Arid deserts and icy peaks – Geri Winkler loves extremes. The Vienna resident is the third Austrian and the first person with diabetes to conquer the Seven Summits – a group of mountains comprising the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. By successfully scaling Mount McKinley (Denali) in Alaska, which is nearly 6,200 meters high, the type 1 diabetic – whose pancreas can no longer produce the vital metabolic hormone insulin – has conquered the final mountain missing from his collection. “I’ve fulfilled a life-long dream with this climb,” says the adventurer after his return to Vienna. “The tour was physically demanding, but at the same time an unbelievable experience mentally.”
The success of his Seven Summits project was dependent not just on endurance and physical fitness, but also particularly on a functioning insulin therapy. This gives the diabetic athlete a high level of flexibility, as he can administer the hormone according to his body’s demand for it. To regularly monitor his glucose level, Winkler always has a blood glucose monitoring system from Bayer HealthCare with him on his journeys around the world. The system provides the avid outdoorsman with reliable and precise measurements and therefore gives him security. “I prefer a system that is easy to use and good for ten tests after I insert the sensor disc,” says Winkler. Of particular advantage is the fact that the system doesn’t need to be manually coded when a new test strip pack is opened – a frequent source of errors. After all, reliable test results are vital for the athlete.
Winkler made the decision to take up the Seven Summits challenge in the fall of 2003. “What made the project so appealing was climbing the highest peaks in regions and climate zones that are completely different in terms of landscape,” explains the globetrotter. On the agenda were expeditions to Mount Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus, Aconcagua in South America, Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Kilimanjaro in Africa and Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania. The biggest athletic and mental challenge of the project, however, was the ascent to the roof of the world – Mount Everest. In May 2006, Winkler became the first diabetic to reach the 8,848 meter-high summit of the world’s highest mountain.
Whether it’s wild glacier ridges in the Andes or rocky deserts in Africa – despite breathtaking landscapes, Winkler has never underestimated the risks of his tours. The beauty of mountainous terrain is often deceptive, as the adventurer must expect avalanches at any time. Winkler knows that he has to carefully prepare himself for each mountain. He never gave up and lost sight of his main objective. Thanks to his strong willpower, the passionate mountaineer successfully completed his Seven Summits project. “You have to believe in yourself and keep setting new goals for yourself,” says Winkler, describing his philosophy of life.
About Geri Winkler
Geri Winkler was born in Vienna in 1956 and has suffered from type 1 diabetes for 24 years. His passion is the discovery of foreign countries, cultures and communities. He prefers to explore these worlds on foot or by bicycle. On May 20, 2006, he reached the 8,850-meter summit of Mount Everest. It was the longest ascent of all time, as Geri Winkler began the climb at the lowest point in the world – on the banks of the Dead Sea in Jordan, 411 meters below sea level. Traveling alone by bicycle and ultimately on foot, he reached the base of the world’s highest mountain in five months before ascending to the peak together with an American colleague.