The 2021 climbing season on Mount Everest is shaping up to be one of the most unique in recent memory.

After the COVID-19 pandemic essentially precluded climbers from heading to the world’s tallest mountain and highest of the Seven Summits from either side of the border, observers expect to see a slight rebound this year.

According to long-time Everest observer Alan Arnette, fewer people are likely to make it to the summit of the world this year as a result of the ongoing pandemic. 

Keep reading: Five Trekking and Climbing Destinations In the Nepalese Himalayas

China has prohibited all foreign expeditions via the northeast route and the Tibetan side, in general. On the other side of the border, Nepal has reopened to climbers and trekkers who have made official and approved bookings.

Therefore, virtually all climbers planning to take on Everest in 2021 will have to do so via the South Col Route or another of the routes originating from Everest Base Camp (EBC). 

This could lead to similar crowding to what was seen in 2019, especially since many Western guiding agencies and the vast majority of local operators are going ahead with their plans for a 2021 Everest expedition.

How many people can I expect to see on Everest this year?

According to the Himalayan Database, 2019 was a record year on Mount Everest, with 878 climbers successfully making it to the summit. 

However, it was also the deadliest in the past half-decade, with 11 climbers killed on the mountain’s slopes. Of these deaths, nearly half were attributed to exhaustion and more than half were avoidable.

Keep reading: Summary of K2 Winter 2021 thus far

This is part of a troubling trend that has gained traction in the past few years in which inexperienced clients opt to hire less expensive and often unqualified guides to climb the peak.

These guides did not know how to push the clients and the clients were ill-prepared for climbing at such high altitudes. Combined with poor weather conditions, which meant there were few suitable days to make a summit attempt, and this is what led to the highly publicised crowding at the peak’s summit.

While fewer people will climb Everest this year due to the closure of the Tibetan side, another season of poor weather combined with all ascents taking place from Nepal could mean the summit will once again be crowded with climbers.

How much will an Everest expedition cost in 2021?

The cost of climbing Mount Everest continues to climb each year, but 2021 is expected to be an even more expensive year than usual. Most of the extra expenditures this year are COVID-19-related.

In general, climbers will spend anywhere from $30,000 to $160,000 to reach the top of the world.

According to data compiled by Arnette, the average cost for climbers using a local guide in 2021 is $47,000, about 3.5 percent higher than last year. For climbing with a Western guide, the average cost rises to $69,500, a full five-percent higher than it was in 2020.

ExpedReview’s own data show that the average price of climbing Everest via the South Col route is $58,798, with a median price of $55,500. Meanwhile, the average cost for climbing from the Tibetan side (without the luxury price) is $52,215 and the median price is $40,000.

While certain aspects of the costs should not be skimped on, there are other places where a few dollars can be saved.

What are the COVID-19-related costs?

Three main costs are directly related to COVID-19: the PCR tests, quarantine requirements upon arrival to Nepal and the dedicated insurance.

The Nepalese government requires all climbers and trekkers arriving in the country to have proof of a seven-day hotel reservation in the capital. After the fifth day of the quarantine, climbers and trekkers may take a PCR test at their own expense. 

If the result is negative, they will be able to proceed on their expedition. If it is positive, they will need to wait another week in quarantine before taking another PCR test. All of this comes on top of the PCR test that must be taken within 72 hours of flying from the climbers’ starting point.

A PCR test cost ranges from $80 to $140, depending on where they are acquired. However, the government-issued ones in Nepal cost roughly $20. 

The cost of a one-week quarantine stay in Kathmandu, including food, generally runs between $300 and $700 but largely depends on the hotel and meal selection. 

At the time of writing, Nepal requires all trekkers and mountaineers to have at least $5,000 of COVID-19 insurance. 

Even if the requirement is dropped, many evacuation teams will not get involved if anyone has COVID-19. As a result, climbers should have insurance either way.

According to the travel insurance comparison site, Squaremouth, travelers should add “cancel for any reason coverage” to their plans as well. With borders opening and closing at a moment’s notice, most standard travel insurance will not cover the full cost of COVID-19-related cancelations. 

Prices at a Glance

Source: ExpedReview

The two ways to climb Everest and three major cost groups

Away from additional costs incurred by COVID-19, there are three major price components to any Mount Everest climbing expedition: travel, permits and insurance, and supplies and gear. 

From the Nepalese side, there are also two different ways to make the ascent: hiring an all-inclusive guiding service that takes care of everything from arrival in Kathmandu to the return departure from Lukla and a cheaper logistics-only option.

By law, every foreign climber in Nepal is required to hire a local Sherpa guide. A logistics-only option would mean the climbers are on their own getting to EBC and would later hire a local company to provide all the necessary camping and cooking gear as well as support staff for the summit ascent. 

Climbing from the Tibetan side is a bit different. Every climber must apply for a permit or be listed on another climber’s permit. A liaison from the Chinese Mountaineering Association will meet all climbers at their port of entry to the country and accompany them throughout the ascent until departure. 

As a result, it is most comfortable to climb as part of an all-inclusive expedition as individual permits cost between $15,800 and $18,000. However, for a smaller fee, independent climbers can join another’s permit.

Traveling to EBC

In general, climbers should expect to spend up to $10,000 on travel from the individual’s point of origin to the EBC.

Before arrival, climbers will need to obtain a Nepal visa and the necessary immunizations, which cost $100 and $200, respectively. The cost of the visa to enter China and the Tibet Travel permit depend on the climber’s nationality. Expect to spend up to $200 for the Chinese visa and another $150 for the Tibet travel permit. 

Once all the proper documentation is collected, the next step is to fly to Kathmandu, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $7,000, depending on the airline and how many layovers are involved. 

From Kathmandu, climbers will need to test and quarantine (prices mentioned above) before flying to Lukla or Lhasa, Tibet. This will also cost a few hundred dollars. To save some money on the Nepalese side, it is possible to take a bus to Jiri and trek five days to Lukla and then on to EBC.

Keep reading: Everest Base Camp Guide: What to Know Before You Go

From Lukla to EBC, climbers can expect to spend between $400 and $1,000 per person for food and lodgings. The amount spent will depend on the quality of the places in which the climber stays. 

As a result of COVID-19, many climbers are opting to camp instead and avoid the close-quarters of the traditional tea houses. This is also a more cost-efficient way to make the trek to EBC.

Aside from room and board, climbers also need to transport all of their gear from Lukla to base camp. A combination of yak and porters usually does this. Climbers can expect to spend between $20 and $40 per day per load for yaks and $20 per day per porter. The total cost of transporting gear usually comes out to at least $1,000.

On the Tibetan side, travel is included in the climbing permit.

Permits and Insurance

The permit cost in Nepal is fixed at $11,000 per climber. However, this does not include separate fees: the cost of a local company to organize the permit (required by Nepalesele law) is $2,500 per expedition, the cost of a non-refundable trash deposit is $4,000 per permit and the payment for a liaison officer is $3,000 per team.

When all is said and done, climbers will part with about $20,000 even before arriving in Kathmandu.

In terms of insurance, most guiding companies require at least evacuation insurance but many others require medical. Trip cancellation insurance is also a smart investment in case the climbing season ends abruptly.

It is very difficult to give price estimates for insurance as these are highly variable and depend on age and trip length. However, expect to spend anywhere from $70 to $5,000. 

In Tibet (as was previously mentioned), an Everest climbing permit costs between $15,800 and $18,000 per person for a team permit of four or more. The price includes transportation to base camp, hotels, the liaison officer, trash fee and yaks (five in, four out).

It is also possible to bring Sherpas on the trip, but these will cost $9,500 per person, including their Chinese work permit and salary.

Supplies and gear

Climbers heading to Mount Everest should expect to spend up to $30,000 on gear and supplies during an Everest expedition. 

This includes about $5,800 for food, fuel and a local cook for a six-week trip. While $5,000 can be saved on the cook, it is generally a good idea to hire one.

Virtually all climbers – 97 percent – require supplemental oxygen for the ascent, which costs $550 per bottle. Most climbers will require at least five bottles, along with a mask ($450) and regulator ($450) for the ascent and descent, totalling $3,650.

 Strong and experienced climbers may opt to haul their supplemental oxygen up the high camps on the mountain, but many will use Sherpas instead. It is customary to provide their supplemental oxygen, which will cost an additional $2,000 (they use less). 

Away from food and oxygen, climbers will also need all the proper gear to climb. This includes boots, down suits, clothing layers, gloves, sleeping bags and packs, among other things. Buying all the proper mountaineering gear new will cost about $7,000. This price can be cut down by buying some of the equipment lightly used online.

All-inclusive guides

Many climbers will opt to avoid all the headaches and paperwork involved in a logistics-only climb and instead opt to pay for an all-inclusive expedition. These expeditions cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000, depending on the service.

Nepali operators tend to be the cheapest. According to data from ExpedReview, the median cost of these expeditions is $38,725. They tend to be led by experienced Sherpas, many of whom will have no formal guiding qualifications. A number of the cheaper options also do not include any expenses prior to arrival in Lukla. 

The mid-range option is to book a Western guide service that employs a Sherpa guide. The median price for these types of expeditions is $46,000. This option usually includes all of the aforementioned costs (except personal gear) from the previous sections. 

The main difference between this and the Nepali operators is the Sherpa guide will have a partial UIAGM-certification (usually without the ski touring part), which is more expensive than a non-certified guide, but less expensive than a fully-certified Western guide.   

The most expensive option is the Western guide service with a Western guide, which has a median price of $65,000. This option also tends to include all of the aforementioned costs (except personal gear) from the previous sections. While it is the highest price, there are certain advantages of traveling with a Western guide.  

All guides from these types of agencies will have an IFMGA/UIAGM-certification. This is likely to increase your chances of making it to the top and minimises the risks involved with climbing at extremely high altitudes.

In 2019, there were 21 deaths on the 14 eight-thousanders. Of these, 16 occurred with expedition operators who compete on low prices, according to Arnette.

Now you know before you go

Compare prices, itineraries and certified reviews of many guides that lead trips up Mount Everest on ExpedReview. Begin planning your trip to the top of the world today!

 

Sources:

https://www.alanarnette.com/blog/2021/02/10/how-much-does-it-cost-to-climb-mount-everest-2021-edition/

http://www.himalayandatabase.com/online.html

https://np.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information-2/

https://www.forbes.com/advisor/travel-insurance/best-pandemic-travel-insurance/

Copyright © Expedreview 2021