UCL News


Press release: Caudwell Xtreme Everest at the summit

23 May 2007

The Caudwell Xtreme Everest team of doctors - led by Dr Mike Grocott from Britain - have summited Everest from the South, via the South East Ridge.

As well as working as an Honorary Consultant Anaesthetist at the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust, Dr Grocott is a Senior Lecturer in Intensive Care Medicine and Co-Director, CASE Medicine (Centre for Aviation Space and Extreme Environment Medicine) at the Institute of Human Health and Performance at UCL.

Dr Mike Grocott, Dr Sundeep Dhillon (Climbing Leader), Dr Daniel Martin, Mr Chris Imray and Dr Nigel Hart from Britain summitted yesterday (May 23) and Dr Jeremy Windsor from Britain and Dr Roger McMorrow and Dr Mick O'Dwyer from Ireland summitted today (May 24). Dr Paul Gunning from Britain also reached 8,400 metres (27,600 feet) today but turned back.

The scientists and doctors are investigating hypoxia (a deficiency of oxygen in the blood) to help future patients in intensive care and have set a world record by taking arterial blood samples near the summit of the world's highest mountain. The samples were taken on the Balcony at 8,400 metres rather than the summit for safety reasons, due to low temperatures and high winds.

In addition, the Caudwell Xtreme Everest team constructed the world's highest laboratory at 8,000 metres (26,246 feet) on the mountain's South Col.

While the core Caudwell Xtreme team climbed Everest, 200 volunteers from the public took part in three-week long treks to Everest Base Camp at 5,300 metres (17,388 feet), where they took part in rigorous scientific tests and kept daily diaries recording personal medical data.  This is now widely acknowledged as the world's largest human biology experiment at high altitude.

Dr Mike Grocott, Caudwell Xtreme Everest expedition leader, said, "Reaching the summit was the culmination of four years of extensive planning and determination to improve the medical world's understanding of hypoxia.  We know that by observing healthy individuals at high altitude where oxygen is scarce, we can learn about physiological changes that can improve critical care at the hospital bedside.

"The data gathered from the trekkers, and from the climbers high on the mountain will, we hope, prove to be a valuable key to our understanding of how healthy individuals adapt to low oxygen.  

Dr Mike Grocott added, "Patients that will be helped by the research range from those with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and Cystic Fibrosis, to those with emphysema, septic shock and 'blue babies'.

"Although it is possible to simulate low oxygen levels in specially designed, low pressure chambers, studies are very expensive and can produce variable results.  Also, the experience for the subjects involved can be unpleasant.  It's the quest for original and accurate results from the field that has inspired us.

"On behalf of the summit team I must thank our superb climbing support team led by Pema Tharki Sherpa and Mingma Tseri Sherpa, our research support climbers - Denny Levett, Andre Vercueil, Patrick Doyle, Paul Richards, Vijay Ahuja and Maryam Khosravi, our fellow climbers Michael Brown, Graham Hoyland and Dave Rasmussen, the laboratory and logistics staff based at Everest Base Camp, Pheriche, Namche and Kathmandu, our volunteers and of course our generous sponsors."

The £2 million medical study has been entirely funded by private enterprise.  Entrepreneur and founder of Caudwell Children, John Caudwell, has donated £500,000 and he also volunteered for the research.

BOC Medical has provided £300,000 support and a number of other organisations, including The London Clinic, Eli Lilly Critical Care, Deltex Medical, Smiths Medical and the Rolex Foundation have also given cash assistance.  All of the volunteers paid to participate in their treks to Everest Base Camp, organised by mountaineering specialists, Jagged Globe.

Link: Xtreme Everest