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Dec 172018
 

This is my sixth year to blog “How much does it cost to climb Mount Everest?” and I firmly believe we are about to see the biggest changes in Everest, inc. that we have seen since Nepal went from one team permit per year to anything goes back in the early 1990s.

The key drivers for changes include: China’s concern about reputation but more importantly to making as much money as possible with their side of Mt. Everest. Then Nepal’s Merry-go-Round of Ministers and lack of consistency in providing an understandable and predictable regulatory environment. Then there is the domination of low-cost Nepali operators like Seven Summits Treks and their stranglehold on the entry level pricing for expeditions.

On a positive note, there are the Sherpas who are investing in themselves with IFMGA/UIAGM certifications and then deserving an almost double salary increase to $8,000 for their two month’s work on Everest, similar to what foreign mountains guide may earn. Oh, and one more area of interest is the emergence of ultra high-priced expeditions with all the luxuries of a first class seat or suite on a flight or cruise ship.

So, how much does it cost to climb Mount Everest? As I’ve said for years, the short answer is a car or at least $30,000 but most people pay about $45,000 and some as high as $130,000!

Here we go with a long and detailed look at 2019. As always, if you see a mistake or want to add something, please let me know.


Follow the Everest 2019 Season Coverage!


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There is a lot of detail here and is broken down by:

Big Picture – Higher Prices

The headline for 2019 is a widening of the price spread between traditional foreign guides and Nepali based guides as the Nepali lock in the low-end market and the foreign guides move ever higher. Case in point, Himalayan Experience (Himex) was at $55,000 to $60,000 for years and is now at $70,000. Meanwhile Seven Summits Treks (SST) asked $32,000 in 2018 but has increased their list price to $38,000 in 2019. But the difference is that Himex will not negotiate and SST will. So the spread went from $28,000 to $32,000, in other words it continues to be cheaper to climb with a Nepali guide service. If you choose your Everest expedition strictly on price, the Nepali guides will win.

As for which side is the best deal, Tibet continues to win but that spread is closing fast and will not last for much longer. Finally, for those who just want to go on an Everest expedition with the least amount of “inconvenience” possible, Furtenbach, 7 Summits Club and even Seven Summits Treks can meet you every need for a Princely sum of $130,000 plus.

As for safety, people die on both sides and most of the deaths these days are due to inexperience and not who you selected as your guide.

Follow the Money

After a huge increase in 2018, the increase on the Tibet side was much lower than in Nepal but in a swap it is now less expensive to climb from Nepal than from Tibet except for the ultra high-end guides like Alpenglow that competes on a high level of service, not on price.

The median price for low-end climbs in Nepal is $42,500 and 43,875 in Tibet while the top end comes in at $67,000 in Nepal and a whopping $85,000 from Tibet.

Guided climbs on Everest is like any competitive marketplace, it’s driven by supply and demand and the demand is huge! As I’ve noted for years now, more and more Everest climbers are coming from India and China adding to the historical demand from the Americas, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Meeting that demand are many Nepal based guides.

Bottom line: Look for Everest to become more crowded in Nepal, more expensive in Tibet and for six to eight people to lose their lives each year – more on the south side due to more people climbing that side.
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Changes for 2019 – China Takes Control

Huge changes are in the making on the Tibet side for 2019 when China’s mountaineering policies, administered by the Chinese Mountaineering Association and Mountaineering Association of Tibet aka CTMA, announced strong new measures ostensibly designed to increase safety. I have a full post on the details at China Clamps Down on Everest Climbs but the headlines include:

  • A new clause that states “We [China] will cooperate actively with the Expedition companies with good social reputation, strong ability of team formation, logistic support, reliable service quality, excellent professional quality, and law-abiding.” This suggests that CTMA can select which companies they want to run climbs in Tibet and block others. The criteria are quite subjective and could be an invitation for corruption.

 

  • “Expeditions climbing above 8000 meters in Tibet Autonomous Region, 1 summit climber must be accompanied 1 Nepalese Mountain guide, and each expedition must be equipped with 1 team leader.” This clause suggests a 1:1 ratio of climber to Nepali i.e. Sherpa guide. Perhaps they mean Tibet or Nepal Sherpa?

 

  • $5000 will be collected as mountaineering security deposits from each exploration companies at the beginning of mountaineering, and all deposit will be refunded with no safety accidents and environmental problems at the end of mountaineering.” Does this mean if you have an “accident” you lose your $5,000?

 

  • “In order to ensure the healthy and orderly development of mountaineering and minimize the occurrence of mountaineering accidents, mountaineering teams which were organized in Nepal temporarily will not be accepted.” Taken literally this means that no Nepali based company can run climbs on Cho, Shish or Everest.

 

  • “Standard of rubbish-collection fee will be $1500/person for Mt. Everest summit climber, $1000/person for Mt.Cho-oyu, Mt.Shishapangma, Mt. Lhakpari, North-col and Mt. Everest ABC member.” This is a price increase as the $1,500 per person is not a deposit but rather a fee on top of the $9,500 permit fee. China now matches Nepal at $11,000 per person permit fee. However, China includes more with the permit for example transportation to base camp by vehicle.

 

  • “Mountaineering Rescue Team of Tibet Autonomous Region and Yarlha Shampo Expedition in Tibet will jointly undertake the rescue missions in Mt. Everest, Mt. Cho-Oyu and Mt. Shishapangma during mountaineering season (Spring and Autumn).” Similar to other big peaks around the world, this centralizes the rescue operations under one management structure.

 

  • “The expenses caused by the rescues shall be borne by the climbers themselves,”  If you need a rescue, you are 100% responsible for paying the expenses.

In my mind climbing in Tibet has just become more expensive and more controlled. While the intent of some of this is good (trash, centralized rescue) others are onerous in nature and can result in unexpected expenses. Climbing Everest from the North or Tibet side was historically seen as cheaper, wilder, freer and more independent than the Nepal side. Well, that ship has sailed. If you want a more independent 8,000-meter climb, Everest is no longer on the table. Take a look at Makalu or Dhaulagiri.

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Everest 2018 Review – 802 summits: A RECORD!

Overall it was about as good of a season as could be expected on the world’s highest peak, record setting in fact! The temperatures were bit warmer than usual and the winds were calmer in spite of the occasional “difficult” summit day. With the long weather window, teams spread out thus reducing the usual crowding we’ve seen before. In 2012 there were less than five suitable summit days forcing hundreds to attempt the peak on the same day, in 2018 there were 11 days of great weather and limited crowds.

This allowed for a record setting 2018 season with 802 summits from all routes, all sides.  The previous record year was 2013 with 670 total summits by all routes. By the way, there were no “ambitious” climbs last year, only by the two “standard” routes.

The Himalayan Database reported 802 summits and only 1 summit who did not use supplemental oxygen and 68 female summits. The Nepal side saw 562 summits made up up 266 foreigners (aka members) and 296 High Altitude Workers (aka Sherpas). For the members who got above base camp, 76% went on to summit. On the Tibet (aka Chinese) side there were 110 summits for workers and 130 by foreigners for a total of 240 summits. There were a total of 5 deaths in spring 2018, 4 on the Nepal side and 1 on the Tibet side.

There were many records set in 2018, primarily by Sherpas. Kami Rita Sherpa, at age 48, set the record for most summits, male or female, with 22 breaking the one he shared with Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa. He says he wants to reach 25 before retiring. Lhakpa Sherpa, 44 from Connecticut, broke her own female record with her ninth summit on May 16th. Australian Steve Plain broke the record for reaching the summits of each continent in 117 days. The old record was 126. He summited Everest, his last of the seven on May 14th. Kenton Cool broke his own mark for most summits by a Briton at 13. And perhaps most stunning was the victory by 70-year-old Xia Boyu, the double amputee from China who summited only after winning an appeal to the Nepal Supreme Court to overturn a ban against double amputees climbing Nepal’s Mountains.

We’ve come to expect deaths on Everest, in fact, the median is four annually since 1921 but has increased to six each year in modern times since 2000. However with more people climbing each year, you might expect the death rate to have risen but in fact, it has gone down from 1.06 on the standard routes between 1921 to 2019 to 0.79 since 2000. The use of more supplemental oxygen, improved weather forecasting, staying on known routes and an increase of Sherpa support for foreigners, all have helped make Everest safer today than ever.

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Everest 2019 Outlook

2019 has all the signs of another huge year on both sides. The Nepali operators are hitting their strides with huge business from China and India. The traditional foreign guides are tuning into smaller, more custom climbs at higher prices. We might see another 800 to 900 total summits with 60% coming from high-altitude workers aka Sherpas and Tibetans. As usual, expect to see 6 to 8 deaths combined on both sides. With so many inexperienced people on Everest, expect horror stories of frostbite and reduces – if the respective governments don’t gag news outlets similar to what they did in 2018.

2019 is the last year for Nepal climbing permits that were extended after the 2014 closer of Everest when the Sherpas went on strike to protest working conditions and benefits. All the extensions from the 2015 earthquake have expired on both sides.

There are rumors the Nepal government will increase the permit fee from $11,000 to $15,000 starting in 2020 so some people are not taking a chance and going in 2019. But as with most rumors from the government, this one is suspect at best but I keep hearing it too consistently to dismiss it. With China increasing their permit structure, it opens the door for Nepal to follow suit.

We haven’t seen the annual Nepal Ministry of Tourism annual press releases about new rules to make Everest safer but expect it soon given what China has announced. You can read about the history of those proposed rules at this post along with my opinion on the merits and feasibility.
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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. For 2019, there are no major changes.

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 or risky. But I know there are individuals who have climbed on the cheap in years past, but few if any in the last five years.
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1. Travel $500 – $10,125

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, Air India, 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 add a few hundred dollars for this airfare. Of course you can take a bus to Jiri and trek 5 days to Luka and then on to EBC to save a little money.

From Lukla, it takes a little over a week to trek to base camp. Add in food and lodging along the way for you and your support team. This can be between $400 to $1,000 per person in total again depending on your style and how many beers you have. Teahouses have dramatically increased their prices in the Khumbu. You can still find the $5 per night teahouse but expect to pay $15 for each meal. To save money, climbers can always camp in their tents and cook their own food.

Not only do you have to get yourself to base camp but also all of your gear – tents, food, oxygen, etc. Most people use porters and yaks costing at least $20 per day per load, so this usually totals over a thousand dollars. Large operators will hire helicopters and the expense is bundled into the overall price.

On the Tibet side, all transportation is included in your climbing permit and monitored by the government. The China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) will meet you where you arrive in China and never leave you the entire expedition.

Travel $2,450 – $8,350

  • Airfare $1500 to $7000 depending on class and routing and excess baggage
  • Transportation Kathmandu to Lukla $350 round trip per person
  • Hotel and food in Kathmandu $300 to $700 depending on delays
  • Nepal Visa $100
  • Immunizations $200

Getting to EBC $1,240 – $1,800

  • Yaks to and from Base Camp $40 per yak per day carrying 120 lbs, (4 yaks for 4 days minimum or $640)
  • Extra Yak in China is $300/Yak
  • Porters to and from Base Camp $20 per porter per day carrying 60 lbs (3 porters for 6 days minimum or $360)
  • Tea Houses and food on trek to EBC $20 – $100/person/day – 7 days $140 – $700
  • Park Fee $100/team

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2. Permits and Insurance $9,950 – $29,500

Nepal

The permit cost is fixed at $11,000 per climber from Nepal and simply gives permission to climb, whereas in Argentina for Aconcagua or Alaska for Denali, the $800 or $365 permit, respectively, maintaining high altitude ranger camps, hiring seasonal staff, providing mountaineering information, and keeping the mountain environment clean. On Denali, the permit includes helicopter evacuation.

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/permit plus a Liaison Officer costing $3,000 per team. These total $9,500 BEFORE the $11,000 per person climbing permit. So before you hire guides, yaks food or gear you must come up with almost $20,000 in Nepal.

Nepal implemented in 2013 a new rule that requires every foreign climber in Nepal to hire a local Sherpa Guide.  It is still there for the 2019 season. I saw climbers in October 2018 climbing peaks with zero porters or Sherpa support so this policy is enforced unevenly if at all. While very unclear how or if this rule is enforced for every operator, it would add a minimum of $4,000 to the absolute lowest cost. In 2017, one person climbed without a permit was caught, deported and banned from climbing in Nepal for five years by the Nepal authorities. Both sides are cracking down on unauthorized climbing, so beware.

Most guide companies on the Nepal side 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 but expensive. To save money, joining the American Alpine Club will provide $7,500 evacuation coverage through Global Rescue but only back to the trailhead where you must organize your own way to a hospital or home. Most people upgrade that basic coverage for a few hundred dollars. RipCord is another popular evacuation company.

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. Again, exactly.

Tibet

The Chinese have recently increased climbing permits for Everest which effectively eliminates a low cost, single person climb from Tibet for under $20,000 forcing climbers to team up with at least three other members. This is not a big deal for independent climbers since many guides are glad to have you on their permit for a small fee and not provide any support.

An Everest climbing permit from the Chinese (North side) is now USD $9,500 per person for a team permit of 4 or more; with three or fewer members, the permit skyrockets to $19,500 per person. This price includes transportation from the entry point in China (usually Lhasa or Zhangmu–Kodari) to base camp, hotels, liaison officer, trash fee, five yaks in and four yaks out per member. There is an extra charge of $200 per day per person for time spent in Lhasa. For 2019, they added an additional $1,500 per climber trash fee – not a deposit but a fee, so the overall permit is now about the same as on the Nepal side at $11,000.

If you want to bring a Nepali Sherpa to climb with you in Tibet, budget an additional $3,300 for each Sherpa’s “work permit” as required by the CTMA plus their salary of $5,000.

The Tibet side is more complicated for evacuation insurance since a centralized team do the rescues. A person being rescued is on the hook for an unspecified and unlimited amount of money. Helicopters are not allowed but are rumored to be offered in the next few years. It would be wise to double check everything with your provider to understand the details when climbing in China.

Climbing Fees $20,600 – $25,650 (Nepal)

  • Nepal Agency fee $2,500 per team (usually included in total price from a guide)
  • Nepalese Liaison Officer $3,000/team (usually included in total price from a guide)
  • South Base Camp Medical support from EverestER $100/person
  • Nepal permit $11,000 for each climber regardless of team size
  • Chinese permit $11,000 per each climber for teams of 4+ otherwise $19,500/person, $3,300 for each Nepali Sherpa
  • Nepal garbage and human waste deposit $4,000/team permit (refundable but not always)
  • Tibet 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 $200/climber, higher on Tibet side
  • Weather forecast $0 to $1,000
  • Puja $300

Insurance $70 – $3,000

  • Evacuation Insurance $70 (American Alpine Club) – ~$500 (Global Rescue/TravelEx)
  • Medical only $500
  • Rescue Insurance for any reason with medical insurance and trip cancellation coverage – $3,000 to $5,000 (TravelEx)
  • Private pay helicopter evacuation from Everest South – $5,000 – $20,000 depending on start and end locations (not available on north, but planned)
  • All insurance figures are representative and will vary widely with age, length of trip and total cost.

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3. Supplies/Gear $ 800 – $29,450

You will need to eat, stay warm and 97% of all Everest summiteers used supplemental oxygen.

You can cook your own food but most people use a Nepali cook and helpers 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 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 $600.

Misc $7,750 – $13,000 – $17,000

  • Full Medical kit $500 – $1,000 – add $2,000 for Gamow Bag
  • 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 $3,800 – $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 $3,650 – $8,650

  • 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

See my current gear list.
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summit coachIf you dream of climbing mountains but are not sure how to start or reach your next level from a Colorado 14er to Rainier, Everest or even K2, I can help. Summit Coach is a consulting service that helps aspiring climbers throughout the world achieve their goals through a personalized set of consulting services based on Alan Arnette’s 20 years of high altitude mountain experience and 30 years as a business executive. Prices and services at the Summit Coach website.


4. Logistics (guide) $30,000 – $85,000

With all the previous costs broken out, it can be overwhelming. Don’t despair, you can join a fully supported or guided team that takes care of everything.

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 the last few years, there has been 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 these cost savings are passed on to the members.

This, along with sometimes paying less than market wages to Sherpas, cooks and porters, the Nepali operators offer climbs that are half to a third of traditional western operators. In 2018, Seven Summits Treks, reportedly offered their Everest expedition for as low as $28,000 per climber. For 2019, they are listing a climb from Nepal at $38,000 but the real price is probably $32,000.

Many of the lead Sherpas are now UIAGM certified with more summits than many of the Western guides. This certification is allowing the Sherpas to earn $8,000 for the Everest season compared to $4-5,000 previously.

With all this as background, I used public websites and my own research to compile the 2019 Everest fees from the major Everest guide companies. I looked back at their 2018 summit rates and historical numbers where available using my own research, their websites and the Himalayan Database.

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 members. No commentary is implied by exclusion or inclusion on this list and is to be used for reference only. Check with the operator for details and questions.

 

N/A = not offered, * full logistics support, gear, food, Personal Sherpa, oxygen, mask and regulator. Also Furtenbach runs “flash” speed climb for $108,000.

You can see my thoughts on Everest guides on my main site at Selecting a Guide.


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Surveys

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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 (foreign) 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

Please note this is Sherpa supported, not guided and what most Nepali owned companies offer.

For about $40,000, you can climb on a Sherpa supported expedition. This is about $3,000 higher than in 2018. The company organizes all the logistics: food, group gear, transportation plus Sherpa support but does not provide western guides or, in some cases, 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.

You must be extremely careful when selling amongst these options as some are excellent and others lacking. 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 by yourself. The Sherpas may have attended a climbing school but will usually lack basic medical training and may not be of significant help in a health crisis other than getting you lower, which is substantial and often life-saving.

Asian Trekking specializes in this style of climb and is outstanding. Seven Summits Treks is another option at a lower cost and many small one-man Nepali companies offer even lower prices. Look to pay between $32,000 and $45,000 for this option. This is a good option for the climber with significant high altitude experience including previously on Everest. It is not for the novice or first timer on an 8000 meter peak.

Sherpa Guided Expedition

Please note this is Sherpa guided, not supported.

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 $46,000 for this model, up $2,000 from last year. 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 members. Their English skills are usually very good but similar to a Sherpa supported, they may lack medical training but you will never climb alone.

While they will not carry all 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. This style is appropriate for climbers with previous 8000 meter experience, unusually strong, but again not for the novice. 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 $110K. 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 $110K or more, 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 summited Everest several times. 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, Furtenbach, Himex, etc) almost always come with several western guides and you never climb alone.

Hybrid Guide Options

One of the newer foreign owned companies is Climbing the Seven Summits or CTTS started by Mike Hamill. He offers almost any guide configuration you would want on the Nepal side. His lowest option is this Sherpa Guided trip at $44,000, next is a IFMGA/UIAGM Certified Sherpa Guide at $55,000 and then a Western lead climb at $62,000 and finally a full-on private experience at the pricy $117,000. He has partnered with TAGnepal and Tendi Sherpa, a IFMGA/UIAGM Certified Mountain Guide. The line between a highly experienced and certified Sherpa guide and a Western guide is quickly becoming blurred.

Ultra High-End Luxury Climbs

The latest entry to the Everest market is from Alpenglow, Furtenbach, 7 Summits Club  and Seven Summits Treks with high-end, nothing left wanting, everything offered expeditions. They offer pre-acclimatization at home before you arrive in Nepal or Tibet, two room “sleeping” tents, unlimited oxygen, unlimited internet, multiple Sherpas, multiple western guides, helicopter flights – the works. The prices range from $85,000 to $130,000. They have all been quite successful both in terms of getting business and well as making the summit.

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Q&A

Let’s look deeper at a few questions.

everest_route_northDo I have to take the standard routes?

No. You can get a permit to climb any of the 30 named routes on Everest or make up your own. If you want to traverse from Nepal to Tibet or the other way, you will need to get permits from both countries however China has refused to issue permission from their side for many years now. In 2017 a climber illegally made the traverse and was deported and banned for 5 years. He claimed it was a medical emergency.

Can I Climb Everest Alone?

Officially 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 $20,000 from Nepal or China. 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.

Old timers will brag about climbing Everest in the early 2000’s or before for $5,000. Even then this price assumed no support, no oxygen, not contributing to the fixed ropes or ladders, no weather forecasting, etc. This post assumes most people want to climb in a relatively comfortable style and not eat rice every meal for six weeks. But more importantly, now even China ask $11,000 for the climbing permit. Still you might be able to climb from that side for under $15,000.

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 climber to shop wisely.

The general rule is that the lower the price, the larger the team. 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 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. One well known low-cost operator had their tents destroyed one year, had no backup and had to beg other operators for spares … they also ran out of food.

An example of price confusion are Sherpa’s 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.

Cure Alzheimer's Fund on Everest

How many people have summited Everest?

The Himalayan Database reports that there have been 9,159 summits (4,738 members and 4,421 hired) of Everest through December 2018 on all routes by 5,294 different people. 1,211 people, mostly Sherpa, have summited multiple times. There have been 548 summits by women. The Nepal side is more popular with 5,888 summits compared to 3,271 summits from the Tibet side 211 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen, about 2.5%. 32 climbers have traversed from one side to the other. About 63% of all expeditions put at least one member on the summit.

How Safe is Everest?

295 people (175 westerners and 118 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to December 2018, about 3.5%. 71 died on the descent after their summit or 25%. 11 women have died. The Nepal side has 185 deaths or 3.4%, a rate of 1.23. The Tibet side has 108 deaths or 3.3%, a rate of 1.13. Most bodies are still on the mountain but China has removed many bodies from sight. The top causes of death were from avalanche (77), fall (69), altitude sickness (32) and exposure (26).

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 2018 with 7,990 summits and 123 deaths or 1.5%. However, two years skewed the deaths rates with 17 in 2014 and 14 in 2015. The reduction in deaths is primarily due to better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial operations.

Of the 8000 meter peaks, Everest has the highest absolute number of deaths at 293 but ranks near the bottom with a death rate of 1.19. Annapurna is the most deadly 8000er with one death for about every three summits (71:266) or a 3.89 death rate. Cho Oyu is the safest with 3,732 summits and 51 deaths or a death rate of 0.55.

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 sometimes 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 of their desire.

The bottom line is that climbing the standard routes is safer with the Northeast Ridge having less overall deaths than the Southeast Ridge and climbing with teams who charge more or field a large team will generally have more resources available to support their members thus fewer deaths.

Which side should I climb, north or south?South Col Route

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 Nepal side is more popular with 5,888 summits compared to 3,271 summits from the Tibet side

2018 was a record year for Everest summits. The previous record year was 2013 with 667 total summits by all routes. The Himalayan Database has updates for 2018. There were 802 summits and only 1 who did not use supplemental oxygen and 68 females. The Nepal side saw a total of 562 summits made up up 266 foreigners (aka members) and 296 High Altitude Workers (aka Sherpas). For the members who got above base camp, 76% went on to summit. On the Tibet (aka Chinese) side there were 110 summits for workers and 130 by foreigners for a total of 240 summits. 66% of the members above base camp summited. There were a total of 5 deaths in spring 2018, 4 on the Nepal side and 1 on the Tibet side. 1 climbing was climbing without supplemental oxygen and was on the south side.

When choosing sides, keep in mind that as of 2019, China does not allow helicopter rescues on their side. That might change by 2020 as they are planning to build a massive Mountaineering Center at base camp to cater to tourist and have said they will start helicopter rescues as part of the center.

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?

everest_2003_245If you choose not to, you will be in a tiny group. 211 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen through January 2019, about 2.3%

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.

While climbing without Os is a serious accomplishment, it is not for everyone. Many try and few succeed.

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 68% of all expeditions have put at least one member on the summit. The Himalayan Database shows that 45% of members who go higher than base camp go on to summit.

In recent years, long time western operators like Jagged Globe, Adventure Consultants, Furtenbach, Madison Mountaineering and others regularly put almost every member on the summit.

Today operators use the standard routes so 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 8000er by a huge margin.
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Why Everest?

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 six 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.

 


summit coachIf you dream of climbing mountains but are not sure how to start or reach your next level from a Colorado 14er to Rainier, Everest or even K2, I can help. Summit Coach is a consulting service that helps aspiring climbers throughout the world achieve their goals through a personalized set of consulting services based on Alan Arnette’s 20 years of high altitude mountain experience and 30 years as a business executive.


I summarized my thoughts on a recent post of “I want to climb Everest

Climbing Everest is not easy. It is not for beginners. It is not to be rushed. Climbing Everest is a privilege. It is a right that should be earned.

When you fly into Kathmandu, you may see Everest out your window. It is at the same level as your airplane is flying. Let that sink in.

Climbing Everest is hard. It tests you in ways you never knew possible. You will understand that several months after you get home – regardless of your result

So, yes climbing Mount Everest, Chomolungma, Sagarmatha or Peak XV is life changing. Climb with confidence that you are prepared, knowledgable and with a clear sense of purpose.

If you summit, it will change your life. If you attempt it, it will change your life. But no matter the results, the experience is what you take away – not the summit.

Research, train, prepare and climb with confidence. The reward is worth the pain. The summit is worth the cost.

Climbing Everest can change your life.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

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Everest Pictures and Video

© all images owned and copyrighted by Alan Arnette unless noted

A tour of Everest Base Camp 2016


Alan Arnette is the oldest American to summit K2 in 2014 and has 6 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 and caregiver support.

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