A PROMISING Gwent graduate has died while trekking in Peru on her gap year.

Katrina Jacks, 23, from Chepstow, died while walking with a group near Lake Titicaca on May 16.

A statement from her family said she had died of natural causes associated with the acute effects of high altitude.

Miss Jacks has now been returned to the UK, and her devastated family yesterday described her loss as "immeasurable".

A former pupil at Monmouth Haberdasher School for Girls and known there as Kay, Miss Jacks was several months into a trip to South America after studying chemical engineering at university.

She had achieved straight A grades in her GCSEs and A levels and was awarded a first class degree from Imperial College London when she graduated last year.

During her trip to South America Miss Jacks had spent time volunteering and improving her Spanish at an orphanage in Ecuador, and had also trekked along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu before travelling to Lake Titicaca - the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,827 metres.

She did not receive hospital treatment, and her family were told of her death on May 17.

A statement from Miss Jacks’ family said: “She will be very sadly missed by her family, boyfriend Jon and all her many friends. Her loss will be immeasurable.”

Her parents Alasdair and Susanna, who are both doctors at The Vauxhall Practice in Chepstow, brother William, 25, sister Rosie, 20, and boyfriend Jon, described Miss Jacks as “extremely bright”, and told how she had excelled in rowing at school and university.

She won a number of gold medals at the National Schools Championships, represented Great Britain at under-16 level for two consecutive years, and was part of the Welsh eight that won a silver medal in the 2007 Commonwealth Championships.

Her family said she was a skilled needle woman, who loved to bake for her friends.

She had been due to start a job with an engineering consultancy firm when she returned from South America.

Dangers of altitude sickness

* Altitude sickness happens as a result of a decrease in atmospheric pressure which makes breathing difficult (other common symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, exhaustion).

* In severe cases it causes very serious complications requiring immediate medical attention.

* In its mildest form, it can occur at about 8,000ft (2,500m) above sea level.

* More severe symptoms occur at higher altitudes, usually 12,000ft (3,600m) and above.

* No specific factors such as age, sex or physical condition increase the chances of someone developing altitude sickness. Individuals can be affected differently, though gradual acclimatisation can help.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Young star's tragic death

THE death of Katrina Jacks, taken away from her family at such a young age and while so far away from home, is an absolute tragedy.

Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of this talented young woman who had so much to live for and who was obviously facing a bright future.

A straight-A student through school, Miss Jacks, known to her friends as Kay, had only last year graduated from university with a first class degree in chemical engineering.

She was also a keen and obviously talented sportswoman who had represented her country in the junior Commonwealth Championships.

Like countless young people she had decided to take a year out to travel and experience living and working abroad before taking up her first job, a job she had already secured with an engineering consultancy.

Miss Jacks died after trekking on an island off the coast of Peru.

The details of the cause of her death are still sketchy but it is believed Miss Jacks died after suffering from the effects of altitude sickness.

We can only imagine the emotional turmoil of her parents Alasdair and Susanna and brother William and sister Rosie and we send them our heartfelt condolences.