1000 feet of climbing before lunch! (video)

Red Rock Nevada was a great stop on our journey–because where else can you knock off 1000 feet of climbing before lunch on just about any given day? This was a short stop for us–three days or so–but that was enough for me to start off fighting a low blood sugar on the first day of climbing and dialing in my insulin and diet to match my energy output. By day 3 I felt like I hit a great stride and this really has improved my confidence about what I can do, despite having to deal with diabetes.

Stay tuned for more videos coming up about my journey with diet and tips about adapting type 1 diabetes to being more active. Being empowered to push our limits is an incredible tool to take back our health and the more I can do to encourage and facilitate that, the better!

If you enjoyed this video make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel as we keep on the move!

Ok. So here’s where I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever felt like some good has come from a challenging moment with your diabetes? Drop a comment and let’s chat!

Or if you’d rather discuss in private: steve@livingvertical.org

Ketogenic climbing | low carb athletes with T1D

I am considering doing a video series in the near future for low carb athletes with T1D about my dietary approach, trial and error and adapting the ketogenic diet to give greater blood glucose stability and athletic performance. I still feel like this is all in the “test phase” because the results I have had are not extensive. That said, I will be sharing developments as they occur in hopes of pushing the limits of what we are able to do with our diabetes.

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Losing control, gaining influence

Somewhere between pride and despair lies acceptance. I could only hear the sound of wind whistling past my ears as I stepped delicately around the airy corner; about 1500 feet of nothingness separated me from the ground. The fact that I was actually able to stand on the sloping, sandy ledge beneath my feet seemed to defy what I’d come to learn about physics. ‘Here goes literally everything‘ I thought for the 1,336th time since starting to climb “Cowboy Ridge that morning. I shifted my weight forward to test the only viable handhold that would grant me access to the ledge above. I tried to weight the hold gradually because I didn’t want to ricochet off into the void if it popped. I pulled back a handful of sand as the rock disintegrated in my hand.

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Climbing Cowboy Ridge in Zion National Park

I’ve spent a lot of time in Zion National Park over the last few years and it’s no secret that the climbing here is outside my comfort zone. Maybe that’s why I keep coming back–because there are “easy” climbs like Cowboy Ridge that have mocked me from afar. It’s a 5.7 filled with route-finding, loose rock and lots of elevation gain. It’s a long day and it’s far from civilized comforts should poor planning or blood sugar fluctuations interfere. It’s not the dark side of the moon, but it’s more involved than lowering down off a single pitch climb and ‘calling it a day’. Maybe this is part of getting back into the swing of things, but I’ve been more intimidated by this “loose end” than I’d like to admit, so I decided to tie it off ASAP.

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Suffering is your friend

We are exploring the theme of “change” as a team–and we are looking through a variety of “lenses” at what this means for us as we each deal with diabetes in our own way. I’ll kick things off…

This morning I did something very unusual. Well, for me, it was a BIG change. I went running–that’s right, on purpose! Before you runners get all excited and label me a “convert”, please understand that this is just cross training for the Team LivingVertical 2014 LEAD expedition. It’s a necessary evil. Just kidding. Sort of.

If you haven’t yet guessed, I am not a runner. When I lace up my kicks and start going for it, I begin hating life within a few short moments. It’s not like climbing which makes me feel alive–running makes me feel like I am dying. As I was doing my best to embrace this process as a “good” thing, I was struck with a relatively interesting thought: suffering, self denial, discomfort, inconvenience are all necessary to create the benefit of fully appreciating and understanding ones fitness and health.

"Up early". "Running". Words which DO NOT often apply to me. Time for a change!
“Up early”. “Running”. Words which DO NOT often apply to me. Time for a change!
I posted a version of this musing up on the Facebook Page and it spawned some discussion–some agreeing, some dissenting.

First off there is the obvious fact that suffering makes you appreciate what you have. For example, being out in the elements always “improves” the comforts of home by simply changing our attitude toward what we take for granted. The process of running, no matter how hateful at first, will ultimately benefit me through improving my metabolism, cardio-function, insulin sensitivity etc–and it will improve my climbing abilities on some level–assuming I continue to push through the part where I hate it.

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Beyond this, however, it occurred to me that it is only through significant challenge (this is a more objective way of saying “suffering”, just so we don’t wind up playing semantic tiddlywinks later in the comments section) that we gain awareness of how complex our bodies are. How they respond to changes in our sleep. Our diet. Our thinking and emotions. I know that without diabetes, I would not have the awareness of how these variables produce measurable change in my performance.

But even beyond diabetes–try sitting in a chair all the time. Don’t break a sweat. Avoid physical effort at all costs. Suddenly being fit or healthy loses a lot of value. You can be dehydrated, sleep deprived, weak, poorly nourished–and still get by without a measurable incentive to change those things if your lifestyle is sedentary. If you’re not taking on challenges that make the fitness matter–tangibly–then what’s the point? It’s really hard to prioritize fitness that you don’t test-and it’s hard to test anything without pushing it to the limit.

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I’m speaking from my personal experience, because for the last several months, that has been my life. Recently, I embraced change and I got off my behind to start dedicating time to training. I began to make better food choices. I began to feel the difference between 5 and 7 hours of sleep in a very real way. Drinking nothing but coffee and coke zero began to exact a very painful toll on me as I attempted to climb or run–so I began going to bed earlier. Drinking more water. Eating (and drinking!) less junk–and feeling the benefit in the moments of hateful exertion.

It’s surely a process. I know that the point of suffering is to gain durability and transcend the discomfort. Push that limit. Then, start over and push that new limit further. Change is a constant. Pushing limits is a constant process of growth. Few things provoke my ire more than when people say (in response to what we are doing here, with climbing) “Oh I could never do that. That’s for extreme athletes. I’m not at that level. I struggle with basic fitness–I’m not like you.”

Newsflash: I struggle all the time.

Headline: It’s not pretty or easy–I have just accepted that struggle as part of the process.

Pushing limits is pushing limits. As your limit changes, you will always be pushing it. That means if your limit is taking the stairs at work three times a week and you are bumping it up to five times a week, you ARE getting after it as much as we are when we go hundreds of feet up a wall or into the wilderness to explore unclimbed routes. That means we are working on the same project as long as we are pushing BACK. Don’t EVER diminish your struggle because of how you think it measures up to someone elses. I am guilty of that a lot. I always feel like a slouch because I feel like I don’t climb “hard enough”. I need to not do that–especially since I am asking you, my esteemed reader not to.

From the beginning of LivingVertical and Project365 I never aimed to inspire people by being a “great athlete”–because as compared to other climbers I am mediocre, sometimes just a little better on a good day. I’m not being modest. That’s a simple fact. Go into any climbing gym and you’ll find a handful of climbers who can send 5.12 with regularity. I’ve climbed two 5.12s in my life and both were gargantuan efforts for me. The real takeaway is what WE are doing together, every time we face our limit, whatever it may be and say, ‘yeah, I know this is going to suck but I am still going to try again’.

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Agree? Disagree? Can’t decide? Sound off in the comments below–after subscribing to the LivingVertical YouTube Channel!

Reaching the (bloggers) summit

Day 196 dawned early, after not enough sleep and before the sun was properly up. I thought pre-dawn starts were reserved for fishing and alpine climbing!


I headed over to ClimbTime Indy with the “other” Stephanie in my life who has been my media liaison since the outset of the Roche partnership. Not to be confused with my wife Stefanie who unfortunately could not attend this trip to Indianapolis…

Without going into an esoteric rant, reminiscent of an Oscar “thank you speech” I can tell you that there are SO many moving parts in the developments of the last several weeks (which are amazing, and are exponentially increasing the affect of Project 365) and without so much support I would be lost and babbling incoherently on a street corner somewhere. I can’t say enough to thank Stefanie for all her personal support and being my anchor through all this, and Stephanie for busting skulls and handling scheduling and logistics down to the smallest details.

So much for brevity.

We connected with Sherman Burdette from Fox 59 and we shot a climbing interview then headed back to speak at the bloggers summit.

I was so warmly received that it felt great to get up and share the story of Stef and myself taking on this project. I felt very appreciated and very understood as everyone at the summit has projects of their own to empower and better the diabetes community.

From the summit I went with Stephanie to Roche headquarters to meet the folks who have been putting their time and energy into creating this partnership and the website at www.stevesmountain.com. Again it was amazing to make more friends and to share the project in a personal way and really see and hear how it’s affecting folks.

Soon I will be back on the road and laboring in relative solitude again. Memories of the relationships built today will fuel me through whatever is hiding around the corner! This has been an amazing privilege.



One of the biggest challenges that type 1 diabetes presents is the complete and total lack of predictability. I guess 13 years of that has been a good warm up for this project. Weather and mail have been my biggest adversaries thus far and each time it looks like we are ready to get back on the road and make our next big push, something is in the mail and it somehow it stays out in the ethers and we stay here…becalmed in San Diego, waiting for it to arrive. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just another example of life getting in the way of even your highest-ranked priorities.

So, here’s hoping that in the next few days things get sorted out and we can get out of here. The good news is that there are some new developments that may be forthcoming in the next few weeks that could make a significant impact on the project. I will, of course keep everyone posted in due time, as said developments are tied up in outside processes that are bigger than our operation.

Also appearing in the “good news” column is the fact that I have been able to catch up on editing video and I am proud to be able to share my latest offering in this blog. I know that in the big scheme of things, this delay in our plans is not the end of the world and we have to stay psyched, motivated and keep climbing.

Today we broke 20,000 feet (20,235 to be more exact) and yesterday I completed my first aid climb (using gear for upward progress, aka stink-bugging due to the gear intensive and frequently slow moving nature of this style of climbing) which is the first direct step towards climbing a big wall in Yosemite this spring, so that was another significant milestone. At the end of the day, we are still moving closer to our bigger objectives via the detour route. It’s harder to see at times but we just have to knuckle down and win the battles and that’s how we can win the war.

The need for struggle from Living Vertical on Vimeo.

This video has it’s own mini-story in it–during this trip to Bishop, I spent a bit of time thinking about the need for struggle and the importance of failing your way to success. It’s humbling–and it is tough knowing that you have a high likelihood of getting your ass handed to you both in terms of your climbing and in the eyes of people who are watching. I struggle a lot with what people think. I know it “doesn’t matter” but it sort of does too–I feel like I don’t climb hard enough to impact people who are climbers and I don’t focus enough on my diabetes to interest the diabetic community as a whole.

In life–and in climbing, you battle yourself. You learn to control yourself, your movements and your emotions by being honest with yourself. At the end of the day, everyone has to choose where to mark “”North” on their own compass. For me, being true to my vision and honest is my guiding principal and I am willing to accept the fact that what comes of this project will be powerfully effective for some and meaningless for others. I can’t try and make people happy, just be thankful for the people who get it and keep being true to myself.

In this video, I had the opportunity to face my doubts about my climbing and the challenges of sharing this project with other people. It may sound silly, but when something is this personal, it cuts both ways. The impact of it can be much more powerful, but you tend to feel a lot more defensive or protective of it.

So I am learning to let go. Letting go can help you hold on tighter, if you can believe that. Once I let go, I sent my hardest yet, v4/5.12 (nothing to write home about but for me it’s significant because this is as strong as I have ever been) and I had the privilege of sharing some of my experience of living with diabetes with some friends that we made out amongst the boulders.


Day 2

Climbed: Approach 1000′, The Tower 5.7 55’x2 1110 ft

Total 2215′

Injected: AM Lantus 6u Humalog 4u PM Humlog 4u Lantus 5u

Carbs: AM 55g Snacks 2x 15(halfs of a Builder Bar) PM 50g snack 10g= 145g

Sugar is trending slightly low despite a significant increase in Carbohydrate intake and decreasing insulin. No major dietary tweaks, just oatmeal, Clifbars, saltines and Nori. 

Today was a good day. Sun, warm rock, relative solitude…with the notable exception of some local yahoos who were scrambling around on the cliffs above us and were hooting and hollering about how “they put metal thingies in the rock so climbers can tie their ropes up”. Got to charge up the little GoPro camera with the solar rig which was nice after being unable to put on enough layers to keep the cold out yesterday!

I have been getting some sage advice from some of my mentors on how to survive this process–which is helpful…sometimes when I really sit back and think about what I have ahead of me I begin to freak out. When we used to do these types of climbing trips our motto was “climb until the money runs out or it stops being fun”. Now that is a little bit different. We can’t step off this ride when it starts spinning too fast.

I am working on finding the fun in what we are doing–shifting perspective. The similarities between climbing and diabetes are remarkable. Climbing is all about  controlling yourself. So is diabetes. Being forced to do something that you SHOULD do…shouldn’t be so bad right? Looking at the big picture is always going to be overwhelming…and sometimes, yeah you need to step back, take it all in and scream $@*& at the top of your lungs.

But winning the battle over this condition lies in the ability to prioritize day to day tasks. This climbing challenge will succeed or fail based on that same merit. I challenge everyone to consider the direction and the value of your days–because like it or not, those days are going by and either you’re getting better at something, getting stronger and more experienced…or you’re not.

Sittin' on the dock of the bay (testing out a sweet new camera!)

We have a couple days left in North Carolina–which is bittersweet. We are superpsyched to be days away from heading west together for the first time in over a year. On the other hand we have gotten a rare opportunity to see my family for an extended period, specifically my sisters family. My sister has been deployed in Afghanistan for the last six months or so and the holidays are a tough time for her kids–so it has been a special opportunity for us to be there for them and just hang out and play poker and Mario Kart with them!

We are trying to get some “work” done but we are also trying not to be glued to our computer since we are going to have to be able to balance our time online, sharing our adventure vs time out climbing having said adventure! We are also a day away from having our roof rack in place which will add a LOT of room to the Dragon Wagon which is amazing, and we also have a trailer in the works too, so there are some big items “in the hopper”.

Today Stef went out for a “girls day” with my nieces and I took the boys out fishing–and got to shoot some–and I am slowly learning the moves with that camera.

So yeah…that’s the latest and greatest from pre-project 365! Coming soon, updated Dragon Wagon graphic photos, cargo carrier updates and etc!