Adventure Roundup: Maggie Crawford
Rock climber, mountaineer, surfer, and ultramarathoner
Home Base: Encinitas, California
Diabetes: Diagnosed with type 1 at age 24 in 2013, after experiencing symptoms on a mountain
Treatment Tools: Insulin pens and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)
Talk About Highs: Maggie Crawford knew something was wrong while leading a Wyoming mountaineering expedition in the summer of 2013. Experiencing an upset stomach that she assumed was from water poisoning, she used a satellite phone to call her headquarters—but she was 20 miles from the nearest road. It took her a day to hike to it. It took another day to get a ride to Denver, then several more before she could fly home to California and see her doctor, who started her on treatment for type 1 diabetes. “I had been functioning in the mountains on a blood [glucose level] of like 400 for months,” she says.
Managing on a Mountain: Getting a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) was a game-changer for Crawford, who’s now able to share real-time updates with a climbing buddy. “She would hear [the alert for rapidly falling glucose] and would yell, ‘You gotta eat some food’ from really high above or below me,” Crawford says. She keeps glucose gels in a pocket that’s easily accessible while climbing and stashes insulin, dried fruit, and her CGM receiver in a fanny pack. On multi-day trips, her hands get grimy, so she also carries water for washing, along with hand sanitizer to use before testing her blood glucose.
Finding a Balance: The things Crawford loves—extreme distance running, high altitudes, daily surfing—are risky, even for people who don’t have diabetes. But Crawford, a PhD student studying diabetes management, refuses to give them up. “I can’t imagine not doing the things I do. They make me tick,” she says. But she makes some sacrifices: She won’t try to climb all of California’s 14,000-foot peaks in five days (only three people have done it), though it used to be on her bucket list. She says no to some adventures so she can ensure she’ll have more in the future. “With diabetes, too, there’s always curveballs,” she says of the challenges managing the condition. But, she adds, “It’s totally worth it.”