So you want to climb Everest? Sound preparation is the key...
** After fifteen safe and successful years Jamie has finished guiding 8000m peaks. **
This page remains here for your reference.
People dream about Everest, me personally, I dressed as Sir Edmund Hillary for a street party when I was young. However, dreams and reality are different. Despite the insults some ignorant people hurl, Everest really is a tough and dangerous mountain where if you (or someone close to you) makes a real mistake, there is still a chance of dying. So the more prepared you are, the more experience you have under your crampons, the higher your chance of succeeding and not getting injured in the process - frostbite risks are very real as well.
Alternatively, if you have little experience then take higher levels of support. Either way prepare carefully and choose an operator that suits you in terms of safety and set up.
Additionally I must mention there is a random risk and with more mountaineering experience you are in a better position to understand the risks. The Everest north or south? page starts with thoughts on the 2014 Everest tragedy.
If you are not an experienced mountaineer then we recommend a progressive build up to Everest with:
+ a 7-12 day TMC - technical mountaineering course
+ more mountaineering experience soon after the course
+ a high altitude trek (Everest Base Camp?) or better, a trek-climb of 6000m/20,000ft mountain in the Himalaya
+ a high mountain expedition eg Denali, Muztagh Ata, Himlung, Ama Dablam, Aconcagua or a 6400m+/21,000ft mountain in the Himalaya
+ an 8000m peak such as Shishapangma, Cho Oyu or Manaslu
then you should be ready for Everest. This progression really is the most thorough way to prepare, and we do recommend this.
Yes, I can hear a few of you gulping, that is a lot of preparation.
There are several keys, the first of which is spending some time, working your body, at real altitude, i.e. 5000m/16,400ft and higher. Trekking at high altitude is good but you need to test your body, you need to find out just how tough climbing at 6000m is, and if this is your first time to these altitudes, you need to go several times as although in theory the first time should be similar to the second, it generally does get a bit easier.
Then you want to push higher, work your body again, so that on your second time to extreme altitude you know that you are performing well, feel comfortable that you can go even higher. It is also a very good idea to come over to Nepal at least one time prior to Everest as you want to get your immune system, your gut, prepared for the hygiene conditions over here.
Lastly, with a comprehensive buildup, then you have more time to assemble a tried and trusted set of gear.
This comprehensive approach is definitely old school, and plenty of people have read about people trying on crampons for the first time at base camp, however some of them did die.
See how Mark Horrell approached getting experience for Everest.
So you do want to take a few shortcuts? Providing you are confident in your ability to listen and learn, have good common sense, and have reasonable balance, this is the minimum preparation I feel you could cut it down to.
+ already have good cardio fitness
+ complete a 7-12 day basic/technical mountaineering course or have real mountaineering skills
+ be confident in abseiling a variety of terrain and climbing on steep ice
+ climb Denali or Muztagh Ata or Himlung (or another 7000m peak, eg Aconcagua) guided by somebody who has climbed Everest
then you will be at least minimally prepared. Assuming that expedition went well then you will want to book Everest with a western-guided operation that offers comprehensive support and backup built in.
In the past we have run an Aconcagua expedition that assists with preparation for Everest.
We get a lot of enquiries from Indians wanting to climb Everest. Here is what you should do first, to know that you are potentially capable of climbing at altitude:
+ read carefully all about acclimatization to high altitudes and altitude sickness
+ trek the Markha Valley homestay trek in Ladakh (J&K) or similar
+ do a basic or advanced mountaineering course in India
+ climb Stok Kangri, and to know if you have the power for higher, you must be in the first half of the people summiting that day
+ climb a 6500+m peak in the Indian Himalaya (Ladakh or Garhwal etc)
Then once you have completed all of the above, start researching for Everest.
At the bottom of this page, Alan Arnette has a quiz, a set of questions for you to work out if you are ready for Everest. I agree with this criteria.
Do also look at Alan's I want to climb Mt Everest blog post.
Alan also has a quick 2017 Everest stats post.
You must be fit, and have good endurance and not be overweight. This means you train regularly, are able to push yourself (ie sweat hard from tough exercise) and are in good general condition. The older you are, the fitter you must be relative to your age. If you find you feel slow, get your overall health checked, especailly your iron levels.
One possible measurement is to be able to gain in altitude 500m/1640ft in less than an hour while hiking a steep hill.
I have summited from both sides. I know that the north side (ie from Tibet) is definitely less dangerous than the south side, and there is less random roll-of-the-dice risk too. Also I think the climbing difficulties add up to approximately the same but that the north side still wins slightly. It is worth remembering that on the north side we start climbing (ie put on crampons and harness) from approximately 6500m, and on the south side at only approximately 5400m.
Do have a look at Alan Arnette's comprehensive website and perhaps start at the south side.
For the north side see this Discovery Channel interactive map.
For the actual Everest expedition, allow two months, April and May, and allow a week or two in June for recovery. For training and building up, either spend a year focused on it or build up less intensively over a a couple of years.
Everest is not risk-free, no matter how much you pay. Every season on average five people die out of several thousand on the mountain. The highest risk is in those attempting without supplemental bottled oxygen. For a summary of recent years do check out Alan Arnette's 2017 season intro.
How hard is the climb? Perhaps a few photos show this most easily.
There are at least a dozen ladders in the icefall, some short like this, others like below...
Andy Falgate in action at around 5850m - Jamie
Note, it is not normal to climb with a foot on each ladder,
and note the person abseiling beside - Jamie
Climbing up the Yellow Band at around 7500m, it looks steep,
it IS steep and would be extremely difficult and dangerous to climb without ropes - Jamie
(This is one of the areas where there was dangerous rock fall in 2012)
And here is the reward - David Cole on top of Everest (on an unusually warm summit day) - Anselm Murphy
There are real differences. Denali is a real expedition that requires a very high level of fitness and commitment, you will be dragging a sled or carrying a backpack with two weeks food in it, plus climbing gear. This is better preparation for Everest than Aconcagua.
Aconcagua is much more about getting to altitude quickly, testing yourself there. Aconcagua with us is a great chance to meet Jamie, test yourself at altitude and to talk about all things Everest, to really prepare.
Himlung and perhaps Ama Dablam are good all round expeditions, a mixture of the two in that you have sherpas doing the hard load carrying, but still get some real altitude.