Category-wide Findings: Everest Climbing Expeditions (ECEs)

 

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 ECEs: Introduction- Definition, Share…

The ECEs category covers ATPs in which the primary and only destination is Mount Everest and the purpose of the package is to scale the peak.

Out of 221 ATPs, fifteen (15) represents the category, accounting for just 6.7%.  Eight (8 or 17.78%) out of total 45 companies offer ECEs. Only four country-based companies- Nepal, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, sell ECEs. The US ATCs account for the highest number of ECEs (53.33%), followed by Nepal (26.67%) and the United Kingdom (13.33%). (Figure: 21)

Share of country-specific outfitter in Everest climbing expeditions’ category
 ECEs: Package Name

Although all 15 ATPs aim at Everest summit, names of the ATPs are quite different. Each ATP name describes its some unique features. For instance, “Express Everest Summit Climb” package (International Mountain Guides) emphasizes on speed with word “Express”. Two more packages from the same company- “Classic Everest Climb with Sherpa Guide” and “Classic Everest Climb with Western Guide”- reveal information about guides.

Some ATPs are named after the route selected. For instance, “Everest North Ridge (climbing)” by Jagged Globe will explore the North Ridge route, whereas its “Everest South Col (climbing)” package will follow the most popular South Col route to reach the summit.

ECEs: ATP Duration Analysis

The ECEs’ duration, ranging from 47 to 72 days, is the highest among all five main categories. Except two, all packages start from and end at Kathmandu. Extra time is, therefore, required for return journey between Kathmandu and the home of the traveler, increasing the total duration by at least two days if the traveler lives in Delhi, India.

All ECEs ATPs fall under the last three ATP duration categories:

  1. 41 to 50 days
  2.  51 to 60 days
  3.  >60 days

In fact, these three categories feature ECEs only. No other main category ATPs are as long as ECE packages.  Over 53.33% ECEs are more than 60 days long and 40% ECEs’ duration vary from 51 to 60 days. Only about 6.67% ECEs are 41-50 days long. (Figure: 22)

Duration analysis of Everest climbing expeditions

ECEs: ATP Price Analysis

The price of two ECE packages of Himalayan Glacier Trekking is not quoted on the website. Similarly, Mountain Monarch did not quote price for its ECE package on the website. “Mt Everest Expedition” of Himalayan Glacier Trekking is the cheapest at USD 563.38 pdpp. “Classic Everest Climb with Western Guide” package from International Mountain Guides is the costliest ECE at USD 1,754.39 pdpp. However, the former package is of 71 days and the latter needs 57 days to complete, fourteen (14) days less. There is substantial difference in the price (-67.88%) vis-à-vis difference in duration (24.56%) of the two. Cost of hiring a western guide may be one of the reasons that can be attributed to steep increase in the price of the latter ATP.

There is a wide variation between the prices of almost same duration packages offered by different companies. For instance, the price of 65-day “Everest North Ridge” package from Jagged Globe amounts to USD 615.38 pdpp, whereas that of 63-day “Mount Everest Expedition” package from Adventure Consultants (New Zealand) aggregates USD1, 031.75 pdpp.

International Mountain Guides (IMG): cheapest vs. costliest ECE packages

International Mountain Guides sells four ECEs. Its 57-day “Classic Everest Climb with Western Guide” is the costliest ECE and 47-day “Express Everest Summit Climb” is the cheapest. The price of Classic ATP is USD 1,754.38 pdpp and that of Express ATP is USD 787.23 pdpp, about 55% less. However, difference in the duration is about 18% only.

Both packages, starting and ending at Kathmandu, offer single tent at EBC. Single supplement is priced at USD 400.00 for the ATPs. The price of the two ATPs include

• transfers
• 2-night hotel stay,
• group equipment,
• climbing permit fee,
• return ticket from Kathmandu to Lukla,
• admission fee to the Mount Everest National park,
• all meals during climbing and trekking period,
• services of camp staff, liaison officer, porters and yaks,
• access to internet, power supply and foam trekking mattress at EBC, and
• hyperbaric bag, pulse oximeter, emergency medical O2 and high altitude camp equipment and supplies.

The price of “Classic Everest Climb with Western Guide” includes 54-night camping, whereas that of “Express Everest Summit Climb” includes 44-night camping. The Classic package offers fifty-five (55) breakfasts, fifty-four (54) lunches and fifty-five (55) dinners. The Express package serves forty-five (45) breakfasts, forty-four (44) lunches and forty-five (45) dinners. Although guide to traveler ratio is not mentioned in the Express package, one Sherpa will support one traveler. The Classic package ensures services of one western guide for each traveler. Neither of the packages’ prices includes insurance, international airfare, optional tipping, visa fee and expenses towards personal items.

In fine, significant difference between the prices of two IMG ECEs can be ascribed to longer duration and services of the western guides.

ECEs: Duration vs. Price

There is no direct relationship between duration and price of ATPs. However, the price varies with services. (Figure: 23)

Duration of Everest climbing expeditions versus minimum price

ECEs: ATP Grade Analysis

The websites of the US-based Alpine Ascents International and International Mountain Guides do not provide information about grading of ECEs. Other six companies use different terminology to grade the ECEs. For example, “Mount Everest Expedition” package from Adventure Consultants (New Zealand) is rated as “3”, whereas “Everest Expedition” package from Mountain Monarch (Nepal) is graded as “Strenuous”. However, Himalayan Glacier Trekking (Nepal) and Jagged Globe (United Kingdom) rate the ECE packages as “4E”. Mountain Gurus (USA) rates its all ECE packages as “Advanced”. Mountain Madness ECE package is rated as “5”.

Adventure Consultants (New Zealand) has a 5-level Difficulty Rating scale based on terrain type and required technical skills. The “3” level on the scale implies that travelers should have skills to use crampons, good knowledge of snow camping and rope techniques, and  moderate level of rock, snow and ice climbing experience to negotiate steep terrain.

Mountain Monarch (Nepal) has a 5-level Trip Grading scale. Each level has been named: Leisurely Plus, Moderate, Moderate Plus, Strenuous and Strenuous Plus. Thus, “Strenuous” is the fourth level (4th) on the scale. The elements of “Strenuous” level include altitude more than 5,000 meters, walking from 8 to 9 hours per day and total number of walking / trekking days varies between 15 and 20. Only physically fit travelers can opt for this.

Himalayan Glacier Trekking (Nepal) has two scales: Technical Difficulty and Fitness. Both the scales have five levels. The ECE packages of the company are rated as 4E, which means level four (4) on the first scale and E on the second scale. The level 4 on the Technical Difficulty scale means negotiating vertical slopes, thereby experience of mountaineering at high altitude is necessary. The level E ATPs require high level of physical fitness.

Similarly, Jagged Globe follows two-tiered grading system comprising of two scales: Technical Difficulty and Fitness. Each scale has five levels. The 4 level on the former scale means to negotiate long, steep ice and snow covered slopes, including some very steep ice covered slopes. It requires previous rock climbing and mountaineering experience. The E level requires climbing extreme altitude, involving excessive physical effort. The Jagged ECEs are graded as 4E.

Mountain Gurus (USA) has a 5-level Climbing Grade scale. The levels are named as Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced Intermediate and Advanced. The “Advanced”, the fifth level on the scale, requires excellent fitness, proficiency in mountaineering and climbing, and experience at high altitude. It involves negotiating steep, exposed terrain at more than 8,000 meters, which is technical. Its ECE packages are rated as “Advanced.”

Mountain Madness (USA) has a 5-level Expedition Rating System. The levels are Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced Intermediate and Advanced. The level “Advanced” implies proven experience of rock and ice climbing on technical terrain above 6,000 meters and advanced mountaineering skills.

ECEs: Traveler to Guide Ratio

Traveler to western guide ratio is 4:1 for some ECEs, whereas traveler to Sherpa guide ratio is 1:1 in other cases.

ECEs: Conclusions

1. The ECEs are the longest ATPs.

2. Less than 20% ATCs surveyed sell ECEs.

3. Name of each ECE highlights some unique features.

4. ECEs are single-destination (Mount Everest) and two-activity ATPs (trekking and climbing).

5. Price difference in the cheapest and the costliest ECEs of IMG is about 55%, whereas duration difference is just 18%.

6. Classic package boasts 1:1 traveler to western guide ratio, whereas Express package ensures 1:1 traveler to Sherpa ratio.

7. Except Mountain Monarch, all companies require moderate to advanced mountaineering experience at high altitude for ECEs.

8. ECE package grade information is available for six companies.

9. All six companies grade the ECEs on the basis of the 5-level scales. However, Himalayan Glacier Trekking and Jagged Globe follow a 2-tier scale.

10. It is not easy to compare the package difficulty level, because one company rated the ECE package at level “3”, two companies at level “5” and the remaining three at level “4” on their respective 5-level scales.

 

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