Closing Post, From Dr. Tom Brutsaert

If Dr. Rick Burton is hearing Neil Young in his head, then I am hearing a melancholy refrain from The Doors: “This is the end. My only friend, the end”. The lyric seems apropos given the number of helicopters that we saw in the last 3-weeks and the slightly empty feeling that I have as “the last man standing” in Kathmandu. Our wonderful students, collaborators, and faculty have dispersed, landing soon in Canada, Australia, New York, Sweden, Oregon, and perhaps (in the case of Anne), in Shangri-La. I am drinking coffee in the Kathmandu Guest House and waiting for my flight out tonight. I have learned to recognize the extraordinary when it emerges. This trip, thanks to all of the people involved, was extraordinary! It remains, only, to thank all supporters and readers of the blog. Thank you all for coming along. With some luck, we will do this again next year. Tom out.

Day 16: June 4, 2018, as told by professor Rick Burton

Name: Rick Burton

Home Town: Springfield, Mass

Area of Research: Sport management, marketing
Today saw our final day of trekking, from Phakding to Lukla, where we will fly out tomorrow. Despite only requiring three hours of hiking, the day involved a substantial amount of up and down, and after more than two weeks of hiking, much of the group was quite tired. Still, we pulled through and arrived in Lukla just before noon with high fives and a lot of back slapping. The group then collapsed into the lodge to take naps, play cards and drink tea.
As one of the last blog posts for this amazing trip to Mt. Everest Base Camp, I just want to note how great it was to work with an inspired Council of Elders from Mount Royal University in Calgary (Canada) and researchers from Sweden, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Syracuse University.
Dr. Trevor Day and Dr. Tom Brutsaert deserve enormous credit for structuring this incredible learning opportunity for so many undergraduate and graduate students. While the last few days of trekking were largely downhill, they were never easy and the researchers kept inputting data even after we reached Kathmandu.
To close, I would humbly suggest this trip was an eye-opening opportunity for many of us and I’m so pleased our blog readers could follow along with our words and the stunning, intimate photography provided by expedition photographer Andrew Burton.
To all who joined us for the journey, let me quote the great Neil Young: “keep on rockin’ in the free world.” And huge thanks to all our loved ones, family, friends and University administrators who helped support this adventure.
Keep climbing!

Day 15: June 3, 2018, as told by researcher Jacob DeBlois

 Name: Jacob DeBlois

Age: 30

Home Town: Providence, Rhode Island

Area of Study: Health and Exercise Science

Year in School: 3rd year doctoral student

I joined the Everest Base Camp Expedition because… I love understanding how the human body responds to various kinds of stressors. My primary research interest lies in occupational physiology and how work stress, such as military service and fire suppression activities in the Fire Service, influences the cardiovascular system to account for the profound number of cardiac deaths experienced in certain occupational groups. Military members and first responders are often exposed to high altitude, which may affect the decision-making process due to changes in brain blood flow. Furthermore, if medical personnel are able to better predict who may be susceptible to acute mountain sickness (AMS), we may be better able to reduce the risk of tragic events that may occur at high altitude. We developed two research studies to help address these issues and I am serving as a researcher on the expedition.

Crossing the famous two bridges.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by…serving as a researcher investigating the changes in brain blood flow during cognitive function tasks at high altitude and examining the predictive ability of a sea-level exercise and breathing test to determine who may be at risk for developing AMS. I am also part of the Mount Royal University study examining the acclimatization process the body undergoes as a result of high altitude exposure.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been…visiting the monastery in Tengbouche. There was something so powerful about sitting there in silence, smelling the burning incense and listening to the monks chant, ring bells, and pray. The monastery was ornately decorated and reminded me of the Armenian church with giant portraits adorning the walls, murals highlighted with golden accent, and the tall ceiling. It was truly beautiful inside.

The worst part of the trip so far… has been trying to figure out what you can get away with wearing each day. The sniff test is a dangerous game. Honestly, how did no one tell us to bring Febreeze? All joking aside, the trip has been difficult at times, but it has been an incredible experience and there’s not much to complain about. We’ve had great views, been fed well, and have been hanging around with decent people (I kid! Everyone’s great).

One thing I’ve thought was interesting… is how the Sherpa respond to such heavy physical activity at high altitude. While we gasp for air climbing stairs while wearing trekking backpacks that weight no more than 15 lbs, there are Sherpa carrying huge loads on their backs flying past us going up and down steps. They carry the weight on their backs with a strap across their heads (I want to measure their neck strength and see how it compares to a low-lander). How these individuals complete this heavy muscular work in such an extreme environment is fascinating. I’d like to understand how their cardiovascular system responds to this work compared to our systems and see if we cannot learn something about increasing cardiovascular efficiency with altitude exposure.

One thing most people don’t know about me… is that I am a type 1 diabetic. Well, everyone on the trek knows this, and my family knows this, but I guess the larger “people” don’t really know this. It has been interesting to see how my insulin and blood glucose levels respond to all the trekking and high altitude. There has been little research done on type 1 diabetics at high altitude, and most of the research shows that insulin dose and glucose values increase in everyone (diabetics and non-diabetics alike) with increasing altitude. I’ve been keeping an eye on my levels using a continuous glucose monitor that checks my glucose concentrations every 5 min automatically. Additionally, everyone on this trip has asked me how my glucose has been and I really appreciate the support I’ve received from each and every single person here.

Daily Recap

Today we trekked from Namche to Phakding. This was the first time we didn’t have to get up and start the trek right away. Instead, we got to roam Namche in the morning and didn’t leave for Phakding until around 12:45pm. Unfortunately, since the trekking season is coming to an end, most of the shops and food establishments were closed. Only one bakery was open and available for lunch. They made delicious pizza, but were out of a majority of their ingredients and were short staffed. We had to wait over an hour for our food to arrive, and by then we were supposed to be getting on the road to Phakding. We shoveled the food down our gullets and got on the trail quickly. 

The group leaves Namche.

It was an undulating trek. While we descended approximately 800 meters, it was not without some steep climbs. We crossed some suspension bridges, walked through wooded and rocky, desolate areas, and passed a few small towns. As we approached Phakding it started to drizzle. We have been really lucky with the weather and this rain was light, if you can even call it rain. I’m not sure if Phakding is normally a wet place, but when we arrived at the lodge the rooms had a musky, damp smell to them. The rooms were small and had bathrooms (whether or not the toilets worked was a game of Russian roulette) and were nothing terribly noteworthy, but the dining area was a different sight with a chandelier hanging in the center of the hall. The big appeal to Phakding was the bakery just a short walk from the lodge. Cinnamon rolls, apple strudel, chocolate cake, a wide assortment of cookies…we were all excited. Despite the fact that the shop was closing the day we got arrived, the owner decided to stay open for us the next day so we could get some treats before heading out of town. Best. News. Ever.

Otherwise, the day was low-key. We played card games, namely “Shithead” and “Oh Hell” (or, if you prefer a more PG version, “Poo Head” and “Oh Heck”) when we got to the lodge. Despite the rapid descent profile, everyone has been feeling pretty good. Spirits are high, though everyone is starting to miss home, family, and friends (and not having to throw used toilet paper into a waste basket…). Every day we get closer to Kathmandu, which we are all excited for. That means I can finally get my mother a souvenir (it’ll only be $5 so don’t get your hopes up, Mom!) [That’s really 500 rupees, so it’s not all that cheap and will be decent quality. Quit complaining.] {Seriously, my Mother’s favorite phrase is “Buy me something!”}. Love you, Mom! (and everyone else…I have a large family, I can’t list you all…)

Day 14: June 2, 2018, as told by student Lucas Purce


Name: Lucas Purce

Age: 22

Home Town: Lyncourt, New York

Area of Study: Health and Exercise Science

Year in School: Super Senior (5th Year)

I joined the Everest Base Camp Expedition because… Dr. Tom Brutsaert stopped by the Anatomy and Physiology class I was in and gave a brief description of the course. It was a good thing Tom showed up when he did because I was beginning to zone-out. But I heard the words “Everest Base Camp” and my ears perked up. Then I was sitting at the edge of my seat. Studying abroad has always been on my radar but has never come together. This was something different, the trip sounded more like an adventure than simply studying abroad in the routine destinations like Spain or Australia.

The team walks back into the town of Namche Bazaar, five days after visiting Everest base camp.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by… participating in all of the daily measurements (which I’m sure everyone has already heard about, given the numerous posts before me). I tried helping Jacob and Wes with their brain blood-flow study but unfortunately Wes was unable to find a strong enough blood flow to my brain, so I guess I am some kind of anomaly. That research aside, I tried to participate in as many studies as possible because I saw no point in denying researchers any potential data.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been… I know I am supposed to say it was the amazing views that surrounded us during every waking minute or the fact that we accomplished our goal and finally made it to Everest Base Camp, but I would have to say it was spending my 22nd birthday on top of the world in Namche Bazaar, sharing drinks with the awesome people that helped to make this an amazing and unforgettable experience. It was a day I will never forget.

Lucas Purce is surprised with a cake to celebrate his 22nd birthday.

The worst part of the trip so far… The obvious answer here would be the Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), however during this trip we discovered that I was an “elite individual” (Jacob can vouch for me). I was one of the very few on this trip to not have a serious fight with the altitude. That said, the worst part of this trip was the first two days of hiking. Not only were these hikes more than six hours in length, but they left me nauseous and with zero appetite. This made waking up and hiking the next morning very difficult and uncomfortable. After these two instances I remained relatively unscathed for the rest of the journey.

Oh yeah, and the bridges… The bridges really sucked.

A few things I’ve thought were interesting… the most interesting thing about this trip was learning about the Buddhist culture among Sherpa people. I am not a very religious individual but after seeing the culture of the Sherpa it resonated with me. I have never met or seen a group of people that can compare in their friendliness and hospitality. In a way it saddened me because this level of care and kindness is not found on a regular basis. Whether it was on the countless mani stones and mani walls that we walked past, or hanging in the doorways of every home and lodge, Buddhism was proudly displayed.

One thing most people don’t know about me…the thing that caught most people off guard was not the fact that I am shade deficient (a form of color-blindness) but that I have a fear of heights. Why not spend nearly 20 hours flying in planes, then trekking to the base of the tallest mountain on the planet, and in doing so cross numerous suspension bridges that would sway with the weight of the trekkers and the power of the wind? Looking back, I don’t know why I thought this would be an easy trip for someone afraid of heights.

Daily Recap

Today was spent hiking from Khunde to Namche Bazaar. These villages are only a short distance from each other. Before hiking down hill to Namche we visited the Hillary Foundation Hospital that provides medical services to many of the Sherpa in the valley. The hospital is not recognized by the Nepalese government and therefore has to rely heavily on donations, something that we were very happy to supply. After that we walked about an hour to Namche.

I think as a whole, the group enjoyed staying in Namche the most, which isn’t a surprise given the number of little shops and cafes scattered throughout the town. Once we had settled into our rooms and unpacked our things we were given a handful of hours to enjoy ourselves in the town. This time was spent shopping for souvenirs that we would be able to carry back down the mountain. Dinner was served in the lodge following a very special “Tip Ceremony,” showing each member of our team how grateful we were for their participation and help along the way. The tips were shared among the Sherpa team that helped guide us and the porter team that worked tirelessly to carry our bags. This was a truly heartwarming experience to see the joy on everyone faces as they were recognized for their hard work during this amazing trek.

(L-R) Professors Tom Brutsaert, Trevor Day and Rick Burton give tips and gifts to our team of porters.
(L-R) Professors and guides Tshering Sherpa, Dr. Tom Brutsaert, Dr. Trevor Day, Rick Burton, Nima Sherpa, Tashi Sherpa, Fura Sherpa and Bobby Raj Rai pose for a photo after the tipping ceremony.

Immediately following the tipping ceremony, began the first inaugural “Khumby Awards.” For those reading from home, I am sorry you couldn’t attend because it was seriously one of the funniest experiences I have had to date. To give you a rundown, it was basically a list of superlatives like Funniest Funny-Bone, Most Likely to Climb Everest, and Most Likely to Die Trying. There were special performances from Dr. Trevor Day, (who sang “Willkommen,” from Carberet), Rachel and Jackson (who danced,) Anne Kalker, Fura Sherpa and Tashi Sherpa (who sang a very pretty Nepalese song) and an unforgettable rendition of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer from Wes, Jacob, and Anne. It was one of the funniest things I have ever been a part of with laughs and cheers from everyone in attendance.

Dr. Trevor Day performs “Willkommen,” from the play Carberet as the opening number for the 2018 Khumby Awards.

Guide Fura Sherpa celebrates after winning the “Most Likely to Climb Everest” award.
Brittney Herrington celebrates winning the “Muddiest Mudshark” award, for the person who showered the least (presented by Jordan Bird and Scott Thrall).
Dr. Tom Brutsaert and Dr. Trevor Day announce the winner of the “Funniest Funnybone” award.
Jacob DeBlois, Taylor Harman, Dr. Wes Lefferts, Dr. Tom Brutsaert and Chad Althiser celebrate after winning the “Smartest Smartypants Award,” for the research team the group thought did the most interesting high altitude research.

The night ended with drinks at a bar in Namche. That poor bar was not ready for a group of 30 to come in ready to celebrate a successful trek as well as my 22nd birthday. Songs were sung, drinks were poured, and games of pool were  played by all. There wasn’t a sad face in the room with cheering and dancing all around. It will go down as one of the best birthdays I will ever have. It was an incredible experience to be able to share a drink with the men that helped make this trip happen. Thank you Fura, Tashi, Tshering, and Nima.

Rachel Chiricheli and Jackson Barnes present the “Best Singer” award.
Professor Rick Burton gives a speech after winning the “Most Likely to Write a Book About the Experience” Award.
Dr. Wes Lefferts beats Taylor Harman in a play off for the best player-of-games award.
The group waves their cell phone flashlights to a ukulele song played by Anne Kalker.
Cassie Cooper accepts the “Best Attitude for the Altitude” Award and the Overall MVP award.

Finally, hey Mom and Dad, I made it! I survived my birthday on top of the world. Emma looked amazing at Ball and I wish I was there for photos. We will have to recreate the photos when I get home now that I’ve lost a little bit of weight ;). I hope everything is going great at home and I will be back home before you know it. Fingers crossed Tucker is house trained by now because all I can smell around here on the trails is yak dung and urine. I love you guys and miss you all so much!

Chad Althiser accepts the “Best Feature of the Trip” award for the Chad-epillar, a slow-moving line of trekkers he led for many days in an effort to keep heart rate down and acclimatize slowly.
Researcher Pontus Holmström accepts the “Best Dressed” award.
Jacob DeBlois, Anne Kalker and Dr. Wes Lefferts perform a rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

Day 13: June 1, 2018, as told by phD researcher Wes Lefferts

Name: Wesley Lefferts

Age: 29

Home Town: Portland, OR

Area of Study: Exercise Science, cardiovascular physiology

Year in School: Finished PhD, May 2018

I joined the Everest Base Camp Expedition because… it would be crazy to let this opportunity pass! Dr. Tom Brutsaert came to myself and Jacob back in the fall and mentioned the possibility of an Everest expedition and we were all in favor of it but never thought it would actually come to be. A few months later and we were planning our research studies, meeting our Canadian collaborators, and buying trekking gear. My participation in this expedition wouldn’t be possible without the incredible support of my advisor, Dr. Kevin Heffernan, who was willing to let us use some of our lab equipment and fund a large portion of my fees for this trip. This expedition provided an amazing opportunity to not just engage in some novel research, but to do so in some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring mountains in the world. Growing up in Portland, OR, I’ve always had a love for mountains (an itch not scratched by the East coast, apologies to those individuals that think there are REAL mountains on the east coast) so going to the Himalayas is an absolute dream.

Milk tea is served at the home of our lead guide, Nima.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by… being one of the lead investigators on the SU studies on 1) predicting cognitive dysfunction in high altitude, 2) identifying changes in decision-making during high altitude exposure, and 3) investigating how changes in brain blood flow contribute to cognitive function at high altitude.

No studies have attempted to identify or predict which individuals will experience cognitive dysfunction (slower response speeds, less correct responses). Identifying vulnerable individuals using a reactivity test at sea level prior to exposing them to high altitude on a trek, may improve trek safety by putting those individuals in positions less reliant on critical decision-making. No studies have been able to identify what changes in the decision-making process actually explain the typical cognitive dysfunction seen with high altitude exposure. We hope to provide some insight into these cognitive changes by collaborating with a former SU Psychology Professor (Dr. Corey White) and using mathematical modeling. Finally, with the help of Dr. Trevor Day from Mount Royal University, we will be able to examine how changes in brain blood flow during a time of increased brain activity (i.e. when the brain is engaged in a cognitive task) impacts brain performance (i.e. performance on the cognitive task). While this has been investigated previously, we’re investigating brain arteries that are specifically feeding the active areas engaged by the cognitive task in the forefront of the brain. These 3 studies will contribute to the scientific literature on the effects of high altitude trekking and hypoxia, and will be written and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals by a combination of Professors, graduate, and undergraduate students.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been… the views of the largest mountains in the world, every single day. It’s hard to pick out a single favorite part, thus I will list them in no particular order.
1. Helicopter ride from Kathmandu to Lukla. I grew up loving aviation and flight simulators and its always been a dream to get to ride in a helicopter, particularly when flying with amazing views of the Himalayas and Nepal. We got to fly right behind one of the airplanes landing at Lukla and it was simply awesome.

2. First clear views of the big-kid mountains in Namche, and beyond Debouche (particularly Ama dablam). They are just so massive and majestic and seem to put everything in life into perspective.

3. Getting to see and experience the Sherpa culture. Our guides and everyone we’ve met are quite simply some of the kindest, most giving humans I’ve ever met. I wish more people could experience this and hope to emulate the way they treat strangers and visitors to their homes.

4. The view from Kallapathar. Chad, myself, Jordan, and Andrew stormed our way up the excessively steep slopes of Kallapathar to make sure we hit the summit before the sun crept over Mt Everest’s shoulder. It was fun to fight the altitude and really challenge ourselves physically, rather than hold back to avoid developing AMS. The views were absolutely stunning from sitting atop the jackknife summit, covered in prayer flags.

5. Getting to collect data with gold-standard equipment scattered across the beds in a cluttered bedroom, with jaw-dropping views of the mountains just a step away out the window.

The worst part of the trip so far… headaches and low arterial oxygen saturation from Lobuche to Gorak Shep. High altitude headache, experienced by the majority of high altitude trekkers, was certainly no fun. Throbbing headaches would develop instantaneously and dissolve randomly, hopefully with the help of some pain-killers. Also I was devastated that we didn’t see our adopted trekking dog Phek Dang V today.

A few things I’ve thought were interesting… The mani stones and mani walls. They are beautiful religious carvings into rocks that are scattered throughout the trails. Our lead guide Nima said that each one is essentially an antique, chiseled decades ago, prior to any commercialization of mountaineering in the area and the pursuit of submitting Everest.

One thing most people don’t know about me… I hated science in high school. I barely paid attention and had discipline issues with most of my science teachers. Apologies to those teachers that I frustrated. Strangely enough, fell in love with human physiology during undergrad and now have my MS and PhD in Exercise Science and will be a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois Chicago, starting in June.

Daily Recap

Today we trekked from Debouche to Khunde (home town of the majority of our Sherpa guides). It included the best, or worst, of both worlds, with steep descents that pounded through your knees and hips, and rigorous climbs that left your quads burning and your lungs gasping. Most of us had felt like we were invincible, coming down from 5000 meters and feeling strong. The catch being, that was all descent. Today the climbs certainly sobered us up and reminded us that we were still at high altitude.

After our painful climb up to Khumjung we walked through the school funded by Sir Edmund Hillary, and got to have tea and cookies at Nima’s house. The undisputed star of the show was Nima’s two-year-old daughter, Dolma, who entertained everyone with dancing, and show-and-tell of her stuffed animals.

Our lead guide, Nima Sherpa.
Nima and Ang’s daughter, Dolma.

(L-R) Researcher Anne Kalker, Dr. Trevor Day and Dr. Tom Brutsaert.

Prior to dinner a large chunk of the group played “Werewolf,” a favorite game for this crowd. They are still playing on the other side of the common room while I stand here writing this. It is a very entertaining game, particularly for a scientist that typically enjoys evidence-based decisions, because it is overrun by bias and emotional decisions based on little to no evidence. Dinner itself was delicious. Momo’s (perhaps better known as dumplings or pot-stickers) were served and I think we all consumed probably >200. Seconds, and thirds were had by nearly all.

We are all excited to get to Namche tomorrow. The prospect of shops, food, beverages, and free hot showers is incredibly enticing for many of us. The trek has been amazing thus far but I think many of us miss parts of home. Traveling back home next week will be bittersweet since it will mean the end of the eye-candy provided by the Himalayas but will let us get back to those people we miss most.

Final note: Quick shout-out to my family, I love you guys and I promise to send pictures as soon as I have some reliable internet! To my girlfriend, Elizabeth, I can’t wait to get to Chicago as soon as possible once I get back in NY, I love you!

Day 12: May 31, 2018, as told by student Laurel Ness

Name: Laurel Ness

Age: Freshly 19 (I had my birthday on the trip!)

Home Town: Richmond, Virginia

Area of Study: Biology and Forensic Science

Year in School: Sophomore

Laurel, who is also a defender on the SU women’s soccer team,


shows off her ball handling skills at Everest base camp.I joined the Everest Base Camp Expedition because… I really enjoy traveling and have traveled to Europe a lot but never to Asia. As soon as I saw this opportunity I started filling out the application and had a meeting with Tom. It seemed like a great fit with how much I loved the outdoors.  While hiking 7 hours a day might not sound appealing to everyone, I was really excited to constantly be outside and see how my body would do at such extreme altitudes that I most likely won’t experience ever again.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by… I am one of the guinea pigs in the research studies. Actually I am a dropout-guinea pig for most of the studies. Unfortunately my excitement for altitude may have been too much for my body, which reacted poorly to our highest altitudes. I was one of the few who got AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness) and was put on Diamox. This is the only medication for altitude sickness but it also ruins your data for most of the projects that we are doing. Unfortunately most of my data will likely not be used.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been…  I think our downtime is when the most interesting things happen. From my roommate getting stuck in the bathroom to everyone looking for Chad who went for one of many impromptu coffee runs, things are pretty chaotic here in Nepal. My favorite downtime moment has to be playing cards with everyone. I’ve learned some fun new games and I would say I am equally bad at all of them. Although I have been told my commentary during them is entertaining so I guess I can work with that.


The worst part of the trip so far… Definitely has to be getting AMS. I was very close to not making it Everest Base Camp after having trouble breathing. With the help of Nima carrying my bag and having to take a diabetic’s Sprite I staggered into Base Camp. Then once I finally got over my AMS as we started our descent I picked up some sort of cold that has left me coughing throughout the night and with just about no voice. I believe we have a karaoke night coming up and I’m intrigued to see how many people can live through my screeches.

A few things I’ve thought were interesting… I think my most interesting day here in Nepal was when we received our breakfast, consisting of toast and eggs as always, and a majority of the eggs were not properly cooked. Some were black and green, some were undercooked, others were not even a color. But mine ended up being probably one of the best. I cracked mine open on the table and it literally exploded making the sound of a firecracker. This was immediately followed by the beautiful smell of rotten egg that enveloped the whole room. We’ve all been a little hesitant with our eggs ever since.

One thing most people don’t know about me… Most people on the trip know that I love science and that I play on the women’s soccer team at Syracuse but what they don’t know is that I am a lover of the arts. Specifically theatre and movies. My best friend back home is a film major and we always do a 48 hour film festival where we give each other a film genre, a line, a character, a prop and then 48 hours to create a 15 minute film with all of the criteria. It is quite intense and filled with lots of caffeine. I also took theatre in high school allowing me to be a Thespian. My favorite theatre excursions were monologues and improv.

 Daily Recap

Today we hiked from Pheriche to Debuche declining almost 1000 meters. This was pretty helpful in clearing up any lingering headaches that people have from the high altitude. The first 15 or 20 minutes of the hike was a lie in my eyes because it was completely uphill. We had a bit of a break due to an injury someone received (who is now fine) which allowed us to take in the beautiful views of Nepal that we’ve seen this entire trip.


Preparing for our final hike with significant views of the Himalayas.
One of our last views of Ama dablam, one of the most striking mountains on the Himalayan skyline
Crossing the Khumbu river as the group leaves Pheriche.

Once we actually got to Debuche we had lunch and then about 4 hours of downtime. People had an array of options to fill up the rest of the day. Some people went to the monastery a little further up to see a Buddhist ceremony. Unfortunately there was a lot more tourists than Buddhist monks actually there but the building was beautiful. Another option was to take a nice warm shower for the price of 500 rupees (approx $5 USD). The last option, which I took part in, was playing cards for all 4 hours. Yes I know, well spent time.

Dr. Tom Brutsaert enjoys down time after a long day of hiking.
Dr. Trevor Day says hi to one of our guides, Ang, and her daughter Dolma.

Afterwards we all sat down in the common room to watch the movie Everest which is somewhat based on the book we were required to read for this course “Into Thin Air”. Most people noticed that the book and the movie varied in there portrayal of many of the characters and left us wondering what these people were actually like. We had a wonderful dinner immediately following the movie consisting of pasta, potatoes, and rice. We then had our final guest speaker, Anne Kalker, tell us about the steps we should take when someone gets injured. It had a lot of audience involvement as she made up scenarios for two bystanders to help save their patient. Everyone immediately crashed after this and had some of the best nights sleep we’ve gotten after being at such high altitudes.

Wes Lefferts and Chad Althiser attempt to safely assess Jordan Bird in a mock emergency medical scenario.

Day 11: May 30, 2018, as told by student Isabel Reedy

Name: Isabel Reedy
Age: 19

Home Town: Naperville, IL

Area of Study: Health and Exercise Science on Pre-Med track
Year in School: Junior

I joined the Everest Base Camp Expedition because… Dr. Tom Brustaert gave a presentation in my Anatomy and Physiology class and I immediately knew I wanted to join. My parents initially thought it was a joke, but I was so serious about going that I met with Tom and fired away any and all of my questions. After convincing my parents and finishing my application, I was lucky enough to be accepted. I’m so excited to be here because not only does it count for credit towards my major, but I get to have an experience of a lifetime.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by… I am a participant for the brain-blood flow study, cognitive function study, epigenetics study, and daily measures. I was also lucky enough to be chosen to help out Wes and Jacob with the brain-blood flow study by taking blood pressure and arterial stiffness measurements. It was really cool to be involved on both sides of the studies because I was able to gain more experience in the exercise science research world.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been… This has easily been the hardest part of the blog to answer because this entire trip has been unreal. If I had to pick one specific part though, it would definitely be being able to hike in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We went from being in a forest, to a desert, to just rocks. Pictures honestly can’t show how beautiful this place is (sorry Andrew, you’re still an amazing photographer). I am so lucky to be able to not only hike to Mt. Everest base camp, the summit of Kala Pathar (I’ll talk about that more later), but also be taking a course for my major and be involved in research along the way.

The worst part of the trip so far… Hands down the AMS (acute mountain sickness). It feels like the stomach flu plus a headache, which, you can imagine, isn’t a fun experience. I had absolutely no appetite for most of yesterday and this morning which was a real bummer for me considering I love food more than most things in life. Also, sleep is quite a struggle- waking up almost every hour at night panting because of sleep apnea (periods of no breathing while sleeping). Luckily, taking Tylenol and Advil religiously for the past few days has helped with the headache and hopefully from now on, I won’t have any more symptoms because we are all on our way back down the trail.

A few things I’ve thought were interesting… I have realized throughout this trip that I really enjoy high altitude physiology. I find it so interesting how much the human body does to try to acclimatize and how certain races and cultures are able to perform better at altitude. Listening to multiple lectures by Dr. Tom Brustaert and Dr. Trevor Day, as well as listening to guest lecturers has shown me how large of a field high altitude physiology research is. Being involved in multiple research projects on this trip also reinforced this interest for me because I got to see how my own body attempted to acclimatize through the daily measures and cognitive function testing (fun fact: my body doesn’t love super high altitude but I did a lot better than I thought I would).

One thing most people don’t know about me… When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I won a contest on TV and my prize was an entire collection of Bratz dolls. Unfortunately, I don’t still own them 🙁

Daily Recap

Today was a big day for the group, we are finally on our way back down the trail! With an alarm set for 4:00am, we all had the opportunity to hike up Kala Pathar, a mountain that stands over 18,000 ft (5600 m). With a huge snake of head lamps leading up the trail, we were lucky enough to get a clear morning and an amazing sunrise over the Himalayas.

The group leaves pre-sunrise to climb Kala Pathar.



Mt. Everest casts it’s shadow during sunrise.


For me, the trail was super difficult; I have honestly never felt more out of shape in my life. I found myself gasping for air every 10 steps upward, so as you can imagine, it took me a while to get to the summit (2.5 hours to be exact). After almost giving up about 100 times, I made it and it was so worth it. The views from the summit were unreal, including views of Mt. Everest and the surrounding peaks, icefalls, glacial lakes, and everyone in the group’s smiling faces.

Heading back down Kala Pathar towards the lodge in Gorak Shep was super exhausting as well. I came back to the lodge with a headache, nausea, high heart rate, and low oxygen saturation (AKA not good shape). After breakfast, we were on our way towards Pheriche once again! I started the hike back down feeling weak, but with a decrease in elevation and increase in oxygen concentration, I immediately felt better. It was amazing how big of a difference it made. Once again, we were passing the landmarks we saw on the way up including the huge valleys, monuments for those who had passed away on Mt. Everest, and a river with a scary bridge made of plywood and rocks.

Arriving back in Pheriche was quite the relief. Being back in a lodge with toilets that actually flush is more amazing than words can describe. It’s exciting to be on the way back towards Kathmandu because all of the hard work is done by now. We made it to base camp, made it to Kala Pathar, and now get to see the amazing EBC trail once again!

Day 10: May 29, 2018 (Base Camp Day!), as told by student Jansen Nicolas

Name: Jansen Atiatonharonkwen Nicholas

Age: 24

Area of study: Health & Exercise Science,
Physical Therapy Track

Year in school: Rising Senior
Posing with the Mohawk nation flag at Mt. Everest Base Camp

I joined the Everest Base Camp expedition because…I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone and felt that traveling across the planet to the base of the tallest peak on Earth was the best way to do that.

It also meets my prerequisite for course work so it really was the best of both worlds. Seeing as I’m an Exercise Science major it would seem logical that having the chance to research and experience the effects of high altitude on the human body would be an appropriate type of expedition to be a part of.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by…ever since I started my studies at SU and began learning about human physiology I realized that I found an interest in participating and learning more about physiology research. I don’t think there’s a better way to learn about your own body and how physiology works than actually participating in research. I also think it’s important for people to take part in research so that there is enough participants to make for meaningful data collection.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been…finally reaching Base Camp with the whole crew that I’ve been living with for the past 2 weeks was incredible. The amount of trekking, research, and acclimatizing was definitely worth the views of Base Camp and the surrounding landscape. It felt great to take pictures with everyone and especially felt great to get a picture with all of the Sherpas who were essential to making this trip a success. I can’t say enough about how amazing they are.

The entire team, comprising of students, professors and researchers from the United States, Canada, Sweden and The Netherlands, pose for a photo at Mt. Everest base camp.

The worst part of the trip so far has been…for me personally the worst part of the trip has been the rest days. I definitely realize the importance and necessity to rest and acclimatize to each altitude we go up but I couldn’t help wanting to get closer to Base Camp and seeing the views of the mountain range. Other than that the cold night in Debouche was pretty brutal. It was very hard to sleep. Plus not having much communication with my family and friends has been pretty difficult.

A few things I’ve thought were interesting…one of the biggest things I found interesting was the strength and resilience of the Sherpa people. The struggles they deal with in order to provide for their families everyday, especially the higher up you go, speaks to how hard many of them have it. Despite that I’ve yet to encounter anyone who isn’t unconditionally humble and kind. Additionally their physical strength and endurance is incredible, especially at the altitudes they live and work in.

Another interesting thing I didn’t expect was the range of topics and issues that were brought up during the lectures, guest speakers, and even just casual talks with all of the people on our trip. It’s not often you get to be surrounded with intelligent people in this type of situation/project so I’ve really been exposed to a lot of topics I didn’t think I would learn about on this trip.

One thing most people don’t know about me…is that despite my Asian looking facial features, I’m actually a member of the Mohawk Nation of Kanehsatake. It’s a Native American reservation 40 minutes North of Montreal, Canada.

Daily Recap

Today was an amazing day because we began our trek from Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp. We started with our last set of research measurements, which I’m sure everyone is happy about. We also had the chance to witness the first leg of the Everest marathon. The runners came right past our lodge. Many of us were outside cheering on the runners. It was great to see our buddy Carlo in the race as he had previously done some testing on a few of us in Debouche.

Runners participate in the Everest marathon.
The summit of Everest, barely visible behind the Nuptse face (Everest is the peak seen through the sun glare).
Members of the team cheer on runners during the marathon.

After breakfast we began the two hour trek to Base Camp. After many rests we made it to the edge of the Khumbu Ice Fall and the large rock structure signaling the beginning of the sprawling area used for Base Camp. The clouds covered most of the peaks of the surrounding mountains but the view was still more amazing then we could have tried to imagine. After an hour of pictures and taking it all in we took the slow journey back to our lodge in Gorak Shep to finish up some testing and rest up for the trek to Kala Pathar and Pheriche in the morning.

Base camp is seen at the foot of the Khumbu ice fall.
The rock, adorned in prayer flags, officially marking the entrance to base camp.
After ten days of trekking, the team arrives!

Anne Kalker celebrates arriving at base camp with an Everest beer

Mom & Dad if you see this just know that I’ve been adopted into a family of Yak and will be spending the next few years in the Khumbu valley among them. I’ll try to stay in touch.

Syracuse students who were named Himan Brown fellows pose for a photo at base camp.

Day 10: May 28, 2018, as told by student Morgan Lynd

Name: Morgan Lynd

Age: 20

Home Town: Canastota, NY

Area of Study: Health and Exercise Science

Year in School: If we are going by years then, I’m 
a junior, but if were going by credits, I’m a senior

I joined the Everest Base Camp Expedition because… Full disclosure, I’m suffering from a solid case of hypoxia at the moment; I apologize for my short answers. As to why I joined the expedition: when Tom introduced the expedition as a course option I was immediately sold.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by… allowing all of the researchers to use me as one of their Guiana pigs. Truth be told, I’m pretty tired of it.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been… getting locked in the bathroom in Namche. There was something comforting about it. Eventually one of our guides, Fura, rescued me by climbing through a window above the door. I thought I would be trapped in there forever.

The worst part of the trip so far… Hypoxia…and the fact that when you go to the bathroom you can’t wipe and drop. Used toilet paper gets thrown away separately in a trash bin, but it’s easy to forget.

A few things I’ve thought were interesting…truth be told, I’ve been suffering from hypoxia so much that I haven’t been paying attention to things too often. The last few days have been a blur of left-right-left-right trekking and crashing into my bed as soon as we arrive a lodges. The hypoxia has left me zoning out a lot, feeling tired, having little appetite, and dealing with a constant head ache. That said, tomorrow we arrive at base camp (!) and I’m committed to making it there.

One thing most people don’t know about me… my family raises guide dogs for the blind. We’re on our third dog, his name is Nolan.

Daily Recap

Today we trekked from Lobuche (elevation 4910 m) to Gorak Shep (5200m) with a stop at the Pyramid Lab. The high altitude research center is run by Italian scientists and studies the effects of high altitude on people. We were able to quickly tour the lab and get a sense of their work.


After that we crested the Khumbu moraine, which is the terminus of the glacier. The landscape transformed into a moonscape. It was rocky, sandy, dusty and cold. Breathing has been increasingly difficult. Apparently people could see Mt. Everest but I was mostly looking at my feet. I saw people pointing but I didn’t pay attention. The chad-pillar (see previous blog post) consumed all of my attention.






Upon arriving at Gorak Shep I was feeling quite lethargic and took a nap. I woke up for a dinner of soup and popcorn. Dr. Tom Brustaert suggested I take a dose of Diamox, a medicine that helps relieve the affects of high altitude. The jury is still out if it helped, I went to bed immediately after taking it.


Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, the team has been taking good care of me and we start our descent tomorrow. Please make sure Tuna has food.

Day 9: May 27, 2018, as told by student Matthew Klafter

Name: Matthew Klafter

Age: 19

Home Town: Atlanta, GA

Area of Study: Exercise Science - Pre-Med

Year in School: Junior

I joined the Everest Base Camp Expedition because… truth be told, I had never thought of visiting the Himalayas before I found out about this opportunity. To me, it was something that you do to check off your bucket list before the end of your time here. At first, I almost passed up on the opportunity because I thought that I would just go home after the semester was over and enjoy minimal responsibilities as a college kid home for the summer. After a couple weeks passed, I started to realize what a terrible mistake I was about to make. I would be extremely lucky to be able to do to visit such a place at such a young age. On top of being given the chance to visit such a breathtaking place at 19, being able to participate and learn about research the relates to my field of study is something that I can gain from greatly. So, I decided to apply for the program and hope that I would be lucky enough to be admitted. Within a week of applying, I received an email telling me that I had been accepted and that I should start to take the necessary steps to confirm my admission. At first, I was shocked, and I couldn’t believe that I actually made it into such a competitive program and was almost guaranteed a trip to the Himalayas. The shock and disbelief was soon followed with extreme excitement and anticipation. I am forever grateful for this opportunity, but I am very thankful for Dr. Tom Brutsaert, Dr. Trevor Day, and Nima Sherpa for making it possible for all of us. If even one of them was not included in this expedition, none of this would have been possible. I can confidently say at this point in the trip that I have gained a lot from these experiences; not only knowledge of altitude physiology, but I have a new-found respect for culture, nature, and people that continue to work hard everyday even through the toughest adversities.

I’m involved with the SU research studies by… Like most, I part take in Mount Royal University’s acclimatization study. We take daily measurements that include end tidal CO2, respiratory rate, ventilation, O2 Saturation, resting heart rate, blood pressure, and AMS scores. Also like many of us, we do frequent cognitive testing to see how our brains respond to changes altitude. This study is an SU lead study. I participate in the brain-blood flow study as well which measures how altitude effects the blood supply to the brain and how that may impact cognitive performance. One other study I volunteered for is the breath hold study that is conducted by Pontus, our Swedish companion. In Katmandu, Pontus has me perform a minute apnea, or breath hold, and then two maximal apneas (one with hyperventilation prior to breath hold). After recording the duration of the apneas, he did an ultrasound on the spleen to see how it reacted to the apnea. I record my AMS scores for him every morning and night and also give heart rate and oxygen saturation numbers during those times. His research compares the effects of hypoxia induced by apnea to hypoxia induced by altitude.

My favorite part of the trip so far has been… Other than the breath-taking views that we have seen along of treks, our lead guide Nima Sherpa gave me a Sherpa name: Mingma Sherpa. i received this name from him because he appreciated my helpfulness and respectfulness for Sherpa and the Khumbu Valley. I am only one of a few people on the trip to receive this honor and, in my opinion, it is something to feel proud of.

The worst part of the trip so far… I got a head cold in Namche making the trek from Namche to Debuche relatively difficult, but the worst part of the trip thus far has been having to continue to spend time away from my family and girlfriend. It is one thing being away from them at Syracuse, but being on the other side of the world with limited communication is rather difficult. If you guys are reading this, I miss you a lot and I am excited to see you all soon. Sending lots of Love from the Himalayas.

A few things I’ve thought were interesting… I have found Sherpa culture very interesting. Nima has taught me a lot about Sherpa traditions and language. This includes, but is not limited to, how marriage and afterlife work in Sherpa culture and some basic Sherpa words, which are difficult to learn because Sherpa is not a written language. The way that the Sherpa people have developed the ability to carry extremely heavy loads over long distances at such an extreme altitude is something I have found fascinating. It shows how effective and beneficial developmental and evolutionary adaptions can be.

One thing most people don’t know about me… is that I have an interest in Neonatology. I think it would be amazing to help newborns that come into this world with disabilities or diseases. Being able to give a life a fighting chance is something I would love to do. This interest may have come from the fact that my little brother was born with a disability and he had to spend almost a month in the NICU and we are very lucky that my parents were eventually able to bring him home for me to meet him. I would love to give that gift to other families.

Daily Recap

Today, we left Pheriche and started our trek to Lobuche. I was in a room with Ross, Jackson, and Jansen and we woke up at 6:30am so we could have our bags packed and outside by 7am. Professor Brutsaert warned us that this part of the trek can get cold, so most of us were fitted with our heavy jackets, beanies, leggings, and gloves. We had our usual toast and hard boiled eggs for breakfast and departed Pheriche around 8am. From Nima’s family’s lodge, we started to head north of the valley towards the hills.



The first hill we were suppose to climb appeared much closer then it really was. The valley that Pheriche sits in is vast and is a wide open plain making it difficult to judge the distance of the mountains and hills around us. It took there group nearly an hour to exit the valley and begin the accent towards Lobuche. At the base of the first hill, our group split into somewhat separate parties. One of these parties was lead by Chad Althiser. Knowing that this trek was one of our largest gains in elevation, Chad decided that an exaggerated slow pace would be the best strategy to avoid more severe acute mountain sickness symptoms. Others in the group quickly recognized what a good idea this was and formed a line behind Chad to let him set the pace. Quickly this was known as the Chad Train, but after taking the pace into account, Jacob Deblois renamed it to the Chad-erpillar, which we all agreed was a more fitting title.

The Chad-erpillar in action.

The weather we had was amazing as we made this accent; the sun was shining and the clouds were to a minimum which allowed us to see some amazing views on several mountains. As we approach the top of the first incline we came to a river that was flowing rapidly down towards the valley where Pheriche sits. What was cool about the river is that the color of all the rocks and dirt went from orange and brown to white and grey, as if the water had washed the colors away. We approached the river as a more unified group and crossed it together using a wood bridge that was made of plywood and rocks. Although it was not a long distance to cross, the couple meters across was anxiety inducing when the integrity of the bridge was put into question.


The group rested for a few minutes at a bakery on the other side of the river before starting one of the more difficult phases of today’s trek. This consisted of one very steep hill, where we gained most of our elevation. While some pushed up the hill with confidence and decent pace, more people joined the Chad-erpillar to avoid overexertion on such a steep incline. Eventually, the whole group made it up the hill. Many started to experience mild headaches, which would persist through the rest of the trek. At the top of the hill, we were able to see the memorial for Scott Fischer, one of the climbers that died in the 1996 climbing accident that we have been reading about in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air”. In addition to his memorial, there was dozens of other memorials for people that had died on Everest or in the Kumbu Valley. These memorials were made or rock sculptures and covered in prayer flags.

After we were done paying our respects to those that have passed, we continued our trek towards Lobuche. The last leg of this trek was much easier because it was a relatively flat. We only had to walk through a small valley of rocks to reach Lobuche. On this part of the trek, we were given the most amazing view of Pumori, one of the higher mountains in the Himalayan mountain range. Once we arrived in Lobuche, we quickly felt the effects that the 700m altitude change placed on us. Most of us felt fatigued with a mild headache that most described as “not really being there” and “somewhat out-of-body” feeling. Some people’s symptoms were much worse than other’s symptoms. Some began to experience loss of appetite and nausea upon lunch, and one of our members began to vomit. She was placed on the medicine Diamox immediately to try to avoid worsening of symptoms. Many felt better after food and some sleep.



Before dinner approached, Andrew, Cassie, Brittany, Leah, and I walked up onto a high ridge close to Lobuche to try to get a good view of the sunset. As we started our walk, however, clouds and fog quickly rolled in. At first we were discouraged and thought it would ruin our views, but we kept going hoping it would pass as quickly as it came. Once we reached the top of the ridge, the fog made it hard to see anything in any direction, but instead of being disappointed, we welcomed the eeriness of being literally in the clouds. Suddenly, a breath taking view appeared before us: the clouds lowered to a point that we could see over them and we could see most of the mountains around us and could see a full moon over one of the peaks. Looking over the clouds was very cool and it made the short hike worth it. Once we lost that view, we went down for dinner. After our delicious pizza dinner, we all went to bed. Unfortunately, many of us were greeted with frequently interrupted sleep. I personally woke up every hour with a dry mouth, cold body, and shortness of breath. Even with the inconvenient AMS symptoms, the day was still an amazing one for most.

The village of Lobuche and Lobuche Peak, seen at night
Nuptse Peak, seen at night.