Carpe Diem! The Glaciers are Melting! Wedgemount – September 20, 2014

The Trip

With snow already hitting some of the higher peaks and our nights getting cooler, it’s safe to say Fall is underway. I’ve soaked up as much sun as possible this month, including an excellent day in Garibaldi Park. Last Saturday, a few of us hiked up to Wedgemount Lake. Not a bad way to mark the start of the end of a hiking season.

Tall trees, rushing creek, and pristine alpine views. The hike to Wedgemount Lake is a Garibaldi classic. With the 1200m gain within the first 6km, you have to be willing to work for it. This steep trail was the perfect attitude adjustment.

The trail climbed steeply through a thick forest with minimal views, aside from a few glimpses of Wedgemount Falls through the trees. After we emerged from the forest, we scrambled (well, I scrambled. The others seemed fine hiking on 2s.) up a steep, rocky slope through sub-alpine meadows; this was the hardest part of the day. One final push over the ridge and there it was, in the middle of 360-degree sweeping views of stunning peaks and glaciers. The suffering was instantly worth it.

We took a short break a little past the BCMC hut and continued on around the lake to the toe of the glacier. We wanted to check out the glacier, but more importantly we wanted to have a bit of a recon of the Mount Weart approach for a future trip. I couldn’t take my eyes (or camera) off of the glacier; the alpine here was truly picturesque.

Note that glaciers are always dangerous. You should never go on a glacier without the proper equipment and crevasse rescue training. The glacier here is difficult to read – rockfall coming from the slopes above have fallen on the glacier making it difficult to see where the glacier ends and where the rock begins.


The Diabetes Management

I was relatively stable for most of the day between drinking nearly 3L of water and correcting a small portion of everything I ate. At our turn around point, beyond the toe of the glacier, I started feeling somewhat nauseated and light headed.  I checked my blood sugars and I was disheartened to see a reading of 4.3mmol.  From how I was feeling, I could tell it was dropping quickly.

Low blood sugar symptoms include lightheadedness, dizziness, and disorientation – all of which are major concerns when we’re hiking. When my blood sugars are low, Ryan makes a point of hiking behind me to watch my footing – indirectly keeping track of my low and making sure I don’t have a bad fall.

A reading of 4.3mmol was a problem. If I became nauseous to the point of throwing up, I would be unable to keep anything down in my stomach. Not being able to keep anything down would mean I would not be able to get any sugar into my system; I wouldn’t be able to prevent my blood sugars from going even lower. 4.3mmol is already a dangerous enough low, particularly on a mountain with a long hike back to civilization. If my sugars kept dropping and I wouldn’t be able to bring them up on my own, the only solution would be to go to the hospital and get hooked up to an IV. Not an option many kilometers away from the trailhead.

We rested while I loaded up on sugar. I went through 4 packs of shotbloks and checked my blood sugars 20 minutes later for a reading of 4.8mmol – which was even more alarming. My blood sugars were rising slower than usual and my symptoms were not letting up. Four packs of shotbloks should have raised my sugars up to my 20’s.

The time was 5ish. Sunset was 7:30ish. Ryan was calculating in his head that Search and Rescue would need two hours to get in before the light window closed and I would either have to walk out or make an emergency bivy at the hut for the night (if I were too low to walk out). We agreed if my sugars weren’t trending up and I wasn’t feeling better within half an hour, he would make the call. This is why I love hiking with a guy who carries a VHF rescue radio and smoke flare. We had half an hour before we had to make the call.

I slowly made my way back towards the lake with Ryan and Alex trailing close behind.  My next blood sugar check was about 15 minutes later. I had reached a level of 5.9mmol. I immediately felt the symptoms rush out of my body and we picked up our pace. How much of that was psychological (from seeing my readings were improving) vs an actual physiological improvement, I can’t say. Probably a bit of both.

We had already planned to hike out in the dark by headlamp, so we took our time heading out. I made sure to check my sugars regularly and they were stable to trending higher. Even with all of the bloks I had, I only topped out at 12.3mmol. Luckily, based on past hiking experiences, we made sure to pack many extra bloks, so running out of sugar resources was not a concern.


The Route

Wedgemount Lake and Glacier 3D Wedgemount Lake Hike 3D View


The Views

On the way up:

Wedgemount Lake:

Wedgemount Glacier:

Foliage on the way back:

Headlamp hike out:



The Afterthoughts

Things to consider when you’re out hiking:

  • If something goes wrong (blood sugar-wise), do you have proper gear to spend a night out in the mountain?
  • Do you have enough diabetes supplies (test strips, batteries, insulin, and sugar) to last you a day, or 2, or 3, in the case of an emergency?
  • Does anyone know where you are and when to expect you back?
  • Do your hiking partners know what to do in the case of a type 1 emergency?
  • Always be aware of your situation and surroundings. Search and Rescue helicopters do not fly at night. If you call for help, a helicopter may not be able to reach you for evacuation. It will then be many more hours until ground crews will be able to reach you. If you see a risky situation developing, it may be better to call for help sooner rather than later; you don’t know how quickly it could escalate into a life threatening emergency with help far away.

Based on personal experiences, I’ve gotten into the habit of over-preparing for hikes, whether it’s a moderate day trip or a full day hike. I make a point of packing at least 1 full bottle of test strips, a bottle of short and long acting insulin (though I only need short acting for my insulin pump), syringes, extra batteries, and enough shotbloks to last for days. On top of that, I pack warm layers, rain protection, and an emergency bivy. Once in a while I feel bad seeing hikers carry small daypacks and minimal gear for easy 5-6 hour hikes, while I have my 35L bag packed with enough gear to last 3 days.

Given the condition of type 1 diabetes, our order of survival in the outdoors – shelter, water, fire, and food – is different from a non-type 1. Before considering how to build a shelter or fire and where to gather water, food, and other resources, we have to manage our blood sugars. I’d argue that our order of survival is: insulin, food, water, shelter, and fire.

In any case, I’ll get back on track. I know when it comes to hiking, the value lies in the journey, not the destination. I would argue that for 2 reasons:

  1. This trail is a steep slog
  2. Wedgemount Lake was an awe-inspiring destination.

Thanks for reading!

– Ash

2 Comments on “Carpe Diem! The Glaciers are Melting! Wedgemount – September 20, 2014

  1. Hi Ashika. I really like your style of writing, not too complicated but not to dull either. We also did this hike on Sept 15, the three of us, me, my wife and a family friend who is a member of the RCM-SAR, Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue in Richmond. I mentioned this because this guy is not a hiker and he insisted that he wanted to come with us just for fun. I told him that this was not your average hike, nor a walk in the park and i also gave him a link with the hike description and the difficulty rating. He called me back and said that the difficult rating must be for people who might be seriously out of shape and that it was not the case with him. I said ok. Me and my wife started to laugh after the phone call. We knew that he would regret his decision later on.

    The thing is, he was a NATO battle ship commander back in Europe, came to Canada 5 years ago and now he works at a office job. On water he is king, long distance excellent swimmer and scuba diving certified with lots of serious dives under his belt plus lots of search and rescue successful missions. That being said, he is really proud of himself and he thinks he is very fit, that is why he thought that this hike was going to be easy for him.

    Anyways our plan was to hike up to the glacier then scramble up Weart or if in case our friend was to tired, to do Cook instead. We usually start our hikes early in the morning so we got up at 4 and left my house in Burnaby at 4:30 am. Anyways we got to the trail-head and we started our hike. Our friend decided that he would lead the hike lol, once again bad idea. He was going up really fast, so fast that me and my wife had a bit of hard time keeping up with him. We usually start slow, to warm up and gradually increase our pace to moderate-fast until we reach a constant heart rate. We usually don’t stop for brakes until we reach the destination point. Occasionally we use the mountaineer rest step if the trail gets to steep but as i mentioned we don’t stop. Well now our pace was way off cuz basically he was sprinting uphill right from the start lol. I said to my wife to try to stay on his tail because soon he will get tired if he keeps going like that. Sure enough after 15 min he was done lol. We were tired too because of him but we knew we were going to use the rest step to recover while hiking. He had no idea what the rest step was, nor he was ready to learn it on site, his concern now was to take as many rest brakes as he could.

    His pride about being fit got crushed within the first 15 min of the hike. He started to feel sick and he was pale but he was determined to finish the hike. Anyways he suffered all the way till we got to the hut, he looked more like a sick patient that just got up from his hospital bed and started to wonder through the hospital hallways looking for help. At this point i was sure that he would not make it up to Weart nor up to Cook. He didn’t want to wait for us at the hut either. So then i decided to hike up the glacier and explore it a bit, take few pics the head back home. When we got to the glacier he got excited and he had a short burst of energy, he liked he glacier i think, he’d never seen one before. Me and my wife guided him on top of the glacier. I showed him how to navigate over the crevasses as we made our way deeper towards the center of the glacier. I guess i should have not done that. He took it for granted and thought he could jump over a larger crevasse to get to an ice cave that he wanted to photograph. Just when he was about to jump i grabbed him and pulled him back. He was a bit confused as why did i do that. I explained him that the crevasse he wanted to jump over was slabbed inwards and as soon as he would set his foot on the other side he would certainly slide right into it. Of course he did not understand that. After this i really got angry at myself for bringing him with us. He had no business being there. He was like a kid playing with fire.

    Two other friends i took hiking with me and both of them nearly got killed because once again they don’t listen. Maybe i will tell you those stories another time. So anyways time to head back. Now i was going to punish him for being so cocky and arrogant. I told him that on the way down we have to run all the way to the car. Being proud he was not able to say no even tho he knew that he could not do that. So he ran with us all the way to the car, fell few times, i had to help him to get up and carried him over some steeper terrain. He suffered hard but never gave up, the spirit of the soldier he said, lol. After the hike he told us that he couldn’t move from his bed for 3 days and did not go to work for a week.

    Here are few pics from that day in my comment below:

    Hope you liked my story,looking forward to share more with you folks 🙂

    PS: maybe we could do Weart together 🙂

    • Haha, your poor friend. Atleast his spirits were high towards the end of the trip. The mountains have a way of humbling us, some more than others! I have to admit, I’ve had a few ‘in over my head’ experiences when I first started hiking. Thankfully, I knew when to turn around and head back home.

      Gorgeous pictures! Let’s touch base and we can set something up, Weart or wherever – I know Ryan has been eying it for some time, I’d love to get out hiking and hear more stories :).

      Thank you for the feedback re: posts. Hope yours will be ready to publish soon!

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