Peak Performance: A Project 50in50 Update


After a lengthy and taxing journey, Michael Shelver and Patrick Mertes were excited to report on August 17th that they had officially completed Project 50-in-50. The mountaineers were able to summit the 50 highest peaks in the United States in 50 days. The timer officially began when the two had ascended Denali on June 29th, the highest point in Alaska, and from there, it was a race to complete the other 49.

The duo checked in with Beyond Type 1 to give us the lowdown on the last few peaks and reflect on some of the crazy and memorable moments from the trip. They were especially overwhelmed by the community of people with type 1 who came out to hike and showed their support.

Emerging victorious

The journey was not without its challenges. While attempting to descend Granite Peak, Wisconsin, the trail was unseasonably snowy and Michael took a scary fall. As a result, he suffered a partially collapsed lung and enough bruising in his legs to keep him off his feet for weeks. Reflecting on the moment, he says, “It was life threatening, if I wasn’t wearing a helmet I would have been dead… And it was very scary to go from doing 30 miles a day of hiking and running and climbing to just not being able to walk at all.”

Michael rested for about two full weeks before slowly starting some movement, and felt that that jumpstarted his recovery. He rejoined Patrick shortly thereafter, offering support from the sidelines during a few hikes before he jumped in again.

“I was in good enough shape to hike Colorado, which was a fourteener, New Mexico, which was 13,000 feet and then the rest of them. So it’s really crazy to be able to recover that quickly,” he says.

Despite taking some time off after Michael’s injury, Patrick’s choice to continue on and do a couple of peaks helped the duo stay on track to finishing the feat in 50 days. Although Michael did not complete five of the peaks during this challenge, he’d climbed a number of them before. Thankfully, Patrick was joined by a slew of community members, friends and family who came out to join him for the climbs. The duo is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support that came immediately after Michael’s accident.

“The fact that people were still willing to rearrange their schedule to make it a point to support the project and support the type 1 community just makes it even that much more special… Some of the people that came out were some of the most inspiring athletes and type 1s that we have ever met. And having Mike be able to come back was the momentum we needed to really finish this out strong,” Patrick says.

The takeaway + what’s next

The two mountaineers had a hard time summarizing the experience, but when asked to give one word about what the time on the trail meant to them, they each had a take.

“Flexibility. Both physically and literally. This trip required a ton of flexibility and I’m currently working on getting my flexibility back,” Michael says.

“I’m going to go with an acronym because I’ve been using it a lot during the project and it’s PMA, which stands for Positive Mental Attitude. And I think attitude really dictated everything that this project entailed.”

This certainly won’t be the last that our community hears about an exciting feat from Patrick and Michael. In October, the two plan to celebrate Project 50-in-50 at a meet-up in San Francisco. They encourage anyone nearby in the community to come out and join, especially because it will be the moment they unveil their plans for 2020.

What the next project will be is up in the air until the reveal, but knowing these two, it won’t be short of excitement, uncertainty, or inspiration.

You can check out the journey on Project 50-in-50’s Instagram, and follow the timeline of summit dates online. Beyond Type 1 followed the the 50-in-50 crew’s journey, checking in with them periodically and posting updates for others to follow along. Be on the lookout for the next big project from the 50-in-50 team!

Project 50-in-50 is a grantee of Beyond Type 1.

WRITTEN BY Jordan Dakin, POSTED 08/23/19, UPDATED 11/14/22

Jordan recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles after earning her BA in English and film studies. She is a passionate storyteller, traveler and lover of people and hopes to use her experience working in tech and as a writer to advocate for the BT1 community. In her spare time, she also enjoys hiking, karaoke and cooking for friends. Check her out on Instagram: @jordanemilydakin.