Project Everest Cynllyn, a collaborative British Research project showcasing the effects of extreme altitude on the body and mind, was due to reach its conclusion in the following weeks.
Friend of Limegreentangerine, Richard Parks, attempted to become the first person in history to collect a blood sample and muscle biopsy from the summit of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. The project aimed to collect groundbreaking data that would aid in the understanding of the mechanisms surrounding cognitive decline, psychological resilience and the link to dementia.
Unfortunately, due to rare medical complications discovered whilst Richard was in Camp 2 on Everest, he has been forced to end his expedition early.
Tests had been carried out earlier than planned by Professor Damian Bailey before Richard’s last climb to Camp 2. These results concluded that the high values of oxygen carrying Haemoglobin showed that Richard’s ability to adapt to extreme altitudes was potentially exceptional, however, it also showed that his blood has become dangerously thick. This was putting an extra stress on the heart and brain, consequently putting Richard at extremely high risk of clotting. Whilst at sea level this is potentially life threatening, due to the extreme altitude and remote environment of Mt. Everest the risk of complications including stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolus were greatly increased.
Advised that it was too dangerous to continue, Richard ended his expedition. Disappointed, he said, ‘It’s been a bitter pill to swallow. I am confident of my process to make the decision. It’s the right one. I’m at peace, but it’s been a brutal few days.’
Richard added; “I am not prepared to risk my life over and above the risks I have considered, trained and prepared for, or risk the lives of those around me. Any incident above Camp 3 would realistically mean a massive rescue incident or that I’m left there to die – I’ve climbed over dead bodies on Everest before. Also, the negative legacy of such egotistical behaviour could jeopardise further scientific expeditions on the mountain. This is about so much more than my own personal desires.”
Although Richard was not able to fulfil the opportunity to take blood tests and a muscle biopsy on the summit of Everest as planned, it was not a wasted effort. Upon return to the UK, Prof Bailey is going to concentrate his efforts on analysing the data that includes cognitive assessments, blood and tissue samples. The novel findings from the assessments and samples have the potential to ultimately influence our global understanding of the mechanisms that underpin dementia.
Our thoughts are with Richard as he returns home, and Team Green are beyond proud of all that he has achieved on this gruelling journey.