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Dec 012019
 

2020 is my eighth year to blog, “How much does it cost to climb Mount Everest?” For the second straight year, we see significant changes in the prices and rules applied to Everest from Nepal and China. However, the overall impact of these changes is very uncertain. As usual, I’ll break everything down in this post.

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 will pay as much as $160,000! But, the prices are going up, and I don’t know where it will stop. So if you are on a tight climbing budget, go as soon as your skills, experience, and checkbook can support a safe attempt.

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 2020 Season Coverage!


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

Big Picture – Dramatically Higher Prices

The headline for 2020 is the dramatic price increase from China, or more specifically, the China Mountaineering Association out of Lhasa responsible for governing mountain climbing in Tibet. The Nepal Ministry, managing Everest on their side, floated many new rules after a deadly 2019 season. They suggested a $35,000 minimum price for operators to charge clients (this includes the current $11,000 permit fee) but have not officially approved it, so it might not apply for 2020.

At the time of this post, December 2019, what impact these increases will have on the final price from guides to clients is uncertain. I’ve spoken with several northside operators about the price increases. Many are evaluating how much of China increase to pass on to their clients. While on the Nepal side, it seems that many operators have jumped on the opportunity to raise prices even though their costs have not dramatically increased. As for which side is the best deal, it all depends on your style – foreign or local guides. This is the breakdown of current prices by style and route. I’ll go into more detail later in this post:

NepalTibet
Nepali Guide Service$38,000$39,283
Foreign Guide Service$66,000$62,700

As for safety, people die on both sides. Most of the deaths these days are due to inexperience and not who you selected as your guide. However, choosing a competent guide could save your life. The 11 deaths in 2019, tragically demonstrated what happens when inexperienced people go with unqualified guides.

Bottom line: Look for Everest to become more crowded in Nepal, less crowded in Tibet, but much more expensive. With records crowds, we can expect six to twelve deaths on Everest, almost all on the Nepal side. 

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Changes for 2020 – China Driving Everest Rules

China’s mountaineering policies administered by the Chinese Mountaineering Association aka the CMA continue to evolve ostensibly designed to increase safety and keep the mountain clear of trash and bodies. For the 2019 climbing season, the CMA announced a set of new rules. I reviewed them just before the 2019 season in this post at China Clamps Down on Everest Climbs. The headlines included:

  • 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.”
  • “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.”
  • $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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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).”
  • “The expenses caused by the rescues shall be borne by the climbers themselves,”

Now for the 2020 season, they announced a series of higher fees along with increases for permits, additional yaks, Sherpas, and drivers. They established a two-tier permit structure defined as luxury and standard. The significant differences include five-star vs. four-star hotels in Lhasa and driving to base camp in either a Toyota Land Cruser or a small minibus. Unlike on the Nepal side, their permit fee includes all visas, liaison officers, yaks, trash fees, transportation to base camp, plus seven nights lodging but not meals. The luxury level is $18,000, and the standard is $15,800. This represents a $3,300 to $5,500 increase from 2019 which was $12,500, including a $1,500 per climber trash fee. They do offer a discount for a team with 15 members, one permit is free!

However, another subtle increase was the fee to bring a Sherpa from Nepal to support climbers on the Tibet side. This is now $4,500 per Sherpa, up $1,200 from last year. This is significant for Nepal and foreign operators who depend on Sherpas who have worked for them for years to support their expeditions. Taking all these fees together, it’s no surprise that climbing from Tibet just got significantly more expensive and operators increased their fees an average of 9%. A similar increase in fees was announced for the other 8,000 meter peaks including Cho Oyu, Shishapangma and several 7,000 meter peaks.

The impact of these changes remains to be seen but I believe we will see fewer climbers on the Tibet side and more on the Nepal side with many price-conscious climbers from India and China flooding the Nepal side, especially in 2020. How Nepal responds is unknown at this time. If they match some of these increases, then Everest will accelerate the trend of being available only to the wealthy, similar to Vinson in Antarctica. 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 for the normal routes. Take a look at Makalu,  Dhaulagiri or a rarely climbed, technically challenging route on Everest.

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Everest 2019 Review – The Year Everest Broke

There were approximately 871 summits on Everest in the Spring of 2019 plus 11 deaths. All-time number of people who summitted Everest is now 10,155, including multiple summits in one season by one person, and 306 for total deaths. Still, Everest is one of the safest 8000ers.

2019 was all about the weather. The notorious jet stream was “wobbly” in the words of Chris Tomer of Tomer Weather Solutions. It colluded with Cyclone Fani to delay the ropes reaching the summit complicated by some bureaucratic delays on using a helicopter to transport gear to Camp 2 on the Nepal side. Everyone hoped it would be like in 2018 with 11 straight days of low winds that allowed for a record number of summits.

On the Nepal side, the ropes finally made the top due to some incredible efforts by a team of Sherpas. 150 members with their Sherpas quickly followed over the next few days before the jet returned. When the next window appeared, close to 800 people on Everest made their bids but still, the weather forecast felt like a dice throw praying for cat’s eyes. Beginning on May 22, hundreds summited early each morning for several days and once again death was in the air. May 23, Nirmal “Nims” Purja, got his place in history with a shocking photo of a line of climbers on the Hillary Step. The root cause of the lines were slow climbers with guides who failed to properly manage their clients.

How 2019 unfolded was predictable. In 2018, Everest hosted a record 802 people on her summit from both sides. The death toll was five, about the same each year for the past 10 or so. They died from what people usually die from on 8000-meter mountains: altitude sickness, exhaustion, health issues, and the occasional fall. All tragic, but all somewhat expected. But in 2019 with 11 deaths, over half were what I term “avoidable.”

I’ve been writing about two major trends that have been rising and reached a crescendo in 2019: inexperienced climbers and unqualified guides. These two factors along with a “wobbly” jet stream and record 381 foreigner permits issued by Nepal conspired to create a deadly combination of independent factors during the peak of a truncated weather window in late May.

Six months after the spring season, the biggest question is what, if anything, will Nepal do about the crowds, the experience of the climbers and the qualifications of the guides. While there are solutions I’m not optimistic anything will change. For more details, please see my complete 2019 Spring Wrap-Up.

Everest 2019 Results

These are from the Himalayan Database.
 NEPALTIBETTOTAL
Member Permits382144526
Support Permits390220720
Total Permits7723641136
Member Summits292106398
Support Summits368110478
Total Summits660216876
Deaths9211
"Low-Cost" Operators718
"Standard" Operators213
Crowd Related Death404
Altitude Related202
Health224
Fall101

Everest 2020 Outlook

2020 appears to be a transition year and is highly unpredictable. One scenario has another record year given the predicted permit increase on the Nepal side. On the other hand, given that China has already increased fees, that side could see significantly fewer climbers and driving more to Nepal. In both scenarios, Nepal looks to be crowded once again.  As always, the wildcard will be the weather. If another year of few summit days, look for another disastrous season with over 10 deaths. However if like in 2018 with 11 consecutive summits days, we can anticipate a fairly routine season but still with six to eight deaths.

Another development is the so-called “Speed/Rapid/Flash – I’ve got more money than time” climbs. These are shortened Everest climbs lasting three or four weeks instead of the usual eight. Only a couple of companies like Alpenglow and Furtenbach Adventures formally offered this option a few years ago but now many have jumped in front of the parade including Climbing the Seven Summits, Adventure Consultants, International Mountain Guides and Kobler & Partners. The prices range from $85,000 to $130,000 and usually include multiple western guides, unlimited oxygen and pre-acclimatizing at home using a Hypixco altitude tent.

I was expecting over 1,000 summits from both sides and by all routes for 2020 but with the Chinese price increase, I think we will retreat back to 650 to 800, still a lot of summits.  However, as has been the trend of over supporting inexperienced climbers, look for 60% of the summits coming from high-altitude workers aka Sherpas and Tibetans. As usual, expect to see 6 to 8 deaths combined on both sides.
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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. Hopefully, the repairs the Kathmandu airport are completed by April thus avoiding the drive to an alternate airport to fly to Lukla.

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 Mountaineering Association (CMA) 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 2020 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. Also, most do not cover searches and those that do have low limits.

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.

As I previously covered, an Everest climbing permit from the Chinese (Northside) is now between $15,800 to 18,000 per person for a team permit of 4 or more. 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.

If you want to bring a Nepali Sherpa to climb with you in Tibet, budget an additional $4,500 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 does 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 the total price from a guide)
  • Nepalese Liaison Officer $3,000/team (usually included in the 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 between $15,800 to 18,000 per person for teams of 4 or more. $4,500 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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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 2019, Seven Summits Treks, reportedly offered their Everest expedition for as low as $28,000 per climber. One common trend is that almost all the Nepali guides will privately negotiate and discount while most foreign operators will not.

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 up to $10,000 for the Everest season compared to $4-5,000 previously. This trend will drive the cost of the Nepali companies up over time as more and more Sherpas become certified.

With all this as background, I used public websites and my own research to compile the 2020 Everest fees from the major Everest guide companies. I looked back at their 2019 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.

Almost all guides increased their prices but those operating on the Tibet side increased their fee an average of 8%. The Nepal side operators increased by around 4%. A few operators had a massive increase of 25%! Without a doubt, climbing with a Nepali owned company is half the price of a foreign operator with multiple western guides. Some foreign companies do offer Sherpa lead trips. I added a “Speed Climb” column this year for those trips under four weeks.

 

Prices usually include 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.


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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 $42,000, you can climb on a Sherpa supported expedition. This is about the same as last year. 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 selecting 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 $35,000 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 climber throughout the route. IMG ask $46,000 for this model. Climbing The Seven Summits offers a similar program for $45,000. Usually, they depend on a Sirdar (a highly experienced senior Sherpa) to make 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 for an additional $5,000 or even $10,000 plus another 5% to 20% in tips and bonuses. 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.

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 varies 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.

Silly and Over the Top

Seven Summits Treks, who cater to the China market, has once again raised the luxury (and absurd) level with their new “Platinum Everest Expedition 2020” for the royalty price of $160,000. It includes:

  • Private Camp facilitating: luxurious dining, communication and medical dome tent, work space, sleeping tent with king size bed, kitchen,hot shower and toilet at basecamp. Also, private camp at each high camp.
  • AS350B3E airbus helicopter (Heli Everest ) will be on standby for supporting our team with supplying fresh – fruits, vegetables, meats , Mineral water for drinking and other food items all most every day, and it’s also always ready for your safety at your needs (medical evacuation ).
  • One UIAGM certified Guide.
  • 2 hr Helicopter Mountain view flight around the Mount Everest for filming and panoramic views of himalayan range
  • More than 3 times or equivalent 3 Everest Summiteer Sherpa.
  • Unlimited supplementary Oxygen (02) cyclinder.
  • 24 hr Personal mountain medical doctor for any injuries during the expedition.
  • 24 hr satellite phone and internet facilities .
  • Additional Lobuche Peak Climbing Package inclusive.
  • A documentary movie of the entire trip with additional photographer from airport to the summit of Everest.

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 CMA has a similar requirement. But like everything around Everest, there are exceptions and most rules are never enforced.

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 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 2000s 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.

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 the 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 that almost every one 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 is 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 EverestHow many people have summited Everest?

The Himalayan Database reports that through December 2019 there have been 10,155 summits (5,140 members and 5,015 hired) on Everest by all routes by 5,780 different people. 1,343 people, including 941 Sherpa, have summited multiple times. There have been 702 summits by women.

The Nepal side is more popular with 6,552 summits compared to 3,603 summits from the Tibet side. 214 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen, about 2.1%. 34 climbers have traversed from one side to the other. About 62% of all expeditions put at least one member on the summit. 614 climbers have summited from both Nepal and Tibet. 117 climbers have summited more than once in a single season.

306 people (185 westerners and 119 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to December 2019, about 3.5%. 109 died on the descending from summit bid or 35% of the total deaths. 11 women have died.

The Nepal side has 195 deaths or 2.9%, a rate of 1.23. The Tibet side has 110 deaths or 3%, a rate of 1.08. Most bodies are still on the mountain but China has removed many bodies from sight on their side. The top causes of death are from avalanche (77), fall (71), altitude sickness (36) and exposure (26).

In 2019 there were 876 summits, 216 from Tibet and 660 from Nepal and 2 didn’t use supplemental oxygen. There were 11 deaths.

How Safe is Everest?

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 2019 with 8,873 summits and 134 deaths or 1.5%. However, three years skewed the deaths rates with 17 in 2014, 14 in 2015 and 11 in 2019. 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 306 but ranks near the bottom with a death rate of 1.17. Annapurna is the most deadly 8000er with one death for about every four summits (72:298) or a 3.84 death rate. Cho Oyu is the safest with 3,845 summits and 52 deaths or a death rate of 0.55.

 

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 6,552 summits compared to 3,603 summits from the Tibet side

When choosing sides, keep in mind that as of 2020, China does not allow helicopter rescues on their side. That might change by 2021 as they are building a massive Mountaineering Center at base camp to cater to tourists 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. 213 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen through June 2019, about 2%

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 the 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 fewer 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 of 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.

  2 Responses to “How Much Does it Cost to Climb Mount Everest? – 2020 Edition”

  1.  

    Always incredible and well informed articles. thank you !

  2.  

    Excellent write-up! The only thing I would add, the true cost to climb Everest is going to be a lot more, because of all the expenses involved with training and climbing other mountains, in order to prepare for Everest. Plus for most people, lost income from taking off from work for various mountain climbs.

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