Dr Rophina Yeld's trip to Nepal and the Himalayas.
As you might be aware, I recently returned from an amazing trip to the Himalayas trekking on the Everest Base camp route as part of a team supporting the Everest Marathon.
I was away for the 3rd to the 27th of November 2005 as one of five voluntary doctors providing medical cover for the world’s highest and arguably toughest marathon.
The start line for the marathon was at the foot of Mount Everest at a height of 5184m (17,00 feet) close to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
The finish was the sherpa town of Namche Bazaar at 3446m (11,300 feet), and the course measured 42km (26.2 miles) over rough mountain trails.
Although a keen marathon runner myself, this is one course I was pleased not to be competing in. The altitude alone presented a huge problem, and being fit was no protection against this.
The marathon course terrain was very varied with snow and ice at the start at base camp, followed later by boulders, grass, sand scree, stone stair cases, forest trails, and exposed paths contouring the mountain sides. Added hazards to the runners were narrow suspension bridges and yak trains. The race course is also unmarked, and it is the responsibility of each runner to learn the route on the trek up.
There were 80 competitors of varying nationalities, with a large British and Nepalese contingent.
In order to acclimatise we trekked the race route with various detours to base camp over a three week period. We were divided in to three groups each with supporting sherpa staff to cook and carry our luggage.
The majority of the runners were extremely fit fell running athletes of varying ages, averaging about 40 years of age, the youngest being 23, the oldest being 69.
Medical emergencies were thankfully few. Our biggest success was resuscitating unconscious Nepalese women with presumed septicaemia at the side of a mountain. We also managed to successively treat one of our runners with altitude sickness putting him in the hypobaric (pressure) chamber at 4000m and then sending him down hill to a lower altitude to recover. The remainder of the medical issues were gut related, needing antibiotics and anti-diarrhoeals, or minor sprains and strains as you might expect given the venture and the terrain.
I learnt a lot about team building, and communications in difficult circumstances and made many new friends.
The stunning beauty of the Himalayas overwhelmed me and the Nepalese people particularly the sherpa community were unforgettable. I was made to feel most welcome and their generosity was humbling.
I was very sad to leave, and know I’ll be back some time.
This trip provided the most spectacular scenery I have ever scene, and if you get the opportunity to go there, take it!
Dr. Rophina Yeld
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