medex

Medex Newsletter

December 2002

Medex 2003 Expedition dates

Arrive Kathmandu by Monday 24th March for 6 week trip
Arrive Kathmandu by Monday 31st March for 5 week trip
Depart Kathmandu on Saturday3rd May 2003

Late as usual: Once again I have to apologise for the very late arrival of this Newsletter. There has much email correspondence in the background and I hope that most people have been following events but I am aware of an increased number of bounced emails. Thus, if you, or anyone you know, has not been receiving their emails please let me know your current email address.

With the 2003 Expedition just around the corner a lot has been going on. We now have 50 paid up members of the Expedition and only a few places are still available to top up the various groups to a maximum of 12.

An excellent research information and consent book has been designed and distributed and I include a copy at the end of this Newsletter.

The ODG 2002: This annual event was very well attended. This caused a lot of stress for the chef and kitchen staff. Despite this the Hotel provided an excellent meal. Annabel, heading up the research team, organised a series of 3 minute presentations by the various people heading up the projects. Jim Milledge gave a presentation of the various trekking and climbing opportunities in the Rowaling. We did, however, later learn that there is considerable Maoist activity in this area at present and therefore isn't a feasible alternative. We had a helpful discussion about the current state of Nepalese politics and security and agreed that the Expedition should go ahead provided that the Foreign Office does not advise to the contrary.

Top 10 in the BMC: Medex now has 256 members making it one of the 10 largest clubs affiliated to the BMC according to their annual report!

Base Camp Manager: George Wormald, george@discoverytrails.com, is co-ordinating the export of freight from the UK and has set a deadline of February 7th 2003. This is the last date that equipment must be with him and must be packed appropriately and be accompanied by the appropriate import / export paperwork. Unfortunately, due to Sue's illness, George can't come with us to Nepal but Jim Duffy has stepped into his shoes and will be looking after logistics within Nepal.

A reminder about flights: All those on Medex 2003 will need to make their own flight booking and to be in Nepal ready for the start of the Expedition namely by Monday 24th March for 6 week trip, by Monday 31st March for 5 week trip. The expedition ends on Saturday 3rd May. If you chose to fly earlier or return later then obviously you will need to make (and pay for) your own accommodation arrangements.

Flights and Dates: Flights range in price from £407 return with Trausavia to £750 with Thai. Most people have booked using www.opodo.com and have opted for Gulf air starting at £470 depending on the time of the week, There is a substantial premium for flying at the weeknd.

Equipment Discounts: Piotr Zmierzchowiec@aol.com has negotiated excellent deals on Rab down clothing (Trade + VAT) and co-ordinating a group purchase on 13/12/02. There is a similar deal on DMM climbing equipment - crampons etc.

Don't forget, we have arranged special discounts at Cotswold Camping for Medex members. The discount is to "contract price" which is about 15% and is available at all Cotswold stores by quoting reference M716 and Medex. (Members names are on a register held at the Betws y Coed branch and has been updated this week). Depending on the level of our purchases each year we may qualify for extra discount.

Neil Richardson has negotiated a 20% discount at www.urbanrock.com 

Tony and his barrels: As with previous expeditions Tony Davies has volunteered to source and deliver the ubiquitous blue 60 litre barrels for Medex 2003. These are far and away the best "travel bag" in Nepal being both waterproof and indestructible. If you want to order your barrel then contact him by phone (see membership list) or email: Tee_Dee@btopenworld.com Ordered barrels will be delivered by Tony to the data weekends in London.

Expedition Pharmacist: We are delighted to welcome 2 pharmacists to the expedition who are co-ordinating the procurement, packaging and disposal of pharmaceuticals. Ian Manovel and Barrat Luft have spent the last couple of months seeking pharmaceutical donations

Environmental Policy: We are keen to state that the Expedition's environmental policy is simple. If we pack it in we pack it out. This not only applies to the mountains but Kathmandu too as there is no mechanism for the systematic and acceptable disposal of waste in Nepal. So, if you fly stuff out there you must be prepared to fly it out too.

Chris Smith has prepared an excellent booklet detailing the environmental and cultural aspects of the Expedition and I have included this at the end of this Newsletter

Formations of groups: Five trekking groups have now been established and details are included in this Newsletter. Please note there have been slightly modified since the first draft.

Please note we have abandoned the planned 28 day group as everyone has opted for a longer trip.

We would strongly advise groups to organise their own meets over the next 3 months in order for everyone to get to know each other.

Clarify the 15 kg issue: It became obvious at Hyssington that people did not fully understand the 15 kg luggage limit so I thought it worth just clearing it up. Most airlines allow you to fly 23 kg into Kathmandu and if you exceed this the airline may charge you their excess baggage fees - usually exorbitant! If you wish to take more to Nepal then you may be better off freighting it out ahead though there are customs implications with respect to this. George Wormald george@discoverytrails.com will be able to help you with this. The 15kg limit applies to the internal Nepalese flights and your allocation of porters for the trek and this is a standard allowance for all fully serviced treks. Clearly you may have more luggage than this if you intend to climb or need to take research equipment. In this case you will have to pay for your excess baggage and this covers the cost of portering and the excess for the internal flight. All of your luggage (including hand luggage) will be weighed at the domestic air terminal and you will be billed there and then. If your excess equipment is research equipment then you may be able to recover this through the research grant but this will need to be agreed with Annabel Nickol in advance - annabel@medex.org.uk. We have had to implement this system as the expedition has, in the past, run up HUGE and unpredictable excess baggage charges when people have turned up with all manner of accessories - including SCUBA diving gear! Put simply, if you pack more than 15kg then you will have to pay the excess in Kathmandu at the airport and this will be payable in US dollars.

Helicopter Bond: At the ODG we discussed some contingencies for emergency evacuation if in the event we encounter significant terrorism activity. Should we become cut off by terrorism activity below us then it is possible that we will need to evacuate some or all of the Expedition by helicopter. Emergency medical evacuation is covered by the individuals insurance policy however it is unlikely that any such cover would extend to evading terrorism. Neither Medex nor Medical Expeditions have sufficient financial reserves to charter a rescue helicopter and therefore we developed the concept of a helicopter bond. This was voted on and agreed, almost unanimously, by the meeting. The Bond can be summarised as follows: PURPOSE- the bond is a pot of cash set aside for the emergency procurement of an evacuation helicopter for non medical purposes. REFUND-The bond is fully refundable on the successful completion of the Expedition should the money be unspent. VOLUNTARY-the bond is paid on a voluntary basis but should helicopter expenses be incurred on behalf of the individual then his/her money will be payable retrospectively if he or she has not pre paid the bond. AMOUNT- £800 sterling DISCRETION-The decision to spend the bond will be taken by the Expedition Leader and there is no question of chartering helicopters for frivolous reasons. WHEN- The bond request will be sent out with invoices in the New Year. The money will be placed on deposit and refunded shortly after the return of the Expedition.

We appreciate that this bond is an unusual concept but it was judged to be a prudent precaution given the considerable political uncertainties that exist in Nepal at present. Indeed, some members of Medex who are not coming on the expedition offered to contribute a bond on behalf of those expedition members who could not afford to do so themselves.

Mountain Medicine Diploma: There has been very great progress in the development of the Diploma. A Faculty has been formed and the diploma is being piloted in 2003 with practical sessions in Scotland in February and in the Alps in September. The first open intake will be recruited in 2003 and will commence at the Plas y Brenin course in November. David Hillebrandt has led the debate with a great deal of vigour and has submitted the syllabus to the UIAA for their approval. We should hear whether or not it has been accepted early in the New Year.

Forthcoming dates

Jan 4th-5th and 11th-12th 2003: Data Collection week-ends at QMW, London- All on the expedition need to attend. Medex members not involved in the Expedition are invited to join in at the social events in the evenings or help out in the data collection We will be carrying out studies on two consecutive weekends prior to the expedition. We very much hope everybody will be able to attend one of these weekends, so we have a base line for comparison with the observations we make at high altitude. For further information please contact Annabel@medex.org.uk 

Hypoxia 2003, Canada www.hypoxia.net Medical Expeditions will be able to offer support to any members presenting work done on ME expeditions to the amount of the registration fee (early registration, Can$ 600) as usual.

July 12th - 13th, Hyssington BBQ Once again we are inviting everyone to our annual Mid Wales BBQ and we hope to make this the main post expedition meet with slide shows, reunions and plenty of food and drink. All are welcome not just expedition members. Though camping is free we do, on this occasion, hope to be able to raise some money for the restoration of Hyssington Church so please bring your wallets!

October 4th - 5th 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.

Plas y Brenin 2003. Mountain and High Altitude Medicine and Physiology course 21-23rd November 2003. This course is once again organised by Peter Barry and has now become a highly popular and successful event. This course will form part of the academic component of the Diploma Course.

News of individuals:

Jamie McDonald is doing a PhD at Bangor University looking into exercise and other mechanisms to reduce sarcopenia in various catabolic diseases.

Rick Allen has had a good season organising and leading expeditions to Tajikistan. Visit, www.GreatGameTravel.co.uk for details

News and comment from contacts within Nepal: "Poor Nepal, of course the people most affected have the least power to change things. The government is quite appalling and fuels the whole Maoist problem which will not go away for a very long time I fear. So far tourists are not targeted at all and it seems that both sides are very keen to avoid harming foreigners. However there are occasional fire fights in which tourists have been caught up, bombs have been going off more and more often in Kathmandu although the campaigns are usually in the run up to a Bhand, and more and more mines are being used, some very powerful - an army truck was blown up by a remotely detonated mine which destroyed the whole vehicle and killed seven people. These are not just fireworks any more. Occasionally tourists are stopped and asked for a 'donation' and then relieved of cameras and binoculars and other useful equipment. The insurgency is a good excuse for banditry and thuggery but having said that we have no reason to discourage anyone from visiting - the only likely problem is disruption so patience is required (an essential ingredient for all Asian travellers). For instance an army helicopter dropped back onto the main runway last week and its rotors dug big holes into the tarmac. All flights were cancelled for two days, domestic and international. No problem but a major inconvenience for a lot of people"

Nepalese Politics: As you can see from the above there is still considerable difficulties in Nepal. In the run up to the planned November elections the King sacked the Prime Minister, suspended Parliament and assumed executive control of the country. This, and the end of the monsoon, brought about a surge in violence.  Kathmandu remains under strict curfew and there are frequent bombings. News from the rural areas is scarce and, I think it is fair to say, there is no reliable picture of what is happening throughout the nation. Though tourists are not being officially targeted by the Maoists there have been occurrences of extortion, intimidation, theft and beating. Some well publicised events have been reported in the UK.

Despite all this the British Foreign Office does not advise against travel to Nepal but does advise caution!

Clearly we must go prepared to accept delays and inconvenience. We should try to be as inconspicuous as possible and maybe travel light in terms of cameras, cash, radios etc.

We look forward to seeing as many people as possible in London in the New Year. 

Simon and Sally