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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
Crew:
1 Lead Guide 
 $25,000
"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 
 $3,000
This mandatory agent ensures all expeditions are in full compliance with local regulations. One was even present on Reinhold Messner's 1980 "solo" climb.

Doctor 
 $4,000
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 
 $2,500
Includes plane tickets, travel expenses, and meals.

Excess Baggage 
 $8,300
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 
 $600
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 
 $7,500
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 
 $5,000-$6,000
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.

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

Garbage and Human Waste Disposal 
 $4,000
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.


Supplies:
Fuel 
 $3,000
(Base Camp runs on kerosene and propane tanks. Fuel cartridges, at $6 each, power stoves and lanterns.

Oxygen 
 $30,000
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.

Batteries 
 $1,500
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 
 $400
Powerful radios that form the communications hub of Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp.

Food Bought in Nepal 
 $3,000
Fresh fruit, meats, vegetables, and grains.

Food Brought from U.S. 
 $3,000
High-tech, high-nutrition meals.

Medical supplies 
 $1,000
To replace outdated medications or to buy improved ones.

Climbing Gear 
 $500
Each team contributes rope and anchors for the Lhotse Face route and above.

Tents 
 $4,000
Simonson replaces about a third of his 50 tents each year.


Miscellaneous Expenses:
Ritual Expenses 
 $300
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 
 $5,000
"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 
 $1,000
"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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