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Huddersfield woman’s epic American trek for Diabetes UK

Helen Shepherd, from Huddersfield, will be taking on a five-month trek next spring to raise funds for Diabetes UK and raise awareness of the condition.



The 49 year-old will be looking to walk the length of the USA on the Pacific Crest Trail next year, 25 years after she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

The 2,650 mile, Pacific Crest Trail runs the length of the United States, through three states − California, Oregon and Washington.

Helen, a pension specialist, said: “A few years ago, I decided I wanted to do something big, something that would really push me out of my comfort zone and to show that having diabetes doesn’t have to stop you doing anything in life”.

The Pacific Crest Trail runs straight through mountain lion as well as black bear habitat. While unprovoked attacks are rare, the bears will try to get at any food hikers carry with them.

Helen added: “I’ll be wild camping on the route which means being aware of any potentially dangerous plants and wildlife. I’ll have to store anything that smells in a bear-proof caddy, away from my tent. Insulin also smells, but I’ll need that close by in case I need to use it during the night so I’ve found some odour proof bags online that I can keep my insulin in to help minimise the smell. A black bear’s sense of smell is seven times greater than a bloodhound which demonstrates why these steps are necessary.”

A trip like this needs a lot of planning, but having Type 1 diabetes means even more organisation. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, no one knows what causes it but it’s got nothing to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable. It is treated by daily insulin doses. Helen will have to make sure she can access insulin during the trip so that she doesn’t run out as well as keeping the insulin at the right temperature using a Frio bag.

She said: “I’ve made sure to take safety precautions. I’ll be carrying a satellite communicator, so that my family can track where I am and I’m planning on walking with another lady that I’ve been in contact with from Australia. I’ve also received a lot of support from the Pacific Crest Trail’s worldwide community as well as my sponsor, Craghoppers who are very kindly providing hiking clothes for the trek.”

The challenge has been years in planning, but Helen still didn’t know whether it could definitely go ahead until she was granted a permit in late November. She’ll now be setting off for America in April 2019, giving herself just five and a half months to cover the distance.

As well as planning, Helen’s been training for the past few years too. She added:

“Another huge motivation was to get fitter and doing regular exercise has also made managing my blood glucose levels easier. I’ve taken on a number of smaller challenges like climbing Snowdon and at the end of August I did the ‘Coast-to-Coast’ walk from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hoods Bay in North Yorkshire to help get prepared.”

“It’s full steam ahead now. I’m even more motivated − and nervous and excited − now the start date is in sight.”



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