An RNRMC backed team of British military personnel will travel to Nepal later in March, aiming to make an alpine-style ascent of the North East ridge of Dhaulagiri, which at 8167m is the seventh highest point on earth.

The research

Alongside this feat of mountaineering, the joint service team officially named the ‘British Services Dhaulagiri Medical Research Expedition 2016’ will conduct pioneering medical research into the effects of altitude on the human body – the first time a military study has done so above 6000m and using implanted technology. The team will climb at extreme altitudes without oxygen, setting off from the UK on 27 March 2016 and following six weeks of acclimatisation, aiming to make the summit around 20 May.

The main team making the gruelling 8167m ascent will be involved in two studies looking at the effect of an injection of iron on the body’s response to low oxygen levels and measuring heart rate and rhythm during the climb. In addition to its relevance to sport and exercise science, it is hoped that this data may provide insight into how the heart behaves in the face of disease or illness.

RNRMC funding

As the Royal Navy's charity, The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) are committed to improving the lives of our Navy's serving personnel. Using funds raised from the City Three Peaks in September 2015, we have given funds in excess of £100,000 towards this expedition as it aims to provide data which should prove invaluable for our future sailors.

Robert Robson, CEO of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, said: “Medical research is vital for the future development of our Service personnel and we, as the Navy’s principal charity, have a mission to support projects like the Dhaulagiri Medical Research Expedition. The venture epitomises the ‘can-do’ attitude of our armed forces and will help improve training for personnel in the years to come.”

Medtronic Reveal Device Implant

The study involves the use of an innovative Medtronic Reveal device – a two-inch monitor (seen below) which is implanted under the skin on the chest by a minor surgical procedure that stores and uploads data of each heart beat during the expedition by satellite link. This technique will allow the team to collect unique data from the heart during exercise at extreme altitude at low oxygen tensions, never previously achieved by a military study.

"This will help us better prepare soldiers for deployment at high altitude"

Speaking about the research, expedition leader Surgeon Commander Adrian Mellor said: “Until recently it has only been possible to collect heart rate data at rest due to the size and difficulty of obtaining a clear electrical recording from the heart at extreme altitudes. Now that we are able to do this, for the first time we will have accurate and sustained readings that will help us understand what happens to the heart rhythm during times of very low oxygen supply. This will help us better prepare soldiers for deployment at high altitude and understand the body’s response to critical illness.”

Alpine Style

The BSDMRE expedition will also signify a new approach within military mountaineering. Until now military attempts on such high mountains have been attempted “siege style”. This usually involves repeatedly carrying loads and establishing camps ever-higher on the mountain, often supplemented with bottled oxygen. Informed by recent research, BSDMRE will instead climb in a lightweight “alpine” style, acclimatising on Damphus and then Tukuche peaks (6060m and 6900m respectively) before making a fast and light weight ascent of Dhaulagiri without oxygen from two intermediate camps over a five day period.

Schedule

Event Planned Date
Team Arrive in Kathmandu 31 Mar
Trek to Base Camp Damphus Peak 11 Apr
Summit Damphus Peak 12 Apr
Trek to to Tukuche Peak Base Camp 13 Apr
Climb and Summit Tukuche Peak 21 Apr
Trek to Dhaulagiri Base Camp 23 Apr
Camp 1 NE Ridge of Dhaulagiri 27 Apr
Camp 2 NE Ridge of Dhaulagiri 28 Apr
Rest at Base Camp 30 Apr
Summit Push 6-23 May
Descent to Base Camp Dhaulagiri 24 May
The Trek out 24-28 May
Arrival in the UK 30 May

Follow the team

Follow the expedition on their Twitter, as below, their Facebook page www.facebook.com/BSDMRE2016/ or their website www.dhaulagiri2016.com