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Feb 072018

This is a headline I never thought I would write. Seven Summits Treks (7ST), a solid Sherpa owned and operated guide company out of Kathmandu, made a seriously surprising announcement this week.

7ST made their name catering to the emerging middle class in India and China by charging less than half, and sometimes one-third, of what the best foreign operators charge for an Everest expedition.  This strategy enabled their tremendous growth with teams of 50, 60 or even close to 100 members on Everest climbing from Nepal for the past several seasons.

They were founded by brothers Mingma Sherpa, and Chhang Dawa Sherpa who have summited all 14 of the 8000-meter mountains – without oxygen. These guys are the real deal. We used their logistics for K2 in 2014. They are currently supporting Alex Txikon’s Everest winter attempt but they also have their critics.

Guy Cotter of Adventure Consultants noted in Australian media after the 2016 deaths of two climbers under 7ST’s care “A company like Seven Summits will have a base price of around $US25,000 and then people still have to add on additional costs for the trek to base camp for oxygen, for Sherpas and so on, but then there’s operators like us who are offering a full guided service, we charge $US65,000, the difference is that we have professionally qualified, experienced mountain guides.” He added “lower end operators” like Seven Summit Treks came with a “higher level of risk”.

However with their success, they have created a new product they call the VVIP trip … and it costs $130,000. This price range was the domain of the high-end foreign operators catering to members with more money than time. Take a read of my recent interview with Austrian operator Furtenbach Adventures who charges $110,00 for an Everest climb from China. Then there is Alpenglow with their “rapid ascent” Everest climb for a bargain of $85,000, also from the Chinese side. Other operators, for example, IMG,  have offered high price trips costing over $100,000 – $114,154 to be precise – that includes a dedicated western guide but the list of amenities from 7ST trumps them all.

For $130K with Seven Summits Treks, you get 12 bottles of oxygen, a private chef at all camps, use of a satellite phone and unlimited internet service, personal attention from the owners and, of course, helicopter flights to avoid that annoying trek to base camp.  You will have two climbing Sherpas and two UIAGM Sherpa guides with you at all times. Don’t forget that before you summit, Seven Summits will fly you in their own helicopter to a 5-Star hotel in Kathmandu from Everest Base Camp to prepare for the summit push. Visit this link for the complete list of services.

Oddly enough, you still have to tip the staff: UIAGM Guide ($2,000), Climbing Sherpa ($1,500 ) per sherpa and Kitchen staff’s tips ($800 )

I have no doubt that a rich Chinese will go for this. If you are a Chinese citizen who wants to attempt Everest from the Chinese side, you must have summited an 8000-meter peak before they will give you a permit. This requirement has driven many Chinese to climb from Nepal, perfect for 7ST.

Perhaps the real story here is that the Sherpa owned guide companies are real and making a statement about their services. They have shown they can safely guide scores of members to the summits of the world’s highest peaks at a fraction of the cost of foreign guides.

There is a market for these ultra-high-end services. Just like the Concorde found a market from the high rollers shuttling between New York and London, there are plenty of uber-rich who want to summit Everest without all the fuss.

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