To plant your feet on the top of the world you need some spare cash. The 75-90-day trek in Nepal, where Everest is called Sagarmatha, can set you back by anything between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 45 lakh, depending on what you want and who you go with. And that's just for the round trip from Kathmandu.
Making good of the surge in the number of those who are willing and able is a growing crop of organisers. There are 20-odd companies in Nepal doing that and an estimated double the number across the world. Ang Tshering Sherpa of one such outfits, the Kathmandu-based Asian Trekking, says he charges Rs 14 lakh-16.5 lakh per person.
What this cost usually doesn't include are the return trip to Kathmandu, personal gear and climbing equipment, alcoholic beverages and bottled drinks, medical insurance and communication equipment. What it should include is the stay in Kathmandu before the expedition, food during the trek, tents, return flights to Lukla, oxygen and medical supplies, guides and porters, and fees for the climbing permit.
But more than the cost, one should look at the facilities being provided and the history of the company in conducting similar expeditions. It's always advisable to attempt the climb in a group than going solo.
In 2006, 34-year-old British climber David Sharp died while attempting an ascent without a guide or porter. He had paid a Kathmandu-based trekking company around Rs 3 lakh to arrange the permits, food and bare essentials to reach the base camp on the Tibetan side — and carried only two bottles of oxygen instead of the usual five. The incident led to a controversy over ethics as nearly 40 climbers who saw a struggling Sharp failed to help him.
Arjun Vajpai spent Rs 30 lakh on his trip this year. Without any government or corporate sponsorship, he relied on his parents, family friends and NGOs to gather the amount. Sukhwinder Kaur, the first woman from Punjab to reach the top, collected nearly Rs 7 lakh from her townsfolk to fulfill her dream.
"These days we get a lot of inquiries from Indians. They have lot of self-confidence and money seems not a problem for them," said Jamie McGuinness of Project Himalaya. So prepare to hear about more Arjuns and Sukhwinders in the coming seasons.