“How much does it cost to climb Mount Everest?” is one of the most common questions I get after a talk. The short answer is, a car, or at least $30,000 but most people pay about $45,000. This post is the 2016 update of the most common questions and expedition prices.
The headline for 2016 is that the high-end went higher and the low-end went lower. The price range for a standard climb, i.e. non-custom, ranges from $30,000 to $85,000. This is driven by low cost Nepali operators getting a foothold in the market and the traditional western operators adding more services to differentiate their product. In other words, climbing Everest has become a mature market just like cars or airplane flights.
How much you spend depends on the expedition style, level of support and which side of Everest you climb. A standard climb from Tibet (north side) should run around $32,000 and from Nepal (south side) $42,000.
A climb with one or more western guides from the south side will cost at least $60,000. If you want to go with one of the low cost Nepali companies with no frills and perhaps some dangerous shortcuts, it will cost about $30,000 from either side.
There are three ways to climb Everest: put together your own expedition, join a logistics only expedition or join a fully guided team.
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Before talking about money, let’s acknowledge that the last two years have been deadly, devastating and disappointing for anyone involved with Everest. As I write this in late 2015, the rumors are that guides are seeing half their normal volume for spring 2016.
This is not surprising with almost 40 deaths in 2014 and 2015. The season came to an early stop both years with Sherpa strikes and earthquakes. Everest, from either side, is no longer a reliable climb.
Historically after a difficult year, Everest has seen record summits. But it appears climbers have had enough, not from the mountain and natural disasters but from the mismanagement of the mountain by the governments.
The Nepal Ministry of Tourism, even under new leadership, continues to send mixed messages to the climbing community – uncertainty around extending permits, crazy talk about reducing insurance for Sherpas, propaganda about making Everest safer with age limitations and climbing experience requirements. And China closed all of Tibet to climbing for 2015 after the April earthquakes.
The irony is that the Nepal needs tourism more than ever, but the government’s uneven handling of the new constitution inadvertently created a blockade of fuel, medicine and supplies that has discouraged tourism. They have failed to funnel billions of international aid to areas devastated by the earthquakes. And the Sherpas who are key to the Everest machine, are struggling to rebuild their homes, much less guide foreigners up a mountain.
2016 will be a milestone in the history of Everest climbing. I wish for a boring year with normal summits, few deaths and no drama.
Where does my Money Go?
There are four major components to any Everest climb regardless of climbing from Nepal or Tibet: travel, permits/insurance, supplies/gear and guides. The following discussion breaks down the expenses as if an individual wanted to climb without joining a team but almost no one does this as the numbers will show – it is just too expensive.
Travel $500 – $7,000
The travel costs are entirely dependent on where you live and how you like to travel. It can range from a few hundred dollars to over $7,000 to fly to Nepal. Most people use Thai, Turkish, Qatar, or China Eastern to reach Nepal.
Once in Kathmandu, you need to fly to Lukla or Lhasa to start the journey to base camp, so add in an additional few hundred dollars for this air fare.
From Lukla in Nepal, its takes about a week to trek to base camp, so there is food and lodging along the way for you and your support team. This can total between $400 to $1,000 per person again depending on your style and how many beers you have.
But not only do you have to get yourself to base camp but also all your gear – tents, food, oxygen, etc. Most people use porters and yaks costing at least $75 per day per load, so this usually totals several thousand dollars. Large operators will hire helicopters. On the Tibet side, you can save some money as you can drive all the way to base camp and this is included in your permit.
PERSONAL TRAVEL $2,425 – $6,325
- Airfare $1500 to $5000 depending on class and routing and excess baggage
- Transportation Kathmandu to Lukla $325 round trip per person
- Hotel and food in Kathmandu $300 to $700 depending on delays
- Nepal Visa $100
- Immunizations $200
Getting to EBC $3,990 – $4,550
- Yaks to and from Base Camp $150 per yak per day carrying 120lbs, (4 yaks for 4 days minimum or $2400)
- Porters to and from Base Camp $75 per porter per day carrying 60lbs (3 porters for 6 days minimum or $1350)
- Tea Houses and food on trek to EBC $20 – $100/person /day – 7 days $140 – $700
- Park Fee $100/team
Permits and Insurance $7,000 – $17,500
The permit cost is fixed at $11,000 per climber from Nepal and $7,000 from Tibet. In Nepal, the permit fee simply gives permission to climb, whereas in Argentina for Aconcagua or Alaska for Denali, the $800 or $365 permit, respectively, also covers helicopter evacuation, maintaining high altitude ranger camps, hiring seasonal staff, providing mountaineering information, and keeping the mountain environment clean
Nepal requires using a local company to organize your permit at a cost of $2,500 for the team, a refundable trash deposit of $4,000 for the team and a Liaison Officer . Welcome to the hidden costs no-one ever talks about!
Nepal implemented in 2013 a new rule that requires every foreign climber in Nepal to hire a local Sherpa Guide. While not enforced for every operator, it adds a minimum of $4,000 to the absolute lowest cost.
If you want to bring a Nepal Sherpa to climb with you in Tibet, budget an additional $3,000 for each Sherpa’s “work permit” as required by the China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) plus their salary.
Most guide companies will require at least evacuation insurance and most require medical coverage. One of the best investments you can make is to add trip cancellation to the policy. In both 2014 and 2015 when the Everest season ended early, those with trip cancellation/interruption coverage had 100% of their trip expenses reimbursed. Travelex is a popular choice. To save money, joining the American Alpine Club will provide $5,000 evacuation coverage through Global Rescue. But with all these policies you must follow their rules exactly or you will not be covered – and I mean exactly, one misstep and you are not covered.
Climbing Fees $16,650 – $21,650
- Nepalese Liaison Officer $2,500/team
- South Base Camp Medical support $100/person
- Permit $11,000 for each climber regardless of team size on South, $7,000 for Westerner, $3,000 for Nepali Sherpa on North
- Garbage and human waste deposit $4,000/team permit (refundable but not always)
- Icefall Doctors to fix route $2,500/team or $600 per climber
- Contribution to fixed ropes above Icefall $150/climber
- Weather forecast $0 to $1,000
- Puja $300
Insurance $400 – $2,500
- Evacuation $70 – $400
- Medical $500
- Cancellation $1,00
- Helicopter evacuation from EBC-South $5,000 – $20,000 depending on start and end locations (not available on north)
You will need to eat, stay warm and 97.3% of all Everest summiters used supplemental oxygen.
You can buy and cook your own food but most people use a Nepali cook at $5,000 for base camp and budget about $800 per person for food and fuel while climbing Everest over a six week period.
Supplemental oxygen runs about $550 per bottle with a minimum of 5 bottles totaling $2,750. But you will also need a mask at $450 and a regulator at $450. You can carry your own extra oxygen to the high camps, but most people use the Sherpas to cache them at the high camps. When hiring a personal Sherpa, the standard is for him to climb on oxygen, albeit at a lower flow rate, so this will run an additional $2,000.
Finally, you will need climbing gear including boots, down suit, clothing layers, gloves, sleeping bags, packs and more. This will cost at least $7,000 if you buy everything new. High altitude boots like from La Sportiva or Millet run $1,000, a full down suit from Feathered Friends or Mountain Hardwear is over $1,000 and a sleeping bag rated to -20F is at least $500.
Misc $11,650 – $16,400 – 36,400
- Medical kit $1,000
- Sherpas, cooks tips and bonus $250 – $2,000 per individual depending on performance and summit
- Personal Gear (down suit, high altitude boots, sleeping bags, etc): $7,000
- Satellite phone (own) $1,000 to $3,000 depending on usage
- gear allowance for Sherpas $2,000
EBC and High Camps $3,500 – $8,800
- Tents $3,000 new (sleeping, cooking, toilet, storage at 4 camps for 3 people)
- Cooks $5,000 per cook and assistant for 6 weeks
- Food and fuel $800 per person for 6 weeks
Climbing Support $3,990 – $12,430
- Oxygen $550/bottle (5 bottles) $2,750 (doesn’t include costs to take to high camps)
- Oxygen Mask (Summit Oxygen) $450
- Oxygen Regulator $450
- Climbing Sherpa $5,000 per Personal Sherpa with oxygen at $2,000
Logistics (guide) $20,000 – $80,000 (not including permit)
For decades, western operators like Adventure Consultants, Alpine Ascents (AAI), Jagged Globe, Himalayan Experience (Himex), International Mountain Guides (IMG) and others have guided hundreds to the top of Everest for prices ranging from $40,000 to $65,000, all inclusive.
But that is changing. In 2016 there is intense competition from Nepali owned and operated companies. With many Sherpas having ten or more summits of Everest, they are advertising themselves as Everest Guides and eliminating the traditional Western Guide who would be paid between $10,000 and $25,000 and this cost is passed on to the clients.
This, along with sometimes paying less than market wages to Sherpas, cooks and porters, the Nepali operators offer climbs are half to a third of traditional western operators. In 2014, Seven Summits Treks, reportedly offered their Everest expedition for as low as $18,000 per climber. For 2016, they are offering a climb from Nepal at $30,000.
If you want every perk and luxury you can image on a Himalayan peak in 2016, Alpenglow unapologetically offers a climb from the Tibet side for an astonishing $85,000 per climber, twice to three times the average price on the north side.
The average price of the companies I surveyed for 2016 looks to be about $42,000 for a Sherpa Guided climb from the south and $60,000 with Western Guides. The average from the north is $32,000 with Sherpas/Tibetans only.
If you want to go with one of the low cost Nepali companies, it will run about $30,000 from either side. For your own personal Western Guide, International Mountain Guides will set you up for $114,000.
With all this as background, I used public websites and my own research to compile the 2016 Everest fees from the major Everest guide companies. Also I looked back at their 2013 summit rates and historical numbers where available. In 2014, there were no commercial summits from the south and about 100 from the north. In 2015 there were no summits from either side. This is not a complete list of all guides and I did not look at small one person operations or those who do not run climbs each year for more than one or two clients.
|COMPANY||Typical Team Size||SOUTH w Sherpa Guide*||SOUTH w Western Guide*||NORTH||2013 Summit Success|
(few north summits in 2014, none in 2015)
|Average Nepal Company Price||$32,000||N/A||$28,500|
|Adventure Consultants||8-12||N/A||$65,000||N/A||2013: 7 of 10 clients, 5 guides, 21 Sherpas257 total summits (clients, Sherpas, guides) since 1990|
|Adventure Peaks||10-12||$50,879||N/A||$35,879||2013: 4 of 8|
|Altitude Junkies||8-12||$47,000||N/A||N/A||2013 (n): 3 of 9 clients, 1 leader, 7 Sherpas|
|AlpenGlow||4-8||N/A||N/A||$85,000||2013: 1 of 2 clients, 1 guide, 4 Sherpas|
|Alpine Ascents International||8-16||N/A||$65,000||N/A||2013: 13 of 16 clients, 3 guides, 21 Sherpas, 264 total summits (clients, Sherpas, guides) since 1992. 75% success from 2004|
|Arnold Coster||4-8||$34,500||$50,000||N/A||no information available|
|Benegas Brothers/Mountain Madness||9-12||N/A||$65,000||N/A||no information available|
|Furtenbach Adventures||4-6||$45,000||$33,000||2016 is first season on Everest|
|Himalayan Experience (Himex)||20-30||N/A||$70,000||N/A||2013: 12 of 12 clients summited, 2 of 2 guides, 12 Sherpas, 364 total summits (clients, Sherpas, guides) since 1994, 0 – 96% success|
|High Adventure Expeditions||4-8||$44,000||N/A||N/A||no information available|
|International Mountain Guides||12-20||$44,000||$59,000||N/A||2013: 16 of 31 clients, 4 guides, 24 Sherpas (2 pushes) est., 381 total summits (clients, Sherpas, guides) since 1991. 66% from 2006|
|Jagged Globe||8-12||N/A||$59,000||N/A||2013: 10 of 10 clients, 3 guides, 11 Sherpas|
|Kobler & Partner||8-12||N/A||$52,400||N/A||no information available|
|Madison Mountaineering||8-12||N/A||$58,500||N/A||no information available|
|Mountain Trip||4-8||N/A||$65,000||N/A||2013: 1 of 4 clients, 0 guide, 4 Sherpas|
|Mountain Madness/Benegas Brothers||4-8||N/A||$67,000||N/A||no information available|
|RMI||4-10||N/A||$74,000||N/A||2013: 0 of 3 clients, 2 guides, 3 Sherpas|
|Peak Freaks||8-15||$49,500||N/A||N/A||2013: 4 of 8 clients, 2 guides, 8 Sherpas.|
|7 Summits Club||20||N/A||$58,370||$58,370||2013: 9 of 13 clients, 1 guide, 9 Sherpas|
|Summit Climb||5-20||$36,500||N/A||$28,450||2013: 12 of 12 South and 11 of 14 clients north, 213 total summits both n and s (clients, Sherpas, guides)|
|Nepal Guide Companies|
|Asian Trekking||20||$39,000 est||N/A||$29,070 est||2013 (s):14 of 26 clients, 21 Sherpas, 2013 (n): 5 of 5 clients, 4 Sherpas, 310 total summits (clients, Sherpas) since 2003.|
|Dreamers Destinations||8-12||$36,000||N/A||$31,500||no information available|
|Seven Summits Treks||30-50||$30,500||N/A||$28,000||no information available|
N/A = not offered, * full logistics support, gear, food, Personal Sherpa, oxygen, mask and regulator
You can see my thoughts on Everest guides on my main site at Selecting a Guide.
Who Guides on Everest?
Anyone can call themselves a guide in Nepal, however there are three options for supported climbs: Sherpa supported, Sherpa guided and a western guided commercial expedition. All leverage group costs such as deposits, cooks and tents across multiple climbers. Let’s look at them in detail:
Sherpa Supported Expedition
For about $30,000, you can climb on a Sherpa supported expedition on the south side. This is one where a company organizes all the logistics: food, group gear, transportation plus Sherpa support but does not provide traditional western guides or, in some case, even a lead Sherpa guide. The Sherpas may or may not speak English very well and will most likely follow your lead as to pushing forward or turning back.
A Sherpa will climb with you on summit night but you might be on your own with random teammates throughout the rest of the acclimatization climbing process, including preparing meals at the high camps. It is quite common to find yourself climbing only with a Sherpa or even alone.
Asian Trekking specializes in this style of climb and is very good. Seven Summits Treks is another option at a lower costs and many small one-man companies offer even lower prices.
Sherpa Guided Expedition
International Mountain Guide’s (IMG) Classic Everest climb is a Sherpa guided expedition that has an experienced Sherpa lead climbers through the route. IMG ask $44,000 for this model. Usually they depend on a Sirdar (a highly experienced senior Sherpa) to make the big decisions such as when to go for the summit or when to turn-around.
A variation on this approach is to hire a Personal Sherpa. These Sherpas have gained significant experience and training in dealing one to one with western clients. Their English skills are usually very good. You will never climb alone.
While they will not carry your gear, they may offload some items from time to time. They will be with you exclusively on your summit night even if you turn around before the summit. Expect to pay an additional $5K to $7K for a Personal Sherpa plus another 5% to 20% in tips and bonuses.
What do I get when I hire a Western Guide?
The western guided expeditions are ‘full service’ trips and are most appropriate for first time Everest climbers or anyone looking for a bit more support. The cost vary widely ranging from $55K to $85K. This includes all the services of a Sherpa guided climb plus sharing one or more western guides. If you want your own personal western guide, expect to pay $100K, plus tips and bonuses.
The major point of this approach is you are climbing in close proximity to a western guide who most likely has several summits of Everest under his/her harness. There is no language barrier and the guide will make all the decisions as to turn around times, weather and manage emergencies.
On these higher-end expeditions, you should have a high quality of food ranging from better prepared to exotic. One service likes to promote their sushi, another their 5 Star chef. Then there are espresso machines, open bars – in other words the sky’s the limit, all at a cost.
The most expensive guide companies (Adventure Consultants, AAI, Alpenglow, Madison Mountaineering, etc) almost always come with several western guides and you never climb alone.
Let’s look deeper at a few questions.
No. You can get a permit to climb any route on Everest. If you want to traverse from Nepal to Tibet or the other way, you will need to get permits from both countries and China has refused to issue permission from their side for many years now.
Can I Climb Everest Alone?
No. The Nepal Ministry of Tourism requires every climber to hire a Sherpa guide. The CTMA has a similar requirement. But like everything around Everest, there are exceptions.
What is the minimum I can spend to climb Everest?
As previously addressed, it is almost impossible to climb Everest completely alone on the standard route. However, you can climb independent with no oxygen, Sherpa or cook support but using ladders and ropes on the south side. For one person this would cost at least $25,000. Even splitting group expenses the base costs add up to $26,000 each for a 7 person team.
When you add in oxygen and base camp support, a one-person climb with Sherpa support approaches $45,000 but a 7 person team leveraging the group costs comes in at $37,000. By climbing from Tibet, you can save a few thousand dollars.
What is the difference between a $30K and $65K Everest Climb?
There is a real difference in offerings by some companies and very little with others, so it’s up to the buyer to shop wisely.
The general rule is that the lower the price, the larger the team. But at the high end, it is often profit, overhead, and number of western guides. Also how many services are bundled into one single price versus offered as options. The lowest price outfits promote a low price and then offer “options” such as oxygen, Sherpa support or even food above base camp. One UK based outfitter offers a low price for the north side, but does not include oxygen, summit bonuses or other options almost everyone includes in their base price.
Another common practice to keep expedition costs low is to pay support staff the absolute minimum whereas the best guide companies pay a livable wage for their entire team. But often it is the availability of resources: extra Sherpas, back up supplies (ropes, tents, oxygen bottles, etc), medical facilities, communications and profit and overhead for the operator. But this is difficult to compare.
An example are Sherpas bonuses. A low price service may not include a bonus whereas another may. For example, one Nepali company asks the climber to pay $1,500 to their Sherpa if they reach the South Col and another $500 if they leave for the summit. This is not shown as part of the base price. But a different company includes these bonuses in their overall package. In both cases it is customary to tip your Sherpa, and western guide, an additional amount.
Altitude Junkies is the most transparent of all the operators I have researched. They offer an Everest climb from Nepal for $47,000 and that includes everything: travel, oxygen, and all tips and bonuses. There are no surprises.
How many people have summited Everest?
4,093 people is the easy answer. All of the following numbers are through August 2015.
Statistics from the Himalayan Database show that there have been 7,001 summits of Everest on all routes by 4,093 different people. 953 people, mostly Sherpa, have summited multiple times totaling 3,861 times (included in the 7,001 total summits). 14 climbers have traversed from one side to the other.
How Safe is Everest?
282 people (169 westerners and 113 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to now. Most bodies are still on the mountain but China has removed many from sight on the north side. The top cause of death was from a fall, avalanche, exposure and altitude sickness.
Everest is actually getting safer even though more people are now climbing. From 1923 to 1999: 170 people died on Everest with 1,169 summits or 14.5%. But the deaths drastically declined from 2000 to 2015 with 5,832 summits and 112 deaths or 1.9%. The reduction in deaths have been primarily due to better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial operations.
Annapurna remains the most deadly mountain with a summit to death ratio of 2:1 deaths for every summit (109:55). Cho Oyu is the safest of the 8000 meter mountains with about 50 deaths for over 3,300 summits or 1.5%. Each year more people die in the European Alps than on Everest.
Team size is a safety consideration. If you are climbing with a small or a thinly staffed team, there is the possibility of not having adequate resources to help you. It is a serious and sometime fatal mistake to believe that Everest is so crowded that someone will always be around to give aid if needed. Remember that each person is struggling to survive on their own, including the Sherpas, and may not have the strength to help regardless or their desire.
The bottom line is that teams who charge more or field a large team will generally have more resources available to support their clients.
Which side should I climb, north or south?
Both sides have a lot to offer: Tibet with the mystery of Mallory and Irvine in 1924 and Nepal with the first summit by Hillary and Norgay in 1953. The comparison between sides is pretty simple. The north is colder, windier and some feel technically harder since you climb on exposed rock. The south has the Khumbu Icefall which some now fear.
The Tibet side is less crowded as the Nepal side has seen 4,421 summits compared to 2,580 summits from Tibet. However most long time guides still prefer the Nepal side as it is well known, more politically stable than China and with exceptions, safer. Many climbers feel the trek through the Khumbu is a key part of any Everest climb.
Prior to 2014, the death rate was a bit less on the North side at 106 compared to 140 on the South. But with 16 Sherpas killed in the Khumbu Icefall in 2014 and 19 people at base camp in 2015, the South now has almost two thirds of the 282 total deaths on Everest. In 1922, 7 Sherpas were killed on the North side from an avalanche.
Taking a long term perspective, the numbers show that both sides are equally dangerous. The Nepalese side with 4,421 summits has had 176 deaths or 3.98% and the Tibet side with 2,580 summits has experienced 106 deaths or 4.1%
One can cherry pick the numbers to prove almost any point on which side is safe, but the bottom line is death happens on both sides of Everest and it often comes down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Should I Use Supplemental Oxygen?
If you choose not to, you will be in a tiny group. Of the 7001 summits, only 193 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen through August 2015, or about 2.7%. But more critically, of the 282 deaths, 102 died attempting to summit without using supplemental oxygen.
Supplemental oxygen gives the body a 3,000 foot advantage. In other words, when the climber is at 28,000 feet, the body feels like it is at 25,000 feet. The main benefit of supplemental oxygen is that you feel warmer thus allowing the heart to pump blood, and oxygen to fingers and toes thus reducing the risk of frostbite.
Many people feel superior not using supplemental oxygen but climbing Everest should not be about ego – poor judgment and unnecessary risks can cost you your life. As mentioned, 2.7% climb without supplemental oxygen but 36% of the deaths are those who climbed without supplemental oxygen.
How Do I Pay for an Everest Climb?
Getting the money is almost always harder than climbing Everest. Climbers become very creative when finding money. Some take out loans, refinance their home mortgage, others have the infamous “rich uncle”. Then there are those who set up a website to sell t-shirts or ask for “donations” from strangers. Believe it or not, this actually works to raise some money but rarely enough to cover all the expenses.
But the most common way to fund an Everest climb is to make it a priority in your budget by setting money aside each month for as long as it takes. This is how I funded 26 of my big climbs since starting at age 38.
The question of obtaining a sponsor often comes up. It is extremely difficult to get on a sponsored team for example by one of the large outdoor gear companies. There are ways to obtain a sponsor but it takes years of work, a solid plan, proven experience and often comes down to who you know and a lot of luck.
Climbing for a charity or a cause is popular but be careful not to use your cause as a way to fund a climb. This is a poor practice to ask for donations to pay for a climb in my opinion.
You can read more about my own experiences with The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories are Everything and thoughts for sponsorship at this link.
What are my Chances?
Historically about 60% of all expeditions have put at least one member on the summit. In recent years, long time western operators like Jagged Globe, Adventure Consultants, Madison Mountaineering and others regularly put almost every member on the summit. With operators taking the standard routes, there are less unknowns. That along with improved weather forecasting, and extra supplemental oxygen and generous Sherpa support have made Everest one of the safest 8000 meter mountains and the most summited by a huge margin.
Let’s wrap up with why even climb Everest at all? It is very popular to criticize anyone who has or is planning a climb. Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, set a negative tone and profiled climbers as rich, inexperienced and selfish after his one climb in 1996. In my experience with five climbs on Everest or Lhotse, the opposite is today’s reality.
To be fair, in recent years, the marketing of low cost expeditions is attracting inexperienced climbers. This is all about supply and demand. All the puffery from the Nepal government about making Everest safer will have zero impact on this because all involved benefit from the profit.
If you want to attempt the world’s highest peak, do the work: get the proper experience, train your body to be in “Everest Shape” and prepare your mind to push yourself harder than you ever thought possible. Select a team that matches your experience, be smart, be humble and savor every moment.
Climbing Everest can change your life.
Memories are Everything
Alan Arnette is the oldest American to summit K2 in 2014 and has 5 expeditions on Everest or Lhotse with a summit of Everest in 2011. He climbs to raise money and awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. His Project 8000 is to climb the 8000 meter mountains he has not summited over the next 5 years. He is seeking sponsors for that project where he will reach 100 million people and raise $5 million for research.