re-sized route up Mount Everest

The roof of the world – mighty Mount Everest

We are turning our attention today to the sixth of the seven summits – the granddaddy of them all – Asia’s highest mountain – the world’s highest mountain – the iconic Mount Everest, the roof of the world.

Mount Everest as seen from upper Gokyo Valley

It is the mountain that we have all heard of – commanding more column inches than any other, more stories, more tragedies more deaths. The Tibetans call it Chomolungma or Qomolangma meaning mother goddess of the earth, the Sherpas call it Sagarmatha – goddess of the sky and the British called it Everest after a gentleman who had conducted a survey of India in the 1830s!

Well whatever your take it is an ultimate challenge and you will have to be very well prepared and very professional if you are to have any chance of success. Don’t forget the whole expedition could take the best part of 10 weeks.

Below are some pointers which may or may not encourage you to make further enquiries.

The cost

A ball park figure from a commercial guide service will be somewhere in the region of $50,000 but be aware that there can be a lot of extras. Below is a list of what might appear on your expenses list and this does not include clothing, insurance or flights.

  • Climbing permits and fees – prorated per person, $25,000 for 1 person;$56,000 for 4 people; $70,000 for 7 people, etc.
  • Sagarmatha National Park Entrance Fee – $100 per team
  • Khumbu Icefall Fee (paid to Sagarmatha Park for route maintenance) – $2,375 per team
  • Satellite Phone permit (paid to Nepalese Ministry of Communications) – $2,300 per phone
  • Garbage and Human Waste Disposal (A comprehensive clean-up and recycling effort is underway on Mount Everest, to counteract decades of environmental abuse. This fee is paid to Sagarmatha Park officials.) –$4,000
  • Oxygen (High quality oxygen and oxygen canisters are essential to the success and safety of climbers.) – $30,000
  • Lead guide – $25,000 Note: The more famous your guide, the more he or she will cost you. For instance, for $125,000, you may be able to hire Ed Viesturs, the first American to summit all fourteen 8,000 meter peaks without the use of supplemental oxygen.
  • 2 Assistant guides – $10,000 to $15,000 each
  • Liaison Officer (ensures that your expedition meets all local regulation requirements) – $3,000
  • Doctor (Some doctors will volunteer their services in exchange for a Himalayan experience.) – $4,000
  • 7 Climbing Sherpas – $5,000 each
  • 3 – 4 Cooks – $3,500 each
  • 3 Helicopter charters from Kathmandu to Lukla – $16,500
  • 150 Yaks (transport 120 lbs. of gear each, from Lukla to Basecamp) –$7,500
  • Ritual expenses. (Sherpas perform many rituals along the way, to honor and appease the mountain, which they call Sagarmatha – goddess of the sky. Donations are made to the local monastery; there are daily rituals performed; prayer flags are flown at Base Camp; and finally, a Lama leads a day-long ceremony to mark the beginning of the ascent.) – $300
  • Helicopter evacuation from Base Camp (in case of emergencies) –$5,000

So it is very expensive and you are strongly advised to check the small print of any company which offers a guided service up the mountain to be absolutely sure that you know what you can and cannot expect from your contract.

When to climb

There is little argument in when to go, you have a relatively narrow window of opportunity. And with more and more demand and one mountain with limited access then demand outweighs supply. Plan this expedition – probably two years before you attempt the summit. You will be going there in March, April, May – when the jet stream winds move to a more northerly latitude before the summer monsoon so making the weather on the mountain a tad more forgiving.

The mountain can also be climbed after the monsoon in October but it is considered very difficult because of the fresh snow that has fallen on the mountain during the monsoon.

Routes

Mt. Everest has two main climbing routes, the southeast ridge from Nepal and the northeast ridge from Tibet. There are other less frequently climbed routes but of the two main routes, the southeast ridge is technically easier and is the more frequently-used route. It was the route used by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay who were the first people to successfully summit Everest in 1953.

The south east ridge – to climb Everest is a true expedition normally requiring 5 weeks on the mountain.The ascent via the southeast ridge begins with a trek to Base Camp at 5,380 m (17,700 ft) on the south side of Everest in Nepal which can take up to a week. Climbers will spend a couple of weeks in Base Camp, acclimatizing to the altitude.

From the Base Camp climbers make their way up the Western Cwm to the Lhotse  face, where the Advanced Base Camp is established at 6,500 m (21,300 ft).

Climbers then ascend the Lhotse face on fixed ropes up to Camp III, located on a small ledge at 7,470 m (24,500 ft). From there, it is another 500 metres to Camp IV on the South Col at 7,920 m (26,000 ft).

On the South Col, climbers enter the death zone where you have to wait for good weather before attempting the final push to the summit. It is not possible to stay at that altitude for more than two days and so if there is no break in the weather a climber may well have to about turn and make his or her way back down the mountain.

Everest South Col Route

The  north east ridge – you start  from the north side of Everest in Tibet and trek to the Rongbuk Glacier and Base Camp at 5,180 m (16,990 ft) on a gravel plain just below the glacier. To reach Camp II, climbers ascend the medial moraine of the east Rongbuk Glacier up to the base of Changtse at 6,100 m (20,000 ft).

Camp III (ABC – Advanced Base Camp) is situated below the North Col at 6,500 m (21,300 ft). You have to then ascend the glacier to the foot of the col where fixed ropes are used to reach Camp IV and the North Col at 7,010 m (23,000 ft).

From the North Col, climbers ascend the rocky north ridge to set up Camp V at around 7,775 m (25,500 ft). The route crosses the North Face in a diagonal climb to Camp VI at 8,230 m (27,000 ft). From Camp VI, climbers will make their final summit push.

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Above – the north east ridge – photo courtesy of Philippe Gatta

Everest is a must for every serious mountaineer but you must be well prepared. The video below from rexpem shows Rex Pemberton’s successful summit of Everest in 2006 when he became at the age of 21 the youngest Australian to summit Everest. What is very evident from the video is that even for a fit young man this is a very tough climb.

So having blogged about 6 of the 7 summits there must only be one left………..we shall see.

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