Blog Archive

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nepal Earthquake

Just got back to UK. In Nepal we had no internet, and limited phone access due to the catastrophic blow to infrastructure as a result of the earthquake. I was also unwilling to take the satellite phone onto rooftops to find a signal as aftershocks were common - one was 6.7 on the Richter Scale! Anyway all Medex members in Nepal and staff members are safe and well. Most have managed to get flights out and those that remain are in the Gurkha camp in Kathmandu in open ground in the care of the British Embassy. They are safe but probably still have limited access to communications. Travel is chaotic and those of us that have managed to get flights owe much to Sherpa Brothers Treks for their dogged persistence in chasing airlines. Sherpa Brothers continue to assist those still awaiting flights. 

Although we were unscathed I fear that that much damage has happened in the rural communities that has yet to be reported. This has been a catastrophe for Nepal and its people.


Friday, April 24, 2015

It's All Over!

The crowds of Medex folk in the Manang Hotel are now thinning as Kathmandu Pemba races to and from the airport ushering members to their many and various flights. The trip has been 2 or 3 years in gestation and flourished in the field for 5 week but now everyone is either safely back in Kathmandu or already on their way home. 

We are feeling huge relief that everyone is safe but already have some pangs of nostalgia for a great Expedition with some wonderful people and staff to a fantastic destination. 

Already there is talk of "what's next?" but, for the time being at least, we are staying tight lipped. One thing is for sure it will be hard to stay away from this magnificent country, its people and its mountains for too long.

So, for now, this is the last blog. We have had 10,500 page views over the last 2 or 3 months and I hope you have enjoyed following it.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Safely off the mountain

All members are safely back in Pokhara and chilling out in the various bars and cafes. The weather, however, steadfastly refuses to behave like the peak of the trekking season with a deluge most days! See pictures of Pokhara in a cloud burst.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bimtang to Goa

In case we haven't mentioned it it has been the snowiest spring in 40 years. We arrived in Bhimtang in the driving snow having slid, slithered and slung ourselves down from basecamp. ( don't worry no broken bones and only one burst barrel).

For the first time the hardy group 3 chose to stay in a lodge, many of the other groups have already experienced this mixed blessing. On the one hand you can stand up in the rooms, on the other hand there are potential fleas. We in group 3 had always been staunch campers but after a drenching walk and 5 days in the snow at basecamp we happily settled into our bright yellow chalets and ate dinner in our beautifully carved wooden hall. 

We woke to a beautiful morning and a wonderful view of the mountains that had been invisible the night before. All groups and porters set off together for a stunning walk which changed from winter to spring as rapidly as Narnia. Soon thermal tops were coming off as we walked through flowering rhododendrons and wild strawberry flowers. 

Lunch was a picnic near a lodge under construction where we could admire the local craftsmen planing and sawing and building chairs and tables in the sunshine. Then our route continued along a new river gorge with multiple rock falls and broken trees to constantly remind us of the force of nature arounds us. 

Finally group 3,4 and 5 pitched up in the nirvana of Goa while groups 1 and 2 chose to push on to Tilje. 

2 days till civilisation, let's see if we cope with the smell until then. 

Bye for now


Friday, April 17, 2015

Hello from group 4!

Picture shows Chris and Neil at the summit of the pass 5160m in poor weather conditions.

This trek has been beset by bad weather most of the time with the locals on the trail saying this has been the worst for 12 years. Consequently Group 4 spent extra rest days on the way to Base Camp to give the earlier groups time to set all the research up!

We finally made it to Base Camp on Tuesday 14th April with the whole group in good spirits after a hard walk in heavy snow. There was a wonderful welcome from the gang already there.

We spent the next day and a half participating in the research and it has been a great achievement to get everyone to Basecamp and to complete all the tests. On Thursday we helped pack up all the research equipment and fortunately we had glorious weather which was a bonus! The mountain views in clear weather were stunning.

On Friday morning, the 17th, we woke to poor weather and left Basecamp in a complete whiteout. It was an arduous trek over the Larkya pass and down to Bimthang in icy conditions. Thankfully everyone has made it safely down and we are now drying out with another three trekking days down the valley to the roadhead.

Group 4

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Farewell to Base Camp

Despite the hardship of living at a snowy camp at over 5,000m it was sad to pack it up today on a sparkling morning. The picture shows our entire team and staff and members posing below Larkya Peak before we began packing. All research now complete our kitchen staff carried the research gear down today and we follow tomorrow morning. Farewell to Base Camp. Ahead lies the promised land.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Measuring End Tidal CO2 and saturation changes with posture

The French Project - Positive End Expiratory Pressure Mask

The French Project research tent

The French Project

The Research Base at Larky-La

(With apologies to WB Yeats)

We will arise and go now, and go to Larkya-La
And a research lab build there with cable ties and duct tape.
A pleasure dome I'll have there with cyber cafe, casino and bar
And we'll spend our days researching into AMS, HACE and HAPE.

And we won't get much peace there for researchers hover ever near,
From the first call of bed tea 'till into our beds we creep.
Yea, even in our beds the Frenchies we do fear
As with cables and transducers the Gauls do steal our sleep.

We will arise and go now for always night and day
The research maidens beckon with oximeter and scales.
Be it in the snowy mountain pass or in the muddy campsite grey
The call of MEDEX tugs at me deep entrails.


Fantastic 5080 m research almost complete!

Over the last four days researchers have been putting forty or so trekkers through several tests of mind and body. Almost no stone has been left unturned as each trekker's brain, lungs, heart and muscles have all been examined. The researchers are extremely grateful for enthusiasm with which the trekkers have completed these tests. Particularly as some tests have required considerable effort here at base camp where there is only half the oxygen as at sea level!

Poor sleep is probably one of the most prevalent complaints in people staying at base camp, with many of us waking gasping for breath. This phenomenon is precisely that the French group is investigating. Their investigations may indeed challenge the long held belief that these gasping episodes may not mean bad acclimatisation to high altitude as traditionally believed. As with all the research much meticulous analysis will need to be completed once the researchers return home before recommendations can be made to improve those people travelling and working at altitude. For example, the jury is out on the Bangor research that seeks to determine whether fitness is important for good health and performance at altitude. At least presently everyone is in fantastic sprits at basecamp.

One early exciting observation from the French team is that using a specific mask with added resistance seems to improve tolerance to high altitude. Indeed, the mask demonstrated great ability to improve altitude symptoms in one of our trekkers and help him return to lower altitude in good condition (Please see the photo of the fantastic mask).

Alongside our research with trekkers we are also completing research with other trekkers and their porters that will improve their working conditions. These local people really are superheroes carrying loads at least twice typical trekkers loads seemingly effortlessly while we huff and puff our way up the trail. They really deserve huge plaudits for their work. Indeed, without our super Sherpa and porters we wouldn't have been able to complete any of our research. Therefore, alongside Porters Progress UK, we are passionately pursuing research that improves these peoples working conditions.

Love to family and friends that are following us.

Sam on behalf of the researchers

Ps. Please see the photo of researchers Arlena and Ben with a trekker examining the importance of posture on arterial oxygen saturation.

SMS from

Due to technical reasons we seem to be unable to post blogs by email for the time being.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Update from base camp - picture

Ronnie Robb at Base Camp

Update from base camp

Hello everyone, Ronnie here again from group 1. I have pleasure in saying 'hi de hi' from basecamp! Group 1 arrived on 10th April after a long, (550m height gained) slog from Dharmasala. It was a pleasure to escape from this place which will be remembered by all groups as the worst toilets ever experienced! . The important bit of news is that all groups are at basecamp since groups 4&5 arrived safely today.

So what's life like at our basecamp 5100m high in the Himalayas? I will try to illuminate it for you, of course at the expense of certain individuals reputations.

My image of a basecamp has been something along the lines of putting my tent pegs into soft alpine grassy meadow whilst wearing tshirt, shorts and sandals. Other expectations include perhaps an oasis amongst angry snow capped mountains with a cheery hello to the passing trekkers. Andy described a scene where the small trees sway in the light wind, breeze induced waves lap on the small lakeside beach and the sun shines from as azur blue sky. WRONG! The brochure lied.

It's true we have a lake close by our tents, but no one has seen it yet and we're unlikely to. The only infinity pool we are likely to see is the endless expanse of thigh deep snow. So, now we have two rows of thirty accommodation tents, with a trench of snow separating them. And we have named this lakeside road. It is definitely not 'sur la page' 'Auf dem Strand' or any riviera that I've ever seen. We thought it may be possible to get Big Jim to jump up and down on the area where we think the lake is (since he's the tallest) to see if he can break through the ice with his feet touching the bottom before his head disappears. No, my lovely blog friends. No swim up pool-bar for us, handy ATM, oR cocktail menu for 'Manaslu tours'...and yes we did actually pay for the privilege of being here.

Since we've been here there has been one snow storm delivering a dump of snow measuring about 50cm on top of what we already had, which was delivered over a 36 hour windy period. This fresh snow fall has killed any possibility of climbing Larkye peak, so I and a few others have been for a wee saunter around basecamp.

I went on my own little wander as the snow and wind started to build no without knowing it became the first of the expedition to pass the Larkye La (except for family Pollards). I then descended to the glacier and up a wee boulder strewn snowy lump. This was an expedition height record which lasted a meer two days in the light of Super Sam V and our French colleagues who just simply opened their wings and climbed higher and faster than anyone else on a rare morning off research testing.

The weather was terrible. I had a wee man on one shoulder saying "you're on your own Ronnie, that is the terror of these hills, the weather can come doon just like that... You're DOOMED." On the other shoulder another wee man was saying "Och, relax Ronnie, it's just a winter walk on your neighbourhood Cairngorm plateau". By the time I started to descend I found David, sent like a search and rescue dog to find me. After 4 weeks of trekking and with all that facial hair, the dog analogy is fair, but perhaps unfair on SARDA dogs, because they smell better!

With all groups here now, we have over 40 tents for accommodation, dining, research, toilets and kitchens. But pride of place is the 'Denzil dome!' This is our power hub for solar energy, radio comms, repair and maintenance. And tonight where the quiz will be held! Like a wee shed, at the bottom of the allotment, but 10.5m squared and bright orange, it wouldn't look out of place on the moon.

Of course, with all this power and plenty of people about, the research work has commenced. Being in group 1 and first to arrive, it's natural that we've done the bulk of work around establishing basecamp for the needs of our researchers. However when I was asked if they could test the solar panel power output by attaching electrodes to my nipples, and if there was a meer tingle then it would indicate the weather was overcast! I declined such a kind offer.

Even without such unofficial tests Gabs, James, Sam O and Sam V's teams still take unashamed delight in poking, pricking, prodding, measuring, and exercising us poor trekkers. The only thing missing is a hamster wheel! In all seriousness, with such bad weather, it's nothing short of a miracle that such sophisticated equipment and capable people can produce any results at all.

Every night for over three weeks nights now Simon A has pestered group 1 for their oxygen saturation and pulse rates for his school project back home. However there was pay back with one particular figure, 56! Yes 11.04.59 was his date of birth and we were able to make a celebration and force him to eat a Nepali version of an orange iced birthday cake.

We've seen Heather's gymnastics over a barrel, Simons face plant, the skills of our solar panel snow sweep brigade, but nothing compares to Guillome's one piece high altitude suit. This Elton John's throw away can be described as ideal for both the leopards of Manaslu or the Cougars of Montreaux!

Some quotes from our 'doctors':
- "it's hard work staying alive at altitude, I'm knackered after an hours snooze"
-"it's been so cold I'll be happy to see my penis again"
-"treating AMS is just have to pee out all the bad altitude!"
Five years training and that's the best we can find...oh boy!

Finally, now that all our members of group 4&5 are here at basecamp, it's a pleasure to say that everyone is content and well. It's true that some continue to have gastro and altitude related illness, but nothing serious.

So on that note,apologies for my nonsensical ramblings, and a safe time to all of the blogs readers, especially all the little Minklets out there.

Yours Aye
Ronnie Robb
Group 1

The last push to Base Camp

The last push to Base Camp

Neil hadn't been feeling too well on the day from Samdo to Daramsala and surprised us all when he emerged from his tent at Daramsala saying that he was now fit. So group 3 set off on the last push to BC at 0640 on a frosty morning with high cloud in the sky. Everyone felt well and we made rapid progress climbing along the snowy moraines. Fabulous views opened out in all directions and we paused briefly for a radio check at 0800 when we were around 4,600m.

At 4,800m a cold wind was coming down the valley and the first few flakes of snow. Jackets went back on as the mist rolled in and the visibility deteriorated. Then, finally, at 5,000m we came over a rise and saw Base Camp a few hundred yards ahead. Neatly laid out on the shore of a snow covered frozen lake were our dome tent, research tents, accommodation tents, mess tents and cook tents. Great to be here at last even if the weather was deteriorating again and serac fuelled avalanches were pouring off Larkya Peak.

There was a warm welcome from Groups 1 & 2 who had made a fine job of transforming this bleak spot into a fully functioning research camp. The weather, however, was less welcoming and soon the wind was driving fresh snow into camp making it impossible to generate the solar power required for much of the research equipment. Experiments had to be shut down as the electricity supply gave up and we retreated to our tents as the snow and the wind set in for the night.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Science in strange places.

Science in strange places.

Performing science at 5,000 metres in the Himalayas is no easy task and this Expedition has not been without its challenges. The consensus is that this winter has been the snowiest in living memory and spring has come late to the remote, high valleys to the north of Manaslu. Many have described the difficulties that we, the Expedition Members, have encountered on our slow journey from road head to Base Camp. This blog tells the story of our research equipment and its tenuous journey from Bangor to Base Camp. It tells of the often heroic efforts of our Sherpa teams that have made our science possible.

First there was the packing in Bangor of 670kg of delicate gear into barrels and parcels to make them as near to indestructible as possible. No package could weigh more than 25kg which is the maximum porter load. George Wormald ushered the equipment with the help of a long wheel based Enterprise van to Heathrow where the freight handlers drew up the documentation and sent it on its way to Kathmandu by air.

It languished in Nepali Customs for a week whilst Sherpa Brothers PVT jumped through a variety of new bureaucratic hurdles which finally saw it released by officialdom and moved to Furba's store. Denzil Broadhurst flew early to Kathmandu to supervise the splitting of the gear. Some had to accompany the members on their 28 day anticlockwise circumnavigation of Manaslu so that daily and periodic observations could be undertaken. The majority, however, was routed clockwise on a 17 day return trip to Base Camp via Bimtang. It is this equipment that had the most troubled journey and led to an epic battle against the elements by its Sherpa custodians.

We knew before we left Kathmandu that heavy snow was blocking the high Himalayan passes so Furba took the precaution of sending 2 climbing Sherpas to accompany 'Marathon Pemba' - the research Sirdar. The latter acquired his name from a television programme called "Last Man Standing" where he was pitched against two elite western athletes. The task was to carry a 25kg mani stone from 2,200 metres to the top of a 4,400 metre mountain. Pemba's victory was, of course, effortless! His climbing accomplices include Dendi Sherpa who proved to be an extraordinarily tough and powerful Sherpa whose job it was to break the trail and make it safe for the following porters. He described his task on this occasion as, "harder than Everest"!

The gear left Kathmandu by bus on schedule and reached the last village of Bimtang at over 4,000 metres on time. From there it is a steep and unrelenting climb to reach Larkya Pass at 5,160 metres. But the weather was terrible with strong and icy winds bringing fresh dumps of snow to add to the surfeit left from the winter. The porter team struggled against the dreadful conditions and established a camp half way up the climb from Bimtang to the Larkya Pass. Unsurprisingly the porters descended as the conditions were really too bad for them to continue.

There followed a heroic 72 hours of effort by our Sherpa team. Furba took a call from Marathon Pemba saying, "Furba what shall I do? All the porters have gone!". The next morning the Group I Sirdar, Ngima, was dispatched in waist deep snow to force a trail through to Larkya La from Samdo where he met Pemba and a random Tibetan at the pass. He returned the same day bringing with him pictures of the appalling conditions he had encountered. Furba hurried from Samagaon to Dharmasala and, with Ngima, headed up and over the pass taking with them a sturdy team of porters, climbing Sherpas and guides from groups 1 and 2. They crossed the pass, descended to the gear dump and each shouldered 40kg loads with which they then climbed back up the pass in strong winds and whiteout. They descended with the gear to the Base Camp area where they deposited the gear.

Snow was falling at Base Camp but they descended in a whiteout and strong winds to reach Dharmasala not without difficulty. Arriving at the lodge in the dark at 9pm they were exhausted and experiencing inexplicable phenomena which were probably hallucinatory. The next day they met with Sam Verges and Denzil Broadhurst at Dharmasala and Sam went back up with Furba to Base Camp to finalise the the layout of Base Camp now that all the gear had arrived.

After losing the way again in deteriorating conditions Sam, Dendi and Furba returned to Samdo at 9pm. Our team had, by epic endeavour, snatched back the research from the wintry grip of the Himalaya and Base Camp was ready to be occupied by our science teams. An amazing effort.


Food glorious food!

Food glorious food!

One might think that enduring a trek into the high mountains of Nepal includes privations of diet. Not so! Our cook staff feed us royally and, after a plea from a member of the previous Medex expedition for lots of food this time, the quantities are huge. So far also, our appetites are holding up and not yet suffering from the effects of altitude.

The ability of our Sherpa staff to provision for such a trek is awesome. Eggs appear each morning at breakfast, boiled or omeletted! This is after the early morning call whilst still In our sleeping bags of "bed tea"! Porridge or rice pudding, chipatties or pancakes are conjured up on primus stoves powered by kerosene in tiny camp kitchens to date in borrowed stone huts in the local villages but soon to be in freezing tents at base camp.

There is no shortage of drinks, at lunch, at afternoon tea and at dinner - hot water at the latter fills our water bottles for the next day doubling up as hot water bottles to warm our toes in our sleeping bags for the night.

We feast on soup, with popadoms, prawn crackers or popcorn. Main meals are packed with chips and pizza, rice, pasta and potatoes, accompanied by deep fried cauliflower, aubergine and onions. Lots of carbs to power us up the trails. Fresh salad tomatoes, cucumber, radish, carrots and cabbage also appear daily, Goodness only knows where they are coming from. Protein is in shorter supply, with tinned fish, spam, chipolatta sausages or cheese, with very occasional chicken and yak meat in curry. Puddings are often fruit - a favourite being tinned mango but a request for a cake produced an amazing feat of baking. So those hoping for a side effect of trekking to be a good diet may yet be disappointed!

Another Tenji masterpiece

Friday, April 10, 2015

trak the expedtion live

Track share

If you would like to follow the live track to base camp and beyond then visit:

Matt is in group 1 and should arrive today.


Thursday, April 9, 2015




Greetings from group 4

Greetings from group 4!

Two weeks ago we set of by bus from Kathmandu to Arughat- not the most pleasant of journeys and even worse with a stomach upset!

The trekking started the following day where it was really scorching which wasn't to last as it tipped it down the following day and fully tested our waterproofs. The trek has been wonderful, it started amongst green lush rice paddies and has gone through lots of interesting villages. It then wound its way through the beautiful Buri Gandaki gorge with some very narrow sections and big drops down to the river below (terrifying one or two of the group members, but they managed it).

After a week or so the gorge opened out in to an amazing wooded valley and then culture has become decidedly Tibetan and the weather is now much colder. The mountain scenery is simply stunning and is getting better every day. This area has had a lot more snow than usual so even though we are not far from Base Camp we are having to take extra rest days whilst the Sherpas construct everything ready for the research.

Everybody in group 4 are in good spirits and pretty well apart from the odd cough and cold and we are acclimatising well. We are all being fed like kings, it's quite amazing how the cook team manage a different meal every night with ingredients that have been carried for 12 days. We are all keeping ourselves busy with games, cards and quizzes and we are all getting along well.

Thanks for all your messages from home, it's great to read them all. We will post more soon.

Ben and Martin, group 4

P.S. Please check out Ben (group 4 radio supremo) and Jess' travel blog at

Dutch touch

'Dutch touch'

Na een eerdere Franse update kan ik niet achterblijven met een Nederlandse toevoeging.
2 van mijn teamgenoten hebben zojuist een update van groep 4 gegeven over hoe we ons tot nu toe vermaakt hebben.

Het is een geweldige trip! Momenteel zitten we in zonnig Samdo. Onzeker is voor hoelang maar daar zijn we inmiddels gewend aan geraakt. Er ligt veel sneeuw op de trail en toen we vanochtend voor ons dagelijkse kopje thee in de tent werden gewekt om 6 uur was het -4 graden. Bijzonder wakker worden met yaks die voor de tent langslopen terwijl we ons wassen met een kommetje warm water.
Vandaag was een mooie wandeling door de sneeuw door een vallei. Het uitzicht op Manaslu hebben we achter ons gelaten na een indrukwekkende lawine te hebben gezien die dicht in de buurt kwam van waar we gisteren liepen. Het pad is verder veilig, er wordt goed nagedacht en gediscussieerd over welke optie het best is vwb basecamp en de planning voor de verschillende groepen. Oh en heli's zijn hier binned no-time vanuit Kathmandu (mocht dat een geruststelling zijn;)).

We hebben het enorm naar ons zin. Af en toe ontmoeten we andere groepen maar we zijn vooral met ons 7en, veel lol, spelletjes, verhalen, genieten van het goede eten en hier en daar wat taal/ cultuur uitwisselen.

Als medical group officer heb ik helaas niet stil gezeten maar iedereen maakt het goed! Ik verwachtte pas ergens na een week wat problemen te krijgen maar helaas hebben we 1 groepslid achter moeten laten ivm rabiesvaccinaties na een aanvaring met een aap in Kathmandu . Daarna was er elke dag iets om over na te denken (diarree, longproblemen, Gewrichtsproblemen bij wat porters en meer van die dingen). Het meest bijzondere was het helpen van een vrouw in Lho die net bevallen was van een zoon maar waarbij de placenta achterbleef. Een spannend anderhalf uur later is alles gelukkig goedgekomen. Met India heb ik de plaatselijke verpleegkundige geholpen in het huisje waar de vrouw woont, terwijl oma de aardappels aan het bakken was en de overige vrouwelijke familieleden gezellig thee aan het drinken waren.. Bijzondere ervaring!

Iedereen enorm bedankt voor de berichtjes. Erg leuk om te lezen. De overige expeditieleden zijn erg benieuwd naar de inhoud;)

Jojanneke van den Beukel, groep 4

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

bridges and other hazarda

Trekking in Nepal does pose several challenges for the individual trekker. One of the biggest for me is tackling the exposed edges and the bridges.
Bridges come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some are simple felled trees laid together across a river or stream, no hand rail! Some are suspension bridges which are quite modern, built of steel rope construction. The following are some points to aid the uninitiated in tackling this hazard.
1. Look out for mules, these usually have loads and have no special awareness.
2. Step on to the bridge
3. Take deep breath
4. Close eyes
5. Focus
6. Walk slowly across
7. Don't stop until you trip over the step at the other end
8. And breath
9. Review what you have just crossed.

By Neil group 3

Blog from group 1

Hello wider world. This is Ronnie from Group 1, you're Medex 2015 roving reporter for today, Wed 8th April. First of all to important stuff, everyone across all 5 groups, including any 'hangers on' are safe and well. Several members have gastro problems and a couple have colds n coughs but nothing more than might be expected from a cold climate and a developing country like Nepal. In some cases, luxury toilet paper is developing the value of currency!

So, to the interesting stuff......the weather has been particularly bad with snow every day and it has delayed the arrival of our equipment and materials at base camp on The Larkye La. Our Sirdar has been as far as the site of base camp and has reported waist deep snow. Other locals confirm the snow levels as the worst in over a decade. Base camp should have been established 2 days ago but it looks like a further 2 days from now for this to be realised, weather permitting! The consequence is a log jam of Medex groups at the tiny snow bound 'metropolis' of Samdo.

Group 1 have been here for 5 days and are developing a 'hang dog' look about them. There are only so many walks one can do but the compensation is the undoubted stunning mountain scenery all around. However lethargy or laziness are common with the slightest distraction proving to be an interesting diversion to reading books. e.g. building a snow wall around Sam's tent, lots of futtering with clothing gear or equipment and even the comings n goings of a nearby marmot family proving as interesting as a few episodes of Eastenders.

Group 2 arrived in Samdo 3 days ago and are well acquainted with their sleeping bags apparently concentrating on domestic chores and contact with the outside world. Led by the indomitable Captain Slow, Group 3 arrived yesterday and made the bold step to camp avoiding the 'standing up' luxury of a tea house room. All seemed in good spirits and whilst some went for a local stroll others were quick today to discover the true
meaning of rest day. Group 4 are having a rest day at Samagaun with Group 5 joining them later today.

The hope and intention is for group 1 to lead off to Darmasalah tomorrow hopefully reaching base camp the day after on the 10th thus allowing space for group 4 to come up. Time will tell whether the weather will allow our plan to be followed after this. This vanguard group are keen to get going but safety of all remains the priority.

Excitement over the past few days include, a massive Avalanche witnessed by groups 1&2 across from Samdo village, Tom from group 1 becoming a father for the 3rd time on 7th April. Welcome Robinson Samdo Rupp to the world! The arrival of the family Pollard to Samdo earlier today reuniting themselves with eldest son big Jim and thus restocking Jim's financial and chocolate banks, a phone call with Heather and Sarah in Katmandhu with both in good spirits, eventual radio contact with group 5 and finally the discovery of some long lost muesli bars at the bottom of my rucksack,(you can tell I've been here too long!).

So, that's it for now from Medex 2015. On behalf of all members across all groups I wish you all safe and happy travels, especially those who may have skied in Verbier this year

Yours Aye,
Ronnie Robb, group 1

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

from the French team

J-2 avant l'arrivée à base camp du groupe tout va bien, car les conditions mètèo sont très hivernales, ce qui pose problème en particulier pour les porteurs devant atteindre le camp de base avec tout le matèriel de recherche. Quelques jours de beau temps sont espérés et devraient permettre de monter le camp correctement. Les organismes supportent plutôt bien l'altitude pour le moment, quasiment 4000 m maintenant, on ventile fort !
La grande nouvelle du jour est que Thomas, membre de l'équipe française, est devenu papa du petit Robinson, né à Chambèry pendant que son papa grimpe en Himalaya. Bienvenue Robinson, rendez-vous dans quelques années pour de belles aventures au Népal ! Ce soir pour fêter l'évènement les cuisiniers népalais nous ont préparé avec les moyens du bord un gâteau, et nous avons tous ensemble trinqué en l'honneur de Robinson et de sa maman !
A bientôt pour la suite, les choses sérieuses vont commencer !
Sam V

Controversies, debates & decisions.

After group three's enjoyable "rest" day in Samagaon a decision had to be made re the next stage in the journey for all groups . Base camp now seemed tantalisingly near: a mere 3 bus stops away....... But as is the nature of bus stops - queues tend to develop.... Both Groups 1 & 2 were already at Samdo, and group 3 were due to move up & join them. But were there sufficient tent spaces (and Snickers bars) to accommodate all three groups in Samdo at once?? And although group 1&2 were champing on the bit to move on in order to establish Base Camp we still lacked information on the state of the pass and accessibility for porters with heavy loads.
Also caution was still needed re acclimatisation and it was vital that a separation between the groups was maintained so that the arrival of guinea pigs for the researchers was staged.

Much discussion & debate ensued regarding the many possible permutations of movement of the three leading groups. In many ways the ideal plan would be for all groups to put in extra rest days at Dharamsala but strangely that plan proved unpopular. Clearly, despite its proximity to Tibet, Dharamsala is no Shangri-la. A one tea-house town with the tea house now closed for the season.....

In order to obtain more intelligence re the state of the pass Phurba left us to do a reconnoitre with the aid of a brace of Pembas. Our own trusty Pemba III stayed behind to take on the mantle of group three guide.

Finally a decision was made. Hurrah! Group 3 would move up to join 1&2 at Samdo on Tues 7 by which time the weather and pass access situation would perhaps be clarified. We would all benefit from time spent at that altitude and the reunion of the 3 groups would be fun. Gp 3 were greeted joyously by 1&2 before the snow set in (again). It was another chilly night as Gp 1 prepared for their trip to the fleshpots of Dharamsala. How they looked forward to it....


Rest Days

Ah rest days, from the name you might think a blessed day tucked up in bed catching up on hard earned sleep. In actual fact our current days generally include 10 hours of sleep already as we go to bed straight after dinner at 8pm. So rest days can be used for sightseeing and if it's sunny, hair and clothes washing.

The most important reason for rest days is acclimatisation which is why each group has an extra day built in at Lho, Sanmygon and Samdo before heading for basecamp.

Group 3 awoke at 5.30 on their rest day to watch the sun rise over Mount Manaslu, a beautiful sight from the dark valley as a curtain of gold fell over the double peak. Then back to bed for some extra sleep pre breakfast.

It was a beautifully sunny day so everyone got their hair washed, kneeling beside a large bowl while Furbar ( our Sirdar and the owner of the trekking company Sherpa brothers) poured the water, an honour comparable in esteem to being baptised by the Pope.

We then went for a stroll up the local monastery and in the afternoon headed to a tea house in town to meet Group 4. First contact with another group on the trek so far so we celebrated with beer and Mars Bar spring rolls. They were all very well, bar coughs and colds and living up to their name, The Young and the Restless, as they were super keen to press on to the top and attempt the peak.

Another reason for our enforced rest days is that it is important the groups arrive at base camp over a staggered number of days because much of the research has to be done on the first day of arrival in base camp.

Group 3's rest day in Lho ended in a flurry of snow meaning our walk next morning to Sanmygon was through a beautiful winter wonderland of melting snow on pine trees and hanging icicles.

We are now having a second rest day in Sanmygon and have been for an acclimatisation 'stroll' up a (small) shoulder of Mount Manaslu to view a glacial lake. Group 4 trekked to Sanmygon today and joined us for a game of frisbee with the porters by the river ( much care being taken to avoid the Yak droppings).

Group 1 and 2 are in Samdo acclimatising and awaiting good weather to attempt the next stage up to base camp. Group 5 arrive in Lho today so we are all gathered together for the final stretch.

Much of our research equipment is coming the opposite way over the pass to Larkya Base camp. So far 15 out of 40 barrels have arrived at base camp and the pass has been successfully crossed by 2 Sherpas.

Meanwhile we will continue to enjoy our rest days and the last few touches of civilisation before the life in the land of tents begins.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lihi Gaon to Lho via Hinang Gompa

Our sleep at the attractive village of Lihi Gaon was disturbed - 101 Dalmation like - by the village dogs, whilst dawn was enlivened by fighting mules in the field adjacent to our camp site.
After breakfast we were visited by a welcoming party from three nurses from Community Action Nepal (I now work for that charity); they run Health Posts in Lihi and two other villages we'd passed on our way. They extended a gracious invitation to visit them at work at their mobile Dental Health Clinic up at the Hinang Gompa where local villagers were gathering for a important Buddhist festival.
Most of Group 3 welcomed the idea of a diversionary trip and so we set off up through a pine forest and were greeted at the Gompa gates. Decked with khata scarves and rhododendron blossoms and a photo call, we moved onto an audience with the Rimpoche Tulko (a reincarnated Lama). Meanwhile locals were queuing up for examination in the Dental tent. They even summed up brave smiles for our cameras before and after extraction. Children and small dogs were milling around, contributing to the surreal atmosphere.
A service followed in the Gompa, where paper cups of salty nak (female yak) tea was served. Some of us found this treat quite challenging! Unfortunately most of our party had slipped out when the Rimpoche started delivering a sermon in English, specially for our benefit.
Weather broke as we walked up to our next destination, the lovely village of Lho. We arrived wet but cheerful.
Denise Prior

Friday, April 3, 2015

Daily Research

Thanks to enthusiastic Trekkers research is going very smoothly.

Each day the research starts with Trekkers greeted with bed tea and a pulse oximeter(a device that tells heart rate and how much oxygen that is still running around your body).

Then its completion of the daily diary of how your feeling? Do you have a cold? Are you suffering with altitude sickness? and most importantly how many poos have you had in the last 24 hours?

After brekkie it's time for being weighed. Each trekker keen to see if they've lost weight yet. And also to learn if they are carrying more or less than yesterday - Every kilo counts with all the hills!

Thanks to all the Nepali staff and all other Medex members for helping the research tick along so well. We're are now looking forward to completing the high altitude research at basecamp.

Thank you to family for all the well wishes received. Wishing you a happy Easter.


Kit; new and old

Sunrises and the tents start opening. Everyone stares each other out; t-shirt or thermal, need the fleece, or is it even a down jacket morning? As we shovel in breakfast huddled in the mess tent the sunshine come out and there is a mad dash to change our layers and the next decision whether to put sun cream on now or later.

Morning break at the top of a steep slope as the group re huddles and the conversation settles on what they brought for the trip. Which 'essentials' were discarded into the 'maybe' pile and then finally left at home. Which things people now regret not bringing, and which of the trusty base-layers from previous trips just got plain forgotten. Many people compared how many times they packed, repacked, and got their mums to pack their bags before departing for Nepal.

A stop at one of the many bridges gives a chance to try and dig the gadget out that one packed, but never actually discovered how to work it out. After passing it around the group the altimeter is eventually started and another member has a working watch, hurrah! After the first downpour the toggles are located to get the waterproof-jacket-hood to eventually fit snug.

Noon-time and its lunch stop. Sweaty feet escape from the boots into sandals and a debate on leather vs fabric boots. The variety of makes baffles some team members. Weights and waterproof are compared, everyone sticking up for their trusty footwear, knowing full well they are relying on them to get them to the top of the mountain. The next is the grumble of who has the smelliest feet and which socks, varying in cost of course, are made of which fabric to give the best results. We know full well that this could be make or break of tent-sharing partners!

Back on the trail and a European group pass us by, listening to their dialect we try and figure out their nationality. The skin tight male leggings and dark shades suggest Italian, the variety of bright colours confirm they aren't British(!) but their clean and shiny boots confirms they were Spanish.

Evening at the campsite and bobble hats, fleecy hates, buffs, and home knitted tea cosies come out brightening up the tea table. The exciting time is yet to come. Is it yet warm enough for the down sleeping bag?!

With such a big trip many of the biggest personal purchases (or birthday presents) have been one's down; a fine goose feather filled warm sleeping bag or jacket that when you put on immediately makes you feel warm and cosy! Essential in the snowy conditions we are encountering. The first few days of the trek have been in hot dusty climate or forests, and each day climbing slowly up in altitude. The first night we were drenched in sweat in merely a thin liner during the night, but each night as it drops one or two degrees more and more layers are put on. First the down sleeping bags are used only as a pillow, the next night might be just to cover the toes. The next evening it might be pulled on in the early hours as the temperature drops. But the next night, is when THE NIGHT comes. It's cold enough up at higher altitude to slip right inside the fully zipped-up sleeping bag (or struggle into the unzippable sliding caterpillar as Denise describes) and basque in the comfy, warm, toasty feet delight! The only downside is coming out of it in the morning...

Hi to everyone, Han.

Just to let people know, here are the groups lists:
Group 1- Team testosterone
Andy T
Simon A
James P
Sam V
Matt S
Ben S

Group 2 – l'equipe de chic
Sam O
Heather S

Group 3- Team Tea Break
Anna J
James A

Group 4- the young and restless
Ben M
Joe F
Katie W

Group 5 - better late than never
Anna M
Matt B

Gap to Lhi

A delightful climb through the rhododendron and pine forests took us, for the first time, out of the steep sided valley and onto a sunny ridge at Lhi where we camped. Here the radios worked for the first time and we were able to talk to Group 2 at Lho, group 1 at Samagaon and group 4 at Gap.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pewa to Gap

The day of the Royal Progress: Before leaving the UK Denise had been tasked by Doug Scott, her new boss, with visiting several of the CAN (Community Action Nepal) health posts in the area. The first of these was in Bihi, near today's planned lunch stop. Just before lunch therefore Denise (henceforth to be referred to as Doug Scott's representative on earth) and her acolytes, Hannah, Mike and Geraldine - with Tsering their doughty guide/interpreter/minder - left the main group to climb to the village. Sadly, because of the change in our schedule, we were a day late and were mortified to hear that the huge gathering assembled to greet us the previous day had been forced to disperse! So we missed the planned singing ,dancing and carousing. However what the remainder of the reception group lacked in size they amply made up for in enthusiasm!

The Chair of the Village Mother's group (AKA she who must be obeyed - SWMBO) treated us to a tour of her home and a demo of butter making after which tea was served. There followed a visit to the site of the new Health post (a series of ditches - allegedly due to be completed in one month??!?). Denise as befitting her status posed with the master carpenters for action photographs.

We then returned chez SWMBO for a further photo shoot and a splendid repast of potatoes with a fierce pepper sauce. We managed with some difficulty to decline the invitation to also visit the Prok health post (some 3 hours that one for next time I think.......) and made our sentimental farewells.
We then headed back for the main trail guided by SWMBO and some hours later arrived for a rather late tea with the rest of the Gp 3 team in Gap. A fascinating day.

Today's blog was by Geraldine in group 3

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Jagat to Pewa

Last night after drumming and raining
Our lovely mud field was draining
The sun shone down as we started
So no one was feeling down hearted

All groups are now well on their way
Getting closer and closer each day
Still walking on narrow dirt tracks
Past mules with packs on their backs

If you want to know where we're at
Group 4 have arrived in Jagat
If you want to know where group 3 are
Then they are safely in Pewa

Group 1 are blazing ahead,
In Lihi they've made today's bed
Machha Kola plays host to group five
Into Ghap group 2 arrive

We hope you enjoy this ditty
And do not think it's a pity
For us to waste your time
With this quite fatuous rhyme

Laura and Saskia ( copyright)

Khorla Besi to Jagat

Another update from group 3, sorry about that but we have control of the iPad and there is nothing you can do about it.

Today after our morning ritual of bed tea, pulse oximetry, washing water, weighing in, panicked packing, three course breakfast and second weigh in we walked straight out of our quiet campsite slap bang into the middle of the Manaslu Rush hour.

We carefully picked our way between mule trains, chicken carriers, dead sheep carriers, porters carrying their body weight, local women carrying their body weight and a child on top and six year olds walking two hours to school. On their own. Along a narrow rocky path with a 100m drop to the side of them. Rather put us to shame with our walking poles and delicate day sacks.

Our route today continued along the great white rushing river crossing it twice on rocky suspension bridges ( rocky both in their movement and also in the material used to mend them ) to Jagat, the official start of the Manaslu conservation area.

All 5 groups are now on their way with group 5 arriving in Arughat today. A few more members are going to join us from Kathmandu at their own more speedy pace.

Finally just in case you think we are basking in sunny campsites with our feet up being waited on hand and foot I would like to emphasis that it is raining. A lot. ( not that we have to put up our own tents of course).

Until tomorrow then, ta ta.