Annapurna Base Camp

My family always dread occasions when I give lectures on Expedition Medicine as they invariably end in me returning home with plans for more travel. Last autumn was no exception and following a talk for the Southwest Royal Geographical Society I was asked to provide medical cover for a school trip to the Nepalese Himalaya. Plymouth College, an independent southwest school, had just re-introduced their sixth form expedition and as such were planning on taking 10 students on a trek through the Annapurna Range to Annapurna Base Camp, situated at 4130 metres. The expedition started with a trip to Chitwan National Park where we were fortunate enough to get up close to a rhino and her calf. Then we headed into the Annapurna Range where a 10 day trek took us through magnificent mountain scenery to our objective – Annapurna Base Camp. The trek is fairly arduous, with many of the days requiring several demoralising 1000 metre descents from altitudes gained the day before, followed by the 1000 metre climb back up. However the mountains, sunrises and sunsets ensured our minds were rarely thinking about the eight hour slogs and occasional downpour, but more on the stunning environment all around us. During the trek the group got chance to take part in some research being carried out by Exeter University on the effects of altitude on the body’s ability to use oxygen. This required some pre-expedition V02 Max tests, data collection whilst away and a final V02 Max test on return. Although the group was quite small staff, at Exeter University hope to see some changes which will give a better indication of how altitude affects this age group. The expedition was a great success. From a medical point of view there were no great dramas, which is always encouraging. The whole expedition party wished the trip could go on for longer and will have many, many memories which will stay with them for life. James