Climbing Everest For Medical Research

St Benny's pupil says the best bit was 'coming down'

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Tom Mythen tackles Everest in the name of science

Xtreme Everest


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A 12-year-old pupil from St Benedict’s School, Ealing, has been trekking Everest as part of a medical study.

Tom Mythen one of a group of twelve children, climbed Namche Bazaar over a period of about a week and were tested at regular intervals.

Tom’s father, Professor Monty Mythen, is the Laboratory Director for Xtreme-Everest 2 - the largest high-altitude research study of its kind ever undertaken. He ran the lab in Namche Bazaar, at a height of 3,500m.

The study, involved looking at how we adapt to low levels of oxygen (as patients need to do on intensive care units).

In order to simulate the critical conditions of intensive care, the team went to Everest, the world’s highest mountain.

The oxygen levels on the summit are a third of those at sea level - similar to those experienced by patients in intensive care. The children underwent a day of testing at sea level and a day at 3,500m with testing each morning as they trekked.

Xtreme Everest, coordinated by UCL’s Centre for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environmental Medicine, is a dedicated team of intensive care doctors, nurses and scientists. They conduct experiments on themselves and other volunteers at high altitude in order to develop novel therapies to improve the survival rates of their patients.

After the medical part was over Tom and his older brother and sisters trekked higher and Tom managed to get to the original Everest base camp, where the final buildings are.

He had hoped to go further to the new Everest Base Camp at a height of 5300m but had to stop due to high altitude symptoms.

This was Tom’s second visit to Everest, having taken part in 2007 in the first Xtreme Everest Young Medical Study, when he was only six years old!

Tom says it was an amazing experience: “The trekking was really tiring and a few times I thought I was going to collapse. At times it was quite scary as the path was narrow and we had to cross on the top of high cliffs. We didn’t have ropes so I just had to trust my sense of balance. The porters carried our rucsacs and they were quite amazing. Without them we would not have made it. Looking back I am glad that I did it but, at the time, I thought the best bit was coming down!”

Further information about Xtreme Everest can be found at



8th May 2013


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