Diabetes and climbing are both very complex, and both are often misunderstood–from within and without. I am compiling here, a record of FAQs that might help clear up some of the questions. One list for Type 1 diabetes. One list for climbing.

Please email us info@livingvertical.org if you have a question that does not appear here!

Type 1 Diabetes

What is the different between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes? Too many to list here. Generally Type1 occurs in children and is a lifelong condition that must be treated through daily injected doses of the hormone Insulin. Type 2 generally occurs in adults and is treated through oral medications-it is commonly seen along with obesity and lack of physical activity. This is in no way comprehensive, but rather a caricature of each condition. Check Google for a more thorough study of the issue.

Are you type 1 or type 2? Type 1, diagnosed at age 16 after being completely healthy and athletic prior to diagnosis.

What does insulin DO? It regulates how your body uses sugar–which is your bodies main source of fuel, needed to think, talk, walk, climb…and how much sugar remains in the blood. Insulin makes the blood sugar go DOWN.

What is the big deal with carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are in almost ALL foods (go through the supermarket next time you go shopping and LOOK at the nutritional info and see!) and they break down into sugar during digestion. This is why we talk about blood sugar going up from eating starchy foods like pasta or rice which you might not think of as “sweet” but that are loaded with carbs. Carbs make blood sugar go UP.

How much insulin do you take? I have to count the grams of Carbohydrates in each meal or snack and I take 1 unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbs–keep in mind that this ratio changes in one direction or the other, every time I get sick, am at rest, am very active, tired, stressed, upset etc. Consistency does not come easily.

What do “blood sugar/glucose” numbers mean? These numbers indicate the amount of sugar in your blood–which fluctuates constantly due to myriad variables. Ideally it should be between 80 and 120–this is the normal, healthy balance that most non-diabetics enjoy.

So wait, does that mean you can’t have carbs/sugar? Incorrect. It might be easier if it were that cut and dried. I have to eat SMALLER AMOUNTS of carbs at a sitting. This means that I can’t overeat, or indulge in a lot of junk food or my blood sugar will be all over the place. Alcohol also have very adverse affects on my blood sugar, so I can’t drink.  Sometimes though, I have to eat sweets to raise my blood sugar if it begins to go low. Confused yet?

How hard is it to manage all of these variables? Your body has a lot of hormones that work without your initiative or say-so. Imagine you are trying to balance the attitude and mindset of a teen, through injections. It’s sort of like that…only different.

So what happens if you mess up and your sugar gets out of control? If it gets too high (hyperglycemia) you get tired, thirsty, cranky and your organs and circulatory system basically begin to degrade and corrode. If left untreated, any body tissue that depends on blood flow will cease to function and die…so this can mean blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke (those are the main killers).  If it gets too low (hypoglycemia) a more immediate effect is noted–basically you get many of the same symptoms as high blood sugar and if it is not treated, you will lose consciousness, seize and ultimately die.

How can you tell if your sugar is high or low? Test your blood–prick your finger,  and do it up! I usually test 2-6 times a day. More when I am changing up my routine. When I am in a pattern of activity where I am following a schedule and diet, I usually have less irregularity. Any time I feel a little funny, the first item of business is testing my blood sugar.

Does it hurt? Not really. I don’t mind needles, or blood. A little suffering builds character.

How does exercise effect diabetes? This is complex generally, but basically exercise tends to make your body more sensitive to insulin–so you can use less by doing more!

What are you keeping track of throughout the project? Generally I am interested in keeping track of how my insulin usage relates to my diet and exercise which I am tallying in every blog entry.

What is an A1c measurement? It is another measurement of blood-glucose but rather than an immediate reading, an A1c test shows an average of blood glucose over several months. Diabetics are supposed to keep their A1C below 7. Ideally below 6. 


How do you define “climbing”? Going up

Are some climbs harder than others? Yes-generally this is relative to the type of climbing, but usually, the smaller the holds and/or the steeper the incline, the harder a climb becomes

What are the numbers all about? If you have ever gone skiing, you have seen green circles, blue squares, black diamonds etc. Climbing has a similar type of classification system  called the Yosemite Decimal System. 5.0 is the very easiest, 5.15 is the very hardest.  To give a bit of perspective, being able to climb 5.13 and up with consistency is the realm of the professional climber.

How hard do you climb? It depends–like a weightlifter, I don’t max out every session. Different types of climbs demand different attributes–some are shorter and require more power, others are longer and require more endurance. The hardest grade I have ever climbed was 5.12–and that was on a pretty good day. I believe in rating my ability more with regard to how hard I can climb on a bad day, which is closer to 5.8!

What are the different “types” of climbing? Each type of climbing is defined by the corresponding challenge and the medium upon which it is conducted.

  • Bouldering- climbing without ropes and only a foam pad (crash-pad) for protection short routes, sometimes only several moves in length 10-20 feet to the top of a boulder or big rock. The challenge is in the elevated difficulty of each move more than the distance climbed–repeated falling is expected as you go through the process of working out the moves.
  • Trad or Traditional Climbing- rock climbing over a longer distance, with ropes and gear, placing your own anchors for protection as you see fit rather than using pre-installed permanent anchors.
  • Sport climbing- lead climbing on fixed or permanent anchors. Usually this amounts to lighter gear requirements and it allows the climber to focus more on the difficulty of the movements (like bouldering) rather than on protecting the climb with anchors since you are using pre-installed bolts.
  • Lead climbing- can be either sport or trad, but essentially the climbers begin on the ground and climb up clipping into intermediate points of protection as they go until they reach the top anchor.
  • Top Roping- this is what you see in most climbing gyms-and it is also the least committing from a risk standpoint. Both the climber and belayer start from the ground with the rope running up through an established anchor above–if the rope is managed correctly, no real possibility of falling is present.
  • Free-climbing-using only your body and the rock for upward progress, gear is seen only to reduce injury in the case of a fall (NOTE: free climbing is NOT free soloing or climbing unroped). If you are free climbing something you would not grab an anchor or a tree to take a break as you climbed past it, for example.
  • Aid climbing- climbing a series of intermediate anchors (bolts, pitons or removable anchors) when the rock itself lacks free climbable features. Sometimes aid climbing is isolated–you might be free climbing a route that only has one move that you can’t free climb, so you pull on an anchor to bypass or “cheat” around that move. This is also called “French free climbing” and is useful in situations where speed is more critical than style.
  • Mountaineering- think of climbing Everest. Snow. Wind. Sherpas. Altitude. Usually more hiking and snow climbing involved than  straight up vertical terrain–weather, altitude, exposure and endurance are the primary challenges.

 What does 3rd or 4th class terrain mean? 3rd and 4th class designates subcategories of terrain that is easier than “climbing” terrain. 3rd class is scrambling and if you fall you could get injured–enough to ruin a trip, but usually not death consequences. 4th class is a bit steeper scrambling where a fall would likely mean death, but the difficulty of the actual climbing is not such that you feel it necessary to rope up.

Does style matter? Yes and no. Style basically refers to how “pure” your ascent is. In an ideal world, you would walk up to a climb with no prior knowledge, and climb it butt naked (no gear or equipment aiding your progress) with no ropes. Just you and the stone and whatever insight your strength and intellect could provide. In reality however, every person must decide individually how much equipment they want to use to manage the risk of being in the vertical world. So long as the choice of the individual does not impinge on the ability of others to make their own choices, style is usually just an issue of personal satisfaction.

Usually style is prioritized more on shorter routes that do not contain as much objective hazard. For example, hanging on a piece of gear on a short route is likely to be seen as a bit of a “shortcut” since huge storms, avalanches, frostbite, rock fall etc are not present to justify such a move. In the mountains where the aforementioned hazards are often present, someone hanging on or pulling on a piece of gear is not likely to be seen as a faux pas given the greater scope of the endeavor.

Does climbing require immense upper body strength? No. There are MANY routes that require much more in balance and grace than sheer power. Some routes DO require a lot of power so being strong doesn’t hurt. Yet, you could climb all over the continent without being able to do a pull up and still have a blast.



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