Thorong La, Nepal – 1977
The first expedition was in Nepal, with 17 subjects trekking 200 miles from Pokhara, through the Kali Gandaki, the deepest canyon in the world, to Mukhtinath and the Thorong La pass on the north side of Annapurna. The circuit of Annapurna was not completed as time was limited and the blood samples required urgent transport back to Pokhara.
The main purpose of the expedition was to assess the prevalence of acute mountain sickness (AMS) and to determine its cause. The first objective was achieved (five subjects definite AMS) but we, and others, are still working on the second. The main experiments involving blood and urine samples were focused on changes in body composition and renal function and attempts to measure antidiuretic hormone concentrations. The latter required solid carbon dioxide which started to run out despite efforts using ice from the Annapurna glacier. The samples were carried overnight and reached Kathmandu safely. After carrying the frozen samples as hand luggage back to UK they were put on a plane to Chicago.
On arrival in USA there was a cargo handling dispute and all the samples were ruined. However it was a beautiful trek in an area that had only recently been opened to visitors. We passed relatively close to Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest mountain in the world. Little did expedition members realise that this mountain was to be the place of an avalanche which killed one of their members, Ginette Harrison, on 24th October 1999. A memorial lecture is held in Ginette’s memory each year, part of the Wilderness Lectures series. The event raises money for the Shiva Charity, of which Ginette was an enthusiastic supporter, and which sponsors a school in Nepal, named in her honour.
- Delamere JP, Bradwell AR, Jones GT and Reynolds MJ. A study of renal function during a high altitude trek in the Himalayas. Clinical Science Molecular Medicine 1978; 55(3): 29. DOI: 10.1042/cs055029Pb
- Harvey TC, James H, Wright AD, Chettle DR and Birmingham Research Expeditionary Society. Alterations in body composition during high altitude adaptation in the Himalayas. Clinical Science Molecular Medicine 1978; 55(3): 30. DOI: 10.1042/cs055030P
- Howell A, Cove DH, Richardson NV and Bradwell AR. Serial measurement of blood bio-chemistry in a Himalayan trekking party. Clinical Science Molecular Medicine 1978; 55(3): 30. DOI: 10.1042/cs055030Pa