We get asked all the time what would be a normal progression in mountains if you were looking to climb Mount Everest. There is never a one size fits all answer. Each person needs to assess a range of factors.
1). How much money do you have available for all these adventures
2). How much time you want to allocate to the challenge (5, 10 years)
3). Do you need support or sponsorship
4). Your current level of mountaineering and experience
5). How much high and extreme altitude experience you have
If I was starting with no experience and wanted to climb Mount Everest this is where I would start. I would first do a fitness test and Vo2 max test and compare my fitness levels with athletes as you are planning to put your life on the line to climb a Mountain. Use the best science available to help you come fully prepared.
From there you should become proficient in a few different disciplines.
1). Start with mountaineering basics, this is really important. Join a course in Scotland or Colorado. Your ultimate goal is to be self sufficient and relying on yourself to make the best decisions for your safety and the people around you. Himalayan mountaineering is very different than Alpine style climbing. You need to very proficient in using a Jumar, figure of 8. Understand knots and have the rope skills and used to using mountaineering boots, crampons etc. Do you know how the oxygen system works on Mount Everest? Why would you learn this on the mountain.
2). Be very familiar with camping, using tents, your personal gear and clothing you are going using and learn how your body reacts to cold weather and what layers, gloves, boots work for you. You need to become very comfortable in all conditions, situations and have a wide range of experience to fall back on. How is your camp craft? you will need need to be very proficient in managing yourself in a range of mountain environments.
3). The battle on Mount Everest is the altitude. The low levels of oxygen can be lethal and everyone responds differently to the low levels of oxygen. LEARN MORE. The more experience you have in low oxygen environments the better prepared you will be. I know people who’s altitude limit is 10,000 feet. I know other who can safely go above 17,000 feet and again other people who can break the 23,000 feet mark. You need to know this before you climb Mount Everest. You need a personal benchmark in altitude experience so you can be safe moving into extreme altitude.
I personally believe everyone should be training, preparing and developing the skills needed to be safe. Knowing how your body performs at altitude is really important. A couple of trips will not tell you this. Everyone should be taking a minimum of five years, if not longer to be fully prepared in their goal of climbing Mount Everest.
Here are some mountains you should consider before climbing Mount Everest:
1). Climb Kilimanjaro: Kilimanjaro has a lot of support from porters, but you can carry 10kg/ 22lbs each day on the trail and you can understand what it is like to move and exercise in a low oxygen environment carrying weight. We run 8 day Kilimanjaro and this is a fast ascent into high and extreme altitude. Kilimanjaro will give you experience in a low oxygen environment with a big ascent and descent built into the trip. READ MORE about the summit night on Kilimanjaro. This summit attempt will help you gauge if your current physical training is on track or you need to make some adjustments. LEARN MORE.
2). Everest Base Camp and Island peak: Take a trip to Nepal and become familiar with the country, Sherpa people, culture, mountain weather and overall experience of being in Nepal. I recommend coming in climbing season March to May and be apart of it. Trekking to Everest is important to experience Everest Base Camp then hike up Kala Phatar 18,520 feet and get that close up view of Mount Everest. You may change your mind! As part of your mountaineering training you should aim to climb Island Peak. Steep 60/70 degree angle climbing at 20,000 feet using your jumar, getting used to moving on fixed lines, abseiling on steep terrain using your figure of 8 is really important. LEARN MORE.
3). Climb Mont Elbrus: Mount Elbrus is one of the seven summits and highest peak in Europe. Climbing Elbrus helps you experience cold harsh weather and will help you test your gear that little bit further. As you can see in out Elbrus video, the weather can be cold, windy and arctic conditions even during the summer months. I recommend climbing in late May or June to give you colder conditions.
4). Climb Mont Blanc: Mont Blanc and the Alps hold some great mountaineering terrain for you to explore. Mont Blanc is a classic mountaineering peak. Although the mountaineering is different in the Himalaya’s. Climbing Mont Blanc is a must for any mountaineering aspiring for the big mountains. Aiming to climb Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc in a 6 day program is something you need to consider on the road to Mount Everest.