Exercise Science Students Research Altitude Exposure in Nepal During ‘Maymester’


HPU students’ 14-day trek included a stop at the Annapurna Base Camp at 13,550 feet.

HIGH POINT, N.C., June 12, 2019 – High Point University exercise science students climbed the mountains of Nepal during their recent “Maymester” trip to study their physiological responses to high altitude exposure.


During a 14-day trek, the group traveled from Kathmandu to Pokhara in the Annapurna region of Nepal. They hiked to sites including Mardi Himal Base Camp, Machapuchare Base Camp, Annapurna Base Camp and Poon Hill.

On the trek, students studied their physiological responses, including heart rates, blood oxygen saturation and daily symptoms of acute mountain sickness related to high altitude exposure. They compared their responses to local Sherpa. The students learned that the Sherpa have an evolutionary adaptation from living at high altitudes for so long that their physiological response to altitude is much different from that of people who live in lower-level areas.

The next day, the group hiked from Chhomrong to Ghandruk and experienced a traditional Nepalese lunch called Dal Bhat, which is made up of rice, lentils and chicken. Students also learned how to make a “momo,” which is a type of South Asian dumpling made up of meat and vegetables folded into dough.

HPU students Brooke Smith (left) and Kacey Wheeler (right) learn from a Nepalese chef how to make “momos,” which are meat and vegetables wrapped in dough.

“In the context of this course, students not only gained first-hand experience studying the effects of acute altitude exposure while hiking to breathtaking viewpoints in the Himalayas but also spent more than a dozen days living in a culture dramatically different from their own,” said Dr. Justin Waxman, assistant professor of exercise science. “I believe this type of experience inspires students to take others out of their comfort zones, explore new cultures and view the world through a different lens. Incredible memories were made this year, and I’m looking forward to introducing more HPU students to such an amazing country and people for many years to come.”

Students also traveled to key cultural sites throughout the country, such as the capital of Nepal. They experienced Buddhist and Hindu religious practices, including a Hindu cremation ceremony and several Buddhist monasteries, where residents prepared for Buddha’s birthday. They also visited Boudhanath stupa, a Buddhist temple, and the Hindu Pashupatinath Temple.

“High Point University’s Global Experience Program will always have a special place in my heart because it afforded me the opportunity to learn more about my Nepalese roots,” said Meghan Crowfoot, a rising junior at HPU. “This wasn’t just a trip to a new place but an adventure to understand where I came from. I was swept off my feet by the Nepalese culture, and I got to step in the shoes of my grandfather.”

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