As a master student in the Exercise Physiology and Sport Science Program, I had the opportunity to be involved in a high altitude research project. This project was a co-operation with the Environmental Physiology group from Mid-Sweden University. There were many research aspects to this project; my measurements focused on endothelial function and the affect of beetroot juice supplementation.
Our group of fourteen people, left Scandinavia March 17/18 bound for Kathmandu, Nepal. The research started almost immediately with FMD measures, using the VividI ultra-sound, on the floor of the Doha (Qatar) airport. Once reaching Kathmandu, everyone was involved in several tests and excessive shopping for cheap outdoor gear. This fit into a short and busy 36 hours before departing for Rolwaling Valley. The first weeks of trekking involved sunny and snowy days with many thousand vertical meters hiking (reaching a 4550m high point). Our group started with 42 porters, guides and cook staff, feeling like a true Himalaya expedition.
Although the VividI ultra-sound is designed as portable, it was really put to the test on this trip. 14 hours of plane travel 10 hours of bus and 3 days of walking to reach the initial high altitude site at 3700m in Rolwaling Valley. I was prepared for field research to be a very new situation compared with in the lab, and was this ever true. During this trip, the challenges of low oxygen combined with no electricity, heating and sub zero temperatures added to the lack of ‘real’ lab facilities. With extra logistical arrangements and small compromises made for all projects to be successfully carried out at each location, in a few short days.
Other than the science, this trip was a fulfilling cultural experience. Despite the busy and hazy atmosphere Kathmandu, the people were always welcoming. In the valleys, the Tibetan culture and ancient religious practices could still be found. With full moon festivals including local alcohol made from millet, spicy potato stew, traditional dress and not so traditional music and dance. Small children with snotty noses and dirty clothes, playing with sticks and tires; reminding us what childhood was like before the days of iphones and computer gaming.
After a few weeks in Rolwaling Valley, the group carried on to climb peaks and passes. A few of us returned to Kathmandu to either return home or continue our travels. At this point, I met with Alf Brubakk, Ulrik Wisløff, and Svein Erik Gaustad who were in Nepal meeting with the Kathmandu University. More FMD measurements where arranged with local Nepali porters, potentially a future project in the works?
Emily Bakker, master student at NTNU (supervised by CERG researchers)