Are Everest Climbing Permits About to Get Much More Expensive?

If you follow the Everest climbing scene closely, you probably already know that an expedition to the world’s highest peak costs a lot of money. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. The average price of a climb up the South Side of the mountain in Nepal is more than $60,000.

What you might not have known is that a large part of that price is due to the expensive climbing permit that both Nepal and China – on the Tibetan side – charge alpinists. In fact, it is probably the single most expensive aspect of an Everest expedition. But if rumors are to be believed, it may be getting more expensive yet.

A few days back, Alan Arnette posted a note regarding potential fee increases in his regular updates. He quoted German climbing company Kobler & Partner as the source of information, which indicates that officials are mulling such a move.

A blog post revealed that the Tibetan Mountaineering Association is undergoing a change of the guard in leadership, with younger climbers now taking the lead. Those individuals have their own ideas on maintaining the mountain, making it safer for future expeditions, and protecting Everest from climate change, pollution, and other threats.

To that end, substantial increases in the cost of the climbing permits are on the table to help control the escalating overcrowding issues that continue to be a concern.

How much of an increase are we looking at here? According to the post on the Kobler website, the price could go up as much as 30% on the mountain’s North Side. That’s translating to about $5000, which would bring the cost of a climbing permit to $16,500.

Meanwhile, Nepal would likely follow suit simply because it would be leaving money on the table if it didn’t. The South Side would also face even larger crowds if the current climbing permit fee of $11,000 remained simply because some climbers would choose to skip the North Side for the relative “bargain” they would get on the South.

With these fees looming on Everest and potentially other mountains, Kobler is recommending that all climbing expeditions from 2020 on would only include a single Sherpa for every two climbers instead of a one-to-one ratio.

The reason for this is to help keep costs down. The company believes that if the price on Cho Oyu continues to go up, it loses its competitiveness with the 8000-meter peaks in Nepal. The implication is that Cho is a good warm-up for preparing for Everest, but when it becomes too expensive, climbers should just go to Nepal and climb a mountain there instead.

As we already knew, the Kobler blog post also indicates that Shishapangma is closed for the fall of 2019, preventing all climbers from going there. But, there is apparently a movement afoot to close the peak altogether and let it “rest” for a while.

Following the 2015 earthquake, Shishapangma has gotten much more unstable and unsafe, which may be cause enough to keep everyone off the mountain. Obviously, whether or not it is open will be made in years to come, but some members of the TMA now feel it should be shut down permanently.

At the moment, most of this appears to be all speculation, based on strongly-sourced rumors. Generally speaking, however, where there is smoke, there is fire. It now seems the cost of climbing Everest is going to go up in the semi-near future.

Meanwhile, other 8000-meter peaks may see their fortunes impacted and altered too.

If you’ve been saving your pennies for an Everest expedition, don’t be too surprised if you have to keep saving for a bit longer.

Kraig Becker