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Xtreme Everest and the media

It's less than a month since my birthday, but already I am scheming to spend my next one having more fun. Somehow, scrambling over steep, slippery rock in Snowdonia in persistent rain wasn't quite what I had in mind when I enrolled in the Xtreme Everest expedition. I am one of 200+ volunteers undergoing medical tests at various altitudes from sea level to Everest Base Camp (5300m/17,400 ft) to assist research into the effects of low oxygen (hypoxia) on brain, blood and breathing. The mystery is why some folk tolerate lack of oxygen so much better than others.

Our group of 17 leaves for Nepal on 7 April. At least the Snowdonia weekend let some of us meet and we do some team-building stuff – more fun than getting soaked and drained. Sea level testing had taken a full day in London in January, and included cycling on an exercise bike until you drop from exhaustion - in my case at a heart rate of 185 beats per minute. I am not looking forward to repeating this at altitude! It has also emerged that the innocuous-sounding daily "diary" requires a series of measurements before and after a step test that I found tiring even at sea-level. It seems that we have to do this daily, first thing, without so much as a cup of tea first!

The weird thing is that the press thinks this is a story. After seven years of beavering away as a publisher of Rucksack Readers, suddenly there's one feature after another. This week alone there's a story in The Bookseller, a feature in Country Walking magazine and a centrefold imminent in the Stirling Observer. People trek to Everest Base Camp all the time, but it seems that the combination of grandmother, EBC and medical research pushes all the buttons. I am bemused by visits and phone calls from reporters, and a photo-shoot takes longer than I could have imagined. Mustn't be ungrateful though, it will probably be at least another seven years before anybody notices us again – if ever!


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