Project 365 ~ Climbing above the limitation of diabetes


Life is a fatal condition from which no one will ever recover or even survive. Every day is a constant struggle to manage our symptoms. Whether from illness or injury we all experience aches and pains, especially as we get a bit older. We suffer from chronic fatigue that can only be relieved with eight hours of bed rest every evening. And of course there’s our addiction to food, water and oxygen. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year we fight to maintain our existence knowing all the while that we are waging a battle that we will ultimately lose. Our death is inevitable. The question is, through the course of our lives will we truly live?

With the added disadvantage of type-1 diabetes climber and filmmaker Steven Richert set out on an adventure to push the boundaries of his illness. His goal was to devote every day of his life for an entire year to climbing while diligently managing the symptoms of a disease that could kill him. In his film Project 365  Richert struggles to carefully balance his blood sugar levels with regular injections of insulin. While traveling across the country to visit the most prestigious climbing spots in North America he sets out on an ambitious road trip meant to rise above the limitations of diabetes as well as gravity in the vertical world.

Selling everything they owned Richert and his wife Stefanie embarked upon a year-long journey in 2012. With just climbing, camping and camera equipment they packed their meager possessions into a less than reliable automobile to live the best they could in true dirtbag style on the road. Stipulating only that Richert would climb every day of their trip the couple headed west in search of rocks and high cliffs. Climbing indoors when the weather was less than cooperative or ascending the brick walls of urban buildings Richert put in his time scaling up any route he could find.

Combining even parts of diet and exercise he worked to keep moving while constantly monitoring his blood for the essential peptide hormone insulin that regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat in his body. Refusing to allow diabetes  to stifle his climbing ambitions Richert very thoughtfully and proactively managed his daily activities to assure his good health and continued progress through the life he deliberately chose to lead.Project 365:001

The embodiment of life’s own metaphor Richert’s Project 365 illustrates what’s possible when a person decides to defy the mitigating circumstances of their existence. Like anyone struggling to move beyond a physical disability or traumatic event Richert demonstrates how to identify, confront and overcome limitations without allowing them to define who we are or what we are capable of achieving. Though meant to raise awareness for the active lifestyle options that are available to millions of people today who suffer from type-1 diabetes Project 365 also offers up many valuable lessons for anyone who questions their ability to accomplish difficult or seemingly impossible goals.

As able-bodied individuals create excuses for their sedentary lives on the couch little do they realize that death is slowly creeping up on them. Those who refuse to manage their health and wellness by eating right and working out even a few days a week may be on their way to a slow and painful death. Type-2 diabetes could be in their future. Like Richert if we all carefully work to monitor and control the debilitating symptoms of life instead we can look forward to a long and happy existence full of adventure.

Steven and Stefanie Richert are the co-founders of Living Vertical, an organization dedicated to creating and promoting a “new normal” of life with diabetes

The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to generous support of fans on Patreon Patreon_Logo

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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.