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Financing Everest: Just charge it!
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Jul 30, 2004 15: 20 EST
I don’t have the time, I’m too scared, and I don’t have the money are just three of the many reasons that many folks are not out there climbing Everest, skiing to the Poles or going on any number of adventures that they only dream of.

Being scared and not having the time are two issues that have to be dealt with on a personal level – ExplorersWeb is not one to judge on this. However, not having the money is no longer a valid excuse. While gas prices continue to rise, and cost of living increases in many countries around the world, expeditions are getting cheaper – even from just a few years ago.

Old school financing

Expedition costs early on in this century, and even leading into the 80’s were astronomical. The only way teams could front the bill was through major sponsorships or through government financed nationalistic trips. The 1953 Everest expedition in today’s dollars would be upwards of half a million or even more.

The 90’s saw the advent of commercial expeditions commanding 50 to 70,000 USD and South Pole expeditions easily exceeding 100,000 USD, only just a few years ago.

Everest on the cheap

Compare that to today’s prices. Everest can be had for 6,000 USD, for the bare minimum, or just 10,000 USD for a nicely appointed team. Granted there are options all the way up to 55,000 USD for the best commercial outfits. A South Pole ski can be had for 65,000 USD, fully guided, and Vinson for 22,000 USD. Not bad for a mountain that used to be known for being even more expensive than Everest – much to the bane of those seeking the 7 summits.

Creative financing

While these expeditions still aren’t cheap, they are certainly now affordable – and that is seen in Base Camps all over the Himalaya, especially Everest. You get the state funded teams and the occasional fully sponsored teams; however, the other climbers are no longer just doctors, lawyers, and independently wealthy folks. More and more you are seeing students, and climbers that fit into the middle or upper-middle class bracket. Some have saved up their entire lives for these trips, others manage to get some sponsorship, and some even sold their homes or took out a second mortgage.

Sell the house!

We know of at least one K2 expedition that was financed by the sale of a home, and an Afghanistan/South Pole/Around the world yacht race adventure trifecta that is being funded by taking out a mortgage.

Credit Card roll-overs

And then there are the folks who are playing the credit card game. Every time you open the mailbox, there seems to be yet another offer for a pre-approved 0% credit cards. Even college kids get these. You call a number, divulge a little information and two weeks later a brand new credit card arrives that will give you 0% interest for at least a year.

So for a 10,000 to 20,000 dollar Everest expedition, all you need to do is get two or three of these cards and do a balance transfer to your bank account. A week later, and voila – you’ve got loads of interest free cash in your bank account to fund an Everest expedition. ExplorersWeb knows of at least two Everest climbers that financed Everest on credit cards, and one 7-summit hopeful that is putting all the 7 summits on his Amex!

Be warned!

If you don’t pay off the balance by the time the 0% expires, then all you need to do is get another 0% credit card and roll the balance over. A word of caution, credit card companies are savvy too – they will eventually figure you out and if you are just minutes late with your minimum monthly payment, they have the right to cancel the 0% offer and jack you up – sometimes as high as 19%. .

And returning home from an expedition to a mound of debt isn’t the nicest thing either – especially if you didn’t reach your goal. Ask either of the two credit card funded Everest climbers that we know if it was worth it though, the answer is a resounding yes. Money’s out there you just have to find it.

As one wise Russian Everest climber once said, “We are all on commercial expeditions, everybody pays to climb – just not always their own money!”

ExplorersWeb archive image of an expedition being paid for in a Kathmandu hotel.
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