So, you want to climb Everest? With the new rules potentially restricting access to the mountain, the Nepal tourism agency would like to assess the climbing resumes of persons who are going up Everest. So, credentials and prior experience in high altitude climbing is going to be a must for future climbers. You may not be able to buy your way to the top… i hope.
So, how do you prepare for a mountain like Everest? Apart from the regular exercises that you need to do, you must also have a good track record of climbing higher and higher. If we could breakdown the mountains in 1,000m categories, each increase of 1,000m provides new experiences, risks and challenges that you need to get used to.
So, with that said, what kind of mountains do you need to climb? Here is a list of potential climbs that could reasonably create a good resume of climbing while at the same time getting you seriously ready for Everest. At least, these are the mountains that i could do if i were to climb Everest.
4,000 to 6,000 m peaks
The world is peppered with mountains of this height. So, depending on the region or continent you come from, there are certainly mountains in this range that you can use to build your resume. More like trekking peaks to get your body and mind accustomed to altitude as well as the experience of having to stay overnight in tents and having to deal with settling for a less comfortable lifestyle in the outdoors. These mountains do not take much time in terms of periods away from home and work. Most mountains can be climbed in a period of 1 to 2 weeks time. These by themselves are not going to get you a ticket to the highest mountain on earth.
One of the most popular and easier mountains to climb. Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, provides a very good training ground for high altitude trekking without any technical experience. It has a very long summit day at a reasonably high altitude. The support structure for the mountain is very good and there are close to 35,000 people attempting it every year. If you exclude the travel time, it may range between 5 days to 8 days depending on your route, fitness level and weather conditions. Often the success rate ranges between 45% to 85%. It gets you used to staying in tents. You can even have your own portable toilets brought along.
Rainier, located in North Western USA is a difficult mountain to climb. It requires prior knowledge of glacier travel and self-rescue. You will need to get yourself accustomed to using double boots, ice axe and crampons. On an average, 10,000 people attempt it every year. The success rate is claimed to be about 50%. It provides a good introduction to climbing with some basic life skills when up on the mountains. Normally, Rainier can be done in a week excluding travel.
Elbrus, located in Russia provides a unique opportunity to learn how to climb using double boots, ice axe and crampons. It can be a good alternative to climbing Rainier for those who are not located in USA. There are plenty of people on the mountain every year. Again, this mountain has very good support. However, the summit attempt is really tough and can prove quite a challenge and a good learning experience. Although, there are no official figures, but due to it’s remote location, there are probably a few thousand people attempting the summit with about 15 to 30 deaths that occur each year. Normal duration of climb takes about 10 days excluding travel.
There are other notable peaks like Mont Blanc and less well known ones that are too many to list here. You must find some peak that is closer to your location.
6,000m to 7,000m peaks
Now you are in the very high altitude zone. These peaks are mostly found in the Himalayas and in South America. These mountains expose you to thin air, long treks at high altitude and overnight camping at various heights. It requires well planned acclimatization treks up the mountain. You will learn to test your physical and mental endurance.
Stok Kangri (6,153m)
Located in the Indian Himalayas, Stok Kangri is the best peak for introduction into the 6000ers. It is relatively easy to climb but is not a walk in the park. It requires crampons and ice axe depending on the season you are going. Normally, it take about 2 weeks to climb this. It helps you in understanding your body at 6000+ meters. Every year, hundreds of people attempt the mountain with not many fatalities. There are no official records that keep track of the number of climbs. Being very close to Leh, Stok Kangri has easy access and also a quick rescue path.
Island Peak (6,189m)
Located near Everest in Nepal, Island Peak is a very popular trekking peak without much technical difficulty. However, there is a near vertical wall that you need to overcome before you walk across a narrow ridge that heads to the summit. This can be quite challenging and a great experience. Again, hundreds or thousands of people attempt this peak every year. The success rate figures are not available, but depending on your fitness, weather and equipment, you should be able to do it. This trek takes about 19-25 days excluding travel.
Mera Peak (6,476m)
Another alternative to Island Peak above is Mera Peak. Also, located in Nepal, this peak also provides the necessary experience in getting used to very high altitude trekking. This is also considered an trekking mountain and hundreds if not thousands of people attempt them every year. This trek takes about 19-25 days excluding travel. You get used to much longer days at higher altitude and prolonged exposure to ice travel.
Located in South America, Aconcagua is one of the highest peaks in this altitude range and is one of the seven summits. It is formidable in terms of the endurance and physical fitness that is required. With over 4 camps that can be setup, this is close to getting a real life experience of how it will be like to live days or even weeks on the mountain. Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 people attempt the mountain with a success rate of 30%. This can be a real test on your physical and mental stamina. The trip takes about 21-25 days excluding travel.
7,000m to 8,000m peaks
Now you are venturing into Extremely high altitude. These peaks are only found in Asia. They offer a real experience on being in oxygen deprived altitude without the need for supplementary oxygen. The treks are longer due to the unpredictability of the weather and also more days allocated to acclimatization and conditioning.
Mushtag Ata (7,509m)
Located in China, and close to the Pamir mountain range, Mushtag Ata provides a great introduction to 7000ers due to its relatively easy access to the summit with little objective danger and spread out over 3 camps. It requires you to be reasonably comfortable with high altitude climbing while at the same time, not requiring you to have professional technical climbing experience. It has a gentle slope that can be traversed using crampons, ice axe and harness. The whole trip take between 23-25 days excluding travel.
Nun/Kun, located in India is a two peak massif that is quite steep in areas with close to 45-60 degree inclined ascend. This mountain may not be well known to the outside world, but is easily accessible from Kargil. It is far harder than Peak Lenin or Mushtag Ata and requires more technical experience in climbing. There is a near 400m vertical wall that needs to be traversed while being roped in. Sherpas usually go ahead and setup the ropes for the climbers to climb. Again, allocate 21-25 days for climbing this mountain.
Peak Lenin (7,134m)
Peak Lenin is located in the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is not a technically difficult mountain to climb, but the summit day is one of the longest and the mountain is known for its unpredictable weather. The challenge is its remote location requiring you to take multiple connecting flights in addition to the 25 days or so that you need to spend there for an opportunity to climb. There are plenty of avalanche and crevasse danger on the mountain.
Welcome to the death zone. Normally, you don’t do these mountains and stop here. These are your ticket to Everest. These mountains are the true test of how you will do at the death zone and consequently on Everest. By now you should be quite familiar with all the vagaries of expeditions, weather, gears and your own personal physical and mental fitness. These peaks require you to spend months on the mountains. Being high, the weather window cannot be accurately predicted and you need to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. The mountains below are considered “easy” to climb compared to other 8000ers. But easy here is not a walk in the park.
Cho Oyu (8,201m)
Located in Nepal, Cho Oyu is a popular precursor before climbing Everest. It is the sixth highest mountain in the world. Climbing are spread out of 3 camps and can take weeks of acclimatization treks. Cho Oyu sees quite a lot of climbers due to its accessibility, lack of objective dangers and very little technical sections. You will most certainly require supplementary oxygen. The whole expedition can last up to 40 days or more.
Another mountain on the same scale as Cho Oyu is Shishapagma, located in Tibet/ China. Shishapagma is also an “easy” 8000er to climb and is one of the lowest mountain in the 8000m peak range. The summit days are long and requires you to cross narrow ridges at high altitude before you reach the summit. Normal expeditions take 40 days or more. This “easy” mountain has laid claim to some notable climbers.
Given that future Everest hopefuls may need experience in getting up to the summit of Everest, you need to get your climbing resume well updated with these mountains. These are not the only ones there are and you can take alternative routes. But you need to have at least one 7000er or 8000er in your bag before the big “E”.