One thing is certain: your experience will be unlike anything you’ve experienced in your lifetime. Use this list to guide your travel, no matter which route you take.
Which route offers the easiest climb?
Because Mt. Everest is located in the Himalaya mountain range, it spans two countries: Nepal and Tibet. You can make the climb from either. Take the southeast ridge route from Nepal or approach the climb from Tibet’s north ridge.
The north side is harder to climb for myriad reasons. The winds on the north side can be daunting; sometimes reaching hurricane strength.
As you ascend either side during the months of the year recommended by experts, you traverse six camps on the north route; four on the south route. Each has risk factors, but amenities and terrain can make the south climb easier.
Camps and altitudes
Camp 1 is made up of the plain below Rongbuk Glacier at 5,180 meters.
Camp 2 is located at the base of Changtse at 6,500 meters.
Camp 3, the Advanced Base Camp, is also found at 6,500 meters.
Camp 4, also on the north face, is found at 7,010 meters.
Camp 5 is situated at 7,775 meters.
Camp 6 is located at 8,230 meters and acts as the summit entrance.
Camp 1, Base Camp, on the southeast ridge is located at 5,380 meters and above the Khumbu Icefall.
Camp 2 takes climbers to a 6,500-meter elevation.
Camp 3, on the Lhotse face, is located at 7,470 meters.
Camp 4 is 500 meters beyond camp 3 at 7,920 meters.
While there is no Camp 5, climbers reach the “Balcony” at 8,400 meters before reaching the summit.
What to see along the way
1. Inspect crevices along whichever route you take to the summit and introduce yourself to the black jumping spiders that make the mountain home (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/the-himalayas-video-the-himalayan-jumping-spider/6370/). They feed on frozen insects and you’ll find them at elevations as high as 22,000 feet. Try not to bring any back down with you!
2. People ascending Mt. Everest aren’t the tidiest visitors. You’ll notice an unseemly amount of trash, and that doesn’t include bodies. But you can celebrate the fact that 65 porters bringing 8 tons of trash thus far have been turned into the Everest 8848 Art Project. See it in Kathmandu before or after you achieve your own climb (https://www.cnn.com/2013/01/15/world/asia/everest-trash-art/index.html).
3. Proceed 5,200 meters up the mountain to reach Everest Base Camp (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/expeditions/destinations/asia/active/nepal-everest-basecamp-trek/) with its panoramic views of your objective. This station acts as the gateway to the peak, so you can get your fill of photos and selfies of yourself with the mountain as your backdrop.
4. Expect to be impressed when you arrive at Rongbuk Monastery (https://www.tibetdiscovery.com/what-to-see/rongbuk-monastery/, the world’s highest Buddhist retreat. Located at 4,980 meters, you encounter it even before you reach the first south face base camp. Built in 1899, not all of the original buildings remain, but you will still find monks and nuns residing there.
5. Stay in relatively exotic surroundings by lodging at one of the Tent Guest Houses located near the Monastery (https://www.chinadiscovery.com/everest-tours/everest-hotels.html). Your sturdy, waterproof tent is outfitted with beds, desks and heating systems. Up to six climbers can share a tent, but be forewarned: you will have to walk around 20m to get to the loo. Included in the price of your stay is a Chinese breakfast of noodles, rice and veggies.
6. Hike, ski or book a horse sleigh with experienced guides eager to take you cross-country skiing if you’ve brought your snowshoes. High-altitude hikes within the park give you time to adjust your body to the rigors of climbing while you have fun. Watch this YouTube video if anyone tells you that downhill skiing isn’t possible on Mt. Everest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MCTGG-caKY.
7. Start your climb with a visit to the Shigatse Valley (http://www.thelandofsnows.com/shigatse-2/) at the Mt. Everest base where climbers on their way up or down like to congregate. This area is a treasure trove of ancient ruins and hot springs, so if you decide to visit after your descent, achy muscles will thank you for treating them to those hot springs!
8. One climber compared “Icefall” to “a huge horror-chamber at an amusement park.” it’s no area to traverse without a seasoned escort (http://rockandice.com/climbing-news/everests-icefall-doctors-establish-2016-route-through-khumbu-icefall/). Climber experiences include dodging ice pinnacles, avoiding crevasses that open on a dime and need we mention the potential for avalanches at this 5,500- to 6,100-meter elevation?
9. Equally mysterious is the Valley of Silence located at between 6,100 and 6,400 meters into the climb (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/everest/climb/waytosummitsou.html). This endless area would be ideal for cross-country skiing if it wasn’t so dangerous. Ice walls can collapse and trigger an avalanche without warning, so even if your headache at this elevation doesn’t get you, an avalanche might.
10. There’s a reason veteran climbers call it The Death Zone: Camp 4 on the south route looks like what you could expect on the moon. Even the sky’s dark blue color is eerie. View the Tibetan plateau from this vantage point as well as distant Alpine peaks like Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu. Visit this website to see what you’re in for before you pack your gear: http://www.businessinsider.com/mount-everest-death-zone-first-hand-account-2017-9.
Which route will you choose when you make your own historic climb? Train like an athlete. Hire the best support crew. Bring lots of money with you, because this experience is not inexpensive by any means. But you can’t put a price on making memories or achievements, right?