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 Project “Diabetes-8000”

The project “Diabetes-8000” has two origins. Some 25 years ago I read a book by British author Paul Brunton, entitled The Yogis. At that time I was 15, and I was so enthralled by the description of the Indian subcontinent that going there became my ultimate dream. Actually, that dream came true sooner than expected, and I started on my first voyage to India in 1984. A short trip also took me to Nepal, where glimpsed the Himalayas. This glimpse left me with the strongest of impressions and had lasting consequences, because I have traveled to this mountainous area many times over the past twenty years. I have visited both Nepal and India five times, Tibet twice, and I have also been to Tansania. Yet, apart from the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, I never really felt the need to climb a high mountain. Trekking in the shadows of Ama Dablam, Annapurna, Kangchenjunga, Cho Oyu, Lhotse, and Chomolungma (Mt. Everest) provided me with a feeling of great exaltation and I learned to put things in perspective when I was surrounded by these huge wonders of nature.

I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes on 15 December 1999. The symptoms, which I did not interpret correctly at that time, had started occurring in September of that year. And that was the second genesis of this project.

During the first months I had problems handling my metabolic disorder. These predicaments were all of a psychological order, although there were no difficulties with the therapy as the right dose of insulin was soon determined. Yet, I felt like I had to prove to myself that my body was still functioning and able to deliver whenever I wanted it to. Sports was not an option because I had always been quite active in that sense, therefore it did not represent a big enough challenge. Hence, I planned my first ascent of a peak, the 6010m Mt. Thingchinkhang in the former kingdom of Sikkim in Northeast India.

This ascent, successfully completed in 2000, was the first that I tried as a diabetic. There were no health-related problems at all, and I only had a low blood sugar level once, before the ascent even started. While I was climbing this mountain, I never had a lower level than 75 mg/dl at the end of the day.

This trip, and the ALD seminars that I have attended, made me realize that diabetes can be overcome. There are highs and lows in the daily life of a diabetic, of course, but I have considerably changed my attitude towards my metabolic problem. When I said that “I suffer from diabetes” at the beginning, I now very consciously stress the fact that “I am a diabetic”, because an illness that you suffer from entails many more problems than those that result from diabetes. 

This change of mind made me create this project “Diabetes-8000”, through which I want to prove that you can, quite literally, overcome diabetes by climbing the Cho Oyu. This expedition and the ascent of the 8201m high mountain is scheduled for April and May 2004, and the whole project will span over three years.

After extensive research and many requests, I contacted the American agency (International Mountain Guides. There were two reasons behind this choice. First of all, they have already had some experience with diabetics who were part of other expeditions, though not on the Cho Oyu, and, secondly, they are the most successful expedition agency for that particular mountain with 9 out of ten expeditions that actually reached the summit. One undertaking had to be abandoned because of bad weather conditions. Still, this company has managed to get all its members on all their expeditions to the Cho Oyu back safe and sound.

The Agenturleiter, Mr. Eric Simonson, endorsed my application and said that an ascent in 2004 could be envisaged. However, he also suggested I should go on two more expedition-style ascents before the Cho Oyu, so that I would be fully prepared for the conditions that prevail while climbing a mountain as high as 8201m.

Mr. Raymond Behm invited me to take part in his “Seven Summits” scheme, and to climb the Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska, the highest peak in North America, alongside the other members of his expedition. Climbing that 6193m high peak in May and June 2002 will offer the possibility to experience climatic conditions similar to those on the Cho Oyu, and I will also get first-hand experience of ice-climbing. Unfortunately, Mr. Behm has just cancelled this project of a national expedition, so that I have had to do all the organizational work myself. I got in touch with the expedition agency “Mountain Trip” very quickly and I can take part in a commercially lead expedition starting on 10 May.

In January and February 2003 I will then climb Aconcagua in Argentina, which is the highest mountain in South America with 6960m. This ascent will also go trough all the stages that are characteristic of a typical expedition, with base camps, intermediate Camp, and high camp. Climbing this mountain will give me the possibility to assess my body’s response to high altitudes, which will obviously be of invaluable help in the preparation of the final challenge, Cho Oyu itself. Incidentally, I will design and plan the expedition to Aconcagua myself.

The pinnacle of “Diabetes-8000” is scheduled for May and June 2004, when I will participate in a commercially lead expedition to try to reach the summit of Cho Oyu, 8201m above the sea, by way of an approach from the north flank, situated on Tibetan territory. This expedition will be lead by the American “International Mountain Guides Agency”, which has been extremely successful on that mountain in the past, and which has also achieved some fame through the “Mallory-Irvine Research Expedition.”

You can follow the unfolding of project “Diabetes-8000” on these pages because the ALD plays an important role as sponsor and patron of my expeditions. There are a number of aims that go with my project. Foremost is the realization of a personal dream, when I will be able to climb a mountain that is more than 8000m high, and even before that, when I will test the limits of what I can achieve, raising the stakes with each new ascent, despite diabetes. However, it is also my wish to help other diabetics by inspiring them and  by making them realize that diabetes does not mean the end of all one’s dreams when it comes to physical endeavors. Finally, this project will also help the ALD raise public interest in their work and goals.

I hope that we can share plenty of adventurous stories on these pages over the following years.

Patrick Hoss

Update 6/2002: Patrick reached the Summit of Denali on the 26th of May 2002 at 7:00 pm. His full report is here.

In the meanwhile: Patrick at the Summit Of Denali!

Update 4/2003: The second stage: Cerro Aconcagua, 6962m (Argentina)


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