Let me preface this with the simple fact: I have not climbed Mount Everest yet.
When I first started looking for an outfit to help me achieve my goal of summiting Mount Everest, I didn’t quite know where to look. I scoured the Internet and read up on the different companies that help those interested in accomplishing their dream of summiting.
Lots of things varied. Price. Team makeup. Experience. Schedule.
Did I mention price?
The cost to climb the tallest mountain in the world is considerable, and when you add in the necessary training thru experience, cost of equipment, travel expenses and lodging in Kathmandu, it adds up to a small fortune.
So I wanted to make sure that whoever I paid to do the job would A, get the job done and B, be helpful, experienced and accommodating to my needs as a climber.
So I sent out an email to 5 different expedition companies.
SIDE NOTE: At the time of the letter, I was planning to bicycle to Kathmandu as part of my intended world tour. I was originally planning to leave to make the 2014 season. A change of plan for 2014 and a car accident and earthquake in 2015 has me looking at the upcoming 2016 climbing season. Which ended up being a good thing, because I have been able to rack up critical climbing experience since I naïvely wrote that email long ago.
Sent February 27, 2013:
My Name is Matthew Galat. I am an American currently living in China, and I have the dream and goal to summit Mount Everest.
I am planning to ride a bicycle around the world, starting from my home in Ningbo China (south of Shanghai), and ending 5 years later in Los Angeles.
Along the way I am going to accomplish all of the major goals I have in life thus far, the pinnacle of which is to summit the highest peak in the world. I have calculated my leaving date to correlate with the 2014 climbing season, and am looking for a spot on an expedition. So my first question is…. Do you have any available slots?
I have many more questions, as I do not take this climb lightly. I want to be able to take time during the trip to train and prepare over the course of the southern trek thru south Asia. I am in great shape, as a marathon runner without physical ailments. I have experience with freezing cold and high pressure for short periods, skydiving from 20,000 feet and winter swimming. I am in my 30s.
Please let me know a good time to call you. I have other details that I would like to discuss.
I am excited to have an opportunity in my life to accomplish a goal that few on this earth have attained. I look forward to your reply.
The first reply I received was from a company called Adventures Global less than 24 hours later:
Thank you very much for your enquiry.
What you are planning sounds like a huge amount of fun and we would be honoured to help you with your mountain logistics. We certainly have two slots open for our 2014 expedition.
I am not sure of our time difference right now, but I will be in my office all of tomorrow, so hopefully we can chat then. I will send you an invitation to connect on skype. My address is “neverest1”
I look forward to chatting and hopefully answering all your questions.
PS My partner Elizabeth hails from Phoenix, but now lives with me in Cape Town.
Following replies from two other inquiries were received about a week later. The remaining 2 never replied.
Promptness = Adventures Global
As far as price goes, in the grouping of western expedition companies Adventures Global was running in the middle of the pack. I was paying for this trip out of my own pocket, without sponsors or big backers. Let me preface this by saying I am not rich. I am not a millionaire or even half that. I just know what is important to me. For me, I was equating the climb to a life dream. Some people have a nice car…. I have a climb that I will remember forever.
There were more expensive packages than the one AG was offering, and there were cheaper ones as well. I am hesitant to look for too much value in price with regards to an adventure that I could lose my life on but I also do not want to pour money wastefully into a single journey, so I weighted my options. I saw some expeditions that cost around 40,000 USD, and others that were in the 60-70,00 USD range. Adventures Global has a price of 49,000 USD for the Everest North Face Expedition Package. This included food, a Sherpa team, experienced team leaders and a small team size that would take care of my needs as a climber starting from Kathmandu to the top of Everest and back to Kathmandu.
Value = Adventures Global
Team experience is critical when you are climbing. Not only can they get you up the mountain in comfort and in a path that is the most reliable, but they can also make that critical decision which has the potential to literally save your life. Adventures Global routinely has expeditions and treks going on all over the world. Their website boasts packages on Seven of the tallest mountains in the world. But to be honest, from what I could tell their company itself has not actually facilitated expeditions up all seven.
The AG team is spearheaded by climbers Ronnie Muhl and Stephen Bock, two seasoned professionals. Both of them have a rich climbing history, and successes summiting Everest as well as other peaks around the world.
Beyond the experience of the expedition leaders, the Sherpa team assisting in the climb is critical. It’s their hardened experience on the mountain that everyone depends on. They know the terrain like its their own back yard, because it basically is. Their home is the mountain. I have met Sherpa who have climbed Mount Everest 4-5 times. I spoke with Sherpa who have lost friends and loved ones on the mountain. They understand the value more than anyone in balancing risk with experience to get to the top. It’s in their hands that we all must place our lives. I have yet to know the names and backgrounds of the Sherpa who are on our expedition, and will have to save that for later.
Experience = Adventures Global
Seemingly from my research, the team at AG is smaller than others. But to me this lends itself to an intimacy that you may not get on other expeditions. I’m looking for closeness with whomever I climb with. As a filmmaker and explorer, it is closeness that draws out a person’s inner self, and encourages camaraderie. The 2016 climbing expedition is comprised of a handful of climbers assisted by a handful of expedition leaders and team members. This seems perfect for me. I have climbed in China on three separate expeditions so far. Each expedition has been on subsequently larger non-English speaking Chinese teams. And in my experience, as the groups got larger, each journey became more solitary. It runs counter to common sense, but I found that as the groups grew, (my last climb team size was around 30 climbers) I found it harder to maintain relationships, and often I ended up retreating to my tent alone or spending time with my girlfriend Anny who was climbing with me. Throw into the mix the fact that everyone was talking Chinese, and this could have been a huge factor, but it does not take away from the fact that a small team of good people reduces the changes of getting lost in the shuffle. So far all I have to go on as concrete examples of attention to me as a client by Adventures Global is our email and phone calls. All of which were returned or given quickly and lasted for as long as necessary to satisfy any questions or get points delivered effectively.
Customer Service = Adventures Global
Climbing Everest is not something to take lightly for me. I have put an enormous amount of strain on myself to accomplish this goal. I have had to overcome delays, car accidents, earthquakes and knee problems, but this year it is going to happen. I have been training hard and as the date of my departure looms ever closer, I have become nervous of my ability as a climber.
I am not the type of person that likes to be an anchor. I am a leader at my core, or at least I strive to be. I like to be the example of a person working hard to achieve the greatness in life. So as I started to research my teammates on this expedition, apprehension started to set in. They all seemed older, wiser, more experienced and healthier than I am. I started my worry to Elizabeth, who is Ronnie’s new wife as well as a member of our climbing team. Her reply is one of the greatest examples of why I am happy I chose to climb with Adventures Global.
SHUTTUPP!!! Have you gone mad??? How could a superstar like you ever THINK such a thing? I think it’s adorable you could be so humble, but you are way, way far off the mark, here. I am 56 year old fat lady, who drinks way to much beer, but just loves the outdoors. And I’m not the only story like that on the mountains. I just adore it there, and don’t worry about anyone other than myself, in terms of being able to get it done. We are all on our own journey, and one climbs to fulfill one’s own destiny. Period. This is not about keeping up. This is not about leading the team. It’s not about who’s the strongest or the fastest. There is no such thing as an anchor. We all have our own space to occupy on the mountain and our own reason and motivation for being there. Just chill dude, and let Ronnie worry about leading the team. Your example speaks for itself, and we are all so privileged to have a unique, courageous and wildly adventurous soul like yourself to be among us. I really don’t care how fit you are, how powerfully you climb–it’s just wonderful to be able to share a few months on a mountain with people who are as obsessed as I am with the beauty of grandeur of it all. It is such a magical space to be in–no matter what your skill level or success rate. So no more of this rubbish talk, you hear?
Inside her reply you can see empathy, beneficial unwarranted self-deprecation, integrity, humor, steadfastness, and basically exactly what I needed to hear. It was like throwing a bucket of ice water in my face to wake me up to the fact that we are all working towards a common goal on our own path. This is the type of personality that is necessary on an expedition. People that understand what you need to hear when you need to hear it… and says it to you straight.
And Elizabeth, you are not fat.
Humanity = Adventures Global
So wish me luck. As I write this I am in the midst of training and preparing. The mountains shadow looms over me, and in a month and a half, I will be standing at the foot of the tallest mountain in the world. Thank you Adventures Global
I was not paid or discounted for this article. I wrote it because I thought it was a necessary story to tell.