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Everest Cents
Thinking of adding your name to the list of 1,200 climbers to summit Everest since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's first ascent in 1953? You'll need a healthy savings account (not to mention conditioning and experience). The oft-quoted fee for a guided climb is $65,000, though the price varies depending on the size of the expedition and the outfitter. Here, seven-summiter Eric Simonson, co-owner of International Mountain Guides (www.mountainguides.com), gives us a glimpse of his hidden costs.

—Michael Benoist
1 Lead Guide 
"This is a starting point," Simonson says. "Big names command bigger bucks."

2 Assistant Guides 
 $10,000 to $15,000 each
7 Climbing Sherpas 
 $5,000 each
This is an all-inclusive figure, accounting for food, equipment and "bonus" carries, when a Sherpa goes beyond his required number of trips from camp to camp.

3-4 Cooks 
 $3,500 each
1 Liaison Officer 
This mandatory agent ensures all expeditions are in full compliance with local regulations. One was even present on Reinhold Messner's 1980 "solo" climb.

Simonson, like other expedition operators, seeks out doctors willing to volunteer their services for six to eight weeks in the Himalaya. (See "Everest MD" >>)

Transportation and Lodging en route to Base Camp:
Travel for Guides from U.S. to Kathmandu 
Includes plane tickets, travel expenses, and meals.

Excess Baggage 
Includes 60 duffels at $120 per bag on Thai Airways and $840 to haul the bags from Seattle to Los Angeles by truck.

Hotel in Kathmandu 
Two nights' accommodations before and after the climb for entire expedition.

3 Helicopter Charters 
 $16,500 R/T
Transportation for gear and climbers from Kathmandu to Lukla, a two-week trek to Base Camp.

1 Plane Charter 
 $600-$700 R/T
Shuttle from Kathmandu to Lukla for excess gear

150 Yaks 
Each yak carries up to 120 pounds while negotiating Nepal's rugged terrain on trip from Lukla to Base Camp, an expedition in itself.

Trip to and from Base Camp 
Food and fuel during march from Lukla to Base Camp.

Permits and Fees in Nepal:
Climbing Permit
 1 person - $25,000
(Prorated per person)
 2 people - $40,000
 3 people - $48,000
 4 people - $56,000
 5 people - $60,000
 6 people - $66,000
 7 people - $70,000
Sagarmatha National Park Entrance Fee 
 $100 per team
Khumbu Icefall Fee 
 $2,375 per team
Paid to Sagarmatha Park, which maintains the route.

Radio Permit 
 $400 for 8 walkie-talkies
$50 per walkie-talkie paid to the Nepalese Ministry of Communications.

Satellite Phone Permit 
 $2,300 per phone
Paid to the Nepalese Ministry of Communications.

Sat Phone Rate 
 roughly $2.50 per minute
A modest e-mail takes about two minutes.

 $100 per Nepalese staff member
Clients can get theirs through the American Alpine Club, www.americanalpineclub.org.

Garbage and Human Waste Disposal 
Includes deposit, returned after Sagarmatha Park officials weigh incoming and outgoing waste. Then, burnable garbage is taken to the nearby town of Namche; bottles, cans, and batteries are transported to Kathmandu; and human waste is carted to Gorak Shep, where it is buried in bundles at $1 per kilo.

(Base Camp runs on kerosene and propane tanks. Fuel cartridges, at $6 each, power stoves and lanterns.

Oxygen costs and requirements vary per climb and per climber. This tally includes 65 1,100-liter bottles, split between Camps 3 and 4 and a 10-bottle emergency reserve.

Oxygen Masks and Regulators 
 $300 per set
Seldom replaced but constantly monitored.

Lithium batteries can be a lifesaver by illuminating a dark descent or reviving a walkie-talkie that could lead a lost climber to teammates and safety.

Base Stations 
Powerful radios that form the communications hub of Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp.

Food Bought in Nepal 
Fresh fruit, meats, vegetables, and grains.

Food Brought from U.S. 
High-tech, high-nutrition meals.

Medical supplies 
To replace outdated medications or to buy improved ones.

Climbing Gear 
Each team contributes rope and anchors for the Lhotse Face route and above.

Simonson replaces about a third of his 50 tents each year.

Miscellaneous Expenses:
Ritual Expenses 
Sherpas perform a wide array of rituals to appease the mountain, considered the great protector of the Khumbu Valley and a purveyor of long life. A donation is made to the local monastery, juniper is burned by the bundle, prayer flags color Base Camp and a day-long puja, or ceremony, led by a lama from Pangboche Gompa, marks the beginning of an ascent.

Helicopter Evacuation 
"It comes down to your teammates to get you to Base Camp," Simonson says. After that, it's a precarious ride in the thin air with the Royal Nepalese Army.

Emergency Contingency 
"Just-in-case" petty cash

Climber's Costs:
In addition to the semi-standard $65,000 guided climb, climbers must account for a mountain of equipment. Starting from scratch, a climber can expect to pay roughly $8,000 just to get the basics (See Alpine Ascents International's gear recommendations at www.alpineascents.com.) Tack on a sat phone, digital camera, laptop and other luxury items and the bill rockets to about $15,500. But no one climbs Everest from scratch. Most expedition operators require an extensive climbing resume, which often includes an 8,000-meter summit bid with the company before an Everest attempt is made.


May 2003

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