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How Much Does It Cost to Climb Everest? 2021 Edition

Longtime Everest chronicler Alan Arnette looks at how much it actually costs to climb Mount Everest, whether you do it on a "shoestring" budget or book the swankiest expedition out there. From the costs of travel to food to supplies to guides, it's all broken down here!

This will be my 19th season of all-things Everest: 12 times providing coverage, another four seasons of actually climbing on Everest and two years attempting Lhotse. I did similar coverage for the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons. In 2020, I did a fictitious Virtual Everest series that’s available as an e-Book. I summited Everest on May 21, 2011, and have attempted Everest three other times—2002, 2003, 2008, and Lhotse in 2015 and 2016.

2021 is my ninth year writing, “How much does it cost to climb Mount Everest?” With the Covid-19 pandemic devastating tourism across the globe, I expect this year to be somewhat quiet. In fact China has closed Tibet to all foreigners. There may be some Chinese nationals climbing on Everest, but I don’t expect a lot.

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.

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Big Picture — Higher Prices from Everyone!

The headline for 2021 is a significant price increase from the traditional operators and for the first time from the Nepali companies. The reason behind these increases is murky at best. In 2019, China enacted many new rules and raised the permit price—operators just passed this price hike along to their clients. But the Nepal side is a bit of a mystery, especially with the price increase by local operators. My best guess is that they realized they could charge more and not hurt business. However, Nepali operators have always been willing to deal and haggle, so take their list prices as an opening bid.

This is the breakdown of current median prices by style and route. I’ll go into more detail later in this article, however you can easily see how much the prices have increased on both sides, for all styles:

Nepal 2020 Nepal 2021 % Increase Tibet 2020 Tibet 2021 % Increase
Nepali Guide Service $38,000 $44,500 15% $41,000 $42,500 3.5%
Foreign Guide Service with Sherpa Guide $44,500 $46,000 3%
Foreign Guide Service with Western Guide $69,000 $74,000 7% $62,700 $74,200 17%

As for safety, people die on both sides of the mountain. 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 for 2021: Look for a mixed bag on Everest, with a quiet Tibet side and uncertainty on the Nepal side. Kathmandu will be confusing, potentially deadly, as will Everest Base Camp with the pandemic still ongoing.

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Everest 2020 Review

The Covid-19 pandemic shut down mountaineering worldwide. Almost all of the Seven Summits saw zero visitors with the exception of Kilimanjaro and the Chinese side of Everest. There may have been a few other climbs here and there, but nothing like in 2019.

Nepal and China “cooperated” to remeasure Everest and reported a revised height of 8,848.86 meters/29,031.69291 feet, or a 0.86-meter/33.85827-inch increase! China sent a survey team to their side of the mountain in 2020 along with a small national team. There were 28 summits.

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Everest 2021 Outlook

I’m not 100% sure what to expect for Everest 2021. Several major guide companies have cancelled their entire season due to Covid. They include: Adventure Consultants, Adventures Global, Alpenglow, and Mountain Madness. But I’m not aware of any Nepali companies refusing business, and many of the longtime guiding outfits like International Mountain Guides, Alpine Ascents, and Austria’s Furtenbach Adventures are still going. However, China has said that Tibet is still closed to foreigners, thus all Everest climbing this spring will be on the Nepal side—and that could create crowds.

A disturbing pattern we have seen over the past several years are inexperienced clients with unqualified guides. This combination was one of the primary reasons for the nightmare line of people between the South Summit and the Summit in 2019. A client had no idea how to handle the altitude and went too slow, and that climber’s guide had no idea how to manage the client; the result was the whole system came to a standstill.  Absolutely nothing has changed since then and it won’t surprise me if we see something similar this year.

As always with mountaineering, weather is the biggest wildcard. In 2018 there were 11 straight days of winds under 30 miles-per-hour, which allowed the crowds to spread out. There were no major issues high on the mountain that year. However, the next year, 2019, there were only three suitable summit days and that forced over 600 people to try for the top in just 72 hours.

In keeping with the trends from the past few years, look for more climbers than ever hailing from China and India. As I’ve detailed in the past, China requires all Chinese Nationals to have a summit of an 8,000-meter peak before climbing Everest from the Chinese side, so many simply go to Nepal where there are no such requirements. As for the Indian climbers, it has become folklore that if you summit Everest you can leverage that into fame and fortune—a huge miscalculation by so many—but many Nepal- and India-based guide companies have emerged to meet this market demand. These companies have also created profitable businesses running training programs for the under-20 crowd, and then taking them to Everest—a deadly gamble that may backfire one day.

In terms of danger and risks, 2019 was a deadly year on the 8,000-meter peaks. There were 11 deaths just on Everest plus, another 10 on other 8000-meter peaks. Sixteen of the 21 deaths were climbers on trips run by the low-price budget operators. We can expect similar results in 2021 as these low prices are attracting a new demographic of climbers who simply don’t know what they don’t know. The operators are glad to take their money.

Between the pandemic and turmoil in the Nepal Government, no new rules were announced for climbing Everest in 2021—a pleasant change from their recent history of ginning up the climbing community with promises of a cleaner, safer environment with rules that are never implemented. Bottom line for climbers this year: Triple-check with your evacuation company that you are covered for Covid-19 with the guide service you use. Also, be prepared for some type of quarantine upon arrival in Kathmandu. But don’t expect it to be serious: As usual, Nepal likes to talk big but not enforce their own rules.

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Everest 2019 Review — The Year Everest Broke

In 2019, the last full year for summits, there were approximately 871 summits on Everest in the spring plus 11 deaths. The all-time number of people who have ever summitted Everest is now 10,155 (this includes multiple summits in one season by one person). The death total stands at 306. 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. One-hundred-fifty clients with their Sherpas quickly followed over the next few days before the jet stream returned. When the next window appeared, close to 800 people made their summit 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. On May 23, Nirmal “Nims” Purja secured his place in history (he has since done so numerous times over) 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 as it had each year for the prior 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 not unexpected. 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 in the near term. For more details, please see my complete 2019 Spring Wrap-Up.

Everest 2019 Results

These data are from the Himalayan Database.

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Where Does My Money Go?

There are four major components to any Everest climb regardless of whether you’re climbing from Nepal or Tibet: travel, permits/insurance, supplies/gear, and guides. For 2021, there are no major changes. Even though the Tibet side is closed, I’ll still cover it here.

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. While I know there are individuals who have climbed on the cheap in years past, few if any have 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, Namche or Lhasa to start the journey to base camp, so add in a few hundred dollars for this internal flight. Of course, you can take a bus to Jiri and trek 5 days to Luka and then on to Everest Base Camp (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. Many operators are planning to camp in 2021—avoiding the teahouses altogether—due to Covid.

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 $1,000. 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 unchaperoned throughout 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: $300/Yak
  • Porters to and from Base Camp: $20 per porter per day carrying 60 lbs (3 porters for 6 days, minimum of $360)
  • Tea Houses and food on trek to EBC: $20 – $100 per person per day (7 days, $140 – $700)
  • Park Fee: $100 per 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 in Alaska for Denali, the $800 or $365 permit fee, respectively, contributes to the costs of 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 you to use a local company to organize your permit at a cost of $2,500 for the team, plus get a refundable trash deposit of $4,000 per permit, plus a Liaison Officer costing $3,000 per team. These fees 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 2021 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 who 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 covere—and I mean exactly, one misstep and you are not covered. Also, most do not cover search and rescue operations, and those that do have low limits. Finally, Nepal was requiring Covid-19 insurance but may drop that requirement before the season starts. However, many of the traditional evacuation companies will not cover you for anything involving or related to Covid-19, so once again, double check the policy and get everything in writing.

Tibet

The Chinese have recently increased climbing permits for Everest which effectively eliminates the possibility of 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 reported on, an Everest climbing permit from the Chinese (North) side is now between $15,800 to $18,000 per person for a team permit of four people 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, and 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, maybe by 2022. 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 per team (usually included in the total price from a guide)
  • South Base Camp Medical support from EverestER :$100 per 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 per team permit (refundable but not always)
  • Tibet garbage and human waste deposit: $4,000 per team permit (refundable but not always)
  • Icefall Doctors to fix route: $2,500 per team or $600 per climber
  • Contribution to fixed ropes above Icefall: $200 per 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 – $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 breath on your trip (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 -20 degrees Fahrenheit is at least $600. You can often find lightly used climbing gear on eBay.

Miscellaneous: $7,750 – $17,000

  • Full Medical kit: $500 to $1,000 (add $2,000 for Gamow Bag_
  • Sherpas, cooks tips and bonus: $250 to $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 per 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 Services): $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 10 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. These cost savings are passed on to the expedition members. However, in 2021, we are seeing Sherpas receiving pay similar to Westerners so the price gap is much narrower today.

Still, some Nepali operators are well-known for underpaying their staff, thereby enabling them to offer climbs that are half to a third of the price 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 their trip prices, while most foreign operators will not.

Many of the lead Sherpas  now have a subset of the UIAGM mountain certification (no ski qualification for example) and most have more summits than the Western guides. This certification is allowing the Sherpas to earn up to $10,000 for the Everest season compared to $4,000 to $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 2021 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. Remember, there were virtually no climbers on Everest in 2020.

This is not a complete list of all guides and I did not look at small one-person operations or those that 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 18%, primarily driven by cost increases from the Chinese and new rules. 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-led trips.

Prices usually include full logistics support, gear, food, Personal Sherpa guide, oxygen, oxygen-mask, and regulator. You can see my thoughts on Everest guides on my main site at Selecting a Guide.

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2021 Expedition Price Chart

Everest 2021 Prices

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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 4% higher than 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 once you’re on Everest.

You must be extremely careful when selecting among these options as some are excellent and others are 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 previous Everest experience. It is not for the novice or first-timer on an 8,000-meter peak.

Sherpa-Guided Expedition

Please note this is Sherpa-guided, not supported.

International Mountain Guides’s (IMG) Classic Everest climb is a Sherpa-guided expedition that has an experienced Sherpa lead climber throughout the route. IMG ask $49,000 for this model. Climbing The Seven Summits offers a similar program for $47,000. Both companies have increased their prices $2,000 from their 2019 rates. 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. Also, there is usually a Westerner overseeing the expedition in Base Camp, but not climbing.

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 in one-to-one ratios with Western clients. Their English skills are usually very good., but—similar to a Sherpa-supported climb—they may lack medical training. Still, 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 8,000-meter experience and those who are 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 $65,000 to $160,000. This includes all the services of a Sherpa-guided climb, plus sharing one or more western guides with other teammates. If you want your own personal Western guide, expect to pay $120,000 or more, plus tips and bonuses, which can bring the total up close to $175,000.

The major draw 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 emergency management.

On these higher-end expeditions, you will likely have a high quality of food ranging from better prepared to exotic. One service likes to promote their sushi, another their five-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, CTSS etc) almost always come with several Western guides and you never climb alone.

Silly and Over the Top

Seven Summits Treks, which caters to the China market, has once again raised the luxury (and absurdity) level with their new “Platinum Everest Expedition 2021” for the sky-high 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-hour Helicopter Mountain view flight around the Mount Everest for filming and panoramic views of himalayan range
  • Everest Summiteer Sherpa with at least 3 Everest summits (or equivalent).
  • Unlimited supplementary Oxygen cylinders.
  • 24-hour Personal mountain medical doctor for any injuries during the expedition.
  • 24-hour 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.
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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 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 independently 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 seven-person team. When you add in oxygen and base-camp support, a one-person climb with Sherpa support approaches $45,000 but a seven-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 cost of 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 August 2020 there have been 10,271 summits (5,164 members and 5,107 hired workers) on Everest by all routes, by 5,790 different people. 1,352 people, including 941 Sherpa, have summited multiple times. There have been 772 summits by women members.

The Nepal side is more popular with 6,554 summits compared to 3631 summits from the Tibet side. 216 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen, about 2.1%. 35 climbers have traversed from one side to the other. About 62% of all expeditions put at least one member on the summit. 621 climbers have summited from both Nepal and Tibet. 119 climbers have summited more than once in a single season.

304 people (185 westerners and 119 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to August 2020, about 3.5%. 109 died on the descending from summit bid or 35% of the total deaths. 13 women have died. The Nepal side has 194 deaths or 2.9%, a rate of 1.23. The Tibet side has 109 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 878 summits, 216 from Tibet and 662 from Nepal and 3 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 8,988 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 304 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 6,554 summits compared to 3,631 summits from the Tibet side

When choosing sides, keep in mind that as of 2021, China does not allow helicopter rescues on their side. That might change by 2022 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—so only 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.