At the Summit
A husband takes diabetes fund-raising to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro
For many people who participate in Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes®, the fund-raiser hits its peak at the event. David Shorten, DMD, had set his sights a little higher—19,000 feet higher, in fact.
Shorten, 56, of Louisville, Ky., climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania this January, raising money for the American Diabetes Association’s mission in the process. He climbed for his wife, Carol Kulp-Shorten, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than a decade. “I thought I would make the climb more than just checking something off my bucket list,” he says. So he signed up for his local Step Out event, set up a team leader Web page, and spread the word: He was using his adventure to raise awareness of diabetes. It worked—months before the local Step Out event, Shorten has raised more than $15,000 (and counting) for the ADA.
Shorten’s wife is proud of her spouse. “There aren’t too many men that would climb a mountain for a woman,” Kulp-Shorten quips. “I just happen to be married to one of those, and he inspires me.”
But getting to the summit wasn’t easy. In the two months leading up to the climb, Shorten—an experienced climber whose previous record was climbing to 14,000 feet in Colorado—trained hard, supplementing his mountain-biking routine with weight training and hour-long walks up a steep incline on his treadmill. Getting to Africa was itself an adventure and threw a monkey wrench into Shorten’s plans: His luggage, including most of his climbing gear, was lost by the airline. He didn’t have his sleeping bag, liner, nutritional supplements, trekking poles, and other vital equipment for the climb.
Such a loss might frustrate even the most nonchalant of climbers. But Shorten decided to roll with the mountain’s punches. “What I decided was to not come into this with any expectations,” he says. “Anytime something came up, I just thought, ‘This is the next thing that I have to get over.’ ” And so, with rental equipment, he began the eight-day climb.
The first few legs of the journey were fairly quick climbs, ascending to 10,000 feet above sea level and then beyond. On the sixth day, the climbers in Shorten’s group rested at 15,000 feet. The summit push began at midnight, climbing from 15,000 feet to 19,300 feet in the frozen darkness. It took him nearly eight hours to reach the peak of the mountain, but Shorten’s day wasn’t over then. He still needed to descend to camp at 10,000 feet, after days of intense physical activity and living on a diet very different from his usual meals at home. “There were big plates of white rice and potatoes, and they had a porridge for us for breakfast that I couldn’t quite identify,” Shorten says. “And every step, you’re pushing yourself. Especially at that 16, 17,000-foot level, you’re really pushing for every breath and have to really concentrate on it.”
Now back much closer to sea level in the United States, Shorten, a dentist, and Kulp-Shorten, a dermatologist, are using the climb and information from the American Diabetes Association to give their patients with diabetes better care. “Before Carol became diabetic, because of my dental training I knew what diabetes was, but I didn’t really understand the impact,” Shorten says. “[Now] I understand more what they’re going through, and I feel for what they’re having to endure on a daily and even an hourly basis. With that in mind, I thought this is a great opportunity. I think it’s had a great impact on the community.”