50 Days to Everest

In 50 days I will be on a flight leaving Calgary in what you can call the official start of my trip up Everest. I have just a few loose ends to tie up but most things are starting to fall into place. I have sent in my final payment for the trip; if you check the summitclimb.com website you will see that the cost of climbing Everest from Nepal is $27,750 USD (and prices are going up next year). I have also paid for 5 oxygen bottles valued at $510 each (they are cheaper if you buy them in Kathmandu, but that $510 includes transport by Yak then porters then Sherpas up the mountain to the high camps where we’ll actually need the stuff). I’ll leave you guys to add that all up.

summitclimb

With all that money spent I thought I would take some time to reflect on my trip in the context of ‘commercial expeditions up Everest’. There are other expeditions that charge $65,000 or more for a similar experience, where does that difference come from? Well one big difference is that our trip with summitclimb is not considered a “guided” trip; there is a team leader but there are no guides that will be walking with us up the mountain. We are expected to know enough about mountaineering to make our own way up and down the mountain. That cost to pay IFMGA Certified guides a western salary and all their expenses adds up. Also, we have to carry a bit more of our own things. Some companies will place sleeping bags in the high camp tents, so people can arrive and have everything ready for sleeping; I will have to carry my own (surprisingly heavy) sleeping bag. Little things like that requires people employed to carry things up and down the mountain, which adds up quickly. There are other minor things too that add up.

I must say that from my experience it’s better to go on a non-guided trip such as this. It means the quality of people signing up is higher, and you’re expected to do more on your own, giving a better feeling of satisfaction at the end. Of course, there is a fine line before the support the group gives is not enough. Other companies charge even less, but give you even less. It may go unnoticed if everything goes according to plan, but if something goes wrong these groups seek help from the ones more prepared (because they are more financed). I think summitclimb finds a nice balance right where it should be in terms of support.

I guess the whole concept of the commercialization of Everest is a debatable one, but I would like to think that companies offering non-guided support are the ones doing it right, as long as they screen their applicants enough to make sure people are qualified to be on the mountain. Companies that rely on their guides to help people up the mountain are introducing people into circumstances where they cannot help themselves, and that’s where trouble can begin, for them and for everyone else on the mountain stuck because of a traffic jam or asked to help someone who should not be there.

Here’s to hoping that our group goes up and down the mountain with little fanfare or media attention, as that always follows people that get into trouble.

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