In life, and sometimes in death, Mount Everest has had a lasting effect on all of those who have challenged its heights. It can vanquish those who disrespect it, and mercilessly test those who honor it. Yet Everest is indifferent to your presence. Climb it and you will receive a lifetime dose of humility and exhilaration.
STEP ONE: Start training today. Take mountaineering courses that teach you about technique, equipment, routes and survival. Then begin a minimum of two to three years of regular practice climbs in high alpine terrain, including steep faces, rough rocks, night climbs, ice falls and snow climbs.
STEP TWO: Get a complete physical checkup. You’ll need healthy veins and arteries to pump lots of blood to your brain and muscles, as well as to warm your body. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol down.
STEP THREE: Raise the cash. You’ll need plenty, even a low-budget trip will cost $25,000, with guided package trips soaring to as much as $60,000. Realize that $10,000 goes to permits alone; then add travel, food, equipment, oxygen, insurance and Sherpa fees. Consider approaching corporations for sponsorship deals to cover your expenses.
STEP FOUR: Plan a May expedition. The weather is most cooperative then (when it isn’t a whiteout, blowing 100-mph winds, and 50 degrees below zero). Six months in advance, you’ll need to file for permits and send copies of passports and climbing letters of recommendation for your team to the Nepal Ministry and Administration, as well as to a trekking agency to help you with transporting your gear. You’ll also need to contract with Sherpas to aid you on your voyage. For more information, contact the Nepalese Embassies and Consulate Offices in Washington, D.C., or in Kathmandu, Nepal.
STEP FIVE: Pack a first aid kit, medications, satellite phone, walkie-talkies, laptop computer, padlocks for bags, tents, sleeping bags, mountaineering clothing, climbing equipment and ropes, water, food, trash bags, sun-screen, vision protection, oxygen bottles and anything else you can fit on a yak or on your back, or that you can hire a Sherpa to carry for you. Make sure you’ve tested all your gear in cold, severe conditions before you pack it.
STEP SIX: Get yourself to Kathmandu, Nepal, where your expedition truly begins. You can fly a number of international carriers connecting through major airports; none of these flights will be direct or nonstop. Jet lag is guaranteed. Check in with the local authorities, pay your fees and organize your crew.
STEP SEVEN: Trek from Lukla to Base Camp at 17,600 feet. Scale the Khumbu Icefall up to 19,500 feet. Rest at Camp I in the Valley of Silence. Push on to Camp II at 21,300 feet. Scale the Lhotse Face and climb to Camp III at 23,500 feet. Rest and acclimatize for the trip to Camp IV, which at 26,300 feet is the only camp located in the ‘death zone.’
STEP EIGHT: Charge the summit when you have a weather window. Start early in the morning, before sunrise, with extra down mittens and plenty of oxygen.
STEP NINE: Sit atop the 29,028-foot summit and know that you are at the highest point on earth. And then mentally prepare for the descent, because getting down is just as dangerous.
STEP TEN: Pack out all of your empty oxygen bottles and trash to get back your $4,000 environmental deposit and leave the mountain with good karma.