Project Everest Cynllun

Project Everest Cynllun is a collaborative British research expedition that will showcase internationally the effects of extreme altitude on the body and mind.

In May 2016 Richard Parks will attempt to become the first person in history to collect a blood sample and muscle biopsy from the summit of Mount Everest. He will also climb the highest mountain in the world without using supplementary oxygen.

Richard will be collecting novel physiological and psychological data data during the climb using state of the art technology.

The groundbreaking data collected through this incredible feat of human performance will be a pilot study to a larger research group aimed at understanding the mechanisms that underpin dementia and human resilience.

By challenging an otherwise healthy human brain in a hypoxic (low oxygen) environment, Richard and his team of scientific experts will explore the mechanisms underpinning cognitive decline and dementia. Their primary focus will be exploring the link between low blood oxygen levels in the brain and cognition.

This expedition will push Richard physically and mentally further than he has ever been before.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE EXPEDITION:

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Latest Blog

Returning home - Friday 20th May 2016

Hey guys. Thank you so much for all your messages of support on Twitter and Facebook. It’s been a roller coaster of a journey and it’s been awesome to travel it together with you. I still haven't fully processed what unfolded, of course life goes on and there are many people much less fortunate than us out there, however this has really blindsided me....

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Latest Blog
  • Project Everest Cynllun first blog - Namche - Friday 1st Apr 2016

    “Flying over here I didn’t think it could be done, but now I see that it can…” Professor Gareth Davidson, Ulster, after he so kindly travelled to the University of South Wales, Pontypridd to coach me to self collect the muscle biopsy. He was lovely, but it was horrific to be honest! Gareth preformed the procedure on my left leg whilst walking me through every step. Most of us will look away from needles, but I watched every detail, taking notes even…and the collection device is in no way a needle, despite what it says on the packaging! It has instructions to ‘prime’ it and a button labelled ‘fire’ - I’m not kidding! After the lesson, which resulted in a small bit of my thigh being ripped out, it was my turn to perform a biopsy on my right leg. It went against every instinct but I was successful, psychologically and technically. This was the moment that things changed for me, when Project Everest Cynllun became real. More so than the launch. The biopsy was only a couple of weeks ago, I’ve since performed several on myself…in fact Nic (Professor Nicola Phillips, Cardiff University aka The Pocket Rocket) is treating my thigh later this evening as I still have some scar tissue which feels like a ‘dead leg’.

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    I’m writing this first blog from the Everest Bakery in Namche Bazaar at 3,600m. I’m still following Ana Antón-Solanas’ (Senior Scientist at the GSK Human Performance Lab) orders to protect my body fat! The team and I are 4 days in to the expedition en route to Everest Base Camp via Island Peak, but I’ll get into my summit strategy nearer the time. Allow me to introduce my team here in the field; Professor Nicola Phillips (Cardiff University, Performance Director), Professor Damian Bailey (University of South Wales, Scientific Lead), Gareth Morrow (Television Producer\Director), Pema Chiri Sherpa (Climbing Partner) and David Hamilton (Jagged Globe Everest Expedition Leader). There are more vital cogs in Project Everest Cynllun, but they’re back home in Wales and the UK. As with everything, people are the real change makers and I’ve been blessed to recruit an incredible team around me.

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    Nic, Gareth, Pema and Damian.

    No matter how much preparation has been done, on this occasion almost 2 years, (and you’ll know of my meticulous sometimes brutal preparation) the final few weeks before departure are always an epic part of an expedition as so many things come together. I love what I do, so you won’t hear me complaining, but I always wish I had more time with friends and loved ones before I leave. Ben the dog even climbed into my bag whilst I was packing as if to say “take me!”.

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    Packing for an expedition is an important part of my process as all the pieces begin to settle in my mind. It’s part of how I develop confidence to attempt things that I do. Every item of my Rab clothing and other gear has been carefully considered and chosen for this particular expedition. On all my other projects I use a simple clothing system, very minimal, and regulate my body temperature through exertion. Some days during the Antarctica Speed Record Expedition I only wore a Vapour-rise Alpine Jacket as a single layer in temps as low as -20’s. I’ve had to modify my system this time as the cold could be my biggest enemy and I won’t be moving anywhere near fast enough to generate heat, plus the hypoxia of performance above 7,900m/25,919ft. Having experienced the cold during my last Everest summit in almost perfect conditions, I’m preparing for a very different experience this time without supplemental oxygen…although I’m hoping for the best! Unrelenting positivity! Rab design and make their expedition suits in Alfreton, Derbyshire and I’ve known mine from when it was a swatch sample, before Rachel and the machinists brought it to life. I love that! And I love the latest evolution of the Exped 8000 suit. It’s the closest thing I’ll get to a space suit, and it’s every bit a life preserver. This combined with the new Scarpa Phantom 8000 boots is a great system. You guys might have to wait a little for both as they’re not quite in the shops yet! Sorry!

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    I have practiced self-collecting the muscle biopsy in the environmental chamber at the University of South Wales wearing my suit and gloves, using the zip on the side of the leg to gain access. I’ve also had a zip sewn into my thermal suit. My Rab primaloft liner gloves have silver thread sewn into the index finger so that I’ll be able to perform the cognitive function assessment that the GSK Human Performance Lab and Axon have developed for my Sony Xperia Z3 tablet with the Sony UK Technology Centre. This S**t is actually happening!! I have moments like this often…Having been immersed in the detail for so long, it’s a unique balance to maintain a strategic view too.

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    One of my proudest moments was pressing send on the email with the official Visit Wales branding to the guys for embroidery, being endorsed by the Welsh Government and flying the flag an ambassador to Wales’ Year of Adventure means the world to me.

    Talking of Wales, a couple of days before I left for Nepal I headed to Snowdonia for the day, where we did some filming on Snowdon for my TV documentary (more on that coming soon!). Whilst we were filming in the infamous and wonderful Pen-Y-Gwryd hotel, I was asked to sign the ceiling, alongside the likes of my friend Alan Hinkes’ signature and of course the 1953 Everest expedition team including Edmund Hillary. It was a very special and unexpected moment, and a real privilege to sign my name alongside such esteemed climbers.

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    Signing the ceiling in the Pen-Y-Gwryd 

    So then, back to my cake! Actually, it’s not a cake anymore, I’m on a chocolate doughnut now! The first 4 days have been awesome. Coming back to Nepal is wonderful. Day 1 in Kathmandu sorting the Project Team’s food rations for Island Peak and my food above Base Camp on Everest was actually painless! Mostly due to the logistics and packing wizardry by Kerry and the Jagged Globe team in Sheffield. Kerry had packed 6kgs of Jelly Beans into the barrels…I thought she was joking, but apparently not! Ha! I do love a morning in the sun outside to get all OCD! Joking aside it’s pretty important to get my food right, so squaring it away was a great feeling.

    Each of us in the team have come into this off the back of a busy few weeks, so I proposed that we took until Namche to decompress a little and draw a line under things back home. I also feel it’s important to breath where we are in, as It’s so easy to miss what’s outside the window, so to speak. There is a sense of calm here amongst the Nepalese people, that is so far removed from the world back home. Have I said how much I love Nepal?! It’s been heart breaking to see some of the earthquake damage, and this region has been mildly affected. One thing that is so overwhelming is the positivity and resilience of the Nepalese people. I’m proud to be performing here this year.

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    Earthquake damage along the route

    On day 2 we flew from Kathmandu to Lukla, which although isn’t for everyone was a lovely flight. I was woken up by Gareth the cameraman as we approached the runway! We trekked to Monju at 2,800m where we slept the first night. Damian was so excited that there was wifi in the tea house that he abandoned the decompression rule and worked till midnight! Ha! I’ve met my ‘bottle of pop’ match there I think! It’s a wonderful (and important) mix of personalities and expertise…it’s going to be a tough 10 weeks for us, but an awesome one to be amongst mates.

    Day 3 and today…hence the cake, we arrived in Monju. All in good spirits. We’re on a different schedule to Jagged Globe’s main Everest Expedition, but it was awesome to bump into them again over lunch. Especially David Hamilton.

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    David and Richard in Kathmandu.

    David led my first Everest summit during my 737 Challenge and we’ve crossed paths and worked together in Antarctica since. Along with Jagged Globe director Simon Lowe, David is someone who I trust implicitly and it’s awesome to have his expertise here on the mountain.  Today we climbed to the Everest View Hotel just above Namche, although I’m not one to get lost in the views of her. It’s pre game for me, although a unique one.

    It wouldn’t be an expedition without the ‘top 3 game’ – sometimes this expands to ‘top 5’. Today we kicked it off…mine was top 3 meals, Nic’s was top 3 chocolate bars, Gareth’s was top 3 bond villains…Damian’s was top 3 species adapted to hypoxia! Haha! Apparently it’s Carp, Sea Turtle and Canadian bar-head goose!!

    Nic’s going to write the next blog early next week. I wouldn’t want you guys getting sick of me, so I’ll wish you an awesome weekend and safe adventures. In Wales it’s the Big Adventure Weekend. I have to share this with you guys – my dad has embraced the Year of Adventure and my ambassadorial role, so he and my brother Graham are going to Zip World. Awesome! Adventure will mean different things to all of us, but its awesome (and enlightening) whenever we do something for the first time or step outside of our comfort zones. I’ll write my next blog from Dinbouche 4,410m/14,469ft when the decompression rule will be over and the science will have begun. Thank you. To all those that have partnered and supported Project Everest Cynllun and for you guys for following me. It’s going to be an exciting few months.

  • Project Everest Cynllun team blog: Professor Nicola Phillips - Preparing for the extreme. - Tuesday 5th Apr 2016

    In my first blog of the expedition, as we head out from Heathrow to Nepal, I reflect on the preparation Richard has been doing to train for Project Everest Cynllun. In total, it has been some 18 months of preparation on his part but his physical preparation started in earnest in July last year.

    We started working on aspects of physical fitness that we decided would be important for the end goal of extreme physical effort in extremely low oxygen levels.

    There were a few things that informed our decisions for a programme. The ability to keep going in that environment at altitude partly relies on managing exertion. Logically, the stronger you are, the lower your perceived exertion climbing a mountain, so you can delay dipping into your anaerobic reserves and so off-set fatigue. Unfortunately, getting stronger often comes with muscles being bigger, so heavier to carry and big muscles also use up a lot of oxygen. The challenge was therefore to get Richard stronger but not heavier and keep muscle bulk to a minimum for the strength he needed.

    We started with a maximum strength phase where he pushed the weights hard - around 90% of his 1 repetition maximum for 3-5 sets of 5 with 4 minutes rest between sets. This aimed to add a mechanical load to the muscle tendon unit but limit the metabolic load by giving enough rest for full recovery between efforts. This meant that there was less likelihood for the hormones that stimulate muscle growth to build up.

    During phase 2, we worked at converting that strength into something he could use on the mountain. Some power would help him change pace for short bursts if he needed to from a safety or weather perspective. Strength endurance would help him cope with the lactate build up that would inevitably happen towards the end of the summit attempt. This phase comprised of circuit type training or ‘lactate sessions’.

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    The sessions were lasting about an hour and a half. We didn’t want to lose the strength gained, so we did one or two quality strength parts and some core activation work, then he would rest a bit and then do lactate threshold circuits.

    Circuits were typically bursts of 30 secs type work but the rests between those periods were not full rest - he was doing some sort of active exercise but of a lower effort and intensity. So having to maintain an isometric hold during what would be a rest period between an explosive effort. Strength endurance and power. Those sessions were almost in 3 phases to get some adaptation and then the recovery at the end was a different aspect as well.

    At the end of this session he needed to do some stretch work anyway. He would have done that as part of his normal warm down, so what we did was change those stretching exercises to yoga-based exercises that also involved some balance.

    Part of the training we would do for neuromuscular control would be to what we call technique under fatigue and decision-making under fatigue. So that is an important part of what he needs at the end of this expedition, so when he is tired, he needs to be able to think clearly and control and balance in a potentially very dangerous environment.

    So we did the yoga based exercises at the end of his session so he would really have to control his balance even though he was really, really tired.

    We used a mask in recovery only. We were looking to some strengthening of his respiratory muscles working on the principle that the stronger the respiratory muscles were, the more air he could get in to his lungs. This would obviously be important when there’s relatively less oxygen in the air - but what we actually found was that using the mask when he was trying to recover and balance was to a certain extent deprivation training. He found it quite claustrophobic because he was trying to recover and get the air in but he had to control his breathing as well, which again will be vital when he’s at that dangerous altitude. This was also very much a mindfulness thing as well as a physical thing.

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    The final part of his training was aerobic, featuring cardiovascular sessions, often in the Environmental Chamber at the University of South Wales. He had maintained his cardio work whilst he was doing other phases but we did specific sessions at altitude in the chamber, meaning sessions would last for much longer in terms of hours. This was a tough period for Rich to manage on top of all his logistical work and day-to-day admin to get ready for the expedition.

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    The timing of this trip has also brought into focus the similarities and differences to my other work in High Performance. I am honoured to say that I was recently selected as Chef de Mission to Team Wales for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast Australia. Whilst the conditions couldn’t be further apart and on this occasion I am only looking after 1 athlete rather than over a 100, helping keep an athlete fit and focused during final preparation stages is actually very similar. Making sure the manageable things are kept controlled and finding alternatives when there are less manageable factors will be a large part of what I will be doing in leading Team Wales in 2 years time.

    …. And so the expedition begins! I look forward to updating you on some of the things that happen from my perspective - which will probably be very different to Richard’s!

  • Richard's blog from Dingbouche - Tuesday 5th Apr 2016

    For all the science and the meticulous preparation it’s the things outside of my control that will play the biggest part in this. It’s a difficult paradox to get my head around. I’ve been here before, yes, but this time feels different. Identifying and managing the risks involved in Project Everest has been a two-year development cycle working with my partners and support network, yet at night the nerves come to visit. The Himalayas has that effect on me. Here we are reminded of just how insignificant we really are in the shadows of gods…some of the biggest and most incredible mountains on the planet. This is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. I’m writing this blog from Dingbouche at 4,450m/14,600ft in a tea house sat in front of a wood burner that’s actually burning yak dung with a coffee and chocolate cake next to me. Bliss. We’ve spent the day discussing and finalising the data collection protocols for the summit. I might not have long up there so an order of priority as well as maximising my efficiency is critical. Pema Chiri Sherpa will play an important role in assisting me. Part of my acclimatisation strategy involves climbing Pokalde (5,850m) and Island Peak (6,100m) with the full team before we get to Everest Base Camp, these will be important opportunities to ‘dry run’ the collection with Damian and Nic on hand. When I summit with Pema, we will be on our own in that respect.

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    Writing this blog!

    Being in the moment is a crucial skill that I’ve mastered on an expedition, apart from those special moments with loved ones I find it much harder back home, however this project is making that challenging. I wouldn’t normally be giving any thought to summit day at this time, only focused on how I feel right now and what the objectives are for this day. My success lies in processing a much wider decision making space yet staying focused on the objective. Maybe that’s why this feels different to the other projects? My Solo Antarctica Speed Record was brutal, but simpler in some ways. It normally takes me about 7-10 days to find my groove on an expedition. I’m feeling good here, the initial internal storm is beginning to settle maybe that’s why I’m feeling introspective.

    After my last blog we left Namche to trek to Debouche (3,700m). The trail is beautiful as you’re blessed with views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam to name just few. As I mentioned earlier we’re in the shadows of the gods. If you get a chance listen to ‘10 feet tall’ by my favorite band Fat Freddy’s Drop. I was listening to their new album ‘Bays’ that day thinking of seeing them in Paris at the end of last year. Awesome. I digress! Back to the expedition!

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    Amazing views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam.

    This part of the project is about acclimatisation and in my experience the better you acclimatise up to 5/6k the better a foundation you have for above. At sea level back home we’re breathing 21% oxygen, here in Dingbouche, due the reduced air pressure at this altitude it’s approximately the equivalent to breathing 12.5% oxygen at sea level. We adapt to this by increasing the number of oxygen carrying red blood cells along with our respiratory rate. Managing the delicate balance between stressing our bodies to make the adaptation yet allowing enough recovery to enable the adaptation to take place is an art as much as it a science. Already on this trip we’ve witnessed other teams the wrong side of this balance.

    Trekking to Island peak with two professors has been awesome…like a school day every day! If only I knew that Profs were this much fun I wouldn’t have been so scared in college! I joked that we were moving like Koala Bears only to be told by Nic (formally The Pocket Rocket, now The Pocket Chef de Mission!) that they’re not actually bears but marsupials! Along with Kangaroos! And Damian explained why I seem to want a pee when I get cold…due to increased vasoconstriction and cardiac volume which triggers receptors in the right atrium of the heart to release a chemical which has a diuretic effect on the kidney. I missed out sodium permeability in the descending loop of Henley in the kidney as I can’t quite remember! Ha! I put Fat Freddy’s Drop on when the two of them started debating heart receptors! Ha! Gareth (our cameraman) and I have very quickly bonded over our love of chocolate cake and chili! We both took the dare from Pema Chiri to try one of his fresh chilies…it didn’t end well for me! Gareth took it like a man, I on the other hand fell into a world of pain much to the amusement of the Nepalese crew!

    From Debouche we had a tough but our most enjoyable day so far. The 700m altitude gain from 3,700m to 4,450m was a push, but the day was broken with a magical experience. Pema Chiri Sherpa had organised a puja ceremony with Lama Geshe to bless us for the summit. We were welcomed into his home as he blessed not just Pema and myself, but the whole team. He was really cool and pretty funny. He kept laughing at my name bizarrely! It was such a privilege. I’m a religious man, more spiritual maybe, and for all the meticulous attention to detail underpinning this project, Mother Nature and the mountain herself will play the biggest part. I will need a little lady luck!

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    Being blessed by Lama Geshe.

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    Me and Pema above Dingbouche.

    Our second day in Dingbouche was spent finalising the summit collection protocols over our special roasted Clifton Coffee in the warmth of the tea house as the weather closed in and the temperature dropped during the afternoon. I was so happy that we grabbed the opportunity to climb Nagarjung peak 5,098m this morning, it was a lot of fun to share a summit with the boys as we took it in turns to pose! You can be the judge of the pics.

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    My effort.

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    Damian's.

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    Gareth's effort!

    Back to the science; I might not have much time on the summit for a number of reasons, so prioritising the measurements for collection is key. It’s wonderful when a team is in sync, as Damian, Nic and I were on the same page from the start as we decided a running order for the following - Arterialised capillary blood sample, muscle biopsy, cognitive function assessment, expired gases, oxygen saturation, body temperature and select aspects autonomic function. Having been there before, I know how important efficiency will be up there, so it’s vital that I maximise the ‘dead’ time in between measurements. We’ll use Pokalde and Island Peak to practice and fine tune. Once I’ve got it dialed I’ll share with you what my summit protocols will be in a later blog.

    As we’ve gained in altitude there’re more Yaks on the trail. They really are awesome animals, my favorites are the grey ones, however I have at times had to physically restrain Damian from stroking them! Ha! I’ve met my ‘dog missing’ match alright! As I find my groove in an expedition and let go of the material things back home, I’m reminded just how lucky we are with internet, hot water, electric, toilet roll – all these things we take for granted but are such a luxury here. In fact there's been a mysterious toilet roll fairy around! Haha! Someone who I won't name keeps leaving their luxury roll in the loos! Needless to say we're all enjoying quilted bum wipes Damian! Cheers mate! It wouldn’t be an expedition without some toilet stories.

    Tomorrow we move to Pokalde Base Camp. I’m excited to get into my tent. Every day inching higher…

    I’m going to finish this blog with saying congratulations to my mate, physio and performance director Prof Nicola Phillips, aka The Pocket Rocket as you’ll know from my book! Nic will have publically been announced as the Chef de Mission for Team Wales at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games now. I was privileged to have been a part of the Team Wales as Attache in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games under Nic and Brian (Brian Davies OBE) as deputy Chef and Chef respectively and witnessed their leadership first hand. In a very different environment and role to our working relationship on my projects Nic was inspirational in her unique understated way. Team Wales are privileged to have Nic’s leadership, I know Nic feels privileged to lead Wales in Australia.

    Catch you all soon, Rich.

  • Project Everest Cynllun team blog. Professor Damian Bailey - Summit Science. - Sunday 10th Apr 2016

    Well here we are almost 2 weeks into the expedition and I’m sipping “white coffee” in a luxurious tea-house in Chukhung (4,730m) deep into the Solokhumbu Valley. This “terrestrial” altitude is almost identical to the “simulated” altitude that I frequently expose research participants to back home in Wales with the use of my less aesthetic high-altitude chamber. I know where I’d rather be given that I’m surrounded by a breathtaking (pardon the pun!) panoramic view of Himalayan giants etched against a dark blue sky with spiralling spindrift caught up in the jet stream. Everest just seems so high-up and almost untouchable from here!

    Even though our acclimatisation strategy is working well, the breathlessness often reminds me of the discomfort patients at sea-level suffering from congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive lung disorder encounter on a daily basis, the caveat being without the views. The oxygen lack that I’m feeling here is almost identical to the oxygen lack they experience and my night’s broken sleep where I find myself fighting for that extra precious breath of oxygen depleted air puts their daily battle into clearer context.

    Back to business; this is not a vacation! Our next objective is Island Peak (6,183m) with basecamp (5,000m) located about a 3h trek away. We leave tomorrow at 8am to spend the night at basecamp before moving to high-camp were we’ll spend another (likely restless!) night before the ascent to the summit. This is an important jigsaw piece in the scientific puzzle for me since it constitutes the first real opportunity to practice the “summit science”, simply put a dry-run to make the measurements that Richard will attempt on the summit of Mt.Everest itself in the weeks to come.

    We’ve completed a slew of measurements in the comparative luxury of my simulated high-altitude chamber at the University of South Wales and already I have preliminary insight into what makes Richard’s brain so suited to performing well at high-altitude, compared to an age and fitness-matched mere mortal! But an oxygen-less ascent remains unchartered territory for both scientist and mountaineer and my attention now turns to perfecting these unique measurements. 

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    Richard undergoing testing with Damian at the University of South Wales Environmental chamber.

    You’re hopefully familiar with the fundamental concept behind what this expedition outside of the physical feat (not insignificant!) is looking to achieve, simply put, to what extent does improving oxygen delivery to Richard’s brain through acclimatisation offset the impairment in his ability to remember, reason and formulate ideas (cognitive function) caused by the oxygen lack? Island Peak will spin this hypothesis on its head, that is to what extent will this high-altitude peak negatively effect all of the above? So we’ll be armed with different bits of portable equipment to serve as a litmus test to answer this question, which has clinical relevance for those of us that are inexorably moving towards older age and the inevitable cognitive decline that is likely to ensue (what a depressing thought!).

    So here’s the checklist; Richard and I have run through this on numerous occasions and the time is nigh! Consumables for the sampling of arterialised capillary blood from his earlobe, consisting of special glass tubes with a plunger to push the frozen-stiff blood out into a portable analyser jam-packed full of clever technology squeezed into the size of a 1980’s mobile phone (without the battery back-pack!). Mustn’t forget the scalpel and chilli cream to ensure good blood flow so that we can fill at least 4 of the glass tubes with precious blood destined for the measurement of oxygen (miracle molecule that keeps us alive and turns our lips blue when in shortage), carbon dioxide (that stimulates our breathing and controls blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain) and other molecules that tell me how his blood is coping (or indeed not!) with the lack of oxygen.

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    We’ll also measure how quickly his blood clots and to what extent the lack of oxygen has affected the way the tiny proteins in his heart muscle work. OK, that’s the blood for now, so what else are we measuring?

    We’ll be packing a miniature canograph (posh word for device that measures the amount of carbon dioxide in Richard’s breath when he breathes out). He’ll be breathing in and out very quickly at this altitude and I’d expect his carbon dioxide levels to drop to very low levels. Not always a bad thing but it’ll cause the blood vessels that supply the precious little oxygen to his brain to clamp shut, a bit of a paradox really when you think about it; breathe more to get more oxygen on board, but yet limit the amount of oxygen that the brain sees! This has always bothered me given the brain’s disproportionate reliance on oxygen, but lets not get too philosophical until we’ve made the measurements!

    I’ll need to shave Richard’s furry chest to apply special electrodes and attach a tiny device the size of a USB key that will allow me to measure how stressed out he becomes with the combined stress of oxygen lack and exercise. This is another bit of “clever kit”, cunningly small and packed full of electronics that’ll sample aspects of his heartbeat 1000 times per second! And no, his heartbeat won’t be 1000, likely 150 beats per minute towards the summit, don’t get confused, he’s superhuman, but not that superhuman!

    I’ll also ask Richard to swallow a small pill that looks like an ibuprofen tablet! Not for headaches (we’re trying to avoid these like the plague!), but it’ll send radio signals that will allow us to measure his core temperature, important information for the correction of blood oxygen measurements. It’s a great bit of kit but it has to stay inside his tummy for it to work; must remind Richard that he needs to take some loperamide hydrochloride (imodium) to bung himself up so no pooing for 24h!  

    The final bit of kit that we’ll be carrying to the summit is a tablet so that we can further (note the word further!) challenge Richard’s brain with specialised software that will test his cognitive function (our primary outcome measure). Oh, one final thing; we’ll have a dummy run of the muscle biopsy, no needles (rather chicken skewers!) this time around, just play-pretend so that we can time the measurements and ensure that we avoid frozen fingers!

    Seems quite straightforward really doesn’t it? Well it is pretty easy…at sea level! But it’ll be as cold as -10c on the summit and with way less barometric pressure up there too (by the way, it’s the decrease in barometric pressure that causes the oxygen lack!). Why should these things be an issue? Well, the kit likes to perform in 5* conditions, warm, thick air and despite my best attempts to simulate the extreme environment encountered at high-altitude at home in the laboratory, nothing compares to performing the measurements in the field itself! Lots of unknowns and any glitches will need to be solved before the real test, repeating the same measurements in less than 15 minutes having climbed the world’s highest mountain without oxygen! Here’s to summit science success!                         

  • Project Everest Cynllun team blog: Professor Nicola Phillips - Observations and tapering - Wednesday 13th Apr 2016

    Physios and coaches (technical and strength and conditioning) observe. It’s what we do. Sometimes we measure those observations, sometimes it is more of an art. It’s usually to improve, correct or copy good patterns. I thought I’d write my second team blog with that in mind. A few things on what I’ve observed so far - about people and how some of the dynamics have similarities to High Performance sport, despite Project Everest Cynllun being such a unique individual challenge in many ways.

    I’ll start with the Sherpas. They look and move like elite athletes. They are rock stars in their country, probably like NBA players in the US, or closer to home, like a Welsh International rugby player walking down the street in Cardiff! The Sherpas are not big in stature but have the strength, agility and endurance needed for their work, along with a technical and tactical skill that allows them to help so many people achieve their goals in summiting various peaks in the region, including Everest. The technical skills are anything from setting up fixed lines on dangerous routes, to estimating weight with a glance or a single lift, just in the same way that I’ve seen weightlifters spot if a competitor has put on or lost weight before a competition. 

    Richard’s climbing partner for this expedition is Chiri Pema Sherpa. We will meet his second Nepalese climbing partner and cameraman at Everest Base Camp. We also have a guide, BJ who is joining us on this first part of the journey through the region. BJ walks ahead and Pema picks up the rear, checking everyone is OK…. usually me. Being at the back most of the time allows me good observation time. BJ, as the guide walks at whatever pace the person behind him goes. He doesn’t look as if he is changing pace in the least but he will stay just a little ahead, however fast the next person walks, which makes me wonder how fast he could actually walk if allowed to go at his own pace. They have a very efficient gait - not the rangy type gait you see in a typical distance athlete, it’s different. On each steep uphill step they let their trail leg reach full extension before transferring weight and starting the next step, which gives their quads a rest before taking what seems to be a slow motion step up (Richard taught me this one earlier on in the approach and it does help keep your legs going a bit longer when walking uphill for hours!). Then when walking up or down a less steep hill (I haven’t seen anything flat for days) they take a longer swing phase by almost flicking the leg through, again to full extension, before footstrike. I tried that as well after observing both BJ and Pema and I think this probably loosens the leg, reducing quad tension in some way. The scientist in me would love to observe some of these gait patterns in our movement lab back in Cardiff University!

    RP__Pema_in_Tengboche.jpg

    Richard and Pema

    Then there’s Gareth Morrow the TV director/producer on the trip. We sometimes forget, when sitting watching documentaries in HD that for us to sit on our sofas watching a challenge unfold that someone has usually had to go at least part of the way to film it! Gareth will be going across the Khumbu Ice Fall with Richard and Pema and he will be carrying about 15Kg of camera equipment, whilst Damian and I sit in relative comfort at Base Camp.

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    Richard and Gareth talking through camera shots 

    He is an experienced mountaineer in his own right and he and Richard are already making a good team. This starts to put another facet on this preparation phase - not just physical but putting a team together. A team that is going to need to operate very slickly at times in a potentially dangerous environment, with little room for error - except that this team has not worked together for years as you would typically observe at a major competition. It’s more like an invitation team - a British Lions Rugby Union touring team for the mountaineering world!

    Richard’s preparation over the last months seems to be paying off. Just like a tapering phase before a main event, the aim now is to allow his body to acclimatise to the altitude and build up energy stores ready for a maximum effort. The difference is that this performance will be at a very high altitude and there are no real short cuts to developing the extra red blood cells needed to perform at such low levels of oxygen. In a way that makes the inaccessibility of the region useful. The only real feasible way to get to Everest is to walk there from Lukla. There are a few routes to take beyond the well trodden trekking route, depending on how much altitude you want to get to along the way but essentially it’s going to take you a few weeks. Richard’s plan is to keep his overall effort below 75% exertion during these few weeks, although he’s doing that trekking up some pretty steep slopes carrying around 15Kg on his back. My bag weighs more like 7Kg at the most but apparently my tortoise-like “speed” helps keep the others stay below 75% effort……… I’d say I am on that threshold most of the time and sometimes above it but I only have to get as far as Base Camp!

    There’s a balance to be made between allowing full recovery during a tapering or late preparation phase and detraining. Despite set protocols often seen in other sports, this has to be more of an art than true science, not the least because Richard is also fulfilling a “Western Leader” role in addition to being the athlete preparing for an event. The lead into this project is slightly longer than it would typically be for a major championships or olympic/commonwealth games because of how long it takes to get there, so there is a risk of detraining. To manage this I would compare walking between places as keeping ticking over, whilst making sure Richard stretches every day. The Pokalde and Island Peak days are harder bursts and also akin to highly sports specific technical sessions. That way we should get the right balance so that Richard keeps in the best possible physical shape for what’s ahead. Psychological shape is another thing: I’d suggest that what he is doing is pretty unique in that as well as needing to treat himself like an athlete, he also has to manage the group on this approach. He is doing all the operational and managerial things we would usually protect an athlete from at this time out before an event. An “event” that he has set up and project managed himself. I think that’s probably a subject for another blog!

    DSC_3160.jpg

    The need to gain altitude as part of preparation and the fact that there are limited routes to get there, means that all those climbing Everest from the Nepal side will cross paths quite a few times on the way. It’s obviously not a competition, everyone knows that. Each person is respectfully pitting themselves against the highest mountain in the world. However, the jostling, eyeing up other teams as well as sharing stories that goes on is a bit like what you might see in a popular training camp region; somewhere like Spain, Florida or the Gold Coast. Chukkung has been a bit like that.

    Ueli Steck was here initially - he’s perhaps the Mo Farah of the mountaineering world. Everyone wanted to chat to him to ask what he was doing this year. Filming teams who were here with other groups wanted to snatch an interview etc.

    Our Sherpa, Pema is very experienced, having summited Everest 12 times, the first at just 17 years old. Mingma, the Sherpa who summited with Richard in 2011, was also here a day or so. He will be summiting for the 20th time this year and was here with a filming team preparing to make a film about him next year……. As I said earlier….. rock stars!

    Rich_and_Mingma_in_2011.JPG

    Richard and Mingma on the summit of Everest in 2011

    All in that mix has been groups going through of people doing this for the first time or making a once in a lifetime experience. All trying not to be in awe of the well-known faces of the mountaineering world……… Also as I said earlier….. just like a training or prep camp or a Games Village!

    Once the boys come back from Island Peak I will join them to continue my tortoise-like speed to Base Camp over the next few days, so my next contribution may well be from there. For now I’ll keep telling myself the story of the tortoise and the hare!

  • Richard's blog: Island Peak - the dry run - Saturday 16th Apr 2016

    The storm has passed. The internal storm that is! You will have gathered from my last blog that I was wrestling the emotional and psychological storm that comes at the beginning of every expedition. In my experience it takes me about 10-14 days to become at peace in the environment. 10-14 days to shed the baggage we all carry from the world I left behind. Every expedition goes through 3, maybe 4 phases. The first being the internal storm. Inevitably it’s been long development cycle of blood sweat and tears to just get to launch day. Then once it’s out there the vulnerability comes as I lay myself bare. Getting on the plane is normally a relief as by then I’ve talked so much all I want to do is get on with it. The first phase of the expedition is a reflection of this – the anxiety, the nerves, the self-doubt, the adrenaline. It’s passed. I’m sat in a teahouse in Lobuche just before Everest Base Camp feeling at peace. Ready for what lies ahead.

    There is no shortcut to this mind space, it’s the result of the last week or so since my last blog, although you would’ve heard from Nic and Damian. Pokalde was the first step. A beautiful climb, I would say a grade 2-3 scramble with a couple of exposed sections towards the summit. It’s just off the main trekking and climbing routes out here, and as a result has less traffic. We were the only team there. Our 4 tents at High Camp pitched next to a frozen lake like a post card. High Camp on Pokalde sits at 5,400m and the summit at 5,806m/19,049ft. It was the first significant test to get under my belt and I loved it. Gareth, Pema and myself moving fluidly to the summit in under 2 hours, topping out just before sunrise and back in our tents by 09:00! I love sunrises anywhere, but in the mountains they become primal almost, as the sunrays warm your bones from the bitter cold at altitude, reminding you that it brings life to all on our planet. The rest of the day acclimatising was the toughest part! I’ve maximised every opportunity to sleep high on my strategy, lying in my tent for the day after a tough morning is hard on the mind but crucial to stimulate my body to produce more red blood cells. Performing comfortably (or as comfortable as 5800m feels!) on Pokalde was an important milestone.

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    Acclimatisation at Pokalde 

    It wouldn’t be a blog without some toilet humour from me! Neither would it be a blog on this expedition without me geeking out with the help of my 2 proffs! Which leads me to ‘Boyle’s Law’ - at a constant temperature there’s an inverse relationship between pressure and volume. In layman’s terms - the higher the altitude, the lower the pressure and thus the more we fart! Apparently I woke Nic up in her tent pitched 5m away! I’m pretty sure it was Gareth! Ha!

    From Pokalde we trekked via Chukkung to Island Peak Base Camp at 5,100m, after only one night, we quickly moved to High Camp at 5,600m. The challenge was water. As a result of the way the glacier has formed this year, it’s a 4 hour round trip to source water at high camp. This is a brutal but powerful way that performance in these extremes puts the things we take for granted back home into perspective. Island Peak was a huge milestone. I can say that now, because I’ve felt the relief after a successful summit. At the time it was all about process, allowing the outcome to take care of itself. This was my final opportunity to test the data collection systems I plan to use on Everest’s summit that we have been developing in the lab. Despite the state of the art environmental chamber in the University of South Wales (USW), nothing can compare with doing it for real on the summit at 6,189m/20,305ft managing Mother Nature. The nerves were palpable the night before our summit push. Getting to the top is one thing, but getting to the top to collect world first physiological and psychological measurements is another. On this occasion I would have Damian with me, come Everest I’ll be on my own.

    After little sleep we left high camp at 3am, and under head torches we climbed vertically 300m to the edge of the snowline. Here we put out crampons on and roped up to climb the glacier to the foot of the summit’s headwall. There are a handful of ladder crossings spanning open crevasses in the early part of this section, not for the faint hearted, however relatively short, the largest being 2 ladders tied together. A useful reminder of what’s to come in the Icefall and Western Cwm on Everest. The last time I summited Everest in 2011 the largest crevasse had 5…yes 5 ladders tied together spanning maybe a 20m drop. The headwall is where the excitement begun. It’s 200 vertical meters of fixed line over steep poor quality ice. What should’ve been a simple climb became quite a stressful experience, as this was the bottleneck for many climbers with a wide variety of skillsets. It’s not very often you see the Nepalese lose their temper, but when it happens its noteworthy! Pema and I were acutely aware of how other people’s actions were impacting our safety. Once on the summit ridge, we found ourselves in a serendipitous gap in between teams. And actually had the summit to ourselves. Perfect for the data collection. It was a draining 7 hours, around 2 of it managing the traffic on the fixed lines! There was no time to take a breath or reflect, I was straight into my summit protocol. Expired gases on the capnograph. Blood oxygen saturation on the oxymeter. Then arterialised capillary blood samples from my ear. After struggling in the lab at these simulated altitudes, I had convinced Damian that a deep scalpel incision would indeed be safer than the lancet. This isn’t the place to be f@%£ing about. It worked...well, after Damian found the scalpel! He had decided to put it in his glove, then immediately forgot! Reviewing Gareth’s filming footage, which you guys will see on TV in the autumn, it’s clear and super funny! A funny, but important lesson that the cognitive functions in hypoxia this extreme are seriously impaired. This was 6,100m - 8,848m/29,029ft on the summit of Everest will be a different ball game again. We (the royal we - Damian) got great blood flow and filled our collection capillary tubes without coagulation. This was a huge step for us. The day before a handful of climbers had got seriously frostbitten in the brutally cold winds this early in the season, the heli landed on the glacier to evacuate them as we filled the blood capillaries.

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    Taking a blood sample on the summit of Island Peak. Main picture at top of page: Breathing in to a capnograph.

    I didn’t collect a muscle biopsy for risk of infection this close to the main event, my last self-collection test was back in USW before I left. I ran through every step in real time to simulate it and I can say that I was awesome! Ha! The final measurement was the cognitive function assessment. My Sony Xperia tablet fired up immediately in the cold and the GSK Human Performance Lab/Axon test worked perfectly…it seemed as if the only thing that wasn’t functioning was my brain! I have strict protocols not to know the results of the tests, as my headspace is critical to my performance on this one, however I know I was sh££! Once I’d finished the full measurement protocol we were able to grab the usual summit pics and breathe in the moment. For all the science and the meticulous preparation, Mother Nature will play the biggest card in Project Everest Cynllun. In fact, things outside of my control pose the biggest risk; for example traffic like I experienced on the headwall could be fatal in my summit bid. Working with Pema, David (Hamilton) and Simon (Lowe) on a choosing the right summit window will be critical. These factors outside of my control is where my faith comes in. I love Falcons, all birds of prey in fact. Just as we’d packed our rucksacks for the descent, a flock of 3 eagles flew over us. Yeah, at 6100m, as if I could reach out and touch them. Their under coats crystal clear to us. It’s moments like this that make things magical. I choose to take this as a positive sign. After all this is adventure at it’s limit, and we all need a little lady luck.

    reduced_Isize_sland_Peak_LOW_RES.jpg

    The descent was just as harrowing as the ascent negotiating the traffic, but for 34 mins, we had the summit to ourselves. We could’ve been the only people on the planet for that brief moment. Wonderful. After 12 hours of climbing we collapsed into our sleeping bags back at High Camp. Some things could’ve been slicker and it’s certainly going to be monumentally tougher at 8848m, however this was a huge milestone for me, the team and the project. My Rab clothing which has been adapted specifically for this performed impeccably, my adaptations to the electronic data collection equipment enabled them to work well in the cold and the protocols that Damain and I have been developing worked! There are a few tweaks still to be done, but I’m ready. Being hard on myself as usual, it took until Dingbouche (3 days after) for this to sink in.

    You will have noticed that at various times, I’ve omitted various team members from Pokalde to Island Peak. The irony here is that my high altitude professor Damian missed Pokalde with severe AMS, and my performance physiotherapist professor Nic missed Island Peak with an injured knee! Ha! With everyone back together and in awesome shape (mentally and physically) in Dingbouche, we took the opportunity to mark this first chapter success. The Nepalese team made me a cake and we had a beer! It was wonderful to share this with all the team, as every one had played a part in making this possible. I only wish I could’ve shared it with the Project team back home and the ones I care about, as this was the culmination of many people’s support.

    These last few days have been a further opportunity to decompress, recover and focus as we trek to Base Camp. I will need a full tank as the hard work begins now. My Walkman (yes I can’t help but still use that word) has been filling my soul with Anthony Hamilton, London Electricity and of course Fat Freddy’s Drop. Music is my way of controlling my emotions; I can escape, focus, relax or energise. It can transport me away or ground me in the moment.

    With this first chapter behind me, I realise how tough it’s been personally balancing so many points of focus often counter intuitive to performance. With all the team healthy and safe at base camp, having dialed the majority of the science, filming gone awesomely and in good health myself I can feel myself withdrawing to the singular focus of getting to the top. Pema and I have forged a wonderful bond already, sharing photos of our loved ones and developing a trust by demonstrating safe mountain awareness and skills. We’ve even discussed how we’re going to celebrate when we pull this off! Gareth and I have forged an equally strong bond. He’s been a blessing to my team fitting in perfectly, I’m really looking forward to filming together on Everest. Sharing my experiences with you guys is something I take seriously, and is very much a privilege for me.

    After the Puja blessing ceremony on the 22nd at Everest Base Camp, I plan to spend 2 weeks based out of Camp 2 at 6,300m above the Icefall, building towards a couple of rotations to the South Col and above 8,000m. My next long blog will be when I’m back in Base Camp. But Nic and Damian will keep you up to speed, and I’ll be tweeting my progress daily. Go well guys.

    The storm is passed. The second stage of an expedition is finding my groove. When abnormal things feel normal. I’m at one with my environment. Good thing really, as my level of discomfort will only get worse as I force my body to adapt to the extreme hypoxia. In my experience, performance in the world’s most hostile environments is a fine balance between defiance and humility. I’m ready.

  • Project Everest Cynllun team blog: Professor Damian Bailey - Island Peak Summit Science - Saturday 16th Apr 2016

    Time to write the next science blog in the comparative luxury of Dingboche; here the air feels so much thicker and I’m not fighting for that extra breath that continues to escape me at the higher elevations! OK, here’s the update. Phase I of the Summit Science is now complete having successfully summited Island Peak (6,189m/20,305ft) our litmus test for the collection of scientific data on the summit of Mt. Everest (8,848m) more than two and a half kilometers higher again (sobering!). This was an interesting ascent with myself, Richard and Gareth the cameraman encountering numerous mostly physical challenges to get to the top (notably the distinct lack of mountaineering etiquette displayed by mostly European climbers foaming at the mouth with “summit fever”!). Helps remind me of the age-old dictum, “safety before summit”. That-aside, we were elated to have reached the summit safe and sound having transported the portable instruments in Richard’s rucksack, strategically housed within very sophisticated Tesco zip-lock bags!

    With the assistance of Sherpa Pema, we started our dry-run, stopwatch in hand with Gareth filming. First the capnography that confirmed Richard’s very low end-tidal levels of carbon dioxide (that the brain battles constantly against in order to get more blood, oxygen and glucose to its hard-working neurons).

    reduced_island_peak_capnograph_LOW_RES.jpg

    Then came the sampling of arterialised blood from Richard’s frozen earlobe, wearing its battle scars from halcyon days of professional rugby.

    reduced_islan_peak_bloods_ear_lobe_LOW_RES.jpg

    Under pressure to get this done, I spent 2 minutes frantically looking for the scalpel that I had strategically placed in my down mitt, realising how hypoxic we all were! Gareth thought this was hilarious of course and no extra pressure knowing that I was being filmed; would make for a great Monty Python sketch! The capillary tube filled nicely and having sealed it from the ambient, it was quickly transferred to a plastic tube and then packed safely inside Richard’s hot chocolate vacuum flask and jammed full of ice. As this was being completed, Richard started the “pretend” biopsy procedure, going over each step meticulously, shaving precious minutes off wherever he could, like the streamlined Ferrari that he is! Finally, out came the Sony tablet with the cognitive function software and off Richard went, challenged by bleeping lights and tap-tapping the screen furiously trying to (unsuccessfully of course!), match his sea-level scores. The rarefied air on the summit of Island Peak had a noticeably negative impact on Richard’s performance and reminded me yet again that it’s all about oxygen and what gas guzzling energy hogs our brains have evolved into; way over-engineered!

    Surprisingly no glitches though the stopwatch bleeped at a sobering 27 minutes 13 seconds; too slow and we’d be keen to reduce this by about half (gulp!) More practice needed and Richard needs to shift from Ferrari to Lamborghini status on the summit of Mt. Everest. Feeling very happy at the success of data collection in such an inhospitable environment…but this is short lived as I glance over to the summit ridge that we need to tackle in order to get down to the glacier below and traverse those decidedly dodgy aluminium ladders in steely crampons straddling monster crevasses!  

  • Richard's Blog: Arrived at Everest Base Camp - Monday 18th Apr 2016

    Hi Guys!

    Arrived at Everest Base Camp, which is great. The Jagged Globe base is fantastic as always. I'm sat in the Project Everest Cynllun tent, which is one of my proudest moments. It’s the manifestation of all the hard work. It's a lab and a den!

    We've hung prayer flags and project flags inside and a Welsh, Union Jack and Project Everest Cynllun flag outside. It's so pimp! It's a little bit away from the rest of the camp so it's private too. More pics will follow soon!

    The Icefall is particularly fluid this year. Already parts of the route have collapsed and ladders are left hanging there. It's also particularly steep. Although I'm acclimatised higher than the Jagged Globe team as I've climbed island peak at 6189m, they have been in the Icefall twice to 5800m. The guys that have been here before say it's not nice. This all fits in perfectly with my plan to only climb it twice. But every time you're in it, it’s Russian roulette.

    There is a meeting tomorrow between the main teams to decide on a strategy on fixing the route above camp 2, at the moment it's not been fixed. The outcome of that will influence when I climb to camp 2. There’s no point in moving up if I can't climb to camp 3 or the South Col (camp 4). I'm feeling good and patient.

    It was very cold last night with snowfall. I woke this morning with ice on the outside of my sleeping bag and on the inside of my tent. It's great to be here though. It all feels real now...I'm glad the first chapter is in my rear view and acclimatisation and testing so far has gone well.

    As many of you will already know, Jagged Globe are my logistics partner to many of my expeditions, including my 737 Challenge and of course this current expedition. The Jagged Globe Everest team this year are awesome. It’s a small team (less teams on the mountain this year after last year’s earthquake) consisting of 4 climbers; Mary Scannell who has not been to Everest before, Steve Waterman who was with Jagged Globe in 2014, Ian Mitchell who was also with Jagged Globe in 2014 and Nick Talbot who has been on Everest in 2014 and ’15. Nick has cystic fibrosis and is climbing for the cystic fibrosis trust.

    Then there’s David Hamilton - team leader, who was also my team leader when I summited Everest in 2011, Rachel Tullett – Base Camp Manager and Ant Dubber - Chef. David and his team, as always are writing their own blogs so you can also follow how the Jagged Globe team are progressing by following their Everest blogs here.

    My itinerary will be slightly different to theirs but it's been great to meet and chat to the team, just as much as it’s awesome to have our own little Project Everest Cynllun hub!

    As we are just getting settled in, I’ll be back in touch soon. Speak soon guys. Rich.

  • Richard's blog: Everest climbing strategy - Wednesday 20th Apr 2016

    Hey Guys!

    I had a great meeting with my sherpa team yesterday - Pema, Sonam and Mingma and I also had a meeting with Jagged Globe team leader David Hamilton. Both were very productive.

    Deciding on a climbing strategy on Everest is not always a straightforward easy decision, especially on this expedition when climbing without supplementary oxygen. I have had a strategy in my mind for some time, but there’s often so many factors to consider once you arrive at Base Camp. How well you have acclimatised already, conditions on the mountain this season etc. Every conversation and discussion I have had with David and the sherpas I have allowed to contribute positively to my strategy, even if at the time the conversations have been tough. Ultimately I believe my strategy is better as a result of everything. I’ll be on a different itinerary to any of the other commercial climbing teams and I’ll be climbing with a small team.

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    Richard has been deep in discussions at Everest Base Camp

    The sherpas agree with my strategy and think that its a good one. Normally they don't like spending a lot of time above the Icefall (I was expecting a bit of debate to be honest) however they are fully supportive of my plan. I have the utmost confidence in my ability and my team.

    Gareth, my cameraman will climb to Camp 2 and maybe Camp 3 with me. He's training and working with Sonam who will film high on the mountain.

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    Cameraman Gareth with Richard and Pema on Pokalde.

    Obviously this is weather dependent, but below is my climbing strategy. This might make interesting reading for some, for others you may well be bored for this bit! Ha!

    Richard’s climbing strategy on Everest: 

    APRIL

    21st - Puja ceremony

    22nd - Climb to Camp 1 (6,000m / 19,685ft)

    23rd - Climb to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft) then descend to Base Camp (5,350m / 17,553ft)

    24th - Rest

    25th - Rest

    26th - Climb to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft)

    27th - Rest

    28th - Climb to start of Lhotse Face (around 6700m / 21,982) descend to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft)

    29th - Climb to Camp 3 (7,300m / 23,950ft) descend to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft)

    30th - Climb to Camp 3 / Sleep (7,300m / 23,950ft)

    MAY

    1st - Descend to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft)

    2nd - Rest

    3rd - Climb to Camp 3 / Sleep (7,300m / 23,950ft)

    4th - Climb to Yellow Band on Lhotse Face (Around 7,800m / 25,591ft) descend to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft)

    5th - Rest

    6th - Climb to Camp 3 / Sleep (7,300m / 23,950ft)

    7th - Climb to South Col Camp, also known as Camp 4 (7,950m / 26,083ft) descend to Camp 3 (7,300m / 23,950ft)

    8th - Descend to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft)

    9th - Rest

    10th - Climb to Camp 3 (7,300m / 23,950ft)

    11th - Climb to South Col (maybe balcony 8,443m / 27,700ft) Full Data

    Collection, descend to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft)

    12th - Descend to Base Camp (5,350m / 17,553ft)

    13th - Rest

    14th - Full Data Collection

    15th - Rest

    16th - Rest

    17th - Rest

    18th - Rest

    19th - Climb to Camp 2 (6,400m / 21,000ft) until summit push.

    Just so you know, these (give or take the odd few metres) are the elevations on Everest of camps and key points:

    Base Camp

    5,350m / 17,553ft

    Khumbu Icefall
: 5500m – 6,100m / 18,043ft – 20,013ft.

    Camp 1 (Valley of Silence)

    6,000m / 19,685ft

    Camp 2 (Western Cwm)

    6,400m / 21,000ft

    Camp 3 (Lhotse Wall)

    7,200m-7,300m (it sprawls over a wide altitude range)

    23,622 – 23,950ft

    Camp 4/South Col

    7,950m / 26,083ft

    Balcony: 8,443m / 27,700ft

    South Summit: 8,749m / 28,704ft

    Summit of Everest

    8,848m / 29,029ft

    The summit of Everest is sometimes written as 8,850m – the Chinese survey put it higher and after last year’s earthquake, it probably is. Nevertheless, the official height remains 8,848m even though we have seen it given in itineraries as 8,850m.

    Here’s some up to date pictures of Damian fitting autonomic electrodes on me in our Project Everest Cynllun tent/hub!

    Autonomic_Electrodes1.jpg

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    The thing around my neck is called a 'Runga'. It was given to me by the Lama as a blessing and for good fortune on my climb. Pema sewed it up for me to wear. He has one too. By the way, Pema is 32 and this will be his 13th summit of Everest!

    It's super cold here today. I am going into my tent now to warm up. It normally gets pretty cold around 4pm here when the sun drops.

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    The Project Everest Cynllun team tent

    Base_Camp_tents.jpg

    I have a puja ceremony tomorrow, which is a traditional blessing for climbers and their gear. I had one in 2011 when I last climbed Everest and it’s a special day. Then, it’s on to my first rotation. Almost game time!

    Main Pic at top of page: Richard's sherpa climbing team - Pema, Mingma, Sonam and Pem Chiri Sirdar.

  • Project Everest Cynllun team blog: Professor Nicola Phillips - Settling in to Everest Base Camp - Friday 22nd Apr 2016

    We arrived in Base Camp a few days ago and have been resting up after the journey here. Richard has been itching to get up onto the mountain since we arrived, which is a good sign. Whilst rest and organising ourselves has been an important component of preparation, Richard’s keenness to get up and above the icefall is a good indication of both his physical and mental state at the moment. You can already see his “Game Face” starting to switch on.

    Arriving in Base Camp has meant that he has been able to let go of some of the other additional responsibilities and potential distractions of leading the group on the way here, allowing him to focus more on the days and weeks ahead and what he needs to do to achieve his goal. The days have quickly settled into a routine, largely centred around meal times, especially as the food has been second to none since we arrived. I have to say that I was not expecting lamb shanks or steak and chips!! What Anthony the chef can create in a tent and a couple of gas stoves is awe-inspiring.

    Everest_Base_Camp_view.jpg

    Everest Base Camp

    However, the rather comfortable routine of Base Camp is now something Richard is keen to move on from, just as an athlete starts to get restless as a competition gets nearer. The routine of living with a group of people can become as much of a distraction as leading us through the first phase of the journey was, just in a different way. The climbing team of Richard, Gareth, Pema and two climbing sherpas, Mingma and Sonam had a very successful meeting and they have finalised the strategy for the next few weeks.

    RP_at_sherpa_meeting_after_Puja_Ceremony_WEB.jpg

    Richard meeting with his Sherpa team

    Planning is crucial at this stage and it is deliberately quite different to the typical acclimatisation strategies of other teams here who will use supplementary oxygen above 7,000m ish. That’s because Richard isn’t preparing to summit with supplementary oxygen, as most teams are. He has developed a strategy that will enable him to acclimatise to over 8,000m, which involves a delicate and personal balance of exposure and exertion at much higher altitudes. His strategy will see him spend 17 days above Camp 2 (6,400m) with potentially 3 trips to the South Col and over 8,000m. I’m sure he’ll share more with you in his next blog. That all starts in the next few days. It’s also not just about acclimatisation, although obviously that is really important and why we had to arrive in Nepal so early but if it was simply about acclimatising, many more people would have achieved the staggering feat that Richard is aiming to do.

    In the 7,003 summits of Everest on all routes by 4,093 people, only 193 climbers have summited without supplemental oxygen. That’s a pretty exclusive list to join. As well as acclimatisation, success is very much about his physical and psychological readiness and he will very soon get the chance to put all the months of hard work into good use. He has to be strong enough and fit enough as well as have the mental resilience, in addition to the final physiological adaptations.

    We had our Puja blessing today, which was a wonderful mix of reverence and social gathering. The lama blessed the climbing team and all their climbing gear as well as our Welsh flag. For this I put on a different hat… that of assistant camerawoman!

    Professor_Nicola_Phillips_at_Puja_ceremony_Everest_Base_Camp_WEB.jpg

    RP_at_Puja_Ceremony_3E_WEB.jpg

    Richard after his Puja ceremony - also featured at top of page

    Once this has taken place, Richard and the team can start in earnest, leaving for Camp 1 via the icefall in the early hours of Friday morning. They will spend a night at Camp 1 and visit Camp 2 before returning to Base Camp in a couple of days. They will also use this opportunity to take some supplies up with them for their next, much longer climb a few days later. Once that all starts, my role will be to maintain communications via the Jagged Globe team onsite, then to pick up on any minor things related to fitness if needed during the days he is back at Base Camp. I will keep everyone posted on progress and Richard will be tweeting each day from his position on the mountain. Catch you soon! Nic.

  • Richard's blog: First climb to Camp 2 - Saturday 23rd Apr 2016

    Climbed to Camp 2 today to 6,400m. The route isn’t that bad but was still a tough morning. A gully above us avalanched in the Western Cwm as we climbed. We ran to safe distance but it was scary. No harm, all good. Jagged Globe’s Camp 2 is great and I am amped to base myself here for a long rotation but there is a lot of debris from last year, which is sobering. Other than usual life at 6,400m all is good. A big milestone climbing and sleeping here. I am loving climbing with Pema. Just a quick one today, catch you soon guys.

    Pic: Rich earlier this week.

  • Richard's Blog: The Icefall, ladders and high winds - Sunday 24th Apr 2016

    Camp 2 was a productive exercise. There's been so much talk of the Icefall being tough and dangerous this year. I didn't think so. It's steep, with a lot of front point climbing (the very front spikes on my crampons) but I liked it. Compared to 2011, there are less ladder crossings with only one really dangerous section. Moving quickly about 30 minutes of Russian roulette through very dynamic and unstable ice boulders. In only 2 days the route had collapsed from when I went up. It's 5 hours of very hard work, but I think its safer. The same can be said from Camp 1 to Camp 2, the route is longer with some steep climbs but the longest ladder crossing is 2 ladders tied together which compared to 5 ladders tied together in 2011 is a safer option.

    1._Crossing_ladder_crossings_over_crevasses_on_Everest_LOW_RES.jpg

    Richard crossing 5 ladders over a crevasse in 2011.

    Camp 2 is basic, but great. It's built on top of the debris from the earthquake last year which is sobering (ruined tents etc everywhere frozen into the rock and ice) but it's a good place to base my work out of.

    The winds have been very high, gusting over 80 knots. Enough to pick you off your feet. When we climbed out of Camp 1 many of the surrounding tents had been demolished. No wonder I didn't sleep a wink as the tent buckled under the strain. Camp 2 is a little more sheltered, but the ropes won't be fixed to Camp 3 until its safe to do so. Probably 27th-29th April? This is why I took the opportunity to stay at Camp 2 early. My plan is to have 2 full days rest here in Base Camp and climb to Camp 1 on the 27th and Camp 2 on the 28th to co-ordinate with the rope fixing teams to move higher.

    I feel good. Well as good as life at 6,400m can feel! I'll write a longer blog tomorrow with some pictures. There’s a minute silence tomorrow at 11:56, exactly one year on from when the earthquake/avalanche hit base camp.

    Speak soon guys. Rich.

    Pic at top of page: The Icefall by moonlight from Base Camp.

  • Richard's blog: First climb to Camp 2 and Remembrance - Monday 25th Apr 2016

    Sat in my tent at Camp 1 with Gareth waiting for the ice to melt listening to the roar of my stove as the tent buckled and shook under 30 knot gusts of wind, I realised just how much I love the simplicity of expedition life. It’s hard and it’s unforgiving, but the way it strips back the layers of normal life can be wonderful too. It highlights the things and people you care about back home, and also highlights the things that you don’t really care about back home! It reminds you what is really important and what we’re simply told is important. It’s great to be on the mountain and actually begin the climb.

    My first rotation on Everest to Camp 2 went well. The climb from Base Camp through the Icefall wasn’t as bad as some reports suggested. That’s a great example of the pit falls of life at Base Camp - the whispers. The Icefall is steep this year, the route is aggressive, but apart from one section, it’s no worse than my experience in 2011. That is relative. It’s not a pleasant place to climb anytime, and in the two days that we were above, the route had changed on our way down.

    RP_Icefall_3_WEB.jpg

    Ladders left hanging as sections of the Icefall had collapsed. The one section that is unsettling is about 20-30 minutes of moving quickly through and over ice boulders – like balancing on rocks at the beach - just that there are some mega drops underneath these here. They are compressed into stability, but being such a dynamic environment you know that at some point they will shift. It’s Russian roulette that you’re not on or underneath them when they do. There are a lot of teams moving through it, so already the route needs tweaking and repairing. I would like to see an abseil option on some of the vertical ladders to manage teams moving in different directions.  I’m not the guy to dramatise things, this place deserves more reverence than that, but if you want to climb to the top, you have to manage every section with appropriate skill, decision making and humility. Although my strategy limits the times I’ll climb through the Icefall, there is no escaping it.

    Icefall_2_WEB.jpg

    The Icefall.

    Camp 1 feels like purgatory. A waiting place to move up. There’s no shelter from the winds ripping down the Western Cwm. Pema and I spent a couple of hours building a windbreak wall so that we could go to the toilet safely. An hour or so of work digging and shifting snow and ice at 6,100m, followed by 30 minutes recovering with a brew…just so that we can go to the toilet! It’s not for everyone up here, but it is wonderful.

    Winds are high on the mountain at the moment. Pema, Sonam, Gareth and I spent some time that afternoon digging the tents in to good effect. After the sun drops the temperature follows closely. At Camp 1 it’s about minus 18 degrees celsius. Which means after sunset we hibernate in our Rab Expedition sleeping bags for the best part of 12 hours as our bodies come to terms with the altitude gain, killing time melting ice and drinking. Hydration is key at altitude, but the price you pay is peeing! I chose to carry my Clifton Coffee up instead of my pee bottle. Using the same bottle for coffee, hot chocolate and my pee might seem gross, but it’s not the first time I’ve opted to go light. The coffee is worth it!! Anyway, throughout the night I filled my bottle up 3 times! That’s 3 litres to replenish somehow. We woke to our breath and humidity frozen on the outside of our sleeping bags and inside of the tent, yet I was toasty as I would be back home inside! …well not quite! As much as I love my sleeping bag I would choose cwtching at home under the duvet every time! Some of the other teams’ empty tents at Camp 1 had collapsed and broken in the winds that night, a little bit of effort when you’re f$$$ed to pitch it well means a much better night inside! My OCD is my friend up here!

    Gareth_and_RP_in_Tent_at_Camp_1_WEB.jpg

    RP_Melting_ice_at_Camp_1_WEB.jpg

    I was happy to leave Camp 1 and climb to Camp 2. Again there’s been lots of talk around Base Camp that the route from C1 to C2 is longer than necessary and overly difficult this year. I don’t agree. There are a few big walls to climb up straight out of Camp 1 as the route negotiates some big crevasses that have frozen over. The walls are tough, but then you’re on Everest! The route zigzags around some other monumental crevasses, but I’d rather this than the 5 ladders tied together in 2011.

    There are quite a few ladder crossings between Base Camp and Camp 2 but none bigger than 2 ladders tied together at the moment. The route and ladders need constant management by the Icefall Doctors (the Nepalese climbing team responsible for management of the route) and already need some improvements. There are a couple of vertical 4 ladder sections on the route underneath Camp 2, but they don’t bother me as much as the horizontal ones having to look down at the abyss underneath as you balance your crampons on the rungs!

    The Western Cwm above the Icefall is where you get the first sight of the Lhotse Face. I’ve been looking forward to seeing her again! There’s a lot of bare ice on her at the moment as a result of it being a relatively dry season.

    Lhotse_Face_from_Camp_2_WEB.jpg

    My first sight of the Lhotse Face from Camp 2.

    The forecast says we’ll have some precipitation when the winds drop which would be good. The ropes for the route above Camp 2 are in place and teams have been waiting for a good weather window with safer winds to fix the route to Camp 3 and above. It’s imminent though, I’ve heard a rumour that they’ve started today which is great for me.

    Camp 2 is great. Jagged Globe have got such a great operation here and I’m proud to be a part of it again. It’s perched into the medial moraine at 6,400m/21,000ft not far from the foot of the Lhotse Face, but it’s comfortable. It’ll be a great place to base myself for my next longer rotation. 

    Camp_2_tent_WEB.jpg

    Camp 2 on Everest.

    I plan to stay above the Icefall for 17 days next time. It’s also a very sobering place as it’s built on the debris of last years multiple avalanches triggered by the Nepalese earthquake with bits of broken tent frozen into the ice and rock.

    Camp_2_debris_WEB.jpg

    Debris at Camp 2 from last year's avalanche.

    For so many incredible humans and teams here on the mountain, there seem to be many people here oblivious to the constant threat and the sobering tragedy of last year. Although I wasn’t involved, it’s very clear to me from talking to those that were, just how huge an impact it’s had on their lives. At Jagged Globe we took part in a minute’s silence today along with some of the other affected teams and Everest ER to remember those affected and those who lost their lives. I’m sure some choose not to dwell on it for their own reasons, but I feel that it’s very important to remember. It’s a very unique microcosm here at Base Camp. I’m proud to be performing in Nepal again and I’m proud of the filming integrity that Gareth and I are displaying. As I said before sharing this expedition with you is my privilege.

    Anyway I digress, My objective is working as far away from my threshold as possible. It’s the basis for every minute of conditioning of the last 18 months or so with Nic. It’s much easier for my body to adapt internally to a given altitude if it doesn’t have to manage a huge deficit in actually having to get there. I’m asking a lot of my body to perform in 10, 9, 8 and ultimately 7% oxygen on the summit. The equation to work underneath my threshold will be pushed as I climb higher above 7,000m, but it’s always been a philosophy in extreme environments to prepare to work no higher than 80%, leaving a safety margin for the unforeseen. Case in point…when a serac collapsed in one of the gullies in the Western Cwm triggering a small avalanche whilst we climbed to Camp 2. I had no issue with running to safety to avoid the snow cloud. It was inconsequential in the end, although significant and bloody scary, we were in relative safety.

    Avalanche_in_West_Cwm_1_WEB.jpg

    Avalanche in the Western Cwm.

    Had I been maxed out though, there would’ve been no way I could’ve changed gear to get to safety. The same goes for having the cognitive capacity to make the right decisions with minimal impact from fatigue. The hypoxia is a different challenge when it comes to cognition. There are no shortcuts, but I’m reaping the rewards now of all the hours, blood, sweat and some tears in Sport Wales, GSK Human Performance Lab and the University of South Wales over the last 18 months.

    It’s not really rocket science, but it is hard work. I’ve been really interested to know the results of my Axon/GSK HPL cognitive assessments, and the other tests to see how I’m adapting at this stage. But I made the decision not to know for all the right reasons. I have another day here at Base Camp recovering before I climb again. Today I’ve done my washing, had a shower, shave and written this.

    My next rotation will be tough – 17 nights above the Icefall, 10 at Camp 2, 7 at Camp 3, culminating with 2 climbs to the South Col and above 8,000m. I’m confident and ready, but humble to the task I’ve set myself. One day at a time. I’m really excited at the opportunity to collect data at the South Col or above this time. We’ve made the decision for me to collect the full battery of tests on this rotation to complement my summit bid. Biopsy, bloods and cognition tests. The summit data is the ultimate adventure but with so many factors outside of my control that could play a part, it’s prudent to collect this highly publishable data. Nic is poised to piece me back together for my summit bid after the next rotation and data collection here at Base Camp.

    You’ll hear from Nic and Damian, and I’ll send through daily updates, but have an awesome bank holiday weekend back home. Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs, and have a drink or piece of cake for me!

    Pic at top of page: Richard working his way through the infamous Khumbu Icefall.

  • Project Everest Cynllun team blog: Professor Nicola Phillips - First rotation physical report - Saturday 30th Apr 2016

    As you’ll know from his last blog, Richard has now left for another rotation above the Icefall. This time he will be going increasingly higher as part of his acclimatisation.

    We chatted on the rest days back at base camp on his return from the last cycle and it was great to hear some positive feedback on the beneficial effects of his training programme all those months ago. During those few days travelling to and staying at Camp 2, he felt strong and was still able to keep his effort levels down despite the challenging terrain.

    For example, his general strength meant that on the vertical ladders and jumar ascents up to Camp 2, he was able to climb faster with relatively less effort. This meant he was working for proportionately less time as well as using less eneregy. He also found that he could recover quickly on the more level areas in between so that he was ready for the next vertical ascent. We related this back to the max strength work he did followed by the functional circuit training. 

    COLLAGE_PHYSICAL_1_WEB.jpg

    The other area we had worked on back home was core, both as a stabiliser and active strengthening. He noticed that having a good core helped him on trickier areas where he had to stretch out for footing on some unstable surfaces, all the while carrying a heavy backpack.

    COLLAGE_PHYSICAL_2_WEB.jpg

    We had initially spent quite some time constructing a needs analysis and coming up with exercises to target appropriate muscle groups for the various movement patterns he would need, so that is all good news. However, Richard has a long way to go yet. Whilst we now know we have targeted the right muscle groups, as well as working on managing strength endurance over repeated short bursts, he is going to go higher, with less oxygen available, so the rest of his training will also need to come into play.

    So far so good – reports from Camp 2 are that Richard remains healthy and in good spirits. I suspect that he is missing the excellent food back here at Base Camp but that will be something to look forward to when he gets back down!

    Nic_in_tent_at_BC_WEB.jpg

    Nic at Everest Base Camp

    Everyone is carefully watching weather conditions at the moment as we head into the business end of the summiting season so all we can do at Base Camp at the moment is watch and wait. We’ll keep you posted as things progress!

  • Returning home - Friday 20th May 2016

    Hey guys. Thank you so much for all your messages of support on Twitter and Facebook. It’s been a roller coaster of a journey and it’s been awesome to travel it together with you. I still haven't fully processed what unfolded, of course life goes on and there are many people much less fortunate than us out there, however this has really blindsided me.

    I’ve been here before…sort of! World first projects don’t come easy and just like life there are no guarantees that the hard work will pay off. I know the score, or least I keep telling myself! I’ve been thinking how I felt abandoning my first solo expedition in Antarctica just 119 km from the pole after battling for 38 days through 1,000 km of ice. A year later I set a new British Antarctic speed record. The rational side of my mind is working through this reflection period, but there is a part of me that is genuinely struggling. It’s not been that long I guess, just over a week since the call was made. I did fall off the radar (and the wagon!) for a while, but this week I talked with media for the first time since arriving home. Not my most coherent interviews, but it’s been cathartic to talk about things publicly. Thank you again! The support I’ve felt and witnessed has been overwhelming. It’s awesome to be home – not just geographically but with the people I love. I can’t wait to catch up with my mates, I’m sure they’ll find a way to take the pi*s out of me! Referring to my ‘life threatening’ blood thickness one mate has already said that he always knew I was thick!

    The cruel paradox here is that I willingly devoted my body and performance to scientific endeavour, yet It was the science that unearthed this anomaly in my physiology… regardless of whether it’s a positive adaptation (normal to me) that has enabled me to do the things that I’ve already done or it’s more sinister, it ended the expedition. I might well have dodged the biggest bullet of my life. Nic, Damian, Gareth, Rachel and David on the mountain, and my project team back in the UK were awesome during this difficult period. I am so very grateful to be able to work with not just world leading experts, but my mates.

    Operating at the ceiling of human performance and physiology, there simply isn't the data from or indeed the number of other athletes out there to compare my results to in this situation to ascertain my safety. It was completely unpredictable and we still don’t know why. I’m undergoing tests to shine some more light on the situation, but the initial findings are leaning towards the fact that I’m an outlier and it might well be how I was able to summit Everest during my 737 Challenge in 25 days. Not helpful to me right now I know!! I’m experienced at managing risk and obviously I have an appetite for it doing what I do, but the additional risk on this occasion was too high. I’m confident I made the right call, we as a team made the right call, but I haven’t quite come to peace with it yet. This situation reminds me of the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling. Once I have some clarity I will consider whether to share my results as I’ve been asked by a number of climbers and companies interested to consider the impact it could have on high altitude performance.

    reduced_island_peak_capnograph_LOW_RES.jpg

    There is a silver lining. One of the aims of the project was to act as a pilot study to explore the mechanisms underpinning cognitive decline, using high altitude as model to challenge the brain in a hypoxic environment.

    I'm proud to say the initial findings from our testing at a simulated acute 5,400m in the University of South Wales’ Environmental Chamber compared to an acclimatised 5,400m on Everest have shown some very exciting results. Project Everest Cynllun’s team of PhD students at USW under Prof Damian Bailey and the team at GSK Human Performance Lab have some work to do analysing the data over the next 6 months. This is still very much ground breaking and world first science.

    PREP_LAB_WEB.jpg

    As a pilot study, Project Everest Cynllun’s research has been a huge success and I'm amped to work towards the larger research study this year and be able to contribute to the already world class research here in Wales into Dementia. This project wouldn’t have been possible without the belief, support and shared vision of my partners, patrons and all those who have contributed to making this happen - Thank you! I’m excited to share the details with you soon.

    I’m planning on taking some time to reflect and spend with family, friends and Ben the dog. Hopefully plan a holiday or two?! I’m not one to sit still for long, in fact I won’t be able to as I begin filming my next television series soon. I’m giving the Pocket Prof (Formerly Pocket Rocket aka Nic) a week or so to recover from spending 2 months with me, but we’ll be training and pre-habilitating again come the end of the month! Currently my lips are sealed but I hope to get the green light to share the details of it with you soon. It looks like it could be an awesome summer here in the UK, perfect timing for the second half of Wales’ Year of Adventure. My mum and dad can’t believe that I’m already planning a camping trip to West Wales! I love my tent!! My folks are embracing the YoA, Dad’s already been to Zip World and planning a skydive!

    Whilst I was away, Welsh Gov appointed a new Sport Wales Chair. It’s an exciting time for sport in Wales and despite a dynamic political landscape I hope there will be more opportunities to work in collaboration with other sectors. I’m excited to put my board member hat back on, catch up with the team and begin working with Dr. Paul Thomas, our new chair. Speaking requests continue to fill my team’s inbox, I really do enjoy this part of my work now. It’s wonderful to be able to share my experiences in so many sectors of business and industry, both at home here in Wales and around the UK, and of course abroad. I’ll be touring the states at the end of the year, including speaking at the Team Concept Conference held by the SPTS of the American Physical Therapy Association in Las Vegas. 

    Also, last but not least, I am super excited to become a student again in September (Cue movie ‘Old School’ in your minds!) when I study Psychology at USW this year. I won’t have time to wallow!

    Even writing this has been helpful! You guys are and have been awesome. Enjoy the summer as she lights the evenings and mornings for us to get out there and adventure more. Get outside your comfort zones, but come home safe. Catch you soon.

Older Blog Posts

Project Everest Cynllun team blog: Professor Nicola Phillips - First rotation physical report - Saturday 30th Apr 2016

As you’ll know from his last blog, Richard has now left for another rotation above the Icefall. This time he will be going increasingly higher as part of his acclimatisation. We chatted on the rest days back at base camp on his return from the last cycle and it was great to hear some positive feedback on...

read more »

Richard's blog: First climb to Camp 2 and Remembrance - Monday 25th Apr 2016

Sat in my tent at Camp 1 with Gareth waiting for the ice to melt listening to the roar of my stove as the tent buckled and shook under 30 knot gusts of wind, I realised just how much I love the simplicity of expedition life. It’s hard and it’s unforgiving, but the way it strips back the layers of normal life can be wonderful too. It highlights the things and people you care about back home, and also...

read more »

Richard's Blog: The Icefall, ladders and high winds - Sunday 24th Apr 2016

Camp 2 was a productive exercise. There's been so much talk of the Icefall being tough and dangerous this year. I didn't think so. It's steep, with a lot of front point climbing (the very front spikes on my crampons) but I liked it. Compared to 2011, there are less ladder crossings with only one really dangerous section. Moving quickly about 30 minutes of Russian roulette through very dynamic and...

read more »

FACT 1

Mount Everest (8,848 metres/29,029 feet) was first summited by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

FACT 2

Reinhold Messner was the first person to climb the mountain without supplemental oxygen, along with Peter Habeler, in 1978. 

FACT 3

In 1988, Steven Venebles became the first Briton to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Alison Hargreaves made history in 1995 becoming the first British female to summit without supplemental oxygen. The only other Brit to summit without supplemental oxygen was Mark McDermott in 2001. No welshman has achieved this feat.

FACT 4

In 2007 Caudwell Xtreme Everest research expedition, co-ordinated by the UCL Centre for Altitude, Space and Extreme environment medicine (CASE) lead to the collection of four arterial samples on four subjects at 8400m on Everest’s balcony. The samples were taken down to the Western Cwm at 6300m to be analyzed.

FACT 5

Richard summited Mount Everest on 25 May 2011 as part of his 737 Challenge – a world first expedition which saw him become the first person in history to climb the highest mountain on each of the world's 7 continents and stand on all 3 poles (The North Pole, The South Pole and the summit of Everest) within the same calendar year - completing the expedition in under 7 months.

FACT 6 

The temperature at the summit never rises above freezing. It averages between -36 degrees Celsius and -19 degrees Celsius. 

FACT 7

The partial pressure of oxygen on the summit is 7%. This is a third less oxygen in each breath than at sea level.

FACT 8

To date (March 2016) there have been 7,003 summits of Mount Everest by 4,093 different people. Only 193 climbers have summited without supplemental oxygen, that’s 2.7%. 

FACT 9

Hilary and Tenzing, prepared for their Everest ascent on Snowdon and used the Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel as a training base for their team. From the Western Cwm to Pen-Y-Gwryd…at the very heart of Mount Everest’s history is Wales.

FACT 10

The mountain is named after Colonel Sir George Everest, a Welsh surveyor, geographer and the General Surveyor of India from 1830 through 1843. Everest was born in Gwernvale Manor, just west of Crickhowell in Powys, Wales.

FACT 11

Griffith Pugh, whose father was a Welsh barrister was the expedition physiologist on Hillary’s 1953 British expedition that made the first ascent of Mount Everest. He was a researcher in to the effects of cold and altitude on human physiology, his work in this field was truly pioneering.

FACT 12

Having been involved in three of Edmund Hillary’s expeditions, Pugh then carried out research on a nine-month-long study in the Himalaya named the ‘Silver Hut’ expedition in 1960-61. The expedition studied the long-term effects of altitude on the human physiology. A prefabricated hut was carried up to an altitude of 5,800m and experiments on the cardiac and pulmonary response to a prolonged period at altitude were carried out. Here Pugh showed that Mount Everest could be climbed without oxygen, which was later proven by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler in their ascent of 1978.

FACT 13

The Western Cwm uses the Welsh language ‘Cwm’, a word for a bowl shaped valley. George Mallory named it when he saw it in 1921 as part of the British Reconnaissance Expedition that was the first to explore the upper sections of Everest, searching routes for future summit attempts.

FACT 14

Today the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, is in excess of 35 million with figures set to double every twenty years.

FACT 15

The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia in 2010 was in excess of $600 billion with healthcare expenditures projected to surpass those for all other health conditions by 2060.

All Everest stats are verified by the Himalayan Database: http://www.himalayandatabase.com

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