From Denali to Delaware: A Project 50-in-50 Update


Such great heights

Michael Shelver and Patrick Mertes, the duo behind Project 50-in-50, updated Beyond Type 1 on their journey so far. They’ve just reached their 27th peak: High Point, New Jersey.

The challenge is seeing the two adventurers with type 1 diabetes (T1D) summiting the highest peaks in each of the 50 states in a matter of 50 days. They began by summiting Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America. After nine days of climbing over 16,000ft in elevation, they reached the top (according to the National Park Service, only 52 percent of those who attempt this actually reach Denali’s peak).

We checked in with the guys and got the lowdown on the climb, which required them to each carry about 125 pounds of gear and working nonstop to carefully acclimatize along the way.

According to Michael, “Patrick was running a diabetes camp until basically the day before we flew out to Alaska, so we didn’t really have too much time to prep… We spent nine days ascending the mountain, and then took two days to get back down. We had really great weather which is super unusual for Denali, so that kind of allowed us to climb the mountain quite a bit faster than most people usually do—we climbed it in nine days, and I think the average for a summit is 17 to 21.”

While the speed at which they completed the summit may make it seem like an easy feat, the two mountaineers definitely felt the weight of what they were doing each and every moment they were on that glacier. As Patrick put it, “I basically told Mike that every single morning that I woke up on Denali was the hardest day of my life… I started the climb already managing my diabetes with a cold. And then in addition, just constantly having my adrenaline going in addition to the physical exertion, there were multiple days when I was definitely on the blood glucose roller coaster.”

Patrick actually had to take glucagon on the very last day after experiencing some altitude sickness and throwing up all of the low supplies he had eaten. The mini dose of glucagon he had handy helped the guys mitigate a potentially very scary situation as they were descending Denali.

The timer officially began on June 29th, when the duo reached the summit. From there on, management issues and all, the two raced to their next mark: Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They rang in the Fourth of July summiting that peak, before flying back to the contiguous U.S. to start really pushing it.

A group effort

Michael and Patrick are happy to report they are currently a full day ahead of schedule. They are utilizing a sprinter van to speedily make their way around the country (only a private jet would be faster). Thankfully, the duo has had plenty of help in the form of volunteer drivers and others with type 1 meeting up to climb certain peaks alongside them. Both have been amazed by the support so far.

“One of the things that really keeps us going is we’ve had a lot of really great support behind the movement from the online community. We might be totally exhausted when we hit a trailhead but then we see the faces of people that have come out to join us and it really just fills your cup and helps you to keep going,” Patrick says.

Beyond Type 1 will continue checking in with these two along the way as they keep trekking around the country to hit these peaks.

You can follow the journey on Project 50-in-50’s Instagram, and check out all of the projected summit dates online. Beyond Type 1 will continue following the 50-in-50 crew’s journey, checking in with them periodically and posting updates for others to follow along. If you’d like to meet up with Michael and Patrick in your state, find out how here.

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

WRITTEN BY Jordan Dakin, POSTED 07/16/19, UPDATED 11/11/22

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.