Discover the Highest Mountain Peak of Asia
Located between Nepal and Tibet, Mount Everest is the highest peak not only in Asia but also in the entire world. Known as “Sagarmatha”, in Nepali, and “Chomolungma” or “The Mother Goddess of the World”, in Tibetan, it was first summited in 1953. Since then, climbing the peak has immensely changed, owing to the advancements in knowledge, technology, and infrastructure. With these changes, the highways up to the mountain have become veritable and allow mountaineers to summit the peak with more safety.
Location, Environment and Hazards
Asia’s and world’s largest peak is situated at the border between Nepal and Tibet along the Himalayan crest. You can find it very close to the equator on the globe at roughly the same latitude as Tampa, Florida, that is, 28 degrees. The altitude of this gigantic peak is about 8850 meters which is about 29035 feet. According to the standards of geology and earth scientists, Mount Everest is about 50 to 60 million years old which is still relatively young compared to the other peaks around the world. It’s also discovered by the scientists that the summit of Mount Everest is still growing, increasing up to a quarter of an inch every year.
The environment of the peak is hostile. At an altitude of 8850 meters, the peak of the Everest has a significantly low air pressure which is roughly a third of the pressure on sea level. This causes breathing difficulty in the climbers as the availability of sufficient oxygen is affected. Consequently, as climbers continue to climb up the mountain, the intake of oxygen falls dramatically putting their bodies at a risk of facing medical conditions such as pulmonary edema, cerebral edema and blood embolisms. These ailments affect the heart, brain and the lungs and can even result in the death of the mountaineers if proper precautions are not taken. This isn’t the only danger. Climbers also face the risk of frostbite as at altitudes as high as this mountain’s the heart has to pump harder with the essential organs being the priority. Thus, the chances of frostbites are insanely high at the peak.
While climbing the mountain, due to the lack of oxygen in the air, you may have to carry an oxygen tank with you in order to avert the dangerous effects of the altitude. These oxygen tanks are also not completely safe and have their own disadvantages. These tanks are not only costly but also quite heavy to carry. Moreover, once these tanks run out of oxygen, they are left behind on the trek as litter which adds to the pollution on the mountain. Not only this but the oxygen provided by these tanks is only as much as the oxygen level at the basecamp and if the oxygen in the tank finishes before reaching the summit, the body is unable to adapt to the sudden drop in the level of oxygen. Thus, making it somewhat hazardous and difficult for the mountaineers to climb up the top. Recently it’s also discovered that these tanks are not very reliable systems for providing oxygen at low air pressure. Hence, it adds to the breathing problem at high altitudes. Despite all these drawbacks it’s the only way to assist the climbers up to the top relatively safely
You might be wondering by now that with such life-threatening environment how has this peak ever been summited? The answer is that a combination of factors has helped the climbers achieve their dreams of standing at the tallest peak of the world. These factors include the determination and resilience of the mountaineers, the improvements in technology, better knowledge and research on the mountain and its environment along with the improvements in the infrastructure and commercially guided expeditions. Even though, the peak is a dangerous trek and the severe weather conditions make it even more difficult to climb, yet, the experience accompanying this along with the utter happiness and excitement of being at the highest point on earth is unmatched and so motivates and encourages the climbers to partake such expeditions every year.
By the end of 2018, according to the Himalayan Database, 295 people had died while trying to summit the mountain since the first expedition. On the contrary, there have been 5294 people who were able to successfully climb the peak and there have been a total of 9159 successful summits so far. The death rate, as a result, is 1.2 percent which is relatively very low. From 1923 to 1999, 170 climbers died on the mountain with 1169 successful summits while between 2000 and 2018 the deaths dropped to 123 with more successful summits of up to 7990. Hence, since then the death rate has dropped from 14.5 to 1.5 percent owing to the improvements in the overall infrastructure of the expeditions and safety protocols.
Starting the Expedition
To start the trek, there are various routes one can take. Almost out of these 17 different routes, the most famous routes taken by the climbers are the Nepal’s south route or the Southeast Ridge and Tibet’s north route or the North Ridge. Also, most of the companies catering the trekkers and offering commercial guides operate from Nepal as in Tibet it’s costlier and controlled since the past few years.
Even though the climbers claim that both these routes are the same in terms of difficulty of climbing, there are certain challenges on each route which are unique. If you choose to take the south route, you will have to fly to the country’s capital, Khatmandu. From there you would have to take a 25 minutes’ flight on a puddle jumper jet to Lukla village. Lukla’s airport is considered by the climbers as one of the world’s scariest airports due to a difficult terrain for landing. Hence, the jet used for transportation of climbers is very compact and small and up to sixteen climbers are crammed inside sitting next to each other with their things against their chests. After landing on Lukla you will then have to begin your hike up towards the base camp of the mountain. During this you will have to race through the Khumbu Icefall which is although a dangerous trek but a bit shorter and easy to descend faster in case of an emergency. If you want to reach the basecamp from the north route, then you can possibly make use of jeeps to reach the camp but before that you will have to traverse a long terrain at an altitude of 27000 feet.
On the north route, China has also built a pristine highway through the Tibetan Plateau. This highway will take you to the basecamp directly in contrast to the long, dangerous treks on the Southeast Ridge side of the mountain.
Duration of the Expedition
The weather of the last two weeks of May is considered as the most favorable for climbing and reaching the peak of the mountain. For to be able to summit the mountain successfully, like all climbers, you will be preparing months before the start of the expedition. Generally, majority of the teams of climbers gather in Khatmandu towards the end of March to start acclimatization. Moreover, even before the climbers have reached the base-camp, the support staff and workers from high-altitude start setting up the basic arrangements for the climbers. They carry essential stuff such as stoves, oxygen tanks and food items to the camps and also professionally prepare the trek for the mountaineers with ropes and ladders.
During April, the mountaineers make overnight treks or rotations to the camps higher up the mountain in order to adapt and adjust to the conditions. Meanwhile, the guides from Nepal reach the top of the mountain. Then by mid of May, a proper trail of fixed ropes from the base-camp to the top is established with camps along it containing essential stock of supplied. It takes around 4 to 5 days of round trip from the base-camp to reach the summit. After resting for the final time, like other climbers you can also choose to decamp the mountain completely and spend some nights at lower altitudes for recovery. By the start of June, most of the climbers return back to their homes if everything goes well.
The highest peak of Asia is like a dome of snow and is only as large as the dining room table. Half a dozen or so mountaineers can stand together in that space and celebrate their summit. The view from the top is breathtakingly beautiful and you will feel so proud and confident for reaching the top of the world. On days when there’s a lot of rush, climbers have to take turns to be able to stand on the peak. As described by those who have reached the peaks before, the feeling of being at the highest point on earth is unmatched. It definitely is a huge achievement and a moment to not only feel proud of yourself for accomplishing something so unique and huge but also something you will always remember and cherish. It’s an experience next to none. Despite all the difficulties encountered while reaching this top, being on the summit’s worth all of those dangers and difficulties.
The Trekking Industry of Everest
For Asia it’s not just the highest peak rather it has become a business brining cash flows to the region. Nepal has been able to benefit from this particularly. The local logistics entities and the government are the biggest beneficiaries of it. If you want to book a spot in a commercial team, you may have to pay somewhere around $40,000 to $100,000. It’ll depend on your expertise and the level of service you would want to get. In 2018 alone, the Tourism Ministry had collected around $5.2 million in the form of permit fees.
The real builders of this business are the indigenous Nepalese guides. These are a small group of professional guides from ethnic tribes like Sherpa and other Tibetan tribes who earn somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000 during the season. These guides prepare the trail and help the foreign climbers by coaching them about the climb. One of these guides has so far done 24 successful expeditions and is looking forward to do another one and complete his silver jubilee. Hence, the expeditions have been able to provide these ethnic groups with an opportunity to earn while the foreign climbers get a chance to interact with the locals and get a cultural experience alongside their expedition.
Moreover, there are now educational opportunities for these indigenous professional guides like Khumbu Climbing Center where these guides get trained and receive certifications according to the international standards. Thus, making the climbing expeditions to the peak safer and better.
Also, due to the commercial trips by the international guides since 1990s, the popularity of the highest peak of Asia began to rise. Regardless of how safe it’s the mountain attracts hundreds of people from all across the globe each year. In 2018 alone, 347 permits were issued to climbers to summit the peak by the Nepalese authorities. While from the Tibetan side of the mountain, 239 climbers summited.
Cost of the Expedition
The costs of summiting Everest can be as expensive as buying a new car. The costs also vary between $35,000 to $100,000. These will include your permit of about $11,000 from Nepalese or Tibetan authorities, oxygen tanks, and high altitude supplies like tents, boots, and sleeping bags. Apart from that the costs will cover the medical care, food and the services of the professional Sherpa guides which are mandatory for the climbers wishing to summit world’s highest peak.
What else to explore?
Most of the routes have been explored by the mountaineers in the past. In 2004 a team of climbers from Russia was the one to explore the last new route. Even though the three important sides and ridges of the Mount Everest have been climbed, yet there are certain interesting and challenging terrains to explore such as the Fantasy Ridge which is still unclimbed and the Horseshoe Traverse which is a daring enchainment of the mountain and the two peaks alongside of it, Lhotse and Nuptse. According to the climbers, Mount Everest is a formidable peak which offers its mountaineers very different and creative ways to summit it.
If you are a trekking enthusiast, Mount Everest is the one you must summit. It’s not only Asia’s largest but also world’s largest peak with an insanely high altitude of over 8000 meters. With a hostile environment due to its height and weather conditions, Mount Everest is not an easy climb or peak to summit. It’s definitely one of the most challenging treks. It’s not just the terrain and travelling that are dangerous, it’s also the low levels of oxygen in extremely low air pressure that poses a serious threat to the health of the climbers. Regardless of all these dangers climbers flock to climb this formidable mountain.
If you are someone who loves to trek and embrace adventures, then you would know how climbers are not demotivated by danger. This is the very motivation that helps mountaineers summit the largest peak of Asia. Also, with continuous advancements in research and technology, the peak is getting safer to summit. The death rates have considerably dropped down and the people are becoming increasingly interested in climbing the peak. This has also provided the local ethnic groups with employment opportunities in the region where they can earn a good amount of money during the climbing season.
On the other hand, it has provided the foreign climber a chance to interact with the locals of the region. Not only this but the entire climbing activity has generated sufficient revenue for the region and within the tourism industry Everest has become a golden business opportunity for the local logistical companies and the governments of Nepal and Tibet. The conditions only seem to be improving for Asia’s largest peak. This is the reason more and more climbers are making their way up Mount Everest every year. They start their preparations from March only to adapt and acclimatize themselves with the environment and the trek. They don’t even mind paying thousands of dollars for this trek or risking their lives while climbing. All they care about is fulfilling their dream of standing at the top of the world, the peak of Mount Everest. The feeling of being there is unmatched and next to none.
The adrenaline rush, the goosebumps, the excitement and contentment to achieve something so huge is worth all the risk and money. There are still many creative ways to summit this peak and some routes like that of Horseshoe Traverse and Fantasy Ridge are yet to be explored. The challenges of climbing Asia’s tallest peak have not ended yet. For people who love adventures and brace risks for exciting experiences, Mount Everest is a dream. If you are determined, resilient and adventurous, it’s a peak for you!