Ever since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest in 1953, adventure seekers from across the globe have been inspired to challenge themselves on Mount Everest and some of the toughest mountains around the world. Successfully reaching the Seven Summits – the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents is the considered by many to be the pinnacle achievement of a mountaineer. Even so the author of Into Thin Air, John Krakauer believed that climbing the second-tallest mountains on a continent, the so-called Seven Second Summits maybe an even more difficult proposition. Whether your goal is to reach one peak, seven, or fourteen you will need a lot more than just courage to get you there. Whatever skill one has as a climber, the process takes a lot of money to provide for the necessary training, equipment, food, guides, and even licences to be protected and stay alive. It is no wonder that only wealthy adventurers, sponsored athletes, and members of mountain climbing clubs get exclusive access to the highest places on Earth. There is no luxury at the camps and summits of these mountains but for some the peak can become paradise.
Aconcagua – $10,000
Located in the Andes of Argentina, the tallest mountain in South America was first successful ascended in 1897. Most climbers attack Aconcagua by its Northern Route as opposed to the Polish Glacier or South Wall where it is most dangerous. Prior to including equipment and park fees, the cost to climb Aconcagua’s Northern Route as part of a guided tour is between $4000 to $6500 dollars. John Krakauer in Into Thin Air compared navigating Aconcagua to a walk with unpredictable winds and a 40% failure to summit rate, it is important for climbers of any skill level not to under-prepare or underestimate the challenges. Though Aconcagua is located in one of the most temperate places in the world, temperatures near the peak can dip to -25 degrees Celsius. After a perilous trek, you have the fine foods and weather of Argentina to look forward to.
Mount Elbrus – $10,000
These days might as be as good as any to climb Mount Elbrus, the dormant volcano is estimated to have last erupted nearly 2000 years ago and predicted to erupt once again within 50. Mount Elbrus, one of the Seven Summits is Europe’s Tallest Mountain located in the Caucasus region of Russia. Mount Elbrus is a place of myth and history, in Greek myth, Zeus bound Prometheus to the mountain for giving fire to mankind and during the second World War II, it was surrounded by German forces. The northern ascent of Mount Elbrus is one of the few mountains with amenities such as cable cars and ski lifts. While climbers can elect to take a cable car and ski lift to higher parts of the mountain, it is impossible to avoid the toughest part of the journey and extreme cold to reach the summit. An expedition conducted by tour companies start at roughly $4000 excluding flights, accommodations, and climbing equipment. Whether attempting to ascend or enjoy Mount Elbrus’ skiing, a pocket full of Russian roubles is necessary to enjoy the area.
Mount McKinley / Denali – $15,000
Whether you call it McMcKinley or Denali – “The Great One,” it is the greatest peak in North America surpassing the next closest, Mount Logan by 240 meters. At 6,194 meters, the Alaskan peak has a strong history in the climbing world and being an initial test for those who are preparing to take on the treacherous Himalayan Mountains across the Earth. Without the promise of good weather and assistant of Sherpa support, Mount McKinley is a challenge for climbers who want to gauge their personal abilities. A group ascent can cost as little as $10,000 to $15,000 with all costs factored in. The journey up Mount McKinley’s West Buttress can be completed within two or three weeks so for adventurers without an abundance of vacation days, a trip to Alaska might be the perfect getaway.
Kilimanjaro – $10,000
Unlike the multi-month journeys to ascend Himalayan Mountains, the tallest mountain in Africa can be conquered in a week. One of the most popular climbing destinations in the world, the three-peaked dormant volcano at its highest point is 5,895 metres. There are numerous paths to ascend up Mount Kilimanjaro with the Lemosho Route considered the longest and easiest and the Machame Route being the most scenic and steepest. Of the Seven Summits, Mount Kilimanjaro is the most traveled and as a result may have been responsible for the deaths of more people than Everest. Historically, Mount Kilimanjaro has religious connotations to the locals being considered the source of creation they bury their dead facing the mountain. After all the necessary expenses, the price of climbing the legendary mountain should be just less than $10,000.
Annapurna – $20,000
At 8091 metres tall, Annapurna is the 10th tallest mountain in the Himalayas and the world. A mountain left almost solely to professional climbers the ascent of Annapurna has claimed the lives of nearly a third of those who attempt to summit and descent from its highest peak. Since new safety measures were introduced to the sport and the mountain, the fatality rate has dropped significantly enough that the World’s Deadliest Mountain is more available to less technical climbers. $12,000 buys transportation and access to the mountain, $8,000 covers equipment and most other expenses, bravery not included. Serial speed climber, Ueli Stech of Switzerland was awarded the highest honor in mountaineering, the Piolet d’Or for summiting and descending from the peak in 28 hours — for most, a 29-day journey.
Vinson Massif – $45,000
At the bottom of the Earth is Vinson Massif, named after a key supporter of Antarctic exploration United States congressman Carl Vinson. Though ascending the mountain is not considered a monumental feat, the expedition provides mental and physical challenges that climbers that they might not be familiar with. The highest Antarctic peak during climbing season can drop to as cold as -50 degrees Celsius and averages -30 degrees. The weather is so consistently low that it acts as a natural freezer for whatever food is brought up and the human body. At this point in the world there the Sun does not set during the winter months and fatigue allowing Vinson Massif can be climbed throughout the day. The trip to base camp includes a flight to Chile, a chartered jet to Antarctica, and a lift from small snow plane to the foot of the mountain. At $40,000 for expedition costs alone, Vinson Massif is one of the most expensive mountains one can have the honor of climbing.
K2 – $50,000
Mount Everest might have the most height and prevalence in popular culture but there are reasons why K2, the second tallest mountain in the world is called “The Mountain of Mountains.” Located on the border between Pakistan and China, the mountain is nearly unaccessible in the winter due to harsh weather conditions. Possessing nearly the same atmospheric conditions as Everest and a penchant for tough weather, K2 is a more daunting climb because of steeper surfaces and narrower passes. During climbing season, 1 in 5 people that have tried to reach the summit of K2 died in the process. Climbing K2 like most difficult mountains requires a lot of technical skill and experience equalling tens of thousands of dollars of training. K2 is much cheaper to climb than Mount Everest though it does not come with the same level of amenities such as WiFi access. A fully equipped and guided expedition costs to summit K2 costs around $25,000 including climbing permits of $7200 for 7 climbers. Separate from the expedition fee, Pakistani officials ask for a bond of $6000 in case you need to be rescued. At the end of your expedition remember to tip the sherpa.
Mount Everest – $110,000
This year, Nepal has dramatically cut the cost of an individual license to climb Mount Everest from $25,000 to $11,000. Climbers and their teams are a big part of the Nepali economy bringing demand for hotels, restaurants, and mountain guides. As one of the top mountaineering locations in the world nearly 7,000 people have summited Mount Everest since Edmund Hillary reached the peak in 1953. It takes over thirty days on average to climb up the World’s Tallest Mountain including stays at camps to help the body adjust to the changes in altitude. These long expeditions can cost between $50,000 and $110,000 including the cost of equipment, food, and accommodation. An oxygen tank for instance costs around $300 and depending on the experience and physiology of a climber might not need one or need six. Along with the honor of having the highest peak in the world Everest also carries the highest price.