Diabetes in the Wild – Long Distance Hiking as a Type 1 Diabetic

We are proud to be sponsoring a fantastic team of people with type 1 diabetes as they embark on an awe-inspiring journey across the Pacific Crest Trail. Find out more in the guest blog below written by Helen, one of the trail team members:

Most people are familiar with the idea of hiking – taking a stroll around your local park or up the nearest peak. This sort of casual hiking is an activity that is enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Then, there is capital ‘H’ Hiking – think the long distance footpaths such as the Pennine Way, or perhaps the most well-known and longest trek in the UK which, runs from Lands End to John o’ Groats and boasts a walking distance of 811 miles. This type of Hiking is reserved for the dedicated and perhaps slightly crazy amoung us.

However, there is another form of hiking, beyond capital ‘H’ Hiking.

I’d like to introduce you to thru-hiking. Imagine for a moment walking from Lands End to John o’ Groats not once but 3¼ times non-stop. On top of this, you would be carrying everything you need such as a tent, food, water, clothing etc. over terrain that ranging from sea level to heights of up to 4,009 metres. To put that into perspective, that is over 3 ½ times the height of Snowdon. Just for good measure, we will also throw in temperatures of around 100F (38C) at the start building up to freezing, snowbound mountains in the middle where the use of ice axes and crampons are strongly advised. That, is thru-hiking, and I used to believe it was reserved for the highest echelon of extreme hikers. That was until I decided to attempt a thru-hike myself.

The conditions described above are what myself and the rest of my team will be facing when we set off on our trek of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019. Our team are called Shepherds PCT 2019 and we are made up currently of 3 individuals from both the UK and the US with an extra 2 team members being recruited over the next few months. We also have a handful of individuals from the UK and the US who will be joining us for just a short section of the trail.

For those of you that haven’t watched the film Wild with Reese Witherspoon, the Pacific Crest Trail runs for 2,659 miles starting at the US / Mexican border in Southern California and ending just across the Canadian border at Manning Park. The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) has published figures which show that in 2016 around 22% of people who applied to walk the entire trail actually completed the task. In 2017, due to numerous wildfires and record levels of snow leading to dangerous river crossings, many decided to cut their attempt short for safety’s sake.

What sets our team apart from the normal adventurous types that you read about or see on TV is that I’m an insulin dependent Type 1 diabetic. This will therefore require some serious monitoring of blood sugar levels, ensuring that hypos are recognised and treated swiftly, making sure I eat the right sort of food and crucially, that I can keep all my medication at the right temperature. This is where FRIO has stepped up to the plate as they have agreed to sponsor our team and provide me with six of their Viva Zipper insulin coling wallets, boxes of Elovate glucose powder sachets and some mini sharps bins. This assistance very welcome indeed and will go a long way to ensuring that we can successfully complete this adventure.

We are determined to reach our goal and in doing so, my main aim is to show people currently living with diabetes that adventures are possible and dreams can be achieved. It just takes good planning, the right equipment and a stubborn desire to ignore the naysayers and just do it.

Find out more about our team so far:

Helen Shepherd – I am a 48 year old Pensions Technical Adviser living in Huddersfield. Whilst hiking has always been a passion of mine, I have dabbled in many sports throughout my life with badminton, dinghy sailing and running being the more recent ones. I am a member of the UK Backpackers club and am currently working my way up and down a tick list of the UK’s highest mountains. I plan on undertaking the Coast to Coast walk with David Hinchliffe in 2018.

David Hinchliffe – A 34 year old Mechanical Engineer from Heckmondwike. Rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking are David’s main hobbies which are all driven by his love for the outdoors. He has big plans for 2018 which include the Coast to Coast walk from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay as well as a self-supported trek along the West Highland Way.

Art Huseonica – It is difficult to describe Art in such a short space but I will try! He is 66 and formerly worked as a Naval Officer at the Pentagon followed by an Associate Professorship at the University of Maryland. Art now describes himself as an adventurer and has achieved some impressive feats such as summiting Mount Rainier, climbing Denali in Alaska, a double traverse of Death Valley, and a record setting Amazon River expedition. He lives in Arizona and plans to hike the entire Arizona Scenic Trail (800 miles long) in 2018 as part of his training.

Keep up with our team’s progress, the section hikers that will be joining us and also get access to our dedicated website in future news articles on the FRIO site.