It all came together and on September 2nd, 1977 a party of 17 set out for Nepal.
We had an early flight the next day to Bagdogra and a seven-hour car journey through bustling towns and winding hillside roads with a stop at the Sikkim permit office to obtain a vital entry stamp. Despite the lengthy journey, the views of the Eastern Himalayas were well worth it. Having almost lost several of the group at a holy festival, we set off to Gangtok (1650m). Twenty-four hour urine collections were commenced and we retired to a much-needed bed and the start of our pulse oximetry recordings that shone a delightful red glow on the bedroom walls.
Since then the Society has prospered and always has between twenty-five and thirty subscribing members. New members are recruited by word-of-mouth and consensus of existing members. Research funds have been raised from many sources including the Wellcome Trust, pharmaceutical companies, local research funds and Trust monies from the School of Medicine, University of Birmingham to support the inclusion of medical students. The cohesion of the Society is promoted by monthly evening meetings to discuss projects and publications, coupled with a summer and a winter training weekend for hill walking in the U.K.
There have been 13 major expeditions so far, to the Himalayas, Kenya, and South America. On each occasion the team of 17-24 subjects has been taken to high altitude sufficiently fast to produce symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS) in a significant proportion of the subjects, without running serious risks. The location chosen has been the highest altitude which could be reached with the whole group and the scientific equipment and where experiments could be carried out over several days. Six to ten projects have been run simultaneously. All members of the team act as subjects, each project has a lead investigator and an assistant, while other duties such as medical officer and baggage master are allocated as appropriate. Trekking companies are employed to make the flight and ground arrangements. Also, there have been six minor expeditions of shorter duration using Alpine huts. Details of the expeditions are given on another page.
Many different research projects have been completed with the major interests being clinical features and assessment of AMS, trials of drugs for prevention and treatment of AMS, measurement of blood gases, cerebral blood flow, cerebral oxygenation, the effect of exercise and the inhalation of various gas mixtures. The numerous publications that have stemmed from these studies are listed on another page. Several national conferences have been held in Birmingham In addition, the Society has sent delegations and has presented at many national and international medical meetings.
A number of successful mountain climbs have been achieved by members. Adam Booth climbed Everest in May 2013 and became the third member of the society to reach the summit (Chris Imray and Ginette Harrison).
Patrons & Officers
Sir Christian Bonington
Sir Christian John Storey Bonington, CVO, CBE, DL is a British mountaineer. His career has included nineteen expeditions to the Himalayas, including four to Mount Everest.
Prof Adam Tickell
Prof Adam Tickell is a British economic geographer who has recently (2021) been appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham.
Dr J S Milledge
Dr Jim Milledge has been involved with high altitude medicine and physiology for over 50 years. Jim was a member or the 1960-61 Silver Hut Expedition, which pioneered studies into high altitude physiology.
Professor Prem Kumar
Prem Kumar is a Professor of Physiological Science and Director of the Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham.
Kenton Edward Cool is an English mountaineer, and mountain guide. He is one of Britain’s leading alpine and high altitude climbers and has summited Mount Everest fourteen times, including leading Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ 2008 and 2009 Expeditions.