Northampton native summits Everest for diabetes research

  • Taylor Adams, a Northampton native who now lives in Utah, climbed Mount Everest this spring. COURTESY OF TAYLOR ADAMS

  • Mount Everest in Nepal is the highest summit on Earth above sea level. COURTESY TAYLOR ADAMS

  • As climbing Mount Everest has become more popular than ever, the trail to the summit has become crowded.  COURTESY TAYLOR ADAMS

  • Taylor Adams, seen in his climbing gear on Mount Everest in Nepal, is a Type 1 diabetic who is climbing Earth’s highest peaks to raise money for juvenile diabetes research. COURTESY RAKESH PATEL

For the Gazette
Published: 6/10/2019 12:09:34 AM

Reaching the top of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, wasn’t among the most exciting climbs Northampton native Taylor Adams has embarked on.

“To be completely honest … [what] I remember the most is it being really boring,” Adams said. For over half of the nine-week trip, Adams spent hours playing card games each day with the 10 other climbers and three guides at base camps along the route and adjusting to different altitudes.

Adams summited Everest this spring. He said he was the fourth Type 1 diabetic to complete the climb, and is raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Adams’ interest in outdoor exploration and mountaineering began in the Pioneer Valley when he attended Northampton High School.

“I did a lot of hiking around Mount Tom and the Holyoke Range, and did a lot of canoeing on the Connecticut River,” he said. “It was a great place to do outdoorsy stuff nearby.”

Adams, who recently turned 30, went on his first mountaineering expedition to Ecuador in college. On the trip, Adams scaled the volcanoes Cotopaxi and Cayambe.

“From there, I fell in love with it,” he said.

As a diabetic, Adams faced a unique set of challenges on his Everest expedition. He climbed wearing an insulin pump and carrying the insulin he needed to regulate his blood sugar levels. While maintaining his own body temperature in rapid swings between extreme heat and extreme cold, Adams said he had to be careful to keep the insulin from freezing or becoming too warm.

“It was pretty much just always having to keep everything on my body, like in my inner pockets so it wouldn’t freeze and then at night keeping everything in my sleeping bag with me, which made it very difficult to fit into my sleeping bag,” Adams said.

Adams said he was able to restock his supply halfway through the climb. A helicopter that brings oxygen to restock climbers’ supplies also brought insulin that he had left in Kathmandu, the Nepalese city closest to Everest.

In recent years, climbing Mount Everest has become increasingly popular, leading to crowding on trails and at the summit. Crowding can cause delays that can lead to the death of climbers already exhausted or depleted of oxygen.

Adams, a pediatric ICU nurse in Salt Lake City, said he’s accustomed to seeing death in the hospital, but seeing it on Mount Everest was a very different experience.

“It’s real up there,” Adams said.

Adams saw several bodies along the trails, but said that he was so oxygen-deprived at the summit that he does not have many memories of his time at the very top.

“It’s also sort of nice because I don’t very clearly remember walking by dead bodies,” Adams said. “I’m not sad about that part.”

According to Adams, inexperienced climbers who slow groups down pose an even greater danger than sheer overcrowding. “There are people that should not be up there ... and it’s very clear as to who those people are.”

Adams witnessed two people suffering altitude sickness near an area where the trail narrowed. The two turned back after they began to slow down the group, and Adams said he heard they died later that day. At least 11 people have died after climbing on Mount Everest this spring.

“No one wants to turn around 100 feet below the summit, but that’s their responsibility and the responsibility of the people they’ve put their trust in,” Adams said. “And that’s not happening up there, which is where people get in big trouble.”

Adams had his own brush with death on his way down from the summit. After developing a bad cough, his throat closed up in a tent at an altitude of 26,000 feet, which is in the Everest “death zone,” where conditions make survival especially difficult.

A fellow climber who was a doctor treated him, and he was able to make it to base camp before he was treated with antibiotics in an ICU in Kathmandu.

Adams’ Everest climb was his sixth in a quest to complete the Seven Summits challenge, where people climb the tallest peak on each of the seven continents.

Adams first climbed Mount Denali in Alaska, the tallest mountain in North America, “on a whim” after graduating from Hamilton College in 2011. Adams said beginning the challenge with Denali is unconventional.

“Most people think of Denali as the second most difficult of them after Everest, and a lot people actually think it’s the most challenging because you have to carry all your own stuff,” he said.

He plans to climb the seventh mountain, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, later this year. Adams said that he will be the third Type 1 diabetic to climb all seven summits, and will be the first to complete the challenge while wearing an insulin pump.

Adams said his seventh summit will only take a day.

“It’ll be an anticlimactic way to end, but it’ll be nice to be able to climb without oxygen and a huge down suit and ice axe,” he said.


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