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Type 1 Diabetes Challenge Machu Picchu: It’s All in the Attitude

Peter Nerothin is always up for an adventure

Laura Kolodjeski of Sanofi US DiabetesLaura Kolodjeski

Explorer Edmund Hillary once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” This past July, an international team of climbers living with type 1 diabetes set out to do just that. For the second year, Sanofi partnered with the World Diabetes Tour to support Type 1 Diabetes Challenge, with the goal of demonstrating a positive attitude and inspiring other people living with type 1 diabetes all over the world, along with their families and caregivers.

You may remember last year’s mountain climbing expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro. This year, the 12-strong team (10 of whom live with type 1) trekked across the Andes mountains in Peru toward the ancient Inca settlement Machu Picchu. Adventurer Peter Nerothin was among them, and I was excited to get a quick Q&A about his experience.

Q: You spent five days on the trail, sleeping in a tent in pretty rugged conditions. What was the climb like?

Peter Nerothin at Machu Picchu
Peter Nerothin at Machu Picchu

A: Mother Nature gave us a dabble of everything up there. Beautiful sunshine, mystical fogs, dazzling stars at night and one thunderstorm while we were descending to camp. It’s the unexpected elements like weather that can really force you to dig deep. The more challenging it got, the closer we grew as a group.

The best we could do was prepare. After that, it’s all about self-awareness and adaptability to me. The more practice I get in uncharted territories, the more prepared I am for the next trip. This has a tremendous application in daily life at home. Life is filled with curveballs, so drawing on these past experiences is key in taking on whatever comes my way.

Q: How do you manage your blood sugar during trips like this?

A: I pack for the apocalypse, especially when I’m traveling to new environments. Once I’m moving, it’s test, test, test. If there are other people with diabetes around, I’m always talking to them about my strategies and trends. This helps me try to keep out of trouble and opens the door to great new insights about how my body works.

Q: Nine other people living with type 1 diabetes from across the globe climbed with you. How did it feel to be a part of the team?

A: So awesome! Everyone brought a different perspective and philosophical twist on life. The key takeaways for me all had to do with how we choose to approach diabetes psychologically. We all faced different practical challenges in our home countries, so the common denominator all came down to attitude. And everyone had something positive to contribute on that front. The whole experience would have been meaningless to me without the team aspect. It’s such a great metaphor for our daily journey with type 1 diabetes.

Peter Nerothin on the trail to Machu Picchu
Peter Nerothin on the trail
to Machu Picchu

Q: What was your favorite memory from the climb?

A: My favorite memory was seeing the joy in [fellow climber] Eshaan’s face when we reached Salkantay Pass. This was his first experience at altitude, and I could just tell it was the beginning of something very special for him. There was a fire kindling in his soul and everyone knew it wouldn’t be long until he was carrying a torch for the global diabetes community.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the climb?

A: With the conditions my diabetes management took some trial and error to figure out. Despite being in a remote part of the world, the team was there to help me troubleshoot the situation. It was a great learning opportunity for everyone!

Q: What will you take away from this climb?

A: This trip reminded me that it’s essential to break away and take a long look in the mirror. To really ask myself how I’m doing with my diabetes. You don’t get this type of personal reflection at the doctor’s office. I’m scripting my next personal adventure as we speak.

Q: What advice do you have for others who live with diabetes and are interested in doing a climb like Machu Picchu?

A: Do it. If people are discouraging you from pursuing your dreams, you’re talking to the wrong people. Active people living with diabetes are crawling around mountains like ants these days—just go out and find them!

Q: What’s your favorite place to climb?

A: I like to climb out of bed to whatever adventure is scheduled for the day. Sometimes it’s an expedition, but more often it’s the little things that keep me active and happy on a day to day basis—surfing, biking, running…even just long walks with friends and loved ones.

I’m so impressed with all that the team accomplished, and the inspiring example they set. Be sure to check out the photos and videos shared via Twitter at @T1DChallenge. Many thanks to Peter for sharing his experience.

All the best,

Laura K.


Peter Nerothin received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

The Type 1 Diabetes Challenge project was led by World Diabetes Tour in partnership with Sanofi Diabetes.

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