FUDiabetes

I climbed Mt Whitney this summer!

This summer I spent 12 days hiking out at high altitude with another 10 T1D teens, a coed group. We started around King’s Canyon, and meandered around in the Sierras for the next close to 2 weeks. In the middle segment, we spent a day climbing Mt Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states!

The hiking

We were hiking with a lot of gear—each one of us was carrying a 50-60 lb backpack. We had all of our personal camping gear, plus all of our diabetes gear, plus food in a bear-proof container. After a few days, we were resupplied by mule resupply outfit, so that we did not have to carry it all from day 1. It was cold at night outside (but not too cold), and just right during the day most days. We had a little rain early on, no snow at altitude, and we never had to use our microspikes because there was no ice to speak of when we summitted. I had brought some mosquito gear but this year there were hardly any. At night, it helped to share a tent with others because we kept each other nice and warm: I had no problem at all with cold, and I don’t think anyone did. I was wearing a hat and sunglasses all the time, and the first thing my dad told me when I came back was: “how come you are not tan at all?” Actually, I did get some tan, but only on my arms and legs, and I have horrible hiking socks tan marks…

The level of difficulty

I am fairly well conditioned as I do sports all year round with a couple of sports teams at school—but I had to train quite a bit to get ready: about twice a month I went hiking with my backpack and some heavy weights in it for 3.5-4.5 hours, and each week I went out for shorter hikes with my weighted pack. I was supposed to condition every day, but I was already conditioning for cross country and other sports so my training for this trip was mostly the hikes, carrying all my gear, with my hiking boots. In the end, I found the trip easier than the training, but that was not the case will all the campers: some had a bit of a hard time. Summiting day was relatively easy because we mostly emptied our backpacks before going up. I think we woke up around 2:30am or so, walked a couple of hours at night with our headlights on, and summited before 11:00. Btw, while I am into sports, several other teens on the trip were not, but they had trained well and were still able to make it through: I think anyone who is willing to train hard for about 3 months can make it.

BG management

BG management was interesting. I have done a lot of different sports, mostly in in teams: swimming, soccer, volleyball, cross-country, track, rowing, low altitude hiking etc. Every sport, I had to spend some time figuring out what the effect on me would be: none of the ones I had done corresponded well with the high altitude backpacking that I did here. I ended up having to lower my basal by 75% for the first week, and then having to bring it up to up to 125% from my original one the last few days. I was not the only one: most of us had the same curve. I was up and down a lot and my calculated A1C for the period is pretty ugly, because each day was very different: some days we hiked just a few miles, other we hiked a lot, the temperature and the altitude varied a lot too. So, with all this variability, it was not easy to adjust from day to day. I omniloop: I moved my target BG to 130-150 from 95-115 to be able to avoid deep lows at night. After the trip, it took my BG a good 2 weeks to behave normally again.

Power management

Because I loop (I was the only looper on the trip), I had taken a lot of power banks with me: 5x 20,000mAh power banks (all Anker), representing 2.5 lbs, a lot of weight. It turns out that much of it was useless. I have an iphone SE. I turned airplane mode on, bluetooth on, and battery saver mode on, with Do Not Disturb enabled, and, after 11 days and nights of camping, I had used 1/4 of one battery pack, even though I took a good amount of pics. The last night, back in base camp, I left my power bank out of my sleeping bag during the night: this mistake alone brought it down to 1/2 power: so keeping it in a sleeping bag every night is clearly necessary. FYI, I also took a few spare batteries for all my devices but I did not have to change any. I took a battery-powered Riley link (and a spare): the battery had no problem lasting all the way through.

Other D issues

Other interesting tidbits I noticed: my Dexcom sensors failed a lot. I had 5 spares with me, and started with a new one, but I came back with only two spares. On the other hand, my pods were perfect, while other campers had tons of problems with pods (some of them used one per day). I was not even using Skintac for once, so that was also a bit surprising. I had taken a spare iphone, fully set for Loop, but I did not have to use it.

In the end, my diabetes gear (12 pods, 5 dexcom sensors, 5 power banks, spare gear, meters etc.) weighed more than all my spare clothes and my toiletries. In particular, these G6 sensors take so much space, really difficult to deal with. I know from experience that taking them out of their packaging is a terrible idea though: I carried them in their plastic wrap all the way.

In the end

I had a lot of fun, and I made a lot of friends. But this was not a relaxing trip! There was a lot of exercise all the way through, and not much sleep, because there was always so much to do, to set up camp or to break it up. Still, it was a great adventure, and I really don’t regret it. Now I am interested in doing more long backpacking trips, and I know all my camping gear well, so I am ready to start again any time :-).

DYF and Altitude 14505

I did this trip with DYF in California: it is called Altitude 14505. The three adults we went with were awesome, really nice, well prepared for this trip, and very knowledgeable about T1D (even though they weren’t T1Ds) and backpacking: one of them was a physician. The preparation for the trip was excellent, and so was the documentation: in my family we tend to prep systematically for an endeavor, but the trip doc almost always had what we needed to know, and the DYF guides had all the answers to our planning and equipment questions—that’s really unusual and they are really well set up. In particular, everything about D and high altitude backpacking was very clear, and matched exactly the conditions on the trip: it’s really unusual to get so much canned, well researched information about D and an athletic activity: normally I only trust @Eric for that! But the DYF guys knew their stuff well and their preparation (and the instructions they gave us before the trip) was excellent.

I think this trip matches FUD well. There is no reason why a T1D can’t climb Mt Whitney, or do anything else really: we are unlimited. The endocrinologist who diagnosed me told me, at the time, that outside of piloting a commercial plane, a navy submarine, or being a frontline soldier, I could do anything I wanted, and I know that is true: but it’s nice to prove it to yourself as well from time to time. If you have a T1D kid let them know about this yearly trip and see if they want to try it!

EDIT:

outside of piloting a commercial plane

But now I could do that (piloting a commercial plane)!

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Wow, the hiking trip sounds awesome!!! I am sure all of you had a fantastic time!! Thank you very much for posting the details. I know many, both adults and youngsters, will benefit for you post.

I am really impressed with all your D prep for the trip. I, too, brought the 20k mAh Anker with me for hiking the Grand Canyon a few years ago, and it was a life saver, as my other tiny battery packs all failed to work at all! Interesting that you needed to bring the battery pack into the sleeping bag at night. I would have never made that connection. Thanks for the tip!

Another great tip is to put the phone in airplane mode. I, too, did that!

I agree with you, one of the biggest hassles is having to carry multiple Dexcom sensor spares! They take up so much space and one never knows when a sensor will fail! Did you not carry a transmitter spare? Pods are not near as bad to carry as the sensors. They are more compact! For day hikes, I only carry a syringe, so if the Pod fails, I can just use the syringe to remove the insulin from the pod for injections.

It sounds like you are hooked now!! Keep us posted on your next backpacking trip!! :hiking_boot: :star_struck::mountain_snow:

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Wow, sounds like a great trip @Kaelan! Congrats!

I imagine your insulin totals were way down from normal. Do you have any total units per day numbers you can compare with normal, to see how much less you used?

Did you bring backup syringes and some spare vials? Would love to hear about your D supplies.

How many grams did you carry with you to summit, and what did you bring?

the-neighborhood-cedric-the-entertainer

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What a wonderful update and super useful info! I hope Samson can do this trip when he’s old enough, sounds like an amazing experience!!!

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Gratz @Kaelan! Major accomplishment and really great to hear from you! Glad to see you are thriving and doing well!

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Welcome to the long distance backpacking club! My wife and I did 400 miles on one trip, and many smaller trips over the years. I also had an amazing adventure about the same age as you doing a 21 day backpacking loop in the Beartooth mountains (Beautiful!). Sounds like you handled it really well, were super well prepared and had an adventure of a lifetime! I remember well the 9 day sections where we had 60 pound packs (no resupply). Once you earn some money and buy lighter gear you will like life better. Our current 4 day summer setup only weighs 21 pounds including food and one quart of water.

Edit - You should update your doc, you can now be a commercial pilot! One less thing diabetics can’t do.

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Great post, cheering you for building up endurance before hand and being so prepared. A couple of older women friends of mine (not diabetic) did a loaded bicycle tour from Oregon to S. California. Their bikes and loaded panniers weight in about 85 pounds.

This old type 2 on MDI would like to do a long tour on bikes with them. I just can’t get away, have obligations. I know a bit about learning to manage my BG when exercising. It has changed a lot since 1991.

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Unfortunately Old and Obligations seem to go hand in hand.

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What a great end of summer trip! Thanks for taking the time to write up such an informative summary. It’s fun to read, you did a good job summarizing the info that keeps the FuDers on the edges of our seats. Keep it going Kaelan!

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Good for you! That sounds like an awesome trip! I did a week of backpacking on the JMT 2 years ago (northern half) and its a beautiful area. My dad has done the Mt Whitney half before but I have not. We needed the microspikes and could have done with some more substantial crampons and ice axes rather than trekking poles that year.

Backpacking is awesome for my bg. I can pretty much do half my usual lantus and forget I’m t1. YDMV. I think it will be quite a while before I have time for a vacation like that again with the twins but we might take them car camping next summer. I did the 20k Anker power and that was all I needed. I did bring it into my sleeping bag at night along with my phone and insulin. My dexcom did ok (on upper thigh or arm) but I had enough test strips with me (mostly expired) to go that route if it or my spare failed.

Hope running cross country is going well for you! I ran in high school but wasn’t t1 then. I still do the occasional race but nowhere near as fast.

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@Kaelan Congrats on the achievement and the adventure. What were your entry and exit points? Sounds like Kings Canyon to Whitnery Portal (perhaps further on the trail?) I did a similar trip while in Boy Scouts 50 years ago (many years pre-dx). It’s a great memory you’ll keep forever! Thanks for posting your insights and preparations for others to benefit from!

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You guys are being supernice!

I am sorry that it’s taking so long for me to answer. I am a high school junior with a ton of STEM classes and I spend 3-4 hours in cross country practice every day 6 days a week so I don’t have a lot of free time.

Below I’ll try to answer all the questions, over a few posts, starting with the D ones!

Power

@Trying, I was really glad to have brought this format also! I normally carry an Anker Mini 3350mAh, which is very compact, in my glucose bag. But, for a long trip like this, it would have made no sense to carry small power banks. It’s super interesting that your small ones failed :frowning:

The largest that I think makes sense to carry is the 26,800 mAh because that’s the largest you can carry in an airplane: larger they confiscate at security. the 20,000mAh units I carried (with PD) are 13.0 oz, but the same 26,800 with PD is 20.3 oz, so it’s not worth it by weight (the one w/o PD is 17.3 oz, better but no PD, not that it matters for D). Also, because I want to be able to have multiple units for redundancy, I like to 20,000 mAh format better than the 26,800 mAh.

Still, it was shocking to see how little power I used with my iPhone SE. Over 12 days, I used less than 10,000mAh of spare energy.

Definitely! I stored all my battery devices in my sleeping bag at night, and it must have really helped, since the only time I did not I lost 1/3 of the power I had left in one night :slight_smile:

I think that helped a lot. My power settings for the trip were:

  • airplane mode
  • Bluetooth enabled (for looping)
  • do not disturb (no notifications except D apps, have to set by hand which can come through)
  • Low Power mode on

The D gear I took with me @Trying, @Eric

  • 2 iPhone SEs fully set up for Loop, and both paired and tested on my transmitter (thanks to my mom for compiling the app!) [I never used the spare]
  • one spare Dexcom transmitter [did not use it]
  • one regular Orange Link, battery powered (for looping), plus another full spare, each in a carry case
  • one spare Omnipod PDM with included glucose meter, and 150 strips. [hardly used the strips]
  • 5 Dexcom sensors (plus starting on a brand new one) [I used 3 of the 5]
  • 12 pods (plus starting on a brand new one) [I used one every 3 days, but some other campers used a lot more]
  • a limited number of alcohol wipes, a few Dexcom and pod overpatches, some skintac wipes [I did not use the skintac on the trail]
  • Accu-check lancing device and a couple of spare wheels [I used my original wheel for the whole 12 days, absolutely love the Accu-check!]
  • I normally carry a bunch of spare insulin [FIASP] cartridges in a thermos bottle with plastic water-filled “ice cubes” in it to regulate temperature, wrapped in an insulated thermos bag, and 2 insulin pens, along with a frio bag. This time, the insulin (in vials, not cartridges) and needles (I did take a pen along but I ended up leaving it in base camp and relying on needles like everyone else) were communal across all the campers, and we kept them in frio bags. FYI, when I am on my own, I like cartridges better because, first, they go straight in my pens, but also they are protected by their aluminum and plastic wrap and they pretty much never break.
  • 5x Anker 20,000 mAh power banks. I only used one. Now I would only take 3, for 10-20 days (because the 2nd spare could fail). But that is because I loop: I can’t not have power for my phone

Note on FIASP vs Novolog
I normally use FIASP. But we ran out of it during the trip, and, although I know it’s not recommended, I ended up mixing FIASP and Novolog for my last 2 pods (it was a mistake every time). I had no problem at all.

How well my Dexcom worked

Mine also did fine, i.e. I got good readings, but it failed a lot (Had to use 3 spares in 12 days even though I left with a brand new one). I used it on my belly—maybe I should have tried the thigh as you @CarolynA.

Me too: I had close to 150 strips with me (I think some expired ones in the total…)

For the daily insulin use, I also went to 1/2! But I could not really forget I was a T1D because I went up and down: I had to watch it a lot, even with loop, although I was not too worried about night because of loop. I have a problem with night because I don’t wake up to alarms, so that’s always a little dicey for me.

My daily insulin use

I do. I went on Nightscout to collect all the data and show it here. Here goes:

As you can see, my average daily use went from about 59U to 27U for the first week (I was at 25% basal, the rest was food and corrections), but then it went back up to 59U after about a week (I had to go to 125% basal). The last day was a bus travel day and my BG was horrible.

More replies on hiking and other stuff in my next post :slight_smile:

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@Chris, that is awesome! The Beartooth mountains sound great too: we drove by them on one of our long summer camping trips but only hiked some and did not do any backpacking there: now I wish we had.

That’s pretty amazing.

FYI, here is the gear I had with me (including what I wore):

Camping gear

  • Gregory 75L pack plus rain cover, and 6 light stuff bags.
  • 1 25 degree sleeping bag (2 lbs) and inflatable mat (1lb)
  • 1/2 a tent (shared with another camper) and groundsheet
  • 1 mug, 1 collapsible bowl, 1 plastic spork
  • headlight, spare flashlight
  • spare batteries for all gear (incl. D gear)

Hiking gear

  • Trekking poles
  • Microspikes
  • hat, sunglasses, 1 spare set of sunglasses
  • 3 liter water bladder, 1 liter Nalgene in the side pocket
  • 1 pair light closed toed watershoes
  • I pair tall hiking boots (I trained with them all the time before the trip)

Clothing

  • 2 T synthetic T-shirts (I wore one of the two)
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • I intermediate top layer, 1 pair long johns (camp/ night)
  • 1 pair pants
  • I pair shorts (I wore them almost exclusively)
  • 4 pieces underwear, synthetic, smallish (used one of them for swimming too)
  • 4 pairs double hiking socks (wrightsocks)
  • 1 fleece jacket (no shell)
  • 1 beanie
  • 1 warm neck gaiter and a bandana
  • 1 pair of thick wool glove/mittens (you can fold out the mittens to expose the fingertips, great if you need to test!)
  • lightweight rain jacket and pants (also for mosquitoes)
  • mosquito netting for face (did not use)

Toiletries & meds

  • toothbrush, toothpaste
  • razor (I shaved every day…)
  • glide (for blister avoidance) (I did not use)
  • REI blister pack, and plenty of extra moleskin (I used some moleskin, I had only one blister in the whole trip)
  • ibuprofen
  • sunscreen, bug repellent
  • small bottle sanitizer
  • 1 cloth mask, 2 N95s (hardly ever used)
  • we shared camp soap among campers
  • we had a doctor with us and she was carrying a bunch of med gear so I didn’t

Food

  • 1 big bearproof canister full of camp food, that I refilled once when we got a mule train resupply

D gear

Summit day

@Eric, I am not sure how much it weighed, but it was super light, so much so that I ended up also carrying the backpack of another camper who had a hard time with the climb. We left our tents up and all our sleeping bags, mats, toiletries, etc. It was not going to be a cold day, and there was no rain/wind predicted. No ice expected so we left microspikes in camp.

The only things I brought were:

  • backpack
  • headlight (we used it for the first few hours)
  • trekking poles (I stopped using them halfway through)
  • 3 liters in the water bladder and 1 in a Nalgene
  • 1 spare sensor and pod
  • 1 long sleeve T shirt in backpack (equivalent to intermediate layer)
  • 1 warm neck gaiter
  • 1 light rain jacket and pants
  • I left with shorts, a T shirt, and a pair of thick wool gloves on
  • carbs
  • usual med supplies (poker, strips, phone, spare insulin and needles, etc.)

Some other campers brought more cold clothing, but I am not cold and I did not feel I needed it. We had a satcom with us so we could find out about the weather. If we had been worried about temperature etc., I would have brought pants, fleece, beanie, maybe ground sheet and sleeping bag in case of emergency.

@CarlosLuis that makes sense: 50 lbs gear, 35 lbs bikes, and they don’t need to carry much food. I really hope you find the time to take off too!

I am not a great writer but I tried to share what I would have wanted to learn about it! Thanks very much for the encouragement.

@CarolynA, crampons and ice axes would be beyond me—but I’d love to learn to use them.

I am sure it will take a while before you can take them backpacking… My parents took us car camping several weeks in national parks every summer from the time I was about 2 or so: I think that’s where I learned to really enjoy being outdoors in nature :slightly_smiling_face: My father tried to get us to backpack as a family (he used to backpack a lot in Europe) but it never took, too bad really.

I am not very good, but I enjoy it. I get shin splints a lot :frowning: Today I went for my first Tough Mudder 5K with a friend—we ended up first in the batch we were in, along with another team of 2 men who were really ripped!

@TomH, we did a circular hike starting and ending at Cottonwood Pass. One neat thing was that one of the adults on the trip was really experienced in the area, and 2 of the days we went off-trail to cross over from one trail to another.

We were very careful not to damage the land, and followed mostly animal trails.

@TiaG, @ClaudnDaye , thanks for the really nice comments. I was thinking of Samson and Liam when I was talking about other kids! Both of them will be super competent T1Ds by the time they are teens: if they like the outdoors this would be a great trip. Also, I made good friends among the campers: it’s not every day that I meet other T1Ds. It’s pretty nice to have an adventure with other T1Ds because suddenly we are all the norm.

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Don’t sell yourself short…writing is a skill and you’ve got it. You’re way ahead of people twice your age when it comes to writing skill. You’ve got a knack for getting the most interesting and relevant info out there concisely. Keep it up, it will come in handy later in life no matter what you end up doing.

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Totally agree!! Love reading your posts, @Kaelan !!

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Just to follow-up, my small ones, 2500mAh, were not Ankers!! They were non-brand bought off of Amazon which I do not recommend!!

Btw, I also use the iPhone SE 2020 for my OmniLoop/Autobolus, and am so glad I got the smaller phone as the battery lasts 1+ day without a charge. I also use the Apple Watch v4 with Loop and Dexcom complications on the home watch face. It is great for monitoring BGs and bolusing/triggering overides during activity. Its battery lasts 1+ days, if not used with a Workout activity. I use the iSmoothRun on it for running and biking, and it will sometimes use 7%/hour of battery during Workouts.

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That’s an awesome post @Kaelan, thanks for sharing it with us!

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This doc was very well written. I also climbed Mt. Whitney long before any CGM or even other monitoring equipment was available. That was about 40 years ago. We started at Shepard’s Pass a distance north of Mt. Whitney. Later we discovered this was the toughest pass into the Sierras. We had two vehicles, one at the begging of the trip at Shepard’s Pass and the other at the parking lot on the east side of Whitney. Our first day was real tough since we had to carry all of our water going up Shepard’s. We also went up the West side of Whitney from Guitar Lake.
My T1D seemed to be in control the whole way, only had the finger stick to verify.

A real challenge is to do the Cactus to Clouds hike, an elevation gain of 8500 ft to the mountain tram station or 11,000 if you go to the peak and down to the mountain tram station. This is in just the one day. It is one of the toughest 5 trails in North America. I have done the 8500 ft hike twice.
Be very careful with this hike. Many have run into trouble in so many ways. Again there is no water so all must be carried.

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Got it! When we were traveling in 2019 a lot of our off brands stuff failed. So now we are more selective also in our electronics purchases.

I am really happy with mine too (same), also for Omniloop/Autobolus.

That’s cool. My dad has pushed me to do it too. But I think I would lose it or break it quickly.

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That’s great!

Really awesome. We only had a bit more than 5,000 ft up on our summit day.

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