Medex Newsletter, 15

December 2003 / January 2004

Unbelievably October 2004 will be the 10th anniversary of our ascent of Everest and we are hoping to get as many as possible of the 1994 crowd together at the Old Dungeon Ghyll. Should be a good weekend with lots of nostalgic pictures!

Quite a bit has happened since the last Newsletter. As far as I am concerned the most exciting news is that we have finally booked our boat down to Antarctica. It really is a dream come true to be finally on our way to a ski-touring, mountaineering and wildlife wonderland. Much more on this below.

In early November Denise Prior organised a wonderful Nepalese evening at the Royal Geographical Society. Later on, in the same month, Annabel Nickol and David Collier organised a very successful High Altitude Medicine Conference at Oxford that was attended by all manner of academics both international and home grown. Two days later the 8th High Altitude and Mountain Medicine Course was held at Plas y Brenin in North Wales. Peter Barry's considerable efforts were rewarded by fine weather, excellent speakers and a full house. As is customary the atmosphere fizzed with excitement and enthusiasm. November also saw the formal start of our Diploma Course. More on this later.

We are very much looking forward to the Medex ski trip in March to Chamonix. There's lots of waterfall ice climbing, cross country skiing and walking in the Chamonix Valley as well as some of the best piste and off-piste skiing in Europe so please do come and enjoy a sociable and active Medex long weekend.  More details further on.

The text of the Medex 2003 Expedition Report is now available on the web as well as a big selection of digital photos. An illustrated version using high quality medium format pictures will soon be ready and will we distributed on CD in a print ready format for those that want it. The file is too huge for putting on the web. If you would like a CD copy of this please drop me a line. Please include a cheque payable to Medex for £10 to cover some of the production and distribution costs.


The revised website is now up and running though I doubt it will ever be finished. It's one of those evolutionary things. I would be very grateful for any comments, tips or contributions - especially the latter! Medex members can also choose their own Medex email address if they wish. This can either forward to their own work and home emails or can be collected as webmail or as a POP3 account. If any of that makes sense to you and you would like to use a Medex email address then please drop me a line on


ISMM Aug 12-16 2004: The 6th World Congress of The International Society for Mountain Medicine at Xining in China.  Followed by the Lhasa meeting 18-20th August for details visit: . I understand that there have been some reservations about staging the meeting in Tibet but that it is fully supported by Tibetans in exile including the Dalai Lama.

Hypoxia February 2005 to be held in either Lake Louise of Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Peaks and Porters

One of the highlights of the autumn was the superb evening arranged by Denise Prior at the Royal Geographical Society. Denise brought together Ben Ayers of Porters' Progress and Doug Scott for a joint fund raising event. The evening was very well attended and Ben, in particular, spoke with passion and conviction about the plight of porters in Nepal and the excellent work being done by Porters' Progress, the charity that he founded.

Diploma in Mountain Medicine -DiMM

The Diploma has got off to a flying start thanks to the huge efforts of David Hillebrandt and his happy band of diplomats that now make up the faculty. They have now completed the one year pilot course and 24 new candidates started in November 2003 and it is expected that a similar number will commence next year. They are all, "Proud to be DiMM".

Although the DiMM has been around in Europe for many years this is the first English speaking one and the first that has a formal assessment at the end. The European ones, to date, merely require attendance of the course in order to receive the award. Ours is University affiliated and the curriculum is an equal mix of practical skills and academia. Full details are on our website. To register an interest in the Diploma contact

Medex West Nepal 2007

Just a reminder that the next major medex Expedition will be to West Nepal in Summer 2007. Provisional routes and maps are posted on our website.

To view  some stunning pictures of the Mustang section of this Expedition check out this link:

Medex Antarctica 2006

We have finally taken the plunge and reserved a 42 day yacht charter to take us down to the Antarctic Peninsular in January 2006. We have included a draft itinerary below. The yacht is professionally skippered and, together with a mate, will be on board to take care of it whilst we are on the ice. We will shortly be taking deposits for this trip as we have already had to pay a very sizeable deposit on the yacht charter. Sally and I will be tacking an extra few weeks to the trip to travel in Tierra del Fuego and to explore various bits of Patagonia by foot and by kayak.

It would be great if those wanting to come along to Antarctica could make it out to Chamonix this spring so that we can start building this tiny team.


Draft Itinerary for Medex Sail and Ski Expedition to Antarctica 2006

The purpose of the expedition is for ski mountaineering and exploring on the Antarctic Peninsula in the summer season (January / February) of 2006.  The exact dates are yet to be set .   The charter period is 42 days.  The charter would begin and end in Puerto Williams which is on the Chilean side of the Beagle Channel on the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego.  Puerto Williams is serviced once daily by air from Punta Arenas.

Day 1 Team arrives in Puerto Williams.  One day spent sorting out gear, stowing the boat and safety briefing.

Day 2 Depart Williams for Antarctica.  If weather in the Drake Passage is untenable, a few days may have to be spent in the Cape Horn archipelago waiting for a break.

Days 2-6 Crossing Drake Passage.

Day 6  First stop on Deception Island.  This is a semi active volcanic island and we anchor inside the flooded caldera.  Rig the boat for inshore navigation. Possibility for long walk around the perimeter of the island, visit the abandoned bases.

Day 7 or 8 Sail south 180 miles into the Gerlache area.  No point to attempt any ski activities north of this point as the weather is usually very closed.

Day 9-11  Moor at Port Lockroy or Dorian Cove, both on Weincke Island.  This is the best place to familiarise the team with Antarctic terrain, and the area is one of the most scenic.  Long day trips on an easy glacier can be made from the boat or even a night out.  Several peaks to climb of around 1000 meters.

Day 12  Sail 30 miles south through the Lemaire Channel and into the Penola Straits.  Moor on Booth Island or at the Vernadsky Station (Ukrainian).

Day 13-17 On the mainland side, there is good access on shore and some easy Glaciers to ascend.  An option here would be to ski to and climb Mt. Shackleton which will require a camp.  Mt. Scott (on the coast) is also a ski mountaineering peak from the backside.  The summit (800 meters) gives superb views up and down the coast.

Day 18/19 Sail south into Crystal Sound.  This is below the area of the cruise ship traffic so it is more ‘remote’ and also sits astride the Antarctic Circle. However, last year’s sea ice could be a problem here for navigation, so we take that as it comes.

 Day 20-28 Based from the Fish Islands near Prospect Point, this is the best place to make a multi day ski tour.  The terrain is relatively flat and there are several routes that can be taken to circumnavigate small ranges of peaks, many of which are unclimbed.

Day 29/30 Ice and weather permitting, sail for Marguerite Bay either via ‘The Gullet’ which is a narrow channel between the Arrowsmith Peninsula and Adelaide Island, or sail outside of Adelaide if The Gullet is icebound.

Day 31-35  Ski touring on Blaiklock and Pour Quoi Pas Islands are possible with the boat based at Sally Cove on Horseshoe Island.  This would be the southern limit of the expedition as farther south shelter for the boat becomes problematic.

Day 36 – 42 Sail north for Tierra del Fuego, either going back inside the archipelago and exiting the Peninsula between Brabant and Anvers Island or going straight offshore south of Adelaide Island.

The time of departure from the Peninsula, like the departure from Chile, is entirely dependant on the weather situation at the time.  Obviously, we must be back on time on day 42, so this might mean leaving the Peninsula earlier than planned by a few days in order to catch an opportune period.   If there are any left over days when we are back in Chile, these can can spent visiting the Cape Horn area. It must also be noted that the ‘ideal’ schedule above will almost certainly not be kept to!

The weather, as always, will dictate events and it must be accepted that with say 30 to 32 days actually on the Peninsula, half the time might be spent storm bound where navigation is impossible.  However, with the 42 day schedule, you are assured of many stellar days – but when they come the team must be ready to move quickly.

Medex Membership - New Subscription Period:

The new subscription period will run for 4 years (From January 2004) and will cost £45. Please note that Medex Membership no longer includes associate membership of the BMC. We hope that members will feel that this provides good value for money.

Newsletters will be sent out by email only. If you require a postal version you will need to specifically request this and pay a £10 surcharge.

Unfortunately at present we do not accept credit cards. Those that have already renewed their membership are shown in the list below.

Medex Ski trip to Chamonix (March 2004)

4th - 8th March  2004. A  first for Medex. Taking advantage of cheap flights to Geneva from the UK it is now possible to have an excellent and inexpensive long weekend in Chamonix. Sally and I will take a late flight to Geneva on the Thursday and stay at the Hotel Beausoleil in the tiny hamlet of Le Lavancher (half way between Chamonix and Argentiere). We fly back from Geneva on the evening flight thus allowing 4 full days skiing. For the non skiers there is the excellent ice climbing on the Argentiere Ice fall as well as plenty of distractions in the Valley.

This picturesque family run hotel is ideally placed to ski any of the valleys ski fields. If conditions are suitable Sally and I hope to ski the world famous Vallee Blanche which is the longest, finest and most accessible off-piste ski run in Europe. There is excellent on and off piste skiing in the Chamonix Valley of all standards from beginner through to extreme.

If you would like to join us then please make your own travel and accommodation arrangements. The Hotel Beausoleil is very reasonably priced. It's probably best to share a hire car from the airport as it is very useful to have you own transport in Chamonix for the weekend.

We neither supply guides nor tuition for off-piste routes though both can be hired in the Valley. Hotel email:

Hotel Beausoleil, Chamonix offers reasonably priced accommodation in a small village between Chamonix and Argentiere. It's family run and is the venue for our Medex March ski trip. I think the price of a bed is around £20/night with a few quid extra for breakfast. Cheaper accommodation is available within nearby Argentiere starting at around £10 / night.

Carol Darwin is driving out to Chamonix in a VW estate for 2 weeks and has very kindly offered lifts. Email: . She leaves London on 4/3/03 and returns on 18/3/04 and has even offered to ferry people from the airport at Geneva if required.

Hyssington Summer BBQ 10th July 2004

Once again we are inviting everyone to our annual Mid Wales BBQ.  All are welcome. Camping is free. Please bring a contribution for the BBQ and something to drink. We have given up trying to co-ordinate what people bring for the BBQ so just turn up with what you fancy eating. Those that came last year and contributed to the Church Roof Appeal will be delighted to know that the Village has succeeded in raising £29,000 and work begins in the New Year.

Old Dungeon Ghyll in the English Lake District October 2003

The valley, the Hotel and Middlefell Buttress covered in snow as used in the brochure.October 16th - 17th 2003, Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, Lake District Weekend. This is the annual Medex event We normally arrive on the Friday night, spend Saturday on the hill with dinner in the evening.  B&B accommodation can be booked direct with the Hotel (tel: 015394 37272) and camping is available nearby.  If you want to attend the dinner on the Saturday evening this must be booked direct with Medex as places are limited.  A cheque for £28 will secure your place for dinner, made payable to Medex and sent to the Pinfold, Hyssington, Montgomery, Powys. This is going to be a rather special ODG as it's the TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR ASCENT OF EVEREST and we are going to try and get as many people as possible together from the 1994 Expedition. There will be a presentation from a number of the original climbing team with accounts of the ascent and the roller coaster that has become Medex.

Peter Barry, , has a number of the Micro edition of Andy and David's Mountain Medicine Handbook, which are available for sale at £5 each. They are second edition (rather than the recently published third- see details on the Medex website) and I understand that there are no plans to release a third edition in micro format. If any member of medex wants one, can they send a cheque payable to Medical Expeditions for £5, and a SAE (A5 size, postage for 80gms weight) to Peter Barry.

People News

This from Ali Mynett: "Just wanted to let you all know that if any of you are planning to go back to Nepal in Spring 2004, I will be at Everest Base Camp for the climbing season as Doctor on the Kiwi 'Adventure Consultants' team. I'm thrilled to be going back there and if any of you are considering doing the Everest Base Camp trek, I can highly recommend it - it is incredibly beautiful and the mountains are stunning. Busier than our trek in the Hongu valley this year though, but well worth it! If any of you do make it up to Everest Base Camp, PLEASE drop into the Adventure Consultants camp as I will be in need of some visitors and it would be great to see some familiar faces. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!"

Richard Weller has finally popped the question and is engaged to Julie Gallagher. They plan to marry on 2nd of October. Congratulations to them both. Keen to cram as many life events as possible into one year Richard is now also the proud owner of a fine 36 foot yacht which he plans to keep just North of Oban on the West Coast of Scotland.

Roger McMorrow has passed his Fellowship Exams (anaesthetics). He and Sara are renovating their house in Dublin and, of course, are getting married in September 2004.

Piotr Szawarski has been accepted onto an Anaesthetic Rotation at University College London.

Mike Richards has set up his own ski company details of which are on

Jim Milledge has been elected president of the International Society for Mountain Medicine and begins his presidency in August 2004. The 2004 World Congress is to be held  at Xining in China and I understand that the 2006 one is to be held in the United Kingdom.

Samuel Joseph Shaw Pollard  (4.018Kg) was born Christmas Day 2003 to Andrew and Rachel Pollard. Many congratulations!

Very many congratulations to Jon Pote who wrote:  "I'm currently - until April 04 in fact - in NZ, getting married to a lovely kiwi (Lynette) who tramps and climbs smallish mountains.

I am now a 'sleeping' member of Medex - fully retired and off the medical register, and unlikely to do another big exped: I was called up for the latest Iraq war, but developed chest pain running around with a bloody great pack firing my rifle on a freezing day, so did not go overseas and later resigned from the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Further investigation showed no ECG problem on the treadmill, so I have clung on to my pilot's licence, and flown a lot this year: Lynette is a great navigator/co-pilot, and we can just cram camping gear into the chipmunk, so now tour in it!

My ejection from the Services was memorable as next day I got the MBE in the Birthday Honours - in the pipeline unknown to me for a year or more, but odd to get it as I walked out on them! The Citation my boss wrote was very nice, in part "for tending the injured and saving life for 30 years, on land, at sea, and in the air, on several continents, both at peace and in war" - so it covers my helicopter career as well as the RAuxAF and Basics. Apologies for blowing my own trumpet..."

From John Milledge in Malawai:  "I find it hard to believe that over 4 weeks have passed since I left England.

It was quite a shock arriving, leaving all my friends and family, the familiarities of life in England, the stimulations of London and then everything being so different. Still its amazing how adaptable humans can be. Pretty soon I felt as if I’d been here months. I’ve been helped by universally friendly people and a ‘well run ship’.

The work as you can imagine is very different from home, and as ‘new boy’ I was given ‘special care ward’ where the sickest children over 6 months are sent – thanks! No, but it’s been great. Always something unexpected to keep you on your toes, amongst the usual cases of malaria, gastro, pneumonia and T.B. It’s a steep learning curve, particularly with T.B that leaves a lot of us baffled – especially as the kids are often malnourished/AIDS/both making the diagnosis difficult. Malaria has also been new – but a bit more optimistic as they can be incredibly sick with cerebral malaria and in 90% of cases make a complete recovery – which is great to see.

Death here is much more common, and not the big deal it is in the west. Lots of shoulder shrugging, its just more expected I guess.

The hospital itself is always interesting. Many more people around than an English one. No one feeds, washes or clothes patients here, the relatives do. Consequently they’re all here, cooking, washing in the hospital grounds, the corridors full of women carrying they’re bundles balanced on their heads. It always looks such a graceful, sensible way to carry – from huge loads of firewood and water to a single plastic bowel.

I’m always moved by the mourning here (which happens daily). A principle mourner, always a women, then soon followed by friends/relatives, invariably about 30 start singing. Call-response songs sung in beautiful African harmony. They line the corridors, when they sing, which all have great acoustics. Makes a beautiful sound.

Socially I’m settling in fine. Blantyre is quiet by English standards. But I’m finding the simplicity pleasantly enjoyable. I’m slowly being introduced to the Blantyre drinking holes. As you’d expect there is quite an ex-pat scene, and not a great deal of mixing. Having said that, I’ve been playing football with a Cameroonian who runs a restaurant, and been along to Chichiri stadium to see the Blantyre teams play in a national league. Bakiri Bullets are the Manchester United of Malawi – winners for the last 5 years. I’m trying to follow a smaller team called Tigers – more the Leighton Orient of Blantyre, and doing just as bad. Still, its good fun. Lots of noise, and very cheap – entrance depending on the game, 35p to 90p, and gets me away from the usual ex-pat activities.

Blantyre is in a beautiful location. Surrounded by 3 mountains about 1,500m high. Lovely to escape to on a week-end and easily accessible. I still haven’t left the city but am planning to go diving in the lake next w/e then at some point to the big mountain – Mulangi (3000m), Zambia and Mozambique which are all near by.

So that’s it really. It’s much what I hoped/expected it to be, and I’m sure things will improve as I settle in further, learn the language and get to explore a bit of the country."

Jeremy Windsor writes: "hi Simon, just to pass on a piece of info (maybe newsletter worthy). To coincide with the opening of the new AAGBI (Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland) premises and museum on Portland Square, London we managed to secure the loan of one of the "closed" circuits used by Bourdillon and Evans on the ascent to the South Summit on the 1953 Everest expedition. In less than a fortnight we were able to arrange the loan of the set and original circuit diagram from the Alpine Club, together with permission from the RGS for photos etc, no mean feat! It is now on display at the AAGBI for six months, all welcome..."

From John Nathan: "I thought I would give you a run down of my activities in the last 18 months:

1. Apr 2002 Bideford to Padstow (85miles) South West Coastal path.
2. May 2002. Coast to Coat from Kirkby Stephen to Robin Hood Bay.
3. July August 2002- GR5 in France from Belfort to Nice- I completed 80 % of
it, but not quite all because of atrocious weather- took 6 weeks- fantastic
4. May 2003- Salcombe to Lyme Regis (120 miles) SW coast path.
5. May 2003- walked from Cherbourg to Mont St Michel (130 miles) with a
6. June 2003- 9 days walking in the Picos de Europa- including a night at
the refuge at foot of Naranjo de Bulnes- a 700 metre rock face, almost

Annabel Nickol writes:  am pleased to announce that Medical Expeditions has group membership of the Youth Hostel Association for the year, for the bargain price of £13.50. Members of Medex organising a group event for Medex/ Medical Expeditions are welcome to borrow the card from me at


That's about all the news for now. Have a great New Year and we are looking forward to seeing as many people as possible at our meets in Chamonix, mid Wales and the Lake District.

Simon and Sally