About Everest

Google Earth map of Everest

I have created a Google Earth map of Mount Everest showing all the key points when you climb Mount Everest on the normal route from the Nepal side.  You can 'fly' from point to point - Gorak Shep, Kala Patar, Base camp and all the high camps, plus key features such as the Balcony, Yellow Band, South Summit and the Geneva Spur.  Click here to see the instructions for viewing.

Key Facts About Mount Everest Height:

8,850 metres or 29,028 feet
(In comparison, Australia's tallest mountain Mt Kosciusko, is 2,228 metres)

Number of climbers:

Although accurate figures are hard to come by, it seems that something like 2,000-3,000 people world-wide have summitted Mount Everest (including guides and Sherpas).

Roughly 150 people made it to the summit in each of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons - however, many of these were guides and Sherpas who had summitted previously.  It's estimated that around 70 of these would be first-time Everest climbers.  (This is thought to be from around 200 climbers that attempt the mountain each year.)

Location:

Mount Everest is located in the Himalayan ranges in Nepal - on the border of Tibet, China.

Climbing routes:

There are basically two routes up Mount Everest - the North Side, from which the climb leaves from Tibet, and the South Side which is from Nepal. 

In some ways, the North side is logistically easier as it is possible to drive vehicles to base camp and you don't have to go through the ice fall.  However it involves spending longer periods of time at higher altitudes and the route is more exposed to the wind.

I'll be climbing on the South Side - the same as Fiona and I did last year, and the same way Hilary did when he first climbed it.  The route up from this side is shown below:

Image kindly provided by Alan Arnette from www.alanarnette.com

Click here for a good explanation of the route and various camps.

Temperatures:

As most people imagine, the weather on Mount Everest is extreme and often pushes the boundaries of what humans can endure - despite having the most up-to-date gear.  It is not uncommon for temperatures on the summit to fall below minus 50 degrees Celsius.  However it is really the wind which causes most problems.  On the summit, this can vary between almost negligible to over 60 knots.  High winds impact the temperature, visibility and generally make climbing inadvisable.

On Everest, climbers generally wait at base camp for a weather forecast indicating around 4-5 days of clear weather (known as the "weather window") before making their summit bid. 

Oxygen levels:

Click here to see our section on Oxygen at Altitude Commonly Asked Questions about my Trip

What training are you doing?

Click here for a description of my training and the thinking behind it.

Are you doing any training for altitude?

You can't really "train for altitude" as the effects only last a short time.  It is important to have prior experience at high altitudes though.  Before we tried Everest last year, both of us had climbed to just over 7000 metres twice without any unusual effects.  Last year I was around 8700 metres when I ran out of oxygen.  I think I've got a good  understanding of how my body reacts to the lack of oxygen and the acclimatisation process (although I know it can be different at different times). 

To acclimatise, you need to expose the body to the higher altitude (and lower oxygen levels) and allow it time to adjust before moving higher.

The only other way is to use a specially designed "altitude tent" that simulates the reduced oxygen environment.  We have no personal experience with these systems but the simulated altitude is relatively low (approximately 3000 metres) and the effects are only short-lived (maybe a couple of weeks).  For these reasons, altitude tents are not commonly used by mountaineers, but are more suited for giving an extra edge to athletes with events near where they use the tents (you may recall a mention of these in Lance Armstrong's books).

When are you going?

I'm leaving at 11:30pm on March 29th 2007 and expect to return sometime early June.
 

How long will it take to climb?

This is a very common question and the answer depends on where you consider the climb to start from. 

From when we arrive in Kathmandu, we will take a few days to get organised and buy a few things, and then I'll fly into the mountains (to Lukla).  However this depends on whether the flights are going as they are often delayed due to weather.  From here it will take me around 10 days to trek into base camp (including rest days for acclimatisation). 

Once at base camp, I'll need to rest further, and then I'll begin my "acclimatisation rotations".  These will involve a program such as climbing to camp 1, staying the night, then returning to rest.  Then climbing to camp 2, returning and so on up to camp 3.  (For more information on this, see my description on Acclimatisation here.)  Once I have finished this and feel fine, I'll be ready to climb.  This should be around 10th May but depending on the weather, it might not be until very late in May.

Once I leave from base camp for the summit, it should take me around 4 days to get to the top and 2 to get back to base camp - although I will probably go up to camp 2, and wait for weather from there. 

When would you expect to be summitting?

Anytime from around 15th May to the end of May.  Like most climbers, I intend to be "ready" for a weather window in early May, but also prepared to wait for several weeks.
 

Are you using oxygen? 

Yes - like almost all climbers going above 8,000 metres, I'll be using supplemental oxygen - see more about this here.  There are only around 100 climbers who have ever summitted Everest without supplemental oxygen and these people are seriously in another league!
 

Are you in a guided group?

Due to the extensive logistics involved in attempting a climb of Everest, as well as the way the climbing permit pricing works, almost everyone will be climbing with a party of some sort.

Last year Fiona and I climbed with International Mountain Guides (IMG) and this year I've decided to climb with Asian Trekking.  They will handle the massive amount of logistics associated with the climb.  Unlike most other expeditions though, with both of these companies, each climber essentially climbs independently - which is a feature that Fiona and I liked.  This way I'll be able to climb when I am ready and won't be rushed to meet a team's schedule, or conversely, my climb won't be delayed if other climbers aren't ready to move on.  In 2006, I had a chest infection which forced me to stay at basecamp for a long time and if I was locked into a group's schedule, I may not have been able to do any climbing.

In addition, I've hired a personal Sherpa to climb with me throughout the expedition.  Fiona and I also did this last year and found it to be fantastic. 

Can't anyone climb Everest these days?  I've heard its now very commercial and there's even shops up there!

Although Mount Everest may be more accessible than it has ever been before, it certainly is not a climb to be treated lightly.  There are several mountains which are regarded by climbers as being more difficult,  but not withstanding this, Everest certainly ranks amongst the most difficult of mountains (if not technically, due to its sheer altitude).  Climbers are advised strongly against attempting Everest without first having served a substantial apprenticeship on lower peaks.

The difficulties primarily lie in;

The Khumbu Icefall - this section lies just above base camp and consists of a choppy section of glacier.  There are many crevasses to cross and some steep sections to climb.  Despite the fact that fixed rope is used throughout the whole icefall, this section is notorious for accidents caused by people falling (although often by people who decide not to attach to the rope) or sections of the glacier moving while climbers are on them.  Last year 3 Sherpas were crushed to death when a section of the icefall fell down on them.   The Lhotse Wall - this section lies between camps 2 and 3 and is a long steep slope.  Again, there are lines fixed along all steep sections but accidents frequently occur here. The altitude - no-one really knows how their body is going to react to being at such a high altitude (even when they've been there before).  The lack of oxygen can lead to a variety of altitude problems and even mild altitude sickness can include chest problems, disorientation, nausea, dizzyness, but worse - it can be a cause of bad decision making. The weather - on a mountain this high, the weather can change suddenly and cause temperatures to plummet, visibility to be reduced to just a couple of metres, and winds to make balance on steep sections difficult.  Frost-bite is a constant concern anywhere above camp 2. Fatigue - related to altitude, this can lead to poor decision-making and hence susceptibility to weather problems.

And no, there are definitely no shops anywhere on the mountain (except perhaps in the delusional minds of hungry climbers!).

What is base camp like?

Each climbing season there are over 200 people at base camp - some climbers (including Sherpas and guides), as well as base camp support staff (medical, cooks, porters, managers), as well as personal supporters for various climbers.  There will also be some trekkers which come along with the expeditions or independently to visit the famous Everest Base Camp.

Most climbers will have their own tent and each expedition will have several larger tents dedicated to communal activities (mess tent, dining, communications, etc).  To the untrained eye, this looks like a hotch-potch of different tents with no organisation, however everyone there knows exactly whose tent is whose (generally referring to them by the expedition companies' name or the nationality of the team). 

Each expedition will eat most meals together and will invariably spend time talking, playing cards and generally hanging out together.  However as base camp is quite spread out and moving around at altitude is laborious, communication between teams may be limited to each team's immediate neighbours.  In fact, it is not uncommon for news about other teams on the mountain to be gleened from email or phone calls from friends and family back home reading web-updates from those teams!

How will you wash?

There are usually a couple of "washing tents" are generally set up at base camp.  These will probably be tents where there are pots of hot water.  Climbers can heat up hot water and use these tents to have a wash.  At best, this is only likely to happen once every couple of weeks though.  Clothes will be washed in by hand in buckets.
 

How will you go to the toilet?

Each camp sets up 1-2 "toilet tents" which are basically the Nepalese version of a "thunderbox" - except without a toilet seat.  Instead they have a hole in the bottom leading to a container of some sort.  All waste is carried out at the end of the climbing season.

At high camps, it is uncomfortable and often inadvisable to leave your tent at night should you get the call from nature.  Instead, most people use Pee bottles.

What food will you be eating?

At base camp and camp 2, most meals will be prepared for me by the Asian Trekking cooks.  This is likely to consist of pretty basic meat and vegie meals - accompanied by a lot of rice and some pasta. 

Traditional Nepalese food consists of Dal Bhat (lentils and rice), lots of potatos, mild curries, flat breads, and eggs - so I'll probably be eating a fair bit of that as well.  Drinking tea is also very popular (great for warmth and to increase fluid consumption).

At other camps, I'll be catering for myself and cooking pre-packaged foods.  I generally eat museli bars for breakfast, pasta for dinner with soups, noodles, hot chocolate, etc.  While I'm walking during the day, I'll generally only have some Gu sports drink formula and Gu sports gels while climbing to increase the consumption of calories, salts and sugars.

How many Australian females have climbed Everest?

Brigitte Muir was the first Australian women to summit Everest (in 1997) and since then, only one other has done this (Sue Fear in 2003). 

Fiona is the 3rd Australian female to reach the summit of Everst.

Of all the people that try, what % make the summit?

Of all the people that head to Nepal intending to attempt Everest, it seems that around 20-30% of them make the summit.  (These figures are higher if you only consider the people that actually go on to make a summit attempt as many pull out earlier due to health, fitness, or acclimatisation problems before this point.)

What equipment will you be taking?

For details on my gear and equipment, click here.