In A Nutshell
You can’t climb Mount Everest on a whim—permits to travel to the world’s highest mountain cost thousands of dollars. And with a one in 10 chance of dying in the process, you’re going to want to hire a good guide service, which can cost well in excess of $50,000.
The Whole Bushel
So you’re a world-class athlete with years of mountain climbing experience, and you’ve finally made the decision that you intend to conquer the ultimate challenge and climb Mount Everest. You’d better have deep pockets. Everest has two approaches, from Tibet (China) and Nepal, and both governments are well aware of the tourist revenue they can make. Permits just to climb the mountain from the China Tibet Mountaineering Association cost around USD$4,000, and permits from Nepal a staggering USD$10,000. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget to add in airfare, food, equipment, oxygen canisters, and other permits (allowing for garbage, cell phones—Mt. Everest actually has 3G service—passage through national parks, etc.).
Of course, that’s only if you’re going it alone, which, given the mortality rate of climbing the mountain, could be suicidal. Most climbers hire guide services (which vary dramatically in quality). A good guide service will cost upward of USD$50,000 and include not only Western guides, but a cook, a retinue of sherpas to carry gear, and sometimes even a doctor to attend to emergencies. The guide services will often make deals with physicians that want to climb Everest, allowing them to climb for free in exchange for providing medical care to the group.
Unfortunately, there are no qualifications required to call yourself an Everest “guide,” so one has to be very careful to hire someone with experience on the mountain. Sherpa service also varies considerably. Some sherpas will carry your gear, and others will merely help lead the way. As the popularity of climbing the mountain has exploded (about 80 percent of the ascents of the mountain have occurred since 2000), some services have begun offering extravagant amenities like five star chefs, open bars, sushi, and espresso machines. At this end of the scale, it is easy to spend $100,000 or more to ensure a (relatively) safe trip up the mountain. Because of the prohibitive cost, many of those who attempt the climb are middle-aged, which may contribute to the mortality rate.