I want to thank Jeffrey for sharing the following trip report and his photos with all of us. I met Jeffrey through our Facebook Page where I learned that he has reconnected to climbing at age 32 after a diagnosis with type 1 diabetes this past fall (Black Friday 2012). I was immediately inspired when he shared his story with me and how his approach to management and adjustment was all about teamwork, positivity and determination to find a way to get after it. I am excited to be able to share this guest post and content from others like us who are living powerfully with diabetes in the vertical world. (Steve)
Meet Jeffrey: fellow “pancreatic enthusiast” and climber!
Climbing last Sunday (March 3, 2013) was kinda dumb and awesome at the same time. I’ll tell you right away, my partners Jonathan and Jillian are from New England; they are conditioned for the cold. I unfortunately, am not. The weekend’s temps were supposed to be in the mid-40’s. I was already hesitant to climb in the cold and thought I might skip out. Saturday I got their email saying they wanted to check out Safe Harbor, a sport climbing area just outside of Lancaster PA, an hour and a half north of Baltimore. I couldn’t say no and met up with them at 6:30 the next morning. There were flurries as I left my place; so— we’re off to a great start! We get there around 8am, we’re the only ones there, first to arrive. We walk to the crag to find icicles hanging from a good portion of all the blocky overhangs. Jonathan exclaimed that he should have brought his ice ax and crampons for mixed climbing!
Safe Harbor is a section of blasted railroad cut along the Susquehanna River, maybe 300 yards long. Only in 2011 did it officially open up to climbing and the rails were replaced with a gravel hike-n-bike trail. There are about 90 routes approx 70-90ft in height. All routes are bolted, from smooth slabs to sustained overhangs ranging 5.7-5.13. There are a LOT of stout routes. I’m not a power climber by any stretch. I love low angle, thin, technical footwork climbs. Bulges and overhangs always get me, but I’m determined to work on that as I recently purchased a hang board for training at home.
We weren’t even harnessed up yet and already pretty cold. It was probably in the high 20’s factoring in the breeze. Our first route was ‘Econoline’, a 5.8*. A smooth face climb bisected with a grassy ledge two thirds up. A decent warm up but nothing to write home about. Jonathan led it. Jillian and I TR’d it. The next route I led. It was an 8+**, ‘Eminent Domain’. By then my hands and feet were completely numb. I’ll tell you what though, it is INSANE what you’re willing to hold onto and step up on when you can not feel a thing. Talk about trusting your holds. Despite all that, I flashed it. It was a fun route for sure, thin holds, a little dihedral and mantle action at the top. Jonathan pulled the rope and led it himself. Jillian TR’d it and cleaned anchors.
Jonathan leading ‘Eminent Domain’
The third route was Jonathan’s pick. He chose ‘Tonga’ a 9+**. I had previously climbed last fall, but this time I was not as successful. The crux is an awkward bulge between the first and second bolt. Did I fail to mention Jonathan is 6’3″? He reaches right past the toughest move to a key flake (NO FAIR!!) Both Jillian and I flailed and bailed. In our defense, the one slopey foothold to get us to that flake was seeping water and we kept slipping right off. I hate making excuses, so I’ll be gunning for that route on my next visit.
Next Jonathan thought the route right next to him looked fun and he’d give that a whirl, ‘Wild Palms’. He sent it like a champ without knowing its rating. He came down to a surprise when I told him it was a 5.11b*! NoBigDeal! Yeah, I wasn’t even gonna bother with that mess. I’ll be honest, I’m just not there yet.***
So we thought we’d be the only climbers out, but low and behold we saw a few other partys along the cliffs. None of them lasted too long though. A pitch or two and they’d vanish. One couple described the day as, “just south of miserable“; we felt otherwise. We had some lunch and the rest of our coffee and tea. I checked my blood sugar a few times throughout the day. Only once did I feel low, 74. Actually my meter was erroring out cause of its minimum operating temperature; so I had to warm it up in my armpit to use it! As I changed back into my climbing shoes Jillian mentioned that my feet were awfully white. Another good sign….
Despite the frigid temps we were stoked on good climbing and good company, so we pressed on. It was my turn on the sharp end. I chose a slabby 5.7* ‘Pro Bono’ and zipped right up. It was definitely easy, but still fun. Jillian and Jonathan had no trouble with it either. Next Jonathan led ‘Who Shot Bambi’ a 9-* right next to it. That climb was a blast and it was more technical than ‘Eminent Domain’ earlier. The crux was just past a thick overlap, walking up a rising diagonal seam that was no thicker than a quarter’s width. Below the overlap was another great move matching hands in a two finger pocket – so fun! Jillian is still a relatively new to the whole climbing thing, but she kept her cool and made it up. I cleaned the anchors, rapped down, and swung over to booty some one’s leaver-biner. Bonus!
By that time it was around 5pm so we packed up and hiked out, the last ones to leave. We stopped for more coffee on the the ride home. I crashed out in the back seat for half the drive. What a great day! EXCEPT for the dumb part: my right foot still, after four days, has only partial feeling in the big toe due to the cold. Pretty crazy. I’ve given myself plenty of warm foot baths and have been taking ibuprofen. It feels like when novocain starts wear off, but your mouth is kinda tingly numb and hypersensitive at the same time. The affected area is slowly shrinking, and there’s no discoloration or blistering so I doubt I’ll loose my toe or anything. I’m my own experiment and now I know how much cold I can tolerate, or not. Next time I’ll DEFINITELY be bringing those hot hands things for my feet, lesson learned!
This weekend the temps are supposed to be in the high 50s and I have another call out to Jonathan and Jillian for more adventures. They are great climbing partners and all around good people. They get me outta the house while my girlfriend studies for grad school. I’m always thrilled to be tying in with them. Their three rules are: Be safe, Have Fun, and Maintain A Positive Attitude. Pretty simple.
***This past weekend Jeffrey went back out to Safe Harbor with his friends Jonathan and Jillian–he climbed that 5.11a/b route that he was “just not there” on a week ago! Here’s to raising the bar!