Have you ever considered climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro, or Mount Everest? Seeing photos and videos of these athletic expeditions makes the endeavor seem even more exciting. If you can summit a mountain, you’ll feel exhilarated, you’ll see a new part of the world, and you’ll have an amazing story to tell for the rest of your life.
But before you start packing your bags and looking for flights, there are some important things you should know about these epic climbs—and what you’ll have to do to get ready for them.
Important Considerations for Climbing
If you’re serious about wanting to climb a major mountain in the world, these are some things you should know first:
- The costs. First, be prepared for the costs. You’ve probably already figured out that you’ll need to pay for airfare, travel, and housing. But you might not realize that it costs thousands of dollars just to get on the mountain itself. Depending on where you’re climbing, the money usually goes to conservation efforts, and serves as a filter to ensure only serious climbers attempt the mountain. You may also need to spend money on a climbing team to assist you, so all in all, the trip will cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.
- The preparation. Climbing a mountain is not easy. You’ll need to employ strength from your entire body, and perform consistently even at the highest altitudes, where the air is thin. Accordingly, you need to be strong, and in good cardiovascular health; if you aren’t in shape, it will take months of preparation just to get your body ready for the expedition. In addition, most large mountains have difficult and unpredictable terrain that even experienced climbers have difficulty with; you’ll want to warm up with some smaller, less challenging mountains, long before you make an attempt on a large one.
- The gear. Climbing gear has changed significantly over the past several decades. If you’re just after the basics, you’ll need a backpack, helmet, ice pick, tent, UV-protective goggles, boots, crampons, communication gear, layers of clothing, food and water, and oxygen tanks. There are a few things to consider about this long list of necessary equipment. First, you’ll need to pay for it—and when all’s said and done, if you want decent equipment it’s going to cost you thousands of dollars for everything. On top of that, you’ll need to carry that equipment all the way up the mountain.
- The risks. You also shouldn’t underestimate the real risks of climbing a mountain; between 1950 and 2009, 832 people died on Mount Everest. About half of those deaths were due to avalanches, and 40 percent were due to falls. All it takes is one wrong move, or one poorly timed avalanche to compromise all your safety precautions and leave you vulnerable to the cold. There are other risks to consider as well, including the onset of frostbite, and the possibility of running out of food or water. If your communication equipment malfunctions, things could get even worse for you.
- The long-term effects. Even assuming you’re able to summit the mountain efficiently and get back down safely, climbing a mountain has some prominent long-term effects on the body. Being exposed to high altitudes for more than a few hours can lead to permanent brain cell loss and loss of motor functions. If you suffer any frostbite or injuries while on the climb, they could leave you permanently injured.
Is It Worth It?
All the above factors paint an intimidating—but realistic—picture of what mountain climbing is like. But remember, people don’t climb mountains because it’s safe and easy. Big-name mountains are a serious physical challenge and (for most people) a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you want to have the thrill of summiting one of the toughest mountains on the planet, or if you want the story to tell your grandchildren, it’s definitely worth the costs and risks—as long as you know those costs and risks going into it.