Defence Medical Services (DMS) medical scientific expeditions have been taking place since 2007 with the twin aims of promoting AT within the DMS and undertaking significant research aims in the field of high altitude medicine and physiology. A brief history of these expeditions is given below;
January 2007 – Expedition Medical Sentinel – Aconcagua, Argentina 6969m
This expedition took 16 personnel (12 novices to altitude) to climb the highest peak outside the Himalayan chain, via it’s normal (Horcones) route. 15 personnel summitted Mt Vellecitos (5500m) for acclimatization and 6 summitted Aconcagua. Physiological data was collected and a small laboratory project undertaken with the Centre for Altitude, Space and Environmental Medicine at UCL, London. Funding for the expedition was received from JSET (£5000) and the Drummond Foundation. The research from this expedition was published in the Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Service.
October 2009 – Expedition Imja Tse – Trek to Everest Base Camp and to Island Peak, Nepal, 6300m
In the post monsoon season 2009 35 DMS personnel took part in an expedition trekking to Everest base camp and climbing Island Peak. During the training for the expedition a significant number of AT qualifications were delivered as distributed training and via the level 4 centres. The research plans focused on the hormonal response to high altitude (HA) collecting blood samples post exercise and at rest for brain naturetic peptide (BNP) and Neutrophil associated Lipocalin (NGAL) as well as basic blood biochemistry, body water and weight. This expedition was supported by JSET (£12,000) and the Drummond foundation. A study was also undertaken in the hypobaric chamber at RAF Henlow prior to the expedition. The results of research performed during this expedition and at RAF Henlow have been published in the Journal of Physiological Sciences and European Journal of Applied Physiology.
April 2011 – Expedition Khumbu Ramble – Trek to EBC and attempt on Kusum Kanguru, Nepal
In the pre-monsoon season 2011 28 personnel in a combined DMS, RNRMMC expedition trekked to EBC and 6 attempted Kusum Kanguru. This enabled a repeat of the ascent profile during Ex Imja Tse and refinement of the research aims. In particular the data collection was much more ambitious looking for mechanisms to explain the results observed on Imja Tse. Blood was taken and frozen for hormonal assays, cardiac echo (ultrasound) was performed as well as cardiac monitoring for arrthymias. This expedition was very generously supported by JSET (£14,400) and the research funded by Surgeon Generals Department and the Drummond Foundation. During the build up to the expedition one instructor qualification, two leader qualifications and 4 proficiencies were delivered through the JSAT scheme and distributed training. The data from this expedition will result in at least two papers in the medical literature and these have been submitted to peer reviewed journals and replies are awaited.