I love bringing you guest posts from others who are using adventure to take control of their lives and health. I met Zach Buckmaster through Instagram a few months back and I believe that you will be reading and seeing more from him in the near future. This account is about his adaptation to year one of life with type 1 and I hope that you will find it as inspiring as I have.–Steve–

Diabetes and climbing. Most see no correlation between the two. But for me–and many others, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

My name is Zach Buckmaster. I live in Abbotsford, BC, Canada. I have a wonderful supporting wife, Kaitlyn, and we have been married since May 2014. I am professionally a carpenter and own a small construction business. I love to climb and I would spend every day climbing if I could. Well, maybe I’d take a few days to snowboard, but I’d climb most of the time

I have been living with type 1 diabetes for a year now as of Nov 20 2015–and wow, how much has changed! I am constantly trading punches with diabetes–everything from depression to constant highs. Diabetes is a challenge. A challenge I didn’t have a choice in. I certainly didn’t want to have to deal with that reality at all when I was diagnosed. I mean, c’mon, I have to give myself a needle to  eat toast!? What is this!? But although diabetes is a challenge, there are few challenges that can’t be overcome–except for maybe a perfect score in skee ball. I’m pretty sure that is unachievable.

When I was diagnosed, I thought it was over. I couldn’t eat what I wanted, I had to constantly give myself needles and prick my fingers, and I knew my active lifestyle would constantly run me low (that was one of the warning signs for me before my diagnosis). It sucked. It straight up sucked. Everything just piled on at once. Work was going badly and looked bad for the rest of the winter, we were living in a basement suite with an ant infestation and I had just spent 3 days in the hospital, getting a crash course on my new life. It was depressing.

hiking and type 1 diabetes in vancouver squamish British Columbia

Then, in January I saw that Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson had conquered The Dawn Wall. At this point my wife and I were looking for some type of activity that we could both do together and it was inspiring what they (Kevin and Tommy) did. So inspiring that I finally started seriously climbing. Yeah, I had climbed at the summer camp I went to, and I climbed with outdoor ed. in high school, and I lead a few easy 5.6 routes. But this was different. My wife and I bought gear and started climbing at our local crag. And it was not easy!

I needed to plan my moves. I had to think ahead. I had to be precise and careful. I had to be safe and controlled, and if I do fall, I need to know how to get back up.  The danger is always there in climbing, but it can be controlled. Yes, we have our falls and take a few whippers. But where would we be if we never fell?

adventure therapy type 1 diabetes rock climbing

For me, this just clicked in my mind. Diabetes is that route that’s a sandbagged 5.10 you get on. At first you think, “Yeah, I can do this no prob!” and then you take a nasty fall. You feel like you can never climb a 5.10 ever again. It’s just too hard. But then it wouldn’t be a challenge. So you work at it and work at it, repeating the crux a thousand times until finally you clip the chains. Only to find out that was just the first pitch and you have an endless amount of pitches in front of you.

That is just how diabetes is. Its not leaving. It never will. But that doesn’t mean that diabetes has won. You can keep climbing. You can kick it right square in the butt and not let it hold you back. You can use it to propel yourself forward and reach heights unimaginable. Because, being a diabetic isn’t what makes you. What you do with that challenge does.

rock climbing in squamish british columbia

And by no means is it that easy. It’s freaking hard. Just this past month alone I have been struggling with constant highs and the worry that comes along with them. In fact, this is all still new to me. I’m still not great at counting carbs or predicting what my body will do. It doesn’t always agree with me after all. But that’s ok. It’s how I learn, and how I’ll learn for the rest of my life. I’m Ok with that. I’ve come to terms with it. Diabetes is the devil on my shoulder saying “You can’t do it, you won’t do it and you never will do it”. But I’ve come to grow a little fond of that little devil on my shoulder.

It’s fun proving him wrong.

If you have questions or comments for Zach, drop a comment below! If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends so they can read it too! You can contact us if you’d like to share your story on the LivingVertical blog–we’d love to have you involved!