Tim Ralph was the third Rohan Harrogate Lecture speaker last year. It was a full house! Tim inspired us with an inspirational talk about climbing all eight of the seven summits (the highest mountain on each continent). The following is an update from Tim on his most recent trip…
Himalayan Research Expedition
“This expedition continues the Carnegie Research Institute’s tradition of ground breaking research into the physiology of human performance”. Professor Carlton Cooke – Carnegie Professor of Sport and Exercise Science
Here, Tim Ralph, a mountaineer who has climbed in many parts of the world and having summited the highest mountain on each Continent, is among a few hundred worldwide climbers know as the Seven Summiteers, talks briefly about his most recent trip to Nepal and the Himalayas.
December 3rd saw the last of a 40 strong team of climbers return from the Himalayas. The diverse group ranged in age from 19 years young to those drawing a pension, similarly they represented a considerable spectrum of experience. Thought to be the largest research expedition of its kind, the objectives were to examine the use of artificial acclimatisation on exercise performance, based on intermittent hypoxia. What was unique was that the research continued throughout the expedition and concluded post return to the UK.
Commitment to the expedition commenced in November 2010, when hopeful applicants were interviewed and the ‘lucky’ ones were selected. I have been fortunate to have climbed in numerous places around the world and have enjoyed the company of many like-minded climbers, both whilst climbing and sitting out hours in storm blasted tents. Looking back on this expedition, one of the most sustaining memories will be just how well everyone bonded together, particularly as many things did not go according to plan. As the expedition leader said, ‘had someone written a training exercise scenario that included everything that happened to us, it would not be believable’.
Carnegie Great Outdoors is the arm of the Carnegie Faculty of Leeds Metropolitan University, whilst the Carnegie Research Institute provides the vehicle both to research and disseminate knowledge locally, nationally and internationally. The expedition was led by Dave Bunting, who is the Outdoor Development Manager.
Whilst the expedition had academic objectives, it was also to provide an inspirational and adventurous journey for team members. Undoubtedly challenging, it certainly became a voyage of discovery for many.
Two mountains were summited, Mera Peak, standing at 6,476 metres above sea level, this mountain is known as a ‘trekking peak’, but do not be lulled into a false sense of security, weather and altitude dominate. All team members were scheduled to climb Mera. The other being more technical, Baruntse at 7,129m, for which twelve members were scheduled to climb. Following the second mountain, the Baruntse team climbed the beautiful Amphulupcha Pass at 5,839m and abseiled down to hike beneath Island Peak and down the Khumbu to Namche Bazar and back to Lukla.
The best sort of plans are flexible and did we need flexibility? The first requirement for flexibility arose when trying to leave Kathmandu and continued throughout the trip. It was as if Kathmandu did not want us to go to the mountains. Having waited all day for the weather to improve to permit flying, we returned to our hotel and tried the following day. Success, we took off and in 40 minutes landed at Lukla, but not all of us. Five of the team and a considerable amount of gear had not made it before the weather closed down the airport again. Trapped either in Kathmandu or Lukla for the next five days, surely a new definition for frustration. Having left KMD on 31st October, we hiked out of a town we now knew so well on November 5th.
There are tales to tell of helicopter rescues, personal triumphs, hardships overcome and memories of incredible scenic beauty. A few team members summited both mountains, but every member achieved individual bests and perhaps more importantly, a sense of satisfaction and memories that will remain for a lifetime.
As Professor Carlton Cooke – Carnegie Professor of Sport and Exercise Science says; “This expedition continues the Carnegie Research Institute’s tradition of ground breaking research into the physiology of human performance”.
This expedition will certainly not be the last of its kind and I for one, will make every endeavour to be involved with the next adventure.
If this short article has caught your imagination, do visit www.himalayan.org.uk for more information about the expedition and contact details to register your interest in future Carnegie research expeditions.
Mountaineer and Speaker
Keep up to date with the preparations for this years Rohan Harrogate Lecture