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Mount Everest: The Routes

Text & Photo: Zeb Blais

Mount Everest: The Routes

Everest is the tallest mountain in the world.  It looms 29,035′ (8,848 meters) above sea level and sits directly on the border of Tibet and Nepal.  There are two commonly climbed routes up the mountain, the South Col Route and the Northeast Ridge.

If you’re curious about what it takes to climb Mount Everest, check out The Road to Everest

The South Col Route.

Teams start in Kathmandu and fly into Nepal’s Khumbu Valley where they trek to 17,300’ South Side Base Camp over a number of days to acclimatize. The Khumbu is incredibly beautiful and provides the opportunity to really experience Sherpa culture.  Once at Base Camp teams climb through the Khumbu ice fall, up the Western Cwm, the Lhotse Face, the South Col, South Summit, the Hillary Step and on to the Summit.  Typically teams establish three camps on this route.  These are Camp 2 at 21,500’, Camp 3 at 23,500’ and high camp at the South Col at 26,300’.  Some teams use a low camp, Camp 1 at 19,500’ just above the Khumbu Icefall, to acclimatize as well.


The Northeast Ridge Route.

As the name implies, this route is on the North side of the mountain in Tibet.  Alpenglow Expeditions has chosen to climb this route because we feel it has less objective hazard (hazards that are beyond our control) and is safer for our climbers, guides and sherpa.  We begin our trip in Lhasa, Tibet and drive across the Tibetan Plateau to the North Side Everest Base Camp at 17,200’.  The drive takes us three days, stopping in Shigatse and New Tingri (Shegar) and we are able to drive directly into our camp.  This year we literally drove between our sleeping tents and our dining tent to unload the vehicles.  This approach has the advantage of being able to bring a lot of heavy items into base camp without transporting them by planes, porters, and yaks.

On the Northeast Ridge Route, teams typically establish an Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 21,000’ then 3 primitive camps above that.  The terrain between EBC (Everest Base Camp) and ABC is flat glacier covered in scree and gravel.  It’s quite beautiful with large waves of glacial ice on the fringes of the dirt.  The mellow grade of the terrain makes it easy to porter and yak gear back and forth between EBC and ABC, so ABC is stocked with a cook tent, dining tent, sleeping tents and lounge.  We also have solar power and satellite wifi to stay connected.

Above ABC is where the climbing and fixed lines begin. We establish our first camp at the North Col (the col between Everest and Changtse) at 7,000m (23,000’).  Camp 2 is established at 7,800m on the rocky ridge between the North Col and the NE Ridge.  It’s a barren camp, with tiny platforms of piled rocks just big enough for our tents.  Camp 3 is our high camp at 8,300m.  It is on a broad, steep, rocky face just below the NE ridge.  It’s mostly devoid of snow and the slope is steep so it is difficult to pile rocks high enough to create a level platform the full size of a tent.  Therefore the platforms end up only being wide enough for about 2/3s of a tent- the rest just hangs down the slope.

For more information on our Mount Everest North Side Rapid Ascent expedition and other international expeditions check out our website and for any questions call the office at 877-873-5376 or send an email to