every small cam I owned into my car, picked Fitz up and headed for the north cascades.

Technical Details

We got to the trail head in the early evening and hung out in the car drinking beers till the bugs died down enough to sleep. Woke up around 5am and made coffee and blasted up the trail. We left our packs in a tree at the base of the South Arete and were on the rock in perfect cool conditions before 7am.

The Passenger SEWS
Not so steep.

On route we took one 60m lead line, nuts, micros, double cams to #3 and triple small stuff, one long sleeve shirt each and one 2 liter camel back with 4 energy bars in it. I stuffed my blood sugar meter, insulin, some cliff shots and gummy bears in the pocket of my chalk bag.

Fitz brought a couple of thin cordelettes and a 60mx7mm tag line. The cordelettes kept the belays really clean and the tag line reduced the level of commitment enough that we could go light on food water and clothing and leave our headlamps with the packs.

The Passenger SEWSApproaching the crux.

Fitz lead the whole route in 7 pitches. Going by Brudo's topo, He linked the crux face pitch with the pitch above (rope drag) and the last two pitches. I think it would also be possible to link the 2 pitches below the crux with a 60+ rope.

The crux is scrunchy face climbing and neither of us could free it. Fitz onsigted the rest of the route, i pulled on gear on the crux pitch and hung once to clean on the pitch below.

The Passenger SEWSStart of the 5.10 finger pitch.

Other parties I have talked to since did a difficult left hand finger crack as the last bit of hard climbing before the finishing traverse (above the "amazing hand jams" and a now dead tree). We followed Brudo's topo and did a bit of "token wide" climbing to the right.

The Passenger SEWS
Hundreds of feet of this.

We topped out around mid day and made it back to the Marblemount Drive In in time for dinner.

The best Topo for this rout is in Brudo's out of print North Cascades Rock. Hopefully he will put one in the 2nd edition of his new Mazama book, until then either check out the store copy at feathered friends or drop me a line.

Brudo did the first ascent in 9 pitches and rated it 5.12a V, other parties who have freed the entire route felt it was 5.11+ IV. This felt more or less accurate to me but there is one scrunchy hard move on the crux pitch that may be harder for tall people like us. I'm hoping to to build up some strength and redpoint it this next year.

The Passenger SEWS
Fitz Cahall on the top.

More pics are on my flickr page.


Blogs are the new media, yo, and Free the Hills is my attempt to participate. Its about a type I diabetic training for and attempting to free climb in Washington State's Cascade Mountains. I will strive to include a mix of high quality photo trip reports and well researched postings on topics directly and not so directly related to climbing.

In the next couple of weeks I'll be posting often as I recuperate from a bike crash. I'm planning on writing up a couple of trip from this summer, describing methods I've used to prevent and treatment of some common climbing injuries and writing a bit about climbing with type I diabetes.

If further introduction is needed here are a few photos from a trip to the enchantments about a month ago:

Me, photo by Braxton Osting

Braxton earlier in the same trip.