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The Expedition 

The format was 5 serial expeditions of approximately 22 volunteers, with each group spending 8 days in Chacaltaya laboratory. With this ambitious undertaking we increased the power of the research we undertook.


At over two vertical miles above sea-level, La Paz (3630m; pictured on the right), the capital of Bolivia, is the highest capital city in the world. Each group spent four days there to acclimatise before ascending by jeep to the rudimentary laboratory at 5200m on Chacaltaya, a mountain near La Paz. There they stayed for the next eight days.


During their time in the lab the group conducted and participated in the various research projects. This was the crux of the expedition, and the key to its success. However, living in the lab was not dull for volunteers or organisers. Set in dramatic scenery, one can never tire on the breathtaking panoramas and awesome sunsets and sunrises which the lab affords its residents. After our time in the lab, the group descended to La Paz again. The volunteers then had some free time before heading back to Edinburgh. A popular destination for many of the volunteers was one of the many spectacular mountains Bolivia offers.

Research Aims 

To advance understanding of human physiology and pathophysiology in high altitude environments

To encourage the formation of active high altitude research collaborations worldwide

To assist young researchers seeking to organise research expeditions

To widen public awareness of the importance of medical research in general, with particular reference to high altitude physiology

To educate people and inform them of current beliefs in the field of high altitude medicine



Roger Thompson: Expedition Leader

Alistair Simpson: Deputy Leader

Kenneth Baillie: Research Co-ordinator

Team 1 Leader: Ian MacCormick

Team 2 Leader: Sorrel Cosens

Team 3 Leader: Nina Rzechorzek

Team 4 Leader: David Hope-Jones

Team 5 Leader: Alex Phythian-Adams

Expedition leaders


HRH Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh

"I am delighted to know that a group of Edinburgh University medical students are organising a most ambitious expedition to Bolivia to study the effects of altitude on the human body. Such student initiatives have a long tradition at Edinburgh and I am only too happy to offer this 'APEX' expedition my whole-hearted support and encouragement. It so happens that I visited Bolivia in 1962 and had the opportunity to drive up to the Laboratory of Cosmic Physics at Chacaltaya not far from the capital, La Paz. In those days the height of the laboratory was given as 17, 060 feet. By the time we reached the laboratory the Landrover was in first gear in low ratio and, without oxygen, I certainly experienced the effect of high altitude. "Bolivia obviously provides an ideal location for high altitude physiological research and the landscape is spectacular. I have no doubt that all the members of the expedition will benefit from this practical exposure to such demanding conditions and I am sure that the results of their studies will make a useful contribution to the subject of high altitude physiology."

Reinhold Messner

The first man to climb all of the world's 8000m mountains, and the first to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen.


"A unique expedition, combining cutting edge research with the stunning high altitude environment and the energy of youth." 



Apex 2 received grant awards from...

Chest Heart and Stroke, Scotland 2001 & 2003

The Mount Everest Foundation 2001 & 2003

The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland 2001 & 2003 

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Myre Sim Fund 2001, 2003 & 2005

The University of Edinburgh Development and Alumni Trust 2001 & 2003

The University of Edinburgh Student Travel Fund 2001 & 2003

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