A cold fog had us huddled in our dining tent, but the clouds parted briefly in the evening, revealing a first look at the still far-off peak. On the third day, our route peeled away from Lemosho, heading north to Moir camp on the Northern Circuit.
This 8km walk took us away from the busy southern face of the mountain and into a windy alpine desert. In the afternoon we hiked up a nearby ridge and explored a waterfall fringed with alpine plants including spikey giant lobelias. The waterfall was frozen the next morning when we set off to skirt the entire peak from west to east. This 22km section can be split over two days, but the terrain is flat and easy.
The Northern Circuit affords incredible views up to the peak and an expansive panorama downslope through the heathlands and forests, and on to the Kenyan savannah and Amboseli national park. After a long day of hiking, we settled in at Third Cave camp. The fifth day brought a steep climb high above the vegetation line to the camp called School Hut, where a bearded vulture soared overhead. The average tourist employs between four and six people to guide, cook, clean and carry equipment on the mountain.
My climbing partner and I enjoyed a person entourage that made the trek luxurious compared with our usual backcountry experiences. Instead of sleeping on hard ground, lugging heavy packs and eating rehydrated food, we relished thick roll-up mattresses, light loads, and good meals: All of this pampering helps with altitude adaptation; however, the trade-off was 12 extra people arguing politics in camp and passing us on the trail each day. Only a guide is mandatory. Of course, not many people could manage the climb without porters either, nor would they want to.
Guidebooks suggest climbing Kilimanjaro in January-February or August-September, when warmer temperatures and clear skies are most likely. But these are also the most crowded months. Climbing in March or October, just before each of two rainy seasons, is the best hedge to avoid both crowds and foul weather. For the final summit bid from the highest camps, guides recommend starting the seven-hour slog shortly after midnight. 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.
The Tibet side is more complicated for evacuation insurance since the rope fixers do some rescues but mostly it is climbers helping climbers. Helicopters are not allowed but are rumored to be offered in the next few years. You can carry your own extra oxygen to the high camps, but most people use the Sherpas to cache them at the high camps. Finally, you will need climbing gear including boots, down suit, clothing layers, gloves, sleeping bags, packs and more. See my current gear list. But that is changing.
In the last few years, there has been intense competition from Nepali owned and operated companies. 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. The owner, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, is building on his own personal ambitions to summit all 14 of the ers to attract members, primarily from China. In addition, he is also a high altitude rescue professional. He took rescue training on Longline Helicopter rescue in at Sion, Switzerland.
They have a high western guide ratio, include pre-acclimatizing in an altitude tent at home, unlimited oxygen and multiple attempts for the peak bagger at heart. With all this as background, I used public websites and my own research to compile the Everest fees from the major Everest guide companies. I looked back at their 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. You can see my thoughts on Everest guides on my main site at Selecting a Guide.
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.
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Please note this is Sherpa supported , not guided. The company organizes all the logistics: The Sherpas may or may not speak English very well and will most likely follow your lead as to pushing forward or turning back. 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. Asian Trekking specializes in this style of climb and is very good. Seven Summits Treks is another option at a lower cost and many small one-man Nepali companies offer even lower prices. It is not for the novice or first timer on an meter peak. Please note this is Sherpa guided , not supported. Usually they depend on a Sirdar a highly experienced senior Sherpa to make the big decisions such as when to go for the summit or when to turn-around.
The line between a highly experienced and certified Sherpa guide and a Western guide is quickly becoming blurred. A variation on this approach is to hire a Personal Sherpa. 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 meter experience, unusually strong, but again not for the novice.
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This includes all the services of a Sherpa guided climb plus sharing one or more western guides. 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. The most expensive guide companies Adventure Consultants, AAI, Alpenglow, Furtenbach, Himex, etc almost always come with several western guides and you never climb alone. Do I have to take the standard routes? 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 a climber illegally made the traverse and was deported and banned for 5 years. He claimed it was a medical emergency. The Nepal Ministry of Tourism requires every climber to hire a Sherpa guide. The CTMA has a similar requirement. But like everything around Everest, there are exceptions.
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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. By climbing from Tibet, you might be able to save a few thousand dollars. Even then this price assumed no support, no oxygen, not contributing to the fixed ropes or ladders, no weather forecasting, etc.
The general rule is that the lower the price, the larger the team. Also how many services are bundled into one single price versus offered as options. One UK based outfitter offers a low price for the north side, but does not include oxygen, summit bonuses or other options almost everyone 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: 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. A low price service may not include a bonus whereas another may. 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. The Himalayan Database reports that there have been 8, summits members and hired of Everest through June on all routes by 4, different people. Of the deaths over half, , died attempting to summit without using supplemental oxygen.
The top causes of death on both sides were from avalanche 77 , fall 67 , altitude sickness 32 and exposure 26 but just looking at climbing from Tibet or Nepal, it misses the detail where the deaths occur. This number is heavily driven by the ice serac release off the West Shoulder of Everest onto the Khumbu Icefall taking 17 lives and when 14 people were killed at Basecamp in after 7. He fought in the Battle of Passchendaele and later won the Military Cross for his part in an engagement near Meteren where, as the only uninjured survivor of his unit, he single-handedly held a machine gun post against the advancing Germans.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He held a post in advance of the line under very heavy shell and machine-gun fire on both flanks after the machine guns covering his-flanks had been withdrawn. It was largely owing to his pluck and determination in holding this post that the enemy attack was held up. Several months later he was seriously injured by machine gun fire and was sent home. His injuries never completely healed, and his left arm in particular caused him pain for the rest of his life. Maurice Wilson left the army in , and like many of the " Lost Generation " found the transition to post-war life extremely difficult.
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For several years he wandered, living in London, the United States and New Zealand and holding a variety of jobs. Despite the financial success which would eventually make his adventure possible, he never achieved happiness, and became physically and mentally ill, losing weight and suffering repeated coughing spasms. Wilson's illness came to an abrupt end in when he underwent a secretive treatment involving 35 days of intensive prayer and complete fasting. He claimed that the technique had come from a mysterious man he had met in Mayfair who had cured himself and over other people of diseases which doctors had declared incurable.
However, Wilson never named this man, and it has been questioned whether he really existed, or whether the treatment came from Wilson's own blend of Christianity and Eastern mysticism. The idea of climbing Everest came to Wilson while he was recuperating in the Black Forest. Inspired by press cuttings about the British expedition and the upcoming Houston Everest Flight , he became convinced that fasting and prayer would enable him to succeed where George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had failed, which would prove to the world the power of his beliefs.
He clearly saw this as part of his vocation, describing climbing Everest as "the job I've been given to do". It was a bold plan; a solo flight halfway across the world would have been a significant undertaking for the best aviators of the day, while no mountaineer of the time would have contemplated a solo ascent of Everest — a feat which was not to be achieved until A practical problem was posed by the fact that Wilson knew nothing about either flying or mountaineering, so he set out to learn these.
Wilson purchased a three-year-old Gipsy Moth , which he christened Ever Wrest , and set about learning the rudiments of flying. He was a poor student who took twice the average length of time to gain his pilot's licence, and was told by his instructor that he would never reach India. However, he did obtain his licence, and the scepticism of his peers only increased his determination — he told his instructor that he would reach Everest, or die in the attempt. His preparation for the mountaineering challenge that lay ahead was even worse than his preparation for the flight.
He bought no specialist equipment and made no attempt to learn technical mountaineering skills, such as the use of an ice axe and crampons. Instead, he spent just five weeks walking around the modest hills of Snowdonia and the Lake District before he declared himself ready. It has been pointed out  that Wilson's naivety may have been partly due to the style of the reports of the early British Everest expeditions. With lingering Victorian restraint, mountaineering literature of the time often played down the risks and difficulties faced by the early climbers, dismissing avalanche -prone slopes, steep ice walls and sheer rock faces as "bothers", and putting little emphasis on the debilitating effects of high altitude , which were still poorly understood.
However, it is still surprising that Wilson did not attempt to learn how to climb on snow, when a simple look at a photograph of the mountain would have told him that it would be required. Wilson planned to depart for Tibet in April , but was delayed when he crashed Ever Wrest in a field near Bradford. He was unhurt, but the crash caused damage to the plane which would take three weeks to repair, and added significantly to the press attention he was receiving.
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