It was unseasonably warm for late September in British Columbia. We had been worried about being able to get any climbing at all in as the end of the season was near, but from where we sat at Martin’s parents place in Edgewater it looked as though the weather itself was giving way for us to get in one hail Mary attempt in the mountains.
We had three days to climb and the weather forecasted rain approaching four days out. We looked at all the objectives in the Bugaboos and decided that we should aim for something that would be a safe bet even with the days growing much shorter. Stefanie was still feeling ill but she was determined to make it up to base camp and decide at that point if she would take on a further climbing objective.
We drove about an hour from Edgewater on dirt roads into Bugaboo Provincial Park. As dirt roads go, these were very reasonable and rounding each bend I kept feeling my heart jump into my throat as I waited for the first glaciers to come into view.
This was to be the fulfillment of a dream but would also be my first time on a glacier, negotiating the hazards of snow and ice. Rock climbing has been my focus over the years but here in the Bugs, one had to negotiate glaciers and snow couloirs to reach the rock spires–and this was something completely new to me. Martin had grown up on glaciers with his dad on the other hand, and it looked like we had struck a good balance; I would handle leading the rock climbing sections and Martin would lead through the glacial and snow sections, each of us playing to our strengths.
We kept a moderate but steady pace and reached our camp after about 4 hours. We had less than one hour of light left at this point and hurried to set up our tent and get some dinner ready. Morning would come early and we needed to start at dawn to reach our objective at a reasonable time. Stefanie made a customary quinoa stir-fry which I ate without any bolus injection. I checked my sugar again about 4 hours later and was at 141. It was 3 am at this point and I had to force myself to get back to sleep. I was so excited I didn’t want to just lay there and wait. Then came the approach. The climbing before the climbing. There really is no way to describe packing a 70lb load of camping gear, food, cookware, camera equipment, clothing and climbing gear up a steep trail for 4 hours. I can tell you that I ate about 150 grams of carbs without touching any additional insulin and my blood sugar was holding around 110 for the duration. It was both odd and completely normal to take “blood sugar breaks” with Martin where we could stop together and monitor ourselves and compare notes.
By the time the sun rose I had finally gotten tired again and was ready to go back to sleep–but it was time to climb so I struggled out of the tent and made a quick breakfast of oatmeal, jerky and a Clifbar Builder Bar. Again, no bolus despite a fairly substantial carb intake because I knew that if experience was any indicator, the amount of time I would spend crossing the glaciers would burn off all that and then some.
I shouldered my pack which held extra food, clothes, headlamp, crampons and all my diabetes gear–I had enough in the pack to spend an uncomfortable but safe night out away from camp in the event that a fast moving storm pinned us down. This wasnt like roadside cragging or gym climbing. These were big mountains with many objective hazards and being prepared was paramount. Getting up to the summit was optional. Getting down, mandatory.