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 TYPES OF HIMALAYAN EXPEDITIONS

By Eric Simonson 

Himalayan expeditions run the gamut from bare bones to plush.  Depending on the level of support desired by the climber,  money available, and the team's ability at raising sponsorship, there are a number of options.   Keep in mind that these distinctions are not hard and fast (and these are only my opinions).  Some trips may cross-over between categories.  A good way to define the different types of expeditions is to follow the money:  where does it come from and where does it go!

Money comes from Outside Sources:  

1. The Classic Everest Expedition: The team raises the money as a group through sponsors, goes as a team to the mountain, and has a hierarchical leadership structure. This type of Expedition used to be common on Everest, but now it is very difficult to raise this kind of money unless you are a National Expedition (Singapore, Indonesia, etc), have a "hook" that you can sell (environmental, disabled, women, etc), or work very hard and have lots of rich friends and good contacts!  On this type of trip the members usually donate their labor to organize and what they generate by their efforts goes into the "group fund", not into their own account.  Members generally do not get paid (though in some cases there may be other deals involved, like book or film rights, which may generate income for some people).  It is not uncommon for members of this type of expedition to be asked to give up some rights to their photographs for the expedition's use. 

2.  The Professional Expedition:  In this case a sponsoring organization hires climbers to do a job, such as filming (IMAX), science (Boston Museum of Science), or research.  It is not uncommon for some people to get paid more and others less on this kind of trip, depending on what they bring to the table. 2.  The Professional Expedition  In this case a sponsoring organization hires climbers to do a job, such as filming (IMAX), science (Boston Museum of Science), or research.  It is not uncommon for some people to get paid more and others less on this kind of trip, depending on what they bring to the table.

Money Comes from Participants:

3.  Self funded Expedition:  There are a lot of non-guided groups that raise their own money as individuals.  The key here is that each person is responsible for a given share of the budget:  either they raise the money or pay from their own pocket.  In addition they may get some equipment donated by sponsors or a modest amount of cash.  Usually the Leader is not in to make a profit, but may benefit in other ways or have some of his or her expenses covered by the expedition.

4.  Consulted Expedition:  On this type of commercial expedition  the Leader sells "slots" on the permit and makes a profit.  The Leader has minimal responsibility above BC, but may act as a consultant to climbers above. Climbers are not guided and are usually "on their own" above ABC.  Sherpa support and oxygen may or may not be included (members may have to pay extra).  On Everest these expeditions usually run in the 10-20K range.

5.  Semi-Guided Expedition: On this type of expedition the Leader and guides work more closely with the clients.  Sherpas and guides ensure that ropes and camps are installed and put oxygen in place in the higher camps.  There are usually Western guides and some Sherpas acting as guides.  Clients may or may not summit without a guide present.  On Everest these expeditions usually run in the 30-40K range.

6.  Fully Guided Expedition: This is the classic guiding style where the guides are with the clients at all times on the mountain, ready to assist.  This kind of expedition is generally the most expensive because there are more Western guides on the team, and additional Sherpas.  Out of the 900 plus people that have climbed Everest, my guess is that probably far less than 100 people are in this category, despite what the media would like you to believe!  On Everest these expeditions usually run in the 50-65K range.

7. Hybrid Expeditions:  Now a days it is not unusual to see expeditions that combine several of the above styles.  For example, on a permit might be several individuals who are climbing in a fully guided role.  Also on the permit might be other individuals who are climbing "non-guided", just using the BC, ABC, and infrastructure of the guided group.  There might also be individuals on a permit who are fortunate enough to be fully sponsored.

As a side note to this hybrid category, I am offering for the second time (we did it in 1998 as well) the chance for people to go part way on Everest.  I have had a lot of people say they don't have the time, money, or experience to really give the summit of Everest a shot.  We offer a program (International Mountain Guides) to just go to the North Col (or higher), but not the summit.  Not a bad idea for someone who would love to get on Everest, but not risk their neck at 8800 meters! 

What has amazed me the most in my 20 years of Himalayan climbing is to see how accessible these mountains have become to regular folks.  I remember back in the 60's and 70's when I was first starting out in climbing that the dream to go to Everest seemed so hard to imagine. It seemed you had to be a part of some National Expedition team or be a superstar. Now a days anybody can go if you have the right skills and some money.  It really reflects the democratization of the sport!  Its not just a handful of elite climbers anymore.  I remember that when I first went to Everest North Face in 1982 I thought it was the only chance I would ever get to go to Everest. When we were unsuccessful, I was heartbroken.  I thought that I had blown my only chance ever. Now I realize that if you want, you can go back again and again.  This means you don't have to push your luck and do something stupid.  Some times things just don't work out as planned...that's OK. Go home in one piece and come back and try your luck again!

Eric Simonson Ashford, WA

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