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The Road to Everest, Part 2

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition
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Last week I wrote about what you should expect from your Mt. Everest guide service. Today’s blog is about you and what you can do to be ready to join an Everest expedition. Of course, there are many different ways to acquire the experience necessary, but when a climber has little or no experience and comes to me with a serious goal of summiting Mt. Everest, the following list would be my recommended path to success. It can be done over a couple of years, or for someone with the time and financial ability, in a little more than a year.

Regardless of which climbs are chosen from each step, the key skills to be acquired are the following:

1. Build technical experience – this includes: crampon and ice axe technique on low-angle walking terrain and steep ice; rock climbing technique; rope systems including glacier travel, crevasse rescue, belaying, rappelling, fixed-rope climbing, multi-pitch systems; basic avalanche terrain analysis and avalanche rescue techniques; familiarity with snow-camping and cooking; glacier navigation.

2. Build experience and comfort on progressively bigger mountains in a variety of mountain ranges.

3. Build decision-making skills by spending time in the mountains, working with qualified guides on diverse climbing terrain.

4. Build familiarity with your body at progressively higher altitudes, and on expedition-style peaks where load carries, multiple moves between camps, and self-sufficiency in camps are a focus.

The stages, not necessarily in this order (peaks are only a recommendation, many others exist):

1. The Basics (optional, these skills can also be taught on easy high altitude peaks). Take a basic mountaineering training course, offered somewhere like: The Alps, Mt. Rainier, New Zealand Alps, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood

2. Introductory High Altitude Peaks (climb at least 2 peaks of the following or equivalent): Ecuador’s Volcanos, Mexico’s Volcanos, Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus

3. Intermediate to Advanced High Altitude Peaks (climb at least 2 peaks of the following or equivalent): Peru’s Peaks (Chopicalqui, Alpamayo, Huascaran), Bolivia’s Peaks (Illimani, Huayna Potosi), Ojos de Salado

4. Gain technical ice climbing experience, including multi-pitch routes (at least 3 days): Ouray Ice Climbing, Chamonix Ice Climbing, La Grave Ice Climbing, Adirondacks Ice Climbing, New Hampshire Ice climbing

5. Gain technical rock climbing experience, including multi-pitch routes (at least 3 days): Red Rocks Rock Climbing, Chamonix Rock Climbing, Tetons Rock Climbing, Sierra Rock Climbing

6. Take an Avalanche Awareness Course (Level I in the USA)

7. Expedition High Altitude Peaks (climb at least 1 of the following): Aconcagua, Denali, Ama Dablam, Mustagh Ata

8. Technical Peaks (optional but recommended, 1 of the following or equivalent): Matterhorn, Grand Teton, Ama Dablam, Mt. Kenya, Mt. Cook

9. 8000-meter Peak (climb 1 of the following): Makalu, Lhotse, Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, Gasherbrum II, Broad Peak

If you, as a climber, take the time to work through the 9 stages listed above, I am confident that you will arrive at Everest Base Camp with the technical skills, decision-making ability, and confidence necessary to be successful on your Mt. Everest expedition. Of course, you still need to choose your guide service carefully (see Part 1), and you will still need some good luck. But you will know that you did all you could to come to the mountain prepared.

If Mount Everest is one of your dreams, get started! The list above may be intimidating, but it is achievable. Do not waste your time and money (and jeopardize your safety) signing up for an Everest climb without the experience listed above.

Don’t hesitate to contact Alpenglow Expeditions with any questions you may have about your Everest preparations. We look forward to climbing and training with you.

-Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow Expeditions