Of all the activities I do to stay fit, hiking and trekking mountains are high on the list. Recently, I had the privilege of working for a client in the state of Arizona, and while I was there, a co-worker and I hiked the highest point in the state: Humphrey’s Peak.
Despite being 15,800 feet above sea level, this climb offers even relatively inexperienced hikers the chance to reach the summit with planning and a steady pace. At these heights, it can be easy to develop altitude sickness if you aren’t well-hydrated and ascend too quickly, which can happen more easily than you might think on a 9.5-mile round trip.
Since Risk Management is a part of what we do daily at netlogx, I’ve always welcomed this kind of challenge. Though for me, there are other risks I have to plan for. In the famous words of Wilford Brimley in the Liberty Medical commercials, “I have diabetes” (I encourage you all to imagine me impersonating his voice).
While diabetes is something, I have been managing for quite some time, risks increase exponentially when you hike up a mountain ascending from 9,000 ft. to 12,800 ft. Being stranded on the side of a mountain with low blood sugar could have potentially fatal consequences. Or at the very least, expensive consequences (like a helicopter ride off the mountain).
Our risk management plan when climbing Humphrey’s Peak was very much a slow and steady approach—which wasn’t a bad thing! It allowed us to appreciate the climb more and is a great approach for anyone who is interested in attempting something similar.
Without a doubt, the most important thing to ensure my safety on the mountain was making sure that my blood glucose level never dropped below 70 (80-120 is considered normal). To do this, I checked my level every thirty to sixty minutes, so I had enough data to anticipate and prevent a crash.
In preparation for varying dips in my blood sugar, I packed plenty of “GU Energy Gel.” As the name would suggest, this is a goo that has tons of carbs, amino acids, and caffeine which are packaged as individual servings, so I don’t over-correct. I had a low level at least six times on the mountain and I went through a lot of GU, but I managed to have a few left at the end of the climb. Risk Managed!
A universal risk that we mitigated on our climb was the possibility of developing altitude sickness. The higher you climb, the less oxygen there is in the air. It would have been too rapid of a change to drive to the mountain and then climb it on the same day.
We camped Friday night at the base of the mountain to give our bodies more time to adjust to the altitude, which was 9,000 ft. During the night we made sure to drink a lot of water so we would be hydrated when we woke up.
Here’s a picture of how much water we drank in a 24-hour period: that night we drank roughly one and a half gallons each and then drank another half-gallon in the morning before we even started climbing. While we were on the mountain trail, we each carried a gallon in our gear. Needless to say, it was all used up by the time we came off the mountain. That brought our 24-hour total to about three gallons per person.
These few things were pretty critical for me and my diabetes to make it up this mountain. Thankfully, by thinking through our approach and mitigating as many potential risks as possible, we completed the hike to the summit and crossed this peak off our list, adding even more real-life experience to our Project Planning and Risk Management skills.