When our son Liam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 7, we were already rock climbers. Shortly after he was diagnosed, we travelled to Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas, for a family climbing trip. Liam had started using his first pump about a week before our trip. We spent most of that trip figuring out the best placement for his infusion site when wearing a climbing harness. It was not an easy trip, but we learned a huge amount about managing his T1d in the wild. His diagnosis made us more determined to make adventure a priority in our lives. We needed for Liam to understand that his possibilities in life would not be limited by his medical condition.
In those early days, we scoured the internet for information about managing T1d while rock climbing and found almost nothing. The next couple of years were basically a process of trial and error for us. One of the most memorable days was a full-day multi-pitch climb on Cannon Cliff in New Hampshire. It was an unexpectedly warm May day, and Liam was not using a continuous glucose monitor at the time. He had done finger sticks at various times throughout the day, but we noticed that he was quite grumpy when we got back to the car after about 8 hours of climbing. He was 350. The insulin in his pump had been baking in the sun, along with the back-up vial of insulin in his backpack, as we climbed. It was a very long night, spent bringing down his stubborn high.
Our early experiences in climbing with a T1d kid taught us volumes about managing T1d under demanding conditions. We learned how to fuel Liam on various parts of an outing. We learned to pack back-up supplies. We learned how to keep his insulin from getting too hot or too cold. It was both challenging and emboldening. Over time, we came to view climbing as a vehicle to empower others with T1d to come together and embrace adventure.
To that end, we launched Rock Type 1 three years ago. We host indoor and outdoor rock climbing events that aim to empower kids and teens with T1d and provide a stronger sense of community among families affected by T1d. It can be incredibly powerful for kids to meet other kids who face the same challenges they do and for parents to connect and share stories and support.
Our 4th annual indoor climbing event is scheduled for March 18, 2017 at Central Rock Gym in Watertown, MA. We are expecting a great turnout for this event! Thanks to the generous support of Tandem Diabetes Care and their Live Life in Full Color Speaker Series, the amazing T1d mountain climber Will Cross will be sharing his inspirational message with us.
We will host our third annual outdoor weekend of climbing this summer (date to be determined) in Rumney, NH. Last year, our weekend culminated in a 300-foot multi-pitch climb with amazing views of the valley below. It was an incredible weekend of adventure and connections.
Learn more about Rock Type 1 and follow them on Instagram at “rocktype1” and Twitter @rocktype1
Read more about Will Cross – First T1D to Summit Mount Everest.