You are on page 1of 4

Purpose for Reading: ______________________

______________________________________
How Climbing Mount Everest Works
by Hannah Harris

Gear and Supplies


Mount Everest climbers need a lot of specialized
gear, including clothing, tools and supplies. This
list is by no means comprehensive, but can give you
an idea of the amount of equipment required. If
you're going on a guided expedition, you should
carefully check to see what they'll provide. You
should also test all of your gear before the trip.
Alpine Ascents and MountEverest.net have
detailed lists of necessities and brand
suggestions.

Shoes
Climbers need several pairs of socks, including trekking, wool and liner socks. They also need
lightweight hiking boots as well as plastic, lined climbing boots. These should be large to give
feet more room and reduce the risk of frostbite. Heating pads and wires are available to help
keep boots warm, and depending on the type of boot, you may also need insulated overboots.
Gaiters are included on some boots; otherwise you will need them to help keep your feet
warm and dry.

Clothes
Layering is important in choosing clothing. There is a great
deal of variation in temperature between camps,
depending on the weather and time of day, so you will need
both lightweight and expedition-weight underwear. You'll
also need a fleece or synthetic zip-up jacket, an
expedition-weight down parka and a Gore-Tex shell jacket
with a hood. Synthetic insulated pants, down pants and a
pair of Gore-Tex shell pants (all windproof with
full-separating side-zippers) are required.
For your head, you'll need a headlamp with spare bulbs and batteries; glacier glasses with side
covers; ski goggles; a baseball cap or visor; a wool hat and both lightweight and heavyweight
balaclavas. Synthetic bandanas will protect your neck. You'll also need a total of four different
pairs of gloves: light synthetic ones that can fit inside the others, expedition-weight fleece
gloves, waterproof gloves and expedition-weight mitts.

Climbing Tools
Clipped to your boots are step-in glacier crampons. Climbers should bring spares in case
these are damaged. You also need an alpine climbing harness that will fit over all of your
clothes, three locking and three stationary
carabiners, one right and one left ascender, a
belay device, and prussiks (or 40 feet of flexible
six milimeter perlon rope to make into
prussiks). An ice ax with a leash designed for
glacier axes is required to cross the Lhotse Face
and climb to the summit. The length should be
determined by your height -- if you're under 5
feet 7 inches tall, your ax should be 60
centimeters long (about 24 inches); people from
5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 1 inch tall need an ax that's 65 centimeters
(about 26 inches) long. You'll also need glacier rope. Check out Get Outdoors' Glacier Travel:
Fundamentals for details on "roping up" and
glacier rope travel.

Camp Supplies
Two good-quality down sleeping bags
(expedition-quality and rated to at least 20 C and
40 C below zero) as well as at least two
self-inflating pads and one thermal pad per camp
to go under them is necessary; at some camps you
may be better off doubling the pads.

You will also need multiple tents: a larger tent for


Base Camp and smaller, lighter, high-quality tents
for higher elevations. A compass or small GPS
unit will help you find the summit. Bringing two
titanium burners will ensure that at least one works when you need it (and allows you to cook
faster). For cooking and eating, you need two or three light pots with lids, plastic mugs, a
thermos, a spoon and knife (like a Leatherman), and a couple of potholders.

Lots of matches and lighters are necessary for heating and cooking; make sure the latter are of
good quality so they will work at high altitude. Bringing a chemical water purifier will reduce
the amount of water that you need to boil, and consequently the amount of fuel required.

You will need two plastic water bottles in addition to a wide mouthed bottle for urination. The
trekking agency may supply gas and oxygen if applicable. Large duffel bags are necessary for
transporting your gear and so is a backpack for carrying it (you may want an extra, small
backpack for treks). The climbing pack will need attachment points for your ax and other
climbing gear. Sunscreen, lip balm and a small personal first aid kit should all fit in your pack.

Electronic Equipment
Cameras are essential, and walkie-talkies might be a good idea. Lithium batteries are best for
long life and function at high altitudes. Increasing numbers of climbers are bringing other
electronic equipment such as laptops, video cameras and satellite phones.

Even if you've got all your equipment, you'll probably need some expert help to climb 30,000
feet. And how much will it all cost, anyway? Find out on the next page.

Guided Everest Tours


Beginning in the 1990s, experienced
climbers like Rob Hall began
organizing group tours, which made
Everest accessible for the first time to
less experienced people. Guided
tours will involve an expedition
leader, other guides and a Sherpa
support team. There are pros and
cons to joining a guided tour, but if
you are considering it, experts
recommend that you climb another, less difficult mountain with them first.

Even "solo" climbers often hire Sherpas to assist with the climb, and hiring a cook for Camp II
can greatly improve the quality of your experience.
Cost
The average cost of a fully guided journey up Everest from the south side is $65,000. A fully
guided climb from the north costs somewhat less, averaging around $40,000. These costs do
not typically include personal gear, international airfare, or insurance, all of which can add
thousands to the trip. Starting from scratch, the required gear would run at least $8,000. The
figure is closer to $15,000 with the addition of items like a laptop and digital camera.

Sherpa 101
Many people associate the term "Sherpa" (pronounced "shar-wa") with the job of Everest
porter. However, Sherpa actually means "easterners" or "east-people," and refers to clans that
came from Tibet and settled the eastern reaches of Nepal about 500 years ago. Traditionally,
the Sherpa people were agriculturalists and traders, but beginning in the 1920s they were
hired as porters for mountaineering expeditions. Known for dedication to their work and
superior physiological adaptations to high altitudes, Sherpas became integral to the success of
Everest ventures and climbers increasingly employed them for assistance.

Approximately 30,000 Sherpas live in Nepal, and around 3000 of them live in the Khumbu
region on the south side of Everest. Since the 1950s, tourism has become the dominant source
of employment and income in the area. Many Sherpas, as well as people from other ethnic
groups, work as part of the climbing and tourism industry.

While the Sherpa people retain their Buddhist religion and many of their traditional
practices, this shift in the local economy and way of life has necessarily meant changes in the
Sherpa culture. Among these, there has been a shift from regarding climbing the mountain as
blasphemous, to regarding it as a source of economic opportunity and pride.

Sherpas hold many impressive Everest records, including most times summitted for men and
women, quickest ascent, quickest descent, most time spent on top and youngest climber to
reach the summit.