Hall started arranging commercial expeditions on Everest in the early
'90s. This skilled and responsible climber was, in our opinion, also an
The birth of commercial expeditions was a major breakthrough for
climbers and adventurers from around the world.
Commercial organizers made the Himalayas far more accessible. Now, you
didnít have to care about the politics usually involved in national
expedition climbing, or know all kinds of uninteresting officialdom to
climb in the Himalayas.
What more, people like Rob proved to dreamers that climbing Everest or
other Himalayan giants did not have to remain just a dream - these
veteran climbers made the mountains accessible to everyone.
almost everyone. Apart from climbing skills, it required a great deal of
finance on the climber's part. Not necessarily to make the expedition
leader rich, just as a fact that Himalayan expedition climbing is a huge
project that is costly.
There has been a lot of debate about Himalayan climbers and leaders
being millionaires. We too have (flattering enough) been called that,
although camping in BC in a ripped, cheap camping tent with plastic
panorama windows, alone with 2 guitars, 3 sherpas and every last cent of
our hard earned cash gone into the adventure.
there are some millionaires on Everest, most climbers are just
like us. Not-so-well funded dreamers, skipping the fancy apartment, car
and restaurants, even a normal family life, and instead putting it all
into our climbing dreams. Most often, our financial situation is quite
hairy and we divide life before and after Everest...
Luckily enough though, we have done better ourselves financially
since our initial climbs, actually indirectly thanks to Everest! Everest
sharpens oneís focus and opens doors, in business as in professional
When you make your own budget, you will find that the tales of
expedition leaders making millions are a product of looking at the
revenues and forgetting the costs.
To organize an expedition is like running a not so small business.
There are around 10 climbers to care for and a staff of about 25 sherpas
to manage. The budget is around half a million US. If you are a
commercial leader, you need to market yourself, sell the spaces,
organize and lead some 40 people including staff in Kathmandu and at
The expedition leadership must be performed under serious conditions.
You have to motivate everyone, deal with differences within the group,
be responsible for all the gear at all the camps for all those people,
deal with frustrations and failures - all that while climbing the
mountain yourself! Because if you donít, you canít really know what is
awaiting those that you make decisions for...
take upon you a serious responsibility for peopleís lives. And if in the
end you are lucky enough to make - letís say a 20% profit from it all -
itís really a question if you couldnít make the money much easily
somewhere else. It is a hard, sad and scary fact that from the 5
commercial expedition leaders that we knew in 1996 when we first climbed
Everest, only one is still alive today...
Joining a commercial expedition
As there are considerable advantages in joining a commercial
expedition, you might be tempted to do just that. You will then need to
take some serious precautions in order not to fall prey to a bad
leader's lousy judgments and even upcoming life threatening situations.
Because to every good thing there is a downside. Right behind the
responsible, good expedition leaders in the early nineties - came the
gold diggers. Those guys watched the fees paid by clients and figured
that this was an easy way to profits.
Soon enough, they found the big bucks somehow disappearing from them.
Yet the fame, honor and free lifestyle of being an expedition leader
still lured them to return.
Such expedition leaders come and go. And they are not at all unusual.
Even worse; they are hard to detect. Usually excellent smooth talkers,
they seem very nice, skilled and have many friends. They are promoted by
climbing websites in exchange for exclusive news and other favors. They
will promote their own services as the only ones of value, anything to
force you into their bag of commerce. And you, perhaps new to the
mountain, will not know what to think. Confused, you might succumb.
For the victims or witnesses of their bad leadership will remain
silent, often afraid of consequences if they need to return to the
Himalayas. Or being blamed themselves for the accidents, or accused of
whining, or just not being believed altogether.
So, what you need to do is to take the advantage of the organization,
while being self-sufficient enough to care for yourself if worst comes
If you consider joining a commercial expedition - please read the
following information carefully!
Ignorance of the following facts has taken innocent climbers' lives.
The proposal - and the reality:
will find commercial expeditions advertised in various climbing
magazines. When you approach them, you will usually be advised to climb
another mountain with them (Cho Oyo, Amadablam, Aconcaqua and the like)
if you are a novice to climbing. Those preparation climbs are usually
scheduled for autumn. Already the following spring you will be
considered ready for Everest.
By then, you will know a little about gear and altitude, yet not much
about anything else. You will have to put your life in somebody elseís
You will be promised guides. The reality is often that guides
sometimes are not so experienced themselves, too often just regular
climbers joining the expedition on a lower fee in exchange for "looking
after" the others.
The guides are also not always made clear on the responsibility
expected of them by the leader. The leaders are simply vague on that due
to competition over guides from other organizers. Therefore, the guides
sometimes end up primarily interested in summiting themselves, since
they actually pay for it just like you do.
You will be promised sherpas. The sherpas will be led by the leader
and not by you. The consequence is that if the leaders organizational
and leadership skills are not so great, the sherpa services will be
likewise. This means that you might very easily end up deprived of fuel,
food and/or very important gear in crucial situations. We have watched
many desperate climbers of commercial expeditions ending up without
food, fuel, sleeping bags, axes, oxygen Ė even tents on their climbs.
in really life threatening situations - everyone will mostly see to
their own safety first. It is not very common that expedition leaders
die with their clients like Rob Hall did. It is far more common that
sherpas, guides and leaders just head down as fast they can, leaving you
It is important that you donít make yourself any illusions on these
facts. Just like on any street corner in your city - the heroes saving
lives are easily counted, especially in situations dangerous to everyone.
There is a terrible danger in the safety of numbers. You have no idea
how quickly a space can empty out and how desperately lonely you might
get in bad situations.
The answer is knowledge and control, acquired by experience. Know
your oxygen gear, the oxygen rates, check that your gear is really going
up and with what sherpa. Bring some extra food and the most
Be very firm that your oxygen bottles are marked with your name, have
your own oxygen gear with you and test it before the climb. Use your own
sence and be organized. Donít fight with your leader openly if possible,
but donít be afraid to take him aside and be firm on aspects concerning
Try to pay for a summit sherpa specially assigned to you. If you are
assigned a guide, discuss the climb with him/her beforehand.
to climb dangerous parts if not properly secured by fresh rope - require
that it be taken care of. In technically difficult Himalayan
expeditions, skilled climbers always take the time to secure dangerous
parts with good rope. You are not being a whimp - you are sensible in a
dangerous environment. Donít let daredevils, lazybones or leaders saving
a buck tell you anything else! Climbing Everest doesnít mean being
Check the weather reports, know the figures and think for yourself.
You still might be forced into situations because sherpas and other
climbers are led into actions opposite your belief.
The only way to escape that however is to climb independently. Once you
join a commercial expedition you will have to face certain facts. Yet
with some precautions made, the climb might end up very well after all.
Finally, donít compete in speed with the others. As the tortoise knew
and the hare learned, speed is nothing, getting there is everything.
Many climbers wear themselves out on the initial climbs in order to
impress the others. They rush, carry huge loads and even pick on you if
you are slower. Donít listen to that. In the end, they could very well
end up weakened by wearing themselves down, while you steadily pass them
to the summit.
We were often considered slow. Yet in the end we summited Everest
already at 9.18 in the morning, with enough power to spend an additional
hour on the summit working the technical stuff and finally had a nice
climb back to C4, shooting film and pictures on the way. And that just
weeks after an earlier climb to the Balcony (8600-m/28000 ft; the
altitude of K2) with Babu. Donít allow anybody to rush you. Be cool.
The exception is obviously if you are slow due to illness or general
exhaustion. In that case, take a rest and delay the attempt for a
Most important when joining a commercial expedition is to be as clear
as possible before the expedition on what you will require from it -
preferably in writing. Leaders can have a nasty habit of getting quite
rabid, dominant and manipulative once you are on the mountain and
dependent on them. Donít let them scare you. Be fair but firm.
the psychological situation in the expedition can turn similar to the
one in the novel "Lord of the Flies". Things turns ugly, you complain,
but - in their desperation Ė the other clients jump you instead, in that
gaining favor from the leader.
The leader fuels their behavior, in order to keep his power and get rid
of the criticism.
If that happens to you, you will again have to take control of your
situation. Focus on your own gear, bring own stuff everywhere and use
your own head.
If you are not joining a commercial expedition, and instead
organizing your own, be prepared to get somewhat back talked by many of
the commercial expedition leaders. You are a threat to their business.
If everybody starts to do what you do - they are out. Please also keep
us posted on whats up on the mountain in terms of foul politics.
Together we are strong and can free Everest from much trouble today.
We really must stress the importance of the above information, due to
that we have seen lives being wasted or almost wasted by the most
incredible actions of human lack of responsibility on Everest. We thus
promised ourselves to put this site together, in order to do something
this web site will call for more independent expeditions, as well as
clients of commercial expeditions being more self-sufficient.
That should provide for the best of both worlds and change everybodyís
situation on Everest for the better.