Perched amidst the world’s highest mountains at 5380m, Everest Base Camp in Nepal is one of the world’s most legendary trekking destinations. Every year, some 40,000 people make the arduous trek from Lukla through the valleys of Solukhumbu to the impromptu tent village where mountaineering groups make their final preparations for attempts on the summit of the world’s highest peak.
However, the trek is not without its risks. Most of the route lies above 3000m, and every year, hundreds of trekkers experience some of the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). While this potentially life-threatening condition can be avoided by taking steps to acclimatise to altitude, every season, a number of trekkers die after continuing to climb despite the warning signs.
A new initiative by Everest Link, the internet service provider that provides wireless internet connectivity to remote communities along the Everest Base Camp route, aims to alert travellers to the risks before they get into danger. From October, trekkers will be able to connect directly to a local medic via the Hello Doctor service, allowing concerned trekkers to discuss symptoms with a health professional before they become life-threatening.
Everest Link has partnered with Green City and Swacon International Hospital in Kathmandu and Kunde Hospital in the Khumbu region – hospitals with decades of experience of treating patients with AMS – to provide emergency medical advice. Climbers and trekkers will be able to press a red emergency button on the Everest Link logon page and speak directly to a doctor, reducing the chances that trekkers will continue to climb with dangerous symptoms.
However, Hello Doctor is intended only to alert travellers to the warning signs of AMS, and hikers should still follow trekking best practice. Experts recommend limiting the overall gain in altitude to 300m in a single day, taking regular rest days to acclimatise, and always sleeping at a lower elevation than the highest point reached on any day of walking.