Friday, May 9, 2014

I Saved for Three Years for Mt. Everest

I saved money from every paycheck for three years to pay for Mt. Everest. I thought about it weekly, if not daily. I will probably say this phrase often in the coming months. With so many dead people it feels selfish to talk about money, but it was tens of thousands of dollars and everyone knows the risks.

One of my teammates said with a smile at base camp, "I invested my life savings in a third world country and lost it all." This is like my huge loss on A123 stock. I do have positive things to say about the whole experience, but like I said before, this will take months to write it all down.

The Speeches at EBC April 24th
There seemed to be three kinds of people on Everest. Early career young people, like myself, climbers who I would characterize as "dirt bags" who have lived in their van or in a tent for portions of time. Those that climb independently all the time. For us, it was a huge amount of money. We have the skills and the experience to be here, but the money is a huge huge hurdle. The second type of person was a later career person, with some climbing experience who has money and time. The kind of person who spends $100,000 on a ticket into space for next year. The kind of person who has been on numerous helicopter flights, maybe even pre-acclimating in a tent and helicoptering into base camp. This person has experience because he or she can afford to take expeditions all over the world, and is well read enough to know what is required above 8000 meters. Taking a loss of this size was not such a big deal. The third type of person was generally mid to later career, not so rich, and without the luxury of time that us young climbers recently had to develop climbing skills independently by trial and error. For them it was still a huge investment.

In the Kumbu, people think that all westerners have money. At the Paradise Lodge in Lukla, with any bad weather the manager/owner lady would remind you every hour that maybe you should take a helicopter, "only $550 per person". As if $500 is just something we can toss away. I am happy I trekked out to Phaplu and took a 15 hour jeep ride with five Sherpas over three days for a total cost to me (excluding porters for my two bags) of about $50 (including the two porters carrying my 90 lbs. of stuff for two days I think $110).

Last night in Kathmandu several of us were discussing our experiences and one person said, in the Solokumbu region we are viewed as rich people who will pay lots of money versus in the rest of Nepal the shop owners are just happy we stopped at their shop. The people in the Kumbu won the lottery. Maybe five billion people in the world live on less than $10 per day, but here a Sherpa can make $6000 in two months.

In the world of adventure travel most expensive is a space trip, $20-30 million to go to the ISS or $100k+ for a few minutes above 100 km (although none of those companies have actually started running trips yet). Then there are polar expeditions, on the order of $150k+ depending on what you want to do, that is from the coast or just the last degree and what kind of support. There are ocean rowing crossings, around $50k+. Then fourth on the list is Everest, $30k+. You can do K2 or any other 8000 meter peak in the world for $15,000 or less. There is only one highest mountain.

In the west we will likely be branded as murderers because we send high altitude porters into dangerous places. I told a Sherpa friend that in the future I may do no Sherpas (no high altitude porters) for all my climbs, but then he mentioned that there is tension between the Sherpas (2013 Everest fight) and independent western climbers because climbing on our own we are keeping Sherpas from having a job. It's like we owe it to them to hire them, and if we don't hire them, they resent us, despite the fact that maybe 16 of them could die at one time when a serac collapses. It's a double standard. It would be easier to go on an expedition if I hired less people but then I also have a lower chance of summit success.
Asian Trekking Sherpas Eating Dahl Bat in Dingboche
I don't know. I turned 28 today. Just another reminder I need to get busy getting stuff done. Also a strange reminder that I don't know as much for a 28 year old as I feel I should. I feel like the lyrics from Coldplay Square One.

Summiting the EBC Dining Tent April 24th in my Down Suit for Breakfast

1 comment:

  1. Three kinds of people, but numerous attributes in common: (1) narcissistic; (2) hubristic (3) environmentally, either uncaring or just plain ignorant; and (4) arrogant. Happy Birthday, hopefully you may have learned one thing from this experience, i.e., sometimes life doesn't go just the way you planned and/or hoped it would go. Rather than lament about the $$$, maybe view this experience as God's will, and be thankful for the new friends you've made and the overall experience. Personally, I look at you as having been blessed for even having had the opportunity to get to BC. P.S. I suggest going forward you may be well advised not to refer to anyone, even oneself, as a "dirt-bag"; not good for the ego and you never know who is going to be holding the other end of the rope someday.

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