Ballpark estimate: $70,000 to $100,000
Getting to the top of Mount Everest is no small feat and requires much more than just the considerable sum it will cost to fund the expedition. Not only will you need a fairly robust savings account, you’ll also need to be in strong athletic condition and have a great deal of knowledge about climbing practices and safety along the journey. Over the years, more than 12,000 people have taken up the challenge, with only about 4,000 making it all the way to the summit. The statistics are sobering, with 209 people having lost their lives in the pursuit, meaning approximately 1 death for every 15 who attempt the climb. As of 2013, the Himalayan database recorded that Mount Everest had been summited 6,871 times by 4,042 different people (obviously some brave people return to the top more than once). The popular book, “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster” by Jon Krakauer, and the subsequent movie, tells the story of the author’s own expedition and gives a harrowing account of the perils and subsequent triumph of climbing the world’s highest mountain.
Leaving aside the emotional and physical toll of mounting an expedition to the summit of Everest, the dollars add up pretty quickly to a hefty investment for most people. Starting with the trip to the area, you’ll need an up to date passport as well as a current visa from the Nepal Embassy in Washington, D.C. For visa details visit the Embassy website at: nepalembassyusa.org. Fees range from $40 for a 30-day visa to $100 for 90 days.
You will need current immunizations and should visit your doctor four to six weeks before departure. Ask about anti-malarial medications and discuss any other precautions your physician recommends; insect borne diseases can be a problem in some parts of Nepal.
Airfare from New York will cost anywhere from just under $800 for an economy class ticket purchased several months in advance to nearly $26,000 for a first-class ticket. If you plan to travel from Los Angeles, an economy class ticket can be purchased for the same $800 to about $16,000 for first class on some airlines. If you are planning the trip yourself rather than looking to hire a guide service you will need to transport your gear, which will add to the travel cost (unless you plan to purchase gear in Nepal).
Although planning your own expedition to climb Mount Everest is only for experienced climbers, a surprising number of folks do just that. In fact, about two thirds of climbers are not part of any commercially guided group. Scientific organizations, government agencies and film companies are all sources of funding for trips to the summit of Everest. Even for experienced climbers, planning a trip on your own can be challenging and even dangerous.
Mount Everest can be approached from the south, in Nepal, or from the north in Tibet (China). Climbing permits issued in China cost about $4,000 and include support services to Advanced Base Camp. Permits issued in Nepal cost $10,000 and don’t include any services. The climb on the Chinese (north) side of the mountain is much more challenging, making the trip more dangerous and summiting less likely.
One British climber in 2006 paid a low cost trekking company based in Katmandu about $7,500 to secure a permit as well as provide food and services to base camp on the northern side of Everest. The climber decided to climb alone without a guide (Sherpa) and only carried two bottles of oxygen rather than the five usually recommended. Unfortunately, this climber did not make it to the summit and suffered a tragic death despite other climbers’ efforts to rescue him.
Costs for Hiring a Guide Service
The safest approach to climbing Mount Everest is to hire a reputable guide service with the experience and expertise to help you reach the summit without a tragic incident. These companies will help make sure you have all the necessary experience and training to be able to climb at high altitudes and come away with a great story about a successful summit experience rather than a botched attempt or worse.
A number of professional guide services are available with prices ranging from $63,000 to $92,000 per person for a top notch U.S.-based guide climbing the South Col Route. If you are determined to climb on the more treacherous and challenging northern route, a reputable guide service can be hired for about $40,000 to $60,000. In recent years there have been some discount guide services entering the market and driving the low end of prices down. While some of these services may be offering good quality services at a low price, some are using old equipment and inexperienced guides to save money. While it may be tempting to save $20,000 or even $30,000 or more, the risks of climbing Everest are great and the likelihood of success is fairly low. Since this is a once in a lifetime event for most people, perhaps it is better to pay the extra money and increase your chances of coming back to tell about your adventure reaching the summit of the world’s highest mountain.
Why the Cost is So Steep
If you do decide to hire a guide service but think that the costs sound excessive, you might be interested to know what the guide service invests to lead you on this endeavor. When you add up all of these costs (including guides, cooks, doctors, and other professionals and a number of fees and permits) that they must front to take a group on this journey, you can understand why you won’t get a bargain if you use a reputable service.
The cost of a guide service includes the following expenses:
- Climbing permits and fees: $11,000 for one person (this price was recently reduced by the Nepal government from the previous $25,000 per person)
- Sagarmatha National Park Entrance Fee: $450
- Waste Disposal Cost: $4,000 – $6,000 (Efforts are underway to ensure proper sanitation on the Everest trails, increasing costs)
- Satellite Phone Service: $400 – $800 per expedition (depending on number of calls)
- Oxygen: $35,000 per expedition (Quality and safety are factors that affect price; oxygen is essential in high altitudes)
- Lead Guide: $25,000 ++ per expedition (More famous guides can charge as much as $150,000 or more)
- 2 Assistant Guides: $22,000 – $35,000
- Liaison Officer: $3,500 (Ensures all legal and regulatory requirements are met)
- Doctor: $4,000 (Unless you have a Doctor as part of your team or if a Doctor volunteers in exchange for the experience)
- 7 Climbing Sherpas: $35,000
- 3 – 4 cooks: $10,000 – $15,000
- 3 Helicopter Charters: $64,000
- 150 yaks: $45,000 (Yaks are used to transport gear from Lukla to Basecamp)
- Ritual Expenses: $750 (Sherpas literally guide your expedition up and down the mountain and also provide spiritual guidance)
Other costs may include:
- Emergency helicopter evacuation from basecamp
- Other permits and fees not listed above (these can change from time to time)
- U.S. administrative and overhead costs (for guide services based in the U.S.)
Specialized Equipment and Training
Your guide service may provide a list of gear you are expected to bring on the trip. Here are some of the types of things you may need to bring:
- Down parka (700 fill or greater)
- Specialized high-altitude boots
- Glacier glasses with wrap around lenses (if you need prescription glasses, special order these well in advance)
- Sleeping bag, rated to at least – 40 degrees F.
- Climbing backpack
- Ice Axe with leash
- Alpine climbing harness
- Carabiners, ascender, rappel/belay device prussic cords and other climbing gear
A Word of Warning
Climbing Mount Everest is an adventure suited only for the experienced climber. You should carefully weigh your experience along with your desire to summit the highest peak in the world and determine for yourself if you are ready for this challenge. If you hire a guide service (highly recommended) you will be required to provide a verifiable record of your previous experience, especially at high altitudes. If you decide to take a risk and ascend the mountain on your own be sure to include your realistic assessment of your state of mind. It’s not enough to want to bask in the glory of reaching the summit, you will need to be able to handle the challenges and struggles along the way.
If you need additional training you might consider taking an Everest preparation course with a U.S.-based guide service in advance of planning your expedition. The $8,000 price tag for one of these course may be a deterrent, but you may also learn a great deal about yourself and your abilities by taking this step. Once you have the appropriate experience and training, your trip to the summit of Mount Everest will certainly rank among your most precious memories.