A HAMPSHIRE couple have braved the elements to gather vital research for a lifesaving organisation.

Husband-and-wife pair Andy and Elizabeth Cumpstey led an exhibition to the base camp of the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest, while helping Xtreme Everest collect data.

The duo, a teacher from Hampshire Collegiate School, near Romsey, and doctor at Southampton Hospital, embarked on the trek as part of the charity’s 10th anniversary.

The team of 50 walked 80 miles and had two very close encounters with yaks.

Elizabeth said: “It was certainly a busy trip requiring both physical and mental strength from everyone.

“I am certainly very proud to be able to say I have helped in the success of this expedition, and to be part of the Xtreme Everest team.”

Xtreme Everest is a not-for-profit organisation, led by doctors and scientists from UCL, University of Southampton, and Duke University in the United States – studying human systems stretched to breaking point in extreme environments to increase understanding of critically ill patients.

Ten years ago, in May 2007, the group placed a research term on the summit of Mount Everest and made the first ever measurement of the level of oxygen in human blood at 8,400m, on the balcony of Everest. This was the centrepiece of an extensive and continuing programme of research into hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and human performance at extreme altitude, aimed at improving the care those for whom hypoxia is a problem.

Three years later the charity returned to Nepal for a further three months to undertake medical research on groups of trekkers who had signed up to be medically tested along the Everest Base Camp trek.

Elizabeth said: “What better way to celebrate the charity’s 10th anniversary than with a trek to Everest Base Camp where more medical research could be gathered along the way?

“The research this time involved blood tests, collecting various swab samples and detailed ultrasounds of our heart and lungs.

“Together with the other trek group leaders, myself and Andy were also asked to wear a special physiological monitoring vest and pulse oximeter that assessed our heart rate, ECG, breathing rate and sleeping positions along the way.

“We could not have asked for better conditions when we arrived at base camp – warm, sunny and clear – and we got fantastic views of Everest and the Khumbu ice fall. Walking back from base camp it began to snow and overnight over a foot of snow fell.; This made the first day of walking back down a very different matter, but the scenery was made even more spectacular!”

The school teacher added: “One in five of us will end up in an intensive care unit and one fifth of those admitted will sadly die. A major cause of this is a lack of oxygen when it is most needed.

“This unique research team exploits the oxygen-thin air at high altitudes to provide critical insights into how intensive care patients might be helped in the future.

“It could help to save thousands of lives of people with a range of diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart and lung disease, cystic fibrosis and congenital heart disease.”