Based on a recent conversation with Nepali guides, there could be at least 300 permits for foreigners on the Nepal side, a bit less than the record 2019 with 382 permits issued.
Several major guide companies have canceled their entire season due to COVID; they include Adventure Consultants, Adventures Global, Alpenglow, and Mountain Madness. Also, travel from the UK to Nepal is effectively banned. I’m not aware of any Nepali companies refusing business, including Asian Trekking, Seven Summits treks. Many of the longtime foreign guides like International Mountain Guides and Alpine Ascents, plus Austria’s Furtenbach, are still going.
However, China has said that Tibet is still closed to foreigners; thus, all Everest climbing this spring will be on the Nepal side, creating crowds.
A disturbing pattern we have seen over the past several years is inexperienced clients with unqualified guides. This combination was one of the primary reasons for the nightmare line of people between the South Summit and the Summit in 2019. The client has no idea how to handle the altitude and went too slow, and the guide had no idea how to manage the client and let them clog up the system. Nothing has changed since then, and it won’t surprise me if we see something similar this year, especially if there are over 300 foreign permits issued by Nepal.
The headline for 2021 is significant price increase from the traditional operators and for the first time from the Nepali companies. The reason behind these increase is murky at best.
In 2019, China enacted many new rules, raised their permit price and operators just passed them along to their clients. But the Nepal side is a bit of a mystery, especially from the local operators. My best guess is they saw they could charge more and not hurt business so they are. However, Nepali operators have always been willing to deal, so take their list prices as an opening bid.
This is the breakdown of current median prices by style and route.
You an easily see how much the prices have increased on both side, for all style:
- ——————————Nepal 2020 Nepal 2021 % Inc. Tibet 2020 Tibet 2021 % Inc.
Nepali Guide Service—————–$38,000 $44,500 15% $41,000 $42,500 3.5%
Foreign Guide S. w. Sherpa G.—$44,500 $46,000 3% – – –
Foreign Guide S. w. Western G.–$69,000 $74,000 7% $62,700 $74,200 17%
As for safety, people die on both sides. Most of the deaths these days are due to inexperience and not who you selected as your guide. However, choosing a competent guide could save your life. The 11 deaths in 2019, tragically demonstrated what happens when inexperienced people go with unqualified guides.
Everest 2020 Review
The COVID pandemic shut down mountaineering worldwide. Almost all the Seven Summits saw zero visitors with the exception of Kilimanjaro and the Chinese side of Everest. There may have been a few other climbs here and there but nothing like in 2019.
Nepal and China “cooperated” to remeasure Everest and reported a revised height of 8848.86-meter/ 29,031.69291-feet, a 0.86-meters or 33.85827 inches higher! China sent a survey team to their side in 2020 along with a small national team. There were 28 summits.
Follow the Money
After a huge increase in 2018, the increase on the Tibet side was much lower than in Nepal, but in a swap, it is now less expensive to climb from Nepal than from Tibet except for the ultra-high-end guides like Alpenglow that competes on a high level of service, not on price.
The median price for low-end climbs in Nepal is $42,500 and 43,875 in Tibet, while the top end comes in at $67,000 in Nepal and a whopping $85,000 from Tibet.
Guided climbs on Everest are like any competitive marketplace, it’s driven by supply and demand, and the demand is huge! As I’ve noted for years now, more and more Everest climbers are coming from India and China, adding to the historical demand from the Americas, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Meeting that demand are many Nepal-based guides.
The Himalayan Database reports that through August 2020 there have been 10,271 summits (5,164 members and 5,107 hired) on Everest by all routes by 5,790 different people. 1,352 people, including 941 Sherpa, have summited multiple times. There have been 772 summits by women members.
The Nepal side is more popular with 6,554 summits compared to 3631 summits from the Tibet side. 216 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen, about 2.1%. 35 climbers have traversed from one side to the other. About 62% of all expeditions put at least one member on the summit. 621 climbers have summited from both Nepal and Tibet. 119 climbers have summited more than once in a single season.
304 people (185 westerners and 119 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to August 2020, about 3.5%. 109 died on the descending from summit bid or 35% of the total deaths. 13 women have died. The Nepal side has 194 deaths or 2.9%, a rate of 1.23. The Tibet side has 109 deaths or 3%, a rate of 1.08.
Most bodies are still on the mountain but China has removed many bodies from sight on their side.
The top causes of death are from avalanche (77), fall (71), altitude sickness (36) and exposure (26).
In 2019 there were 878 summits, 216 from Tibet and 662 from Nepal and 3 didn’t use supplemental oxygen. There were 11 deaths.
How Safe is Everest?
Everest is actually getting safer even though more people are now climbing. From 1923 to 1999: 170 people died on Everest with 1,169 summits or 14.5%. But the deaths drastically declined from 2000 to 2019 with 8,988 summits and 134 deaths or 1.5%. However, three years skewed the deaths rates with 17 in 2014, 14 in 2015 and 11 in 2019. The reduction in deaths is primarily due to better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial operations.
Of the 8000 meter peaks, Everest has the highest absolute number of deaths at 304 but ranks near the bottom with a death rate of 1.17. Annapurna is the most deadly 8000er with one death for about every four summits (72:298) or a 3.84 death rate. Cho Oyu is the safest with 3,845 summits and 52 deaths or a death rate of 0.55. [our note: K2 statistics are disputed].
Source: Alan Arnette
Header: Everest – Chinese Expedition-2020