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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Can you dangle your diabetes off the side of a cliff?

I have been rappelling and boulder hopping since I was eleven.  Back in my day a bowline knot and a couple of trees was all you needed to rappel.  So when my son kept getting more and more interested in rock climbing and rappelling I decided he should first know how to do it safely and I also needed to update my knowledge on modern knots and gear.
Last Saturday was our first of three training classes on getting our "climbing and rappelling instructor certification."  My son is getting his "climbing and rappelling instructor in training" certification since he is under the age of 21.  He does the same classes just he has to be with an official "instructor" to rock climb and rappel in certain places. 
The first photo above you see is me in the middle looking over the edge of the tower.  I set the knots for our rappel down with a top belay.  Then the two photos below that are of me going down on a double fireman's rappel.  The really neat thing about this class is how hands on it all is and how the instructors teach the modern knots and allow the participants to design how the gear and everything should be.  The teachers do check everything before we dangle each other off the side of the wall.  The first thing the lead instructor asked in the class was "Are there any people here that have any medical issues the class needs to be aware of."  That was music to my ears to hear how the lead instructor wanted to know of any issues before we got going.  I of course mentioned I was diabetic and the instructor asked me where my backup candy was and I pulled out my glucose tablets from my pocket and showed him.  He then told the class to watch where I put them.  Then I always make sure someone has my glucagon pen on them.  My buddy Paul was gracious enough to carry it for me.  Sometimes don't you wish everything started that way?  Getting all the FYI stuff out in the open for everyone to know and participate in.  I am very open about my diabetes but it sometimes is hard to stop people and make them aware so for the head of a class to stop everything and get it out was great.
To be honest I was nervous to be grumpy old school person but with all the positive instructors and great students it turned out to be a real fun day and I did learn alot of good new things.  The first thing was to see what is known as an "ATC" which literally means Air Traffic Controller as a belay and rappel device.  When I was growing up we had the choice of a "figure 8" or a "rescue 8" which just meant the rescue 8 was larger and had dog ears on it so you could tie off.  In my college days we used to always have to use a rescue 8 to repell down to cut the hair of one of the ladies that came with us.  We always told them to put their hair into a pony tail but it never failed that someone would not listen or wear a baggy shirt and have to get it cut out.
Back to friends and support.  Everyone was so nice to me about asking me if I felt OK once the heat picked up in the evening and Paul brought my favorite sour gummy worms to snack on whenever we had a break.  If you never get outside with diabetes you don't understand how much energy you burn by just moving aroundtrying to scale the side of a wall or dangling your diabetes over the edge.  My numbers were around 150 most of the morning and when the sun came out they came down to 100 and a 58 thrown in there when I pushed it hard up one of the walls (OK so I did not go far but I tried hard).  Now we have two more classes left, one on Texas limestone climbing and another on lead climbing.  Should be lots of fun!  I am now thinking of getting my own rope and gear so we can ride off into the sunset and dangle over a cliff.

My son learned alot and payed attention.  When it came to clean up time he was chosen to lead the rope, gear, and tower cleanup and inspection.  He showed true leadership and had everyone do a specific job and we finished in no time.

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