Lessons from my tour of Mont Blanc

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 18 September 2018

As many of you know I spent part of my time off this summer on a hiking tour of Mont Blanc. It consisted of seven days hiking plus one rest day. We walked approximately 20km a day with sometimes over 2000 metres in elevation changes. Needless to say it was tough.

Last year I hiked Gross Morne in Newfoundland and thought that was tough. This was like hiking Gross Morne every day.

As with any great adventure you stretch your limits and learn a few lessons along the way.

Today I would like to share a few of mine.

  1. Even with all the preparation in the world, life can still throw you a curveball - not only did I have to make sure that I was physically in shape for this hike, I was very concerned about how my knees would handle it. I have torn my ACL and meniscus in both knees. One knee was surgically repaired, the other one wasn't. On a previous long hike a year ago I had quite a bit of pain with my left knee. I didn't want pain to prevent me from completing the trip ahead. So in preparation I took a joint formula for 3 months, I visited a colleague for some injections treatments, I went for massage therapy appointments, I ate an anti-inflammatory diet, and I used K-tape on my knee to improve the stability of my knee joint. All of the hiking I did in preparation did not cause me any pain so I thought I was ready. Well then came the curveball. Day one after our first ascent I started to have pain.
  2. Sometimes you just need to take the medication - I realized when I had pain the first day even after all the preventative measures I had taken, I needed to resort to an anti-inflammatory drug. I went from taking nothing to taking approximately 1000mg of Advil a day. I would not have make it through this hike without it. 
  3. You can have the best of both worlds - anti-inflammatories take away the inflammation and subsequent pain but at what cost? The main side effect of taking an anti-inflammatory drug is damage to the gut lining and microbiome. But luck was on my side. I brought a product with me called DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). This is a supplement that is used for the healing and prevention of ulcers. I brought it in case any of the food bothered my stomach but I ended up taking one tablet a night to prevent the medication from bothering my stomach.
  4. Sometimes you just have to go slow and that is OK - the other experience that I had on this trip was the feeling of not being able to breathe properly. It actually felt like I was trying to breathe through a straw. With the change in elevation some people can be prone to altitude sickness...especially if you ascend too quickly. I was concerned about slowing the group down with my knee on the descents so I went a little quicker on the ascents...until my body told me I couldn't. If I had ignored my body and forced my pace, my shortness of breath would have progressed to dizziness, and possible unconsciousness. Recognizing the warning signs and going a little slower the next time kept me out of some serious trouble.
  5. Life is not a race. Take time to smell the proverbial roses - have you ever accomplished a big task or goal and once you reach the end it's a little anti-climatic? We did it...the hike was over...yet I didn't really feel that different. That's because it is not just about getting to the destination. It is about enjoying every moment along the way. If you are head downs, deeply focused on the end result the whole time you really do miss the whole point of the adventure...everything you are lucky to experience along the way. Some of the best memories of this trip have nothing to do with whether or not we finished the hike.

So, thank-you friends for joining me on this adventure in person or in spirit. I hope my lessons help you in some way on your journeys as well.

Now I would love to hear from you! What lesson did you resonate with the most, or what lesson of your own do you have to share? Leave a comment below and I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

3 Replies to “Lessons from my tour of Mont Blanc”


I too felt, all the preparation in the world comment, life can still through you a curveball..I went away and took everything to prevent traveller’s diarrhea and my anxiety, and even though i took 101 supplements, I still got it… i got sooo sad.

Bill Beauchamp

“yet I didn’t really feel that different”

You confuse me. You are so accomplished in so many areas of life and I truly admire you.

That was genuinely a fulfilling accomplishment for you but it appears to me that that is how you have faced all of life. You put your head down and drive for the goal.

I base my life on the following statement! ” we as human beings, behave and act, not in accordance with the truth but the truth as we perceive it or believe it to be!”

That statement opened me to understanding other’s but more to the point, it helped me to understand myself!

Well done Dr. Durkin!

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Yes, I agree – we each have our own perceptions of what reality is – and sometimes it is our perception that is the only thing holding us back.

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