A rather poignant aniversary

April 17, 2023

8680891082 3a6f33beae oTen years ago today I was walking around the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau when an email came in from my Doctor to say that the results of my tests can come back and I had Type II Diabetes.  There is an irony there in the speech by Obersturmfürer Hössler to Greek Jews about the enter the gas chambers, which I recorded in the post I wrote the day afterwards.  I’ve made the point several times since, orally and in writing, that the context of the place put a harsh perspective on what was a small issue in comparison.  And, while the rest of this post, it more a reflection on my journey at least that isn’t over yet, while it was for nearly everyone arriving on that fateful railway line.

Nine years ago today I completed my challenge to complete all 214  Wainwrights in forty days.  450 miles horizontally and 130, 463 feet vertically.   The average daily total was 11.26 miles, 3,262 feet in just under 9 hours.  The discovery in 2017 that I had no cartilage left under my knees, a permanent consequence of obesity which triggered diabetes, explains the slow average.  Going up is fine as are the ridge walks, but going down is a different matter.  Using kinesiology tape, two strips per knee after cutting has speeded me up a bit and removed the more severe pain, but I still live in fear of a slip as that will put me out of action for a few weeks and could leave me stranded on the hillside awaiting mountain rescue.

I wasn’t aware last year, although I should have been, of completing that challenge on the ninth anniversary.  I was just disappointed that I hadn’t made it on my birthday.  But it does make for a good opening paragraph in the Walking through Diabetes book for which I have been keeping notes.  Since then I’ve walked around and through Wales, not to mention trekking the Forbidden Mountains in Albania, which was significantly harder than the Annapurna base camp walk.  On my 65th I spent the week in the Cradle Mountain area of Tasmania and I’ve rediscovered the mountains of Wales, especially in Eryri and Bannau.    It’s good to see us reverting to Welsh names and displacing the Saxon ones by the way.  Travel means I have been able to walk in the Rockies, the Columbian River Gorge along with sites in South Africa, the Blue Mountains and coastal paths around Sydney and multiple paths in New Zealand, south and north islands.

Last year I also completed the South West Coastal Path in the UK which has taken around ten years; it was an accident in the early stages that resulted in a hospital consultant suggesting that I might have Diabetes and suggesting I get it checked.  I’m eternally grateful for that by the way, otherwise, by the time it had been picked up, it might have been too late to achieve the reversal.  I didn’t write a blog post on completion which was remiss of me but I’ve inserted a photo IMG 2433of the finish point, which also displays the kinesiology tape and the bulky full-frame camera, in its skout, the discovery of which has made my life so much easier.

I had the good sense to go public with the fact I had Diabetes although it took me a couple of weeks to pluck up the courage and I then documented the whole journey in a series of posts.   It kept me honest. people accommodated an issue I was not trying to hide which made things a lot easier.   I also take considerable satisfaction that going public encouraged others to follow the same path.

I also discovered that I really don’t like short walks.  Even on the road bike (mountain biking is for adrenaline junkies, not reflection), I don’t really like to go out for less than 50km.  Being on the hills, or the coast for eight hours or more (five of my Wainwright walks were over 11 hours) allows for reflection and I really despise those who carry music with them onto the hills, even with the privacy of ear pods.  It’s also allowed by collector habits to come out, always with justification.   I have four sets of boots, one for summer, two for three seasons and one for crampons.   And as of this birthday, I also have four rucksacks at 18, 24, 33 & 48 litres.  Walking those distances weight minimisation is an issue and given I am normally carrying 2.5kg of camera equipment optimisation of the rest is critical.  I’ve also got a little obsessional with GPS tracking of each walk, initially with Viewranger and now with Outdooractive its successor.  That means I can prove that I walked the path and it keeps me honest.  A few times I’ve had to add several miles to a walk when I made an error the previous day.   Interesting I cycle in kilometres but walk in miles.  Never really worked out why.

The other thing I have learnt is the need to keep up the exercise and engagement in the world around me.  One of the reasons my weight soared was the stress of creating a new business with constant travel.  It was the easiest thing in the world to collapse into yet another hotel room (at the peak I was spending 252 nights a year) and order comfort food.  OK, there are risks, I’ve broken a rib and had to have eight stitches in my forehead after a fall – still my best-ever tweet by the way.  But overall the mountains have been kind, but from time to time remind me not to take them for granted.  And from time to time I forget myself and do stupid things.

So this post is here simply as a matter of record and also a part of my project for the last year to start linking current thinking to multiple past blog posts.

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