Climbing the Himalayas is an extremely risky expedition but the mountains, and especially Everest, have continued to draw large numbers of adventurers to them. In the 66 years since the first recorded conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, more than 4,800 people have achieved the feat, and some 300 are believed to have been killed on the mountain.

The massive interest in climbing Everest has also turned the 8,848-metre peak into one of the world’s dirtiest mountains — scarred by piles of garbage, from empty oxygen cylinders and stoves to human waste and even bodies of dead climbers. As part of the Everest Day celebrations — held annually to commemorate the triumph of Hillary and Tenzing on May 29, 1953 — Nepal’s Army, assisted by other agencies and activists, cleared the summit route of 10,834 kg of garbage.

Who can climb Everest?
Adults over age 18, who have completed basic and advanced courses in mountaineering from recognised training institutes, are eligible. They are required to have above average physical and mental fitness.

Applications are cleared by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). The climbing season is for three months, ending on May 31; however, the most favourable period, called “weather window”, lasts for only about 10-12 days of May. For most of the year, a powerful westerly jet stream surrounds Everest, and the constant winds of speeds around 120 km/hr — double the maximum wind speed that climbers can usually toleate — make it almost impossible to climb the peak. During the weather window, westerly winds blow at below 2,000 metres, and speeds can drop to 40km/hr.

Is it difficult to get a permit?
The Nepal Tourism Board awards permits to groups of mountaineers against a payment for $11,000 (approximately Rs 7.65 lakh), plus a refundable deposit of $4,000, which is returned after verifying that the climber has adhered to all regulations. Climbers from India said expeditions are planned by a mountaineering agency or company that is recognised by Nepal’s government. Individual climbers pay $35,000 (about Rs 24.3 lakh) to the agency, which covers transport, camping and lodging, food, medicine and the company of a sherpa per climber. Each sherpa is paid between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 4 lakh.

What equipment is needed?
The list of mandatory climbing gear includes 20-22 different types of equipment, including headgear, goggles, various rappelling devices like harness, carabiner and descenders, mountain boots, crampons, ropes, ice-sacks, etc. Special clothing includes a down jacket, mountain boots, windproof thermal layers, mitten gloves, thermal socks, oxygen masks and sleeping bags. The clothing can cost Rs 5 lakh, the most expensive items being the down jacket (Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000) and the mountain boots (Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000).