Today was the first of three acclimatization rest days. When climbing to altitude, it is critical to acclimatize in order to avoid acute mountain sickness otherwise know as altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is brought about by the reduction of the partial pressure of oxygen at higher elevations and typically begins to occur above 8000 feet (we are now at 11286 feet). Symptoms range quite widely and can be as simple as a headache or a flu and increase in severity if one does not acclimatize properly. Last year in Peru I experienced altitude induced sleep apnea which is a wonderful little condition wherein you are exhausted but can only sleep for minutes at a time because you cannot catch your breath. And that is what it is all about really, trying to breathe at altitude. So, most climbers adopt a climbing profile that includes two key factors: a gain of not more than 2624 feet (800 m) in one day and rest days after ascents to acclimatize and let the body adapt to elevation. Climbers also take Diamox - which re-acidifies the blood and thus helps with hyper-ventilation. We are being very careful with our precautions as careless climbers have died from altitude sickness.
At lunch time we had a visit from four more Buddhist Monks and we tested them again examining their neural response to our cognitive assessment task and the EEG pattern of their meditation states. So far we have tested 15 expert monks and 10 novice monks and we hope to test a few more at Tengboche tomorrow and on our rest day there.
We are also continuing our high altitude research and today we will test the research team again to see whether or not their neural responses to our various tasks have been impacted by altitude. It stands to reason that they will, people are reporting minor symptoms of altitude sickness and we have all noticed that at times we are not as sharp as we usually are. Just this morning it took me a bit longer than usual to remember the passcode to my phone!
The rest of our rest day was spent wandering Namche and resting for the ascent to Tengboche tomorrow morning - we will be heading up another 1400 feet or so and we will be covering a greater physical distance. But, we laugh today and even managed to have a bit of fun at the local bakery! (pictured is my co-investigator on these projects, Dr. Gord Binsted and my friend and Camino companion Jeff Zala who joined us on this adventure)