Everest Summit Trek

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Everest Summit Trek

Mount Everest, known in Nepali as Sagarmatha, is the highest mountain above sea level in the world.

Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society, after Sir George Everest, the British Surveyor General of India.

The mountain is located on the border between Tibet and Nepal situated in the Mahalangur Range of the Himalayas in Asia.

The Mahalangur Range is actually home to four of Earth’s six highest peaks – making for some unbelievable views.

The Himalayas are the world’s tallest mountain range, spanning across six countries – China, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Afghanistan.

The word Himalaya means “abode of snow” in Sanskrit, which is fitting, given the abundance of white caps you’ll see throughout the year.

The summit lies directly between Tibet and Nepal, at a height of 8,848 metres. This has been the subject of debate over the years, with China and Nepal arguing over whether the true peak should be where the rock finishes, or where the snow and ice on top finish.

On top of this, due to tectonic movement, Everest grows a tiny bit each year!

On the Nepali side, Mount Everest is located in the Sagarmatha National Park, and on the Tibetan side, it is located in Tingri County in the Xigaze area, of the People’s Republic of China.

Due to a variety of political restrictions and other factors, access is typically via Nepal rather than China.

A clear distinction should be made between Everest Base Camp and the Summit.

The former is far more accessible and could be undertaken most relatively fit individuals that had done some basic training.

Base Camp lies at around 5,380 metres and taken on by around 30,000 trekkers each year.

The Summit lies far higher at 8,848 metres and is attempted by around 800 people per year.

Only the most skilled and experienced climbers can attempt to summit the mountain, which requires expert gear, plenty of experience, oxygen tanks and the right weather – not to mention the eye-watering cost of up to £40,000.

This cost includes the royalty fee of almost £10,000 for the summit.

The Summit trek requires acclimatising your body to get used to the thin air and altitude and involves large periods of time spent at Everest Base Camp and before you start your journey to Mount Everest via camps one, two, three and four.

This is why the entire time to reach the top and is around two months.

Highlights
  • Completed by less than 10,000 people.
  • Grueling two-month on and off climb forms bonds with fellow climbers, as well as the experiences and views en route unrivaled by anything else in life.
  • Successful completion would make you among 0.000125% that have successfully trekked to the summit of the highest mountain in the world.
Walk Map
About the route
  • History

The first recorded efforts to reach Everest’s summit were made by British mountaineers. Foreigners were not allowed into Nepal at the time, so the British made several attempts via the Tibetan north ridge route.

The first expeditions in 1921 and 1922 pushed the boundaries of how far humans had ever climbed, but they did not make it to the peak and seven porters were killed in an avalanche on the descent.

In June 1924, the expedition of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine ended in disaster after neither of them returned from their final summit attempt.

They were spotted near the top of the mountain but disappeared into the clouds forever, until Mallory’s body was found in 1999 on the north face.

It still remains a great mystery as to whether or not they were in fact the first people to summit Mount Everest and controversy remains to this day.

Mallory and other expedition members

The first official successful climb to the summit was completed by Sir Edmund Hillary, a beekeeper from New Zealand and his Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, in 1953, using the southeast ridge route.

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Owing to its status as the highest peak in the world and its popularity in stories and films, thousands of people flock to Everest every year to attempt one of the world’s toughest treks.

As of 2017, nearly 300 people have died on Everest, many of whose bodies remain on the mountain and it has been in the headlines recently with images of people queueing in deadly conditions to reach the summit.

The deadliest avalanche in the history of Mount Everest occurred on April 25, 2015, when 19 individuals lost their lives at Base Camp due to an avalanche triggered by an earthquake that devastated Nepal.

The previous year, an avalanche killed 16 Sherpas at Base Camp who were preparing routes for the season.

The climbing season was subsequently closed. The disasters on Mount Everest have been the focus of various books and films, including Into Thin Air, Beyond the Edge, Everest, and The Climb.

However, it should be noted that of the thousands of people that climb the mountain each year, there are relatively few deaths – particularly on the Base Camp trek versus those attempting the summit.

In 2013, there were 6,871 successful summits recorded by 4,042 different people. Despite two hard years of disaster in 2014 and 2015, by the end of 2016 there were 7,646 summits by 4,469 people.

This number continues to grow as people seek out the opportunity to conquer something that very few others have.

Many climbers have to turn back from their summit attempts and the brutality of it is not to be scoffed at. Since the first attempts were made, a total of 306 people have died trying to summit Everest.

However, the death rate is still significantly lower than most other Himalayan peaks taller than 26,000 feet. Annapurna I and K2, the second highest mountain, are the most dangerous.

It is crucial for climbers to acclimatise to the altitude by spending a few nights at Base Camp before scaling the mountain.

Most cases of altitude sickness are mild and result only in headaches, nausea or dizziness. However, if left untreated, altitude sickness can cause cerebral or pulmonary oedema.

  • Travel

Treks and tours to Base Camp start and finish in Kathmandu.

Tribhuvan International Airport has numerous weekly flights from Europe and there is plenty to see and do in Kathmandu at the start and finish of your trip, or you can head elsewhere to explore nearby cities or Nepalese countryside.

From Kathmandu you fly to Lukla to start trekking. Flights in and out of Lukla are not for the faint-hearted but could be considered part of the excitement.

With a small plane and a very short runway, pilots often have a small window in which they can safely take off and land.

However, the flight time is very short and by opting to go with a reputable tour company, you will feel like you are in safe hands.

  • Length

Due to the acclimation periods going to and from Base Camp and various other camps, a successful round trip to the summit takes around two months.

The climbing distance from south Everest base camp to summit is just over 20 kilometres Nepal side.

Alternatively, the distance from North Everest base camp to summit is 36.5 kilometres Tibet side.

This doesn’t sound like much but with the up and down between various camps, you will actually be covering hundreds of kilometres. Summit times are heavily affected by your stamina and weather conditions.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

Mount Everest attracts many climbers, some of them highly experienced and veteran mountaineers.

Given that you are ascending over 8000 metres, to the height at which commercial airplanes fly, and spending around 50 days on the mountain, it goes without saying that the walk is a difficult one.

The trek to Base Camp is made difficult mostly by the altitude. While not necessarily posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, dangers such as altitude sickness, changing weather conditions and risk of avalanches are present.

At Base Camp, there is only 53 percent of the oxygen available at sea level.

Going beyond Base Camp, the walk becomes increasingly more difficult as conditions underfoot change and oxygen becomes increasingly less available.

Elevation of the key places along the way are:

DayPlacesElevation
1Kathmandu1400m
2Lukla/Phakding2800m/2610m
3Namche Bazaar3441m
4Tengboche3860m
5Dingboche4350m
6Lobuche4910m
7Gorakshep / Base Camp5170m/5365m

From Camp there are four further camps.

The high camps are located at height of 6,100 metres, 6,500 metres, 7,400 metres and 8,000 metres respectively and the summit is at a very breathless 8848 metres.

While it is possible to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, it is highly inadvisable. Only five percent of the people who have successfully climbed the mountain did so without oxygen.

  • Experience

It is not only extremely dangerous but near impossible to climb Mount Everest’s summit with no experience.

Climbers must have a good level of fitness, a solid grasp of how to climb ice and rock using summit equipment and gear, and also be able to recognise changing weather conditions.

Even though virtually all climbs are assisted by professional guides, with a minimum of 1:1 ratio, summiting Everest can only be attempted by seasoned professionals.

Historically, less than 30 percent of people who attempted to make it to the summit succeeded.

Nowadays, this figure has increased to about 50 percent, in part due to restrictions by the Chinese and Nepalese governments on who can climb.

In 2015, Nepalese officials declared that they would be introducing regulations banning inexperienced climbers from attempting Mount Everest in an attempt to improve safety and maintain the “glory” of the summit.

Permits to climb Everest are now only given to those who can prove they have already scaled mountains that are higher than 6,500 metres. Disabled, old and very young climbers also face bans.

There have still been attempts made by inexperienced climbers that have either lied their way onto the mountain or paid to do so.

This helps reduce the number of people attempting to take on the mountain without proper knowledge of climbing at altitude and their susceptibility to acute mountain sickness.

As mentioned previously, altitude sickness is unpredictable and completely unrelated to fitness – even the fittest of people can suffer from it.

If it hits you, symptoms include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and headache, and if not addressed, altitude sickness can be life threatening.

  • Permits

There are two different permits you need to trek to Everest Base Camp, and it is worth checking whether these are included in your tour package or not.

The first is a Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) permit.

This costs £8-10 if you are part of a group or £18-20 if you are trekking independently, and will also need to supply two passport-style photos.

The second permit is for the Sagarmatha National Park Entry, which can you can buy at the start of the trail at the office in Monjo. This costs around £25 + 13% government tax.

On top of this, there is a royalty fee of almost £10,000 for those who attempt to summit the peak, to be paid ahead of time. You must apply for a permit or risk being arrested if you are caught climbing without one, and there is no guarantee of getting that either.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

Both the Chinese and Nepalese government legally require you to hire a guide in order to summit and there are penalties for those who attempt without.

Both countries have put considerable infrastructure (ropes, camps, etc.) on the mountain that is absent from other high-altitude peaks but a guide is likely to know where the most accessible routes are, as well as helping you to avoid crevasses – a leading cause of death on the mountain.

best time to walk

By nature, the climate and conditions of Mount Everest are extreme.

In January, the coldest month, the summit temperature averages about -36° C, dropping as low as -60°C. In July, the warmest month on the mountain, average summit temperatures sit around -19°C.

For mountaineers, the climbing window between April and May is one of the best times to attempt the summit climb.

From mid-June to August, temperatures are slightly more forgiving but it is also monsoon season during which the mountain can receive large amounts of rainfall and quick turns in weather conditions.

A typical itinerary will look similar to that for Everest Base Camp, at which point climbers will spend four or five days acclimatising there.

After this and when ready, climbers go halfway to Khumbu ice fall before returning to base camp.

After resting for few days you will climb up to Camp 1 and stay there for two nights the return to the base camp.

This pattern continues in a similar way with the other camps.

Climbers rest at Base Camp for three or so more days and then ascend up to Camp 1, stay for a night and continue ascending to Camp 2 which is at the base of Lhotse.

Most climbers stay here for a couple of nights before descending back to Base Camp to rest.

This lengthy process of ascending and descending is known as an acclimating period and has the aim of making each ascent quicker than previous one.

This can take up to a few weeks as your body adapts to the environment – primarily the thin air and altitude.

After a few more days at Base Camp, you start climbing up to the mountain for the summit. Some people even go down slightly to one of the villages for a couple of days to relax and prepare their kit.

The final summit expedition requires two nights at Camp 2 and one at Camp 3. The next morning you climb towards Camp 4, aided by an oxygen tank and piling on the layers.

Trekkers typically depart Camp 4 between 9pm and midnight to reach the summit the following morning and have enough time to come back to the Camp 4.

Similar to the ascent, whilst descending climbers usually rest at the different camps to regain energy instead of heading down continuously.

Accommodation

There is a range of accommodation along the Everest Base Camp Trail and higher-end treks will include private rooms at the nicest lodges available in each village.

Many of the lodges even have Wi-Fi for updating friends and family of your progress.

Towards the start of the trek, accommodation typically offer in-room showers, flushing toilets, charge points/plugs and even heated blankets.

As you ascend, things get slightly more simple with less/no heat, no electricity outlets, and communal squat toilets. It is worth packing warm sleeping clothes, a hat and ear plugs.

Camps 1 to 4 are far less comfortable and professional kit, warm layers and food/drink supplies are required as these are not manned camps. Camp 4 and the Summit also require oxygen tanks,

It is worth bearing in mind that meat has to be hiked in from Lukla and refrigeration is limited, so many people opt to go veggie for this reason.

If you are trekking independently or your food isn’t included, a simple meal costs around £3-4 but will increase slightly as you go up the trail.

Tea and coffee is safe to drink since it’s made with boiling water but all other drinking water needs to be filtered.

Bottled water is expensive and unsustainable, so bring bring your own SteriPen and/or iodine tablets.

What to do

When climbing Everest via Nepal, capital city Kathmandu is where you’ll most likely end up first and last.

However, don’t make it a fleeting stop on your itinerary. It’s worth tagging on a few days at the end to soak up its atmosphere.

Kathmandu encompasses an amazing mix of heritage, architecture, culture, spirituality, and shopping.

Kathmandu’s ancient old city is set around the Durbar Square at Basantapur where the royal family lived until the 19th century and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Walking through the Old City from Durbar Square you can discover shrines and statues hidden away in unlikely places and stumble across mesmerising temples.

Kathmandu’s Thamel tourist district can be busy and an assault on the senses but the streets are lively and lined with shops full of brightly coloured clothing, jewellery, paper lanterns, thangka paintings, carvings, bronze statues, books and more.

Try the local cuisine or give it a go with a Nepalese cooking class.

It would be worth avoiding brushing your teeth with any kind of tap water, especially in Kathmandu.

Bottled water can be bought in bulk from supermarkets or most mid to high-end accommodation will provide filtered water options.

If you’ve got even more time to spare, leave the city’s traffic and urban sprawl behind and head to the Kathmandu Valley where villages have retained a traditional way of living, untouched by modern development.

These villages need tourism more now than ever after the devastating earthquakes tore the communities apart.

At a glance
Skills RequiredClimbing, Hiking, Mountaineering, Walking
Difficulty 5/5
Starts at Lukla, Chaurikharka 56000, Nepal
Finishes at Mount Everest summit
Length of route 150 - 187Km
Average time to complete 45 - 60 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsNo
Highest point 8848 metres
Permit requiredYes
Equipment neededPoles if preferred, Professional mountaineering gear, Specialist climbing gear, Supplementary oxygen
Countries visited Nepal

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