Mount Everest, history teaches, is not to be conquered.  Rather, it is to be sneaked up on so as not to disturb or anger the gods.

Mount Everest, history teaches, is not to be conquered.  Rather, it is to be sneaked up on so as not to disturb or anger the gods.  Tucked between hurricane force winter winds and summer monsoons, May is the month where hundreds assail Everest to sneak up to the summit.  Shh! Climbing Mount Everest, what do you know?

 True or False

1. There have been 1,200 who have climbed to the summit. 

2. There are 4 different routes to the summit.

3. Sir Edmund Hillary spent only 15 minutes at the summit.

There are no prerequisites for climbing Mount Everest.  Many climbers have minimal experience, but a lot of money.  A guided tour costs between $40,000 and $60,000, not including supplies (another $15,000), airfare or insurance. It is not wisdom to dare Everest with a pocketful of money. In his book, “Into Thin Air,” Jon Krakauer chronicles the deadliest day in Everest history, May 10, 1996, when eight climbers perished. Everest is not kind to amateurs. Inexperienced climbers, horrific storms (the anger of the gods?) and paid guides pressured to complete their mission against their better judgments, ultimately proved their undoing.

At 29,035 feet above sea level, Everest is the goddess of mountains.  At summit, oxygen is 1/3 that of sea level and human life cannot be sustained.

There are those who climb without bottled oxygen but they are at great risk for confusion. This is not ideal when each step could be your last! Some climbers develop fluid in their lungs or brain swelling. They win an escort down the mountain. At altitudes above 14,000 feet, air is too thin for helicopter rescue. Everest Base Camp is 17,600 feet.

Acclimatization is critical to avoiding such problems. The human body adapts to low oxygen by producing more oxygen-carrying red blood cells and by shunting blood to the brain. Climbers may take several trips to increasingly higher elevations during the acclimatization process before actually embarking on the summit.

This process may take several weeks. Once acclimated, the average time from Base Camp to summit is 4 days. The average time for descent is 3 days. Sherpa Pemba Dorjie recorded the fastest ascent in history, 8 hours and10 minutes. When he got home his wife had him take out the garbage.

There are 15 routes to the top. The South Col Route is most popular. On this route climbers proceed to Camp I (19,900 ft), Camp II (21,300 ft) through the Lhotse Face ice wall to Camp III (24,500 ft) and finally to Camp IV (26,000 ft) from which they will ascend to the summit. Temperature at summit is usually about minus 15°F in May with winds ideally under 35 mph.

On May 29, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, became the first Westerner to summit Everest. Last week Jordan Romero, at age 13, became the youngest. Age notwithstanding, he is an accomplished climber, ascending 6 of the 7 continents’ highest mountains.  At the other extreme, Napalese Min Bahadur Sherchan, climbed his way into the record books in May 2008 at 76 years 340 days.  

Those who make it have stories for a lifetime.  Those who don’t are left with, “what if……?”  For myself, I’m content to eat popcorn and watch them on the Discovery Channel. 


1. F, 2,200 have succeeded and 200 have died

2. F, 15

3. T