Winter hiking in the mountains with a D teen

We just spent a lovely long hiking weekend in the Alpujarras mountains with our teen. The mountains are steep and beautiful, with canyon-like valleys spreading around the landscape.


It is freezing weather at night right now, with occasional snowfalls in the mountains, so we decided we would rent a small village house for a long weekend, and hike from the village during the day every day. We picked a central village on a steep slope with lots of hikes around, several of which lead to other villages on the hillsides. Our home was a cozy 600-year-old house with two floors and a terrace.

The house was framed with apparent hand-hewn beams, and heated with a wood-fed furnace.

We brought a 40-liter framed backpack for all of our clothes, a 20-liter backpack for all electronics (computer work to do in the evenings), a 12-liter backpack for the trail, and my son’s always-on diabetes sling bag. We took 5 layers of clothes (used them all), 3 changes of basic layers each, hat and gloves. For D gear, we had a thermos of insulin, 3 spare pods and 2 spare CGM sensors, along with my son’s iphone and our two follow phones.

On the trail, we only carried the D sling bag (with my son at all times) and the 12 liter day pack. We were always within a few hours of our village home, and could afford to travel very light outside of our many layers. Every day, after a solid breakfast, we would get on the trail. We would start well wrapped and, even then, rather cold.

The mountainsides were very steep. When the trails were not easy to follow, we would sometimes have to go up and down some dicey sections to reconnect with the right track. As the trails meandered along the goat pastures, we could catch glimpses of our daily goal, often a 1,000-year-old Moorish blinding white village hanging on to the hillside, a few hundred feet below the snowline.


The trailheads were very different from home: they would often start at the top or the bottom of a village, and follow very old paths that had been used for centuries.

The village streets were as steep as the trails, and only suitable for animal transport or tiny tractors.

The building technology for these houses was fascinating: it had not changed since the Neolithic. The roofs were still flat, framed with roughly hewn whole tree trunks, then covered with flat stones or slates which, in turn, were covered with two layers of waterproof clay. The rooftops were used for drying vegetables (or clothes) and could be reached by internal stairs. The chimneys were very characteristic, also going back to the Neolithic.

We would stop midday to explore our destination and get a quick bite, along with plenty of fluids. Life was very slow in the vilages.

Small vegetable gardens and orchards would surround the outer houses. We were amazed to see flowering almond trees high up in the mountains in January.

For the hike back we would need to strip a few layers, back to our Tshirts: by then the temperature would be perfect. By the late afternoon, it was cold again, and we would reach a place to eat and drink again, always famished!

We would finish the day in our house, warmed by the wood furnace and by a wonderful olive wood fire in the fireplace.

BG was easy to control because of the many hours of daily exercise. We did not need to adjust basal: I was a bit surprised by that, and wonder if it might be connected to higher altitude. Correction factors were unusually low (ie easy to correct a high). There was no change to the Insulin to Carb Ratio. Staying hydrated required a lot of beverages at all times during the day. The day pack was critical for that, and allowed us to never lose our CGM signal despite the exercise and the dry air.

All in all, a great long weekend: we want to come back and explore some other valleys soon!


Gorgeous pictures! Thank you for sharing your adventures!

I’m interested in the part that I:C ratios maintained, while correction boluses were reduced.


That was interesting to me too. The ICR remained the same, we did not notice a significant difference in how much he went up per carb, but the CF changed roughly by a factor of 2.

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After such a wonderful story, I’m kind of ashamed of myself to be introducing a negative note. It’s about the “traveling very light.” With sub-zero temperatures and the possibility of snow, you need to be robust to an accident such as a twisted ankle or ruptured knee ligament, which turns an intended few hour day hike into an overnight stay on the trail until someone can walk out to get help. I’d take the big pack lightly loaded with a sleeping bag or two, foam pad, maybe a tarp or something for shelter, maybe a little extra food, matches, flashlight, water. Enough to remain safe if you’re benighted on the trail. Below freezing, unexpected adverse events can get out of hand surprisingly fast.

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We actually have all of our emergency gear in the day pack: emergency blankets, flashlights, signaling mirror, matches, whistle, med kit, compass, knife, purification pills, wire saw… The whole kit weighs about 1.5 lbs and will carry us through a night+ in the wild. We believe in ultralight backpacking! It fits well with our need to pack very light while we are on the go, since we are abroad for 15 months and only carry 1 suitcase/person (plus the D gear and electronics). But we are experienced travelers and hikers :slight_smile:

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I’m relieved to hear that you are prepared to survive a night out. I’m surprised that if injured your party can stay warm and dry in freezing temperatures with just 1.5 lbs of additional gear, but the fact that you are experienced and have thought about it is a good thing.

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The wire saw and the matches, along with the emergency blankets :slight_smile:

You forget to mention the fact that you also packed along some common sense.

Here in the wilds of Oregon a couple of winters back, we had some teenagers get lost in the woods off of a common day hiking trail and they got cold, and burned their extra clothes for warmth. I mean forget using those tree’s that are all around you, burn your extra clothes… Fortunately they were rescued, but it wasn’t due to the group outdoor intelligence quotient.


That is hilarious (now that they are safe)!

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Beautiful pictures Michel!! Thank you for sharing along with a wonderful write up. Truly Unlimited.

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