Typical effects of altitude include headaches, nausea and exhaustion. But in the death zone, high-altitude cerebral edema can create a lack of muscle control, impaired speech, confusion and hallucinations. High-altitude pulmonary edema results in coughing and breathing problems. Frostbite, snow blindness and hypothermia are major threats.
Q: I want to climb Everest someday. Can anyone do it?
The primary barriers are money and fitness. While Nepal’s government has placed restrictions on foreigners — expensive permits, the necessity of hiring an outfitter with guides, and an age requirement of 18, for example — it is only now considering ways to restrict attempts to highly experienced mountaineers.
Q: How much does it cost?
The range is wide — from nearly $30,000 to $100,000 or more. Foreigners must buy an $11,000 permit from the Nepalese government, plus pay other fees, but the variance has to do with the outfitters hired. Some offer Western guides for Western clients, which can be more expensive than local ones, or some hybrid in the ratio between climbers and guides. (For example, 1 local guide per climber, plus one Western guide for every four climbers.) Other substantial costs include travel, gear, oxygen and weeks of food and camping while acclimatizing at Base Camp (17,600 feet).
Q: Who are the sherpas?
Guides in the Himalayas are often called “sherpas,” though not all are part of the ethnic group of Sherpa, from which many take their surname. Most are young men, living anywhere from small villages to the chaotic city of Kathmandu, who find they can make more money as a guide than in other lines of work. The Nepal government said that most guides earn about $6,000 per expedition, but the range is broad, from camp cooks (perhaps $2,500) to lead guides ($10,000). They are not immune to the dangers; nearly half the people who have died on Everest have been sherpa guides.
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