Discarding the anchor of diabetes
“SEE you in Santiago.”
They were the last words Gavin Wright emailed to his cycling buddies before they met in Chile to embark on a cycling odyssey.
Riding at a height equivalent to Mount Everest base camp, battling temperatures of minus 20 and high winds, the Gold Coast man set out to break the Guinness World Record for cycling at the highest altitude.
But Mr Wright battled more than just the elements through the South American mountains; he battled type 1 diabetes.
“All my life I have felt like I couldn’t do certain things because of my diabetes,” he said.
“When I reached 40, I said to myself ‘right, I want to do something about it’.”
He looked for the hardest and highest surface road in the world on his atlas, and found Chile’s Nevado Ojos del Salado. At an elevation of 6893 metres, it is the highest volcano on earth, located on the Argentina-Chile border.
“People said I was mad,” he said.
“As far as we know no one has ever cycled to such a high altitude. I wanted to be the first person to do it.”
Mr Wright, who rode with three others, said he was devastated to hear of the shattering earthquakes that rocked Chile.
“We had a lot of help from the hotel staff in Copiapo and the guest house in Santiago,” he said.
“They were just so lovely and went out of their way to help us, so I hope they are all okay”
For a person with diabetes, it is a fine balancing act to ensure blood glucose levels do not drop to a dangerous level.
“Half the group had diabetes and we made a point of stopping regularly to check our sugar levels,” he said.
Diabetes Australia chief executive officer Michelle Trute said Mr Wright was “an inspiration”.
“By being so physically active and looking after his health, he’s also reducing his risk of diabetes-related complications later in life,” Ms Trute said.
Mr Wright is now waiting to hear if his record will be officially recognised by Guinness World Records.
“As far as we know no one has ever cycled to such a high altitude.”