Every now and again, someone will hear I like climbing mountains and ask, “Would you climb Everest?” And the short answer is: I highly doubt it. With it being the tail end of Everest season and me reading a lot of reports about this year’s successes, rescues and deaths, I felt like going into a bit more detail. I’m not against people climbing Everest at all, it’s just not for me. Here are a few reasons why…
The Obvious: Money
Undertaking to climb Everest is an incredibly costly experience. Just a quick search for prices from commercial operators will show you it’s in the tens of thousands of pounds for the trip. Presumably that covers all the staff, food, bottled oxygen etc. It might not cover flights or travel to Nepal and back. It probably doesn’t cover rescue insurance. Nor any of the personal equipment you’ll need.
Perhaps this is different if you organise independently (as much as such a thing is allowed on mountains like Everest). But you’ll still need permits and probably at least some sort of local assistance, all the kit and accommodation and travel. No two ways about it, this is a serious financial undertaking.
For those of you who are thinking about Everest, don’t necessarily let that put you off. There are ways to fundraise for an adventure this expensive. Alex Staniforth and Mollie Hughes are good examples of people who’ve managed it as young adults. (Way back when, I interviewed Alex about his adventures.)
The Real Issue: Time
I was first cured of ever wanting to climb Everest many years ago. I won a little writing competition and the prize was a set of adventure books, including Alex Staniforth’s Icefall. Until then I’d wondered whether one day I might like to climb a huge mountain – in the 7000m or 8000m range. It’s certainly a direction that enjoying mountaineering can take you. But when I realised the sheer amount of time needed to climb these peaks, I knew I was out.
Alex casually mentions in his book that it takes 40-50 days to climb Everest all in. And at the time I was horrified: how could a single summit deserve that much of my time? Think of how many other mountains I could climb in the time it took to maybe stand on the summit of Everest. It would have to really really mean something to me. And to this day, it doesn’t. I’ve written before about how some mountains call to certain people and I can’t even predict the ones that call to me, sometimes until I see them. But Everest just hasn’t spoken to me and that’s fine.
The Risk and Consequence
Supposing I did have the money and had the time and was suddenly struck with a need to try Everest. Maybe an interesting mission (like solving a historical puzzle) or something else. There are still some pretty big considerations to be made about risk and the potential consequences of attempting to climb Everest. You are willingly putting yourself into a place where lots of situations could end in death. Many of which are out of your control (e.g avalanche, hold ups because of other teams, poor decision making by leaders or group members). Of course there are many things in your control too and you can take steps to mitigate these things, but you can never control everything.
It’s becoming a mantra of mine that’s it’s only worth taking risks that you care about. There is nothing worse than doing something because you felt pressured into it and regretting it. Or worse, in my opinion, doing it on a whim and having life-changing consequences. So yeah, until I actually care about climbing Everest for some reason or another, it simply isn’t worth the risk.
(P.S. This is not a bad thing. It frees up plenty of space on the mountain for the people it actually means something to! I’m not saying no one should climb, simply that it’s not for me.)