It’s been a big couple of weeks in the mountains. We have just wrapped shooting and climbing for the Wind River Project and it’s time to shuttle loads of our gear to the point where the horses can access it to carry it the 15 miles out to the trailhead.
This means two days of 4 mile round trip gear ferrying–loads over 100lbs. Up hills. Through mud. Crossing streams. Hopping rocks. Stopping for food–more food than I’d eat in two days in the front country gets burned off in just one trip–then repeat.
Once the last load has been carried, all that remains is the 15 mile slog out to the trailhead with a 35 lb pack. It’s 3:15 in the afternoon and Blake and I decided to go for it. We can cover the distance and be out before dark if we keep a good pace. And we did.
Mile after mile ticked by, and we stopped to eat and drink as normal. As it neared 9 PM we could feel the trailhead getting closer. We discussed going out to get a burger if we could make it out before closing time. It seemed like the end to our death march should be right around every corner–so we quickened our pace. Mosquitos floated in vicious clouds–so we quickened our pace more.
We could stop and eat and drink once we reached the end to our 20+ mile day. We reached the parking lot just as the sun set–and we threw our gear in our cars. I sat down in the drivers seat, and suddenly I knew something was wrong.
I felt sick to my stomach and weak. I tested my blood glucose and my meter said 106. I hadn’t washed my hands in weeks so this reading did little to comfort me. I immediately ate a shot blok–and as I chewed I felt my breath coming in shorter gasps and my vision closing in around me. I knew that I was moments from blacking out. I pushed too hard, thinking that I would be home free now that we were out of the backcountry.
I fumbled with the glucagon, drawing it up mixing it, forgetting that I’d mixed it and remixing and redrawing it. I frantically motioned to Blake to come help. He encouraged me to keep eating shot bloks, which I did. I prepped him to inject me with the glucagon if I lost consciousness.
I cursed my lack of attention to my own state during the last couple of miles. A rookie mistake and this could be it for me. My mouth was dry and I could barely see as I choked down shot blok after shot blok. Blake got me some water and by this point the tunnel around my head began to relinquish it’s grip and I could see better.
I felt the sweat and wave of heat hit me and I knew that I was coming around. “Eat more shot bloks dude” said Blake. I tried standing up but my feet and legs were useless and cramped. I felt like I was completely drunk–but I ate more.
That night I skipped my basal insulin, letting my BGs run high. I woke up at 235–pretty reasonable having eaten an apple and 60 grams of shot bloks the night before–on 0 basal insulin.
Facing this situation was horrifying in the moment–but looking back, it was preventable. My judgement lapsed–for all the right reasons–and the consequences were swift and severe. I didn’t feel any of the normal warning signs–or maybe I did but I just pushed them aside. My takeaway is that we can never afford to let our guard down–and that when things go completely pear-shaped, we can fix it still.
Pushing our bodies is a delicate process and mistakes are part of that. Now I know a little bit more about myself having gone too far and that’s why I call this my worst (and best?) low blood sugar ever. Keep your guard up and don’t go it alone, especially when you are going the extra mile(s).
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