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 Everest thoughts - Climbing Mt Everest

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So you want to climb Everest? Sound preparation is the key...

We run Everest expeditions, see Expeditions.


People dream about Everest, me personally, I dressed as Sir Edmund Hillary for a street party when I was young. However, dreams and reality are different. Despite what you see on TV, Everest really is a tough and dangerous mountain where if you (or someone close to you) makes a real mistake, there is still a chance of dying. So the more prepared you are, the more experience you have under your crampons, the higher your chance of succeeding and not getting injured in the process - frostbite risks are very real as well. Conditions can get rapidly out of control...

So you should prepare carefully, and choose an operator that suits you in terms of safety and set up.

Progressive build up

If you are not an experienced mountaineer then we recommend a progressive build up to Everest with:

+ a 7-12 day TMC - technical mountaineering course

+ more mountaineering experience soon after the course

+ a high altitude trek (Everest Base Camp?) or better a trek-climb of 6000m/20,000ft mountain in the Himalaya

+ a high mountain expedition eg Aconcagua, Denali, Himlung, Ama Dablam (or similar) or a 6400m+/21,000ft mountain in the Himalaya

+ an 8000m peak such as Shishapangma, Cho Oyu or Manaslu

then you should be ready for Everest. This progression really is the most thorough way to prepare, and we do recommend this.

Yes, I can hear a few of you gulping, that is a lot of preparation. There are several keys, the first of which is spending some time, working your body, at real altitude, i.e. 5000m/16,400ft and higher. Trekking at high altitude is good but you need to test your body, you need to find out just how tough climbing at 6000m is, and if this is your first time to these altitudes, you need to go several times as although in theory the first time should be similar to the second, it generally does get a bit easier.

Then you want to push higher, work your body again, so that on your second time to extreme altitude you know that you are performing well, feel comfortable that you can go even higher. It is also a very good idea to come over to Nepal at least one time prior to Everest as you want to get your immune system, your gut, prepared for the hygiene conditions over here.

Lastly, with a comprehensive buildup, then you have more time to assemble a tried and trusted set of gear.

This comprehensive approach is definitely old school, and plenty of people have read about people trying on crampons for the first time at base camp however some of them did die.

Fast track?

So you do want to take a few shortcuts? Providing you are confident in your ability to listen and learn, have good common sense, and have reasonable balance, this is the minimum preparation I feel you could cut it down to.


+ already have good cardio fitness

+ complete a 7-12 day basic/technical mountaineering course or have real mountaineering skills

+ be confident in abseiling a variety of terrain and climbing on steep ice

+ climb Denali or Aconcagua or Himlung (or another 7000m peak) guided by somebody who has climbed Everest

then you will be at least minimally prepared. Assuming that expedition went well then you will want to book Everest with a western-guided operation that offers comprehensive support and backup built in.

We often run an Aconcagua expedition that assists with preparation for Everest.


You must be fit, and have good endurance and not be overweight. This means you train regularly, are able to push yourself and are in good general condition. The older you are, the fitter you must be relative to your age.

Which side?

I have summited from both sides. I personally think that the north side (ie from Tibet) is slightly safer than the south side, but the difference is not big. I also think the climbing difficulties add up to approximately the same but that the north side still wins slightly. It is worth remembering that on the north side we start climbing (ie put on crampons and harness) from approximately 6500m, and on the south side at only approximately 5400m.

Do have a look at Alan Arnette's comprehensive website and perhaps start at the south side.

For the north side see this Discovery Channel interactive map.

How long?

For the actual Everest expedition, allow two months, April and May, and allow a week or two in June for recovery. For training and building up, either spend a year focused on it or build up less intensively over a a couple of years.

Everest's technical difficulty

How hard is the climb? Perhaps a few photos show this most easily.

Andy climbs a ladder in the icefall

There are at least a dozen ladders in the icefall, some short like this, others like below...
Andy Falgate in action at around 5850m - Jamie

ladders in the icefall

LONG ladders!
Note, it is not normal to climb with a foot on each ladder,
and note the person abseiling beside - Jamie

The Yellow band

Climbing up the Yellow Band at around 7500m, it looks steep,
it IS steep and would be extremely difficult and dangerous to climb without ropes - Jamie
(This is one of the areas where there was dangerous rock fall in 2012)

Jamie corsses a deep crevasse

Crossing a deep and ugly crevasses, note the ladders are tied together, not bolted - Jamie

Hillary Step ropes

Trust the fixed ropes? Just grab a handful and clip onto the best at the top of the Hillary Step
Yes, some of them are frayed... Your perception of safety will change - Jamie

Hillary Step

And another view to show you the rope mess
Andy contemplates how to descend the Hillary Step - Jamie


On the Tibet-north side, abseiling down part of North Col - Jamie

The Tibet-north side equivalent of the Hillary step, the steep and exposed Second Step.
Kevin is about to put his feet on the on the unseen ladder - Jamie

David Cole on the summit of Everest

And here is the reward - David Cole on top of Everest (on an unusually warm summit day) - Anselm Murphy

Videos from expedition members

Journey to the Summit of Mt. Everest from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.

and from Philippe Gatta

Comparing Denali, Aconcagua and Himlung

There are real differences. Denali is a real expedition that requires a very high level of fitness and commitment, you will be dragging a sled or carrying a backpack with two weeks food in it, plus climbing gear. This is better preparation for Everest than Aconcagua.

Aconcagua is much more about getting to altitude quickly, testing yourself there. Aconcagua with us is a great chance to meet Jamie, test yourself at altitude and to talk about all things Everest, to really prepare.

Himlung and perhaps Ama Dablam are good all round expeditions, a mixture of the two in that you have sherpas doing the hard load carrying, but still get some real altitude.

Are you still interested? Contact us...

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