May 26, 2022

How Long Does It Take to Climb Mount Everest?

by Jullie

Every high-altitude alpinist dreams of climbing Mount Everest, and a considerable number have attempted and even summitted the highest peak in the world.

While it sounds exciting, climbing Mount Everest is among the most dangerous ascends you’ll attempt. 

Many climbing books, films, and documentaries have captured this mountain’s magnificence. That said, it’s not all roses when it comes to climbing Mount Everest, as many people have succumbed trying to summit it.

But how long does it take to climb Mount Everest? Read on to find out!


Table of Contents

How Long Does It Take to Climb Mount Everest?

It takes 6 to 10 weeks to summit the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest. This time comprises gathering gear and supplies, walking to the base camp, familiarizing with the altitude, ascending to higher positions, and ultimately summiting the mountain. 

Mount Everest sits on the border of Nepal and Tibet; hence there are two paths to the main route. Most climbers use the Nepal path, and we will talk more about it here. 

You begin by flying to Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu, and then taking another plane to Lukla town. Lukla town has a menacing airport situated and a cliff’s edge. From Lukla, you’ll fly in a helicopter to the Base camp of Mount Everest. 

Once you arrive, you’ll either adjust to the altitude or have a case of mountain sickness. Even the most trivial health issues like diarrhea, cold, or the flu could call for medical evacuation. 

From here, you will begin walking to higher camps. This is essential to amass these camps before you start climbing and help the body adjust to the extreme altitude. Typically, this process takes 21 to 42 days. 

The last summit bid will begin from the base camp to a higher camp (camp 2), where you’ll spend the night, then move to camp 3, where you’ll stay overnight.

From camp 3, you’ll move to camp 4, which is the last and highest camp before the summit attempt. This camp is just beneath the “Death zone.” 

From camp 4, it would be best to try to sleep, no matter how hard it might be. However, when the weather gets better, you will begin climbing.

Usually, climbers start their summit attempt at around 11 pm. You can use 6 to 10 hours to arrive at the summit, whereby you will spend half of that time going back to camp 4. 

Descending back to camp 4 is the riskiest part. After ascending for hours on end and making an effort to complete a summit, climbers are usually physically and mentally tired. However, if you can go back to camp four and find a tent, there are high chances of surviving. 

So, what does descending back to base camp look like? You will take 24 to 48 hours while stopping at camps 3 and 2, and eventually base camp.

Once you’re done, feel free to rest, celebrate and eat. Lastly, going back home, walking or flying by helicopter back to Lukla town, then flying back to Kathmandu, Nepal. 

How Long Does It Take to Climb Mount Everest
How Long Does It Take to Climb Mount Everest?

How Tall Is Mount Everest?

Everest is 29,032ft or 8,848.86 meters above sea level. This makes it the world’s highest peak. Besides, compared to K2, Mt. Everest is 239 meters taller. 

Related Article: Why Is K2 More Dangerous than Everest?

Why Do People Climb Everest at Night?

The final summit bid from camp four usually begins at night. When the climbers begin summiting late, visibility won’t be good, and they cannot utilize headlamps to see the ropes and routes. 

It would be best to arrive at Hillary Step past dawn, which will give you complete visibility of the most challenging and technical areas.

This will come in handy in avoiding slip-ups when climbing. Again, you get the chance to climb in broad daylight and have complete visibility as you descend. 

While many people have died summiting Mount Everest, a considerable number have died while descending. Hence it would be best to have maximum visibility when descending since you will be physically and mentally fatigued. 

Taking a long time descending, not focusing, slipping up, or having terrible visibility are the leading causes of death when summitting Mount Everest. Some climbers have even died several meters from camp four due to bad weather and poor visibility. 

Related Article: When Is Everest Climbing Season?

Why Does It Take So Long to Climb Everest?

There are three primary reasons it takes such a long time to summit Mount Everest: the walk, adjusting to the altitude, and the weather.

If the weather is good, you can forego the walking part and take a chopper from Lukla to the base camp. On the other hand, walking to base camp will take 1 to 2 weeks, depending on how you adjust to the weather and how often you rest. 

Adjusting begins at base camp and continues to camps 2 and 3, and it’s vital as it prepares your body for extreme altitude.

So, you’ll begin at base camp, then to camp 2, where you’ll assess if you’re okay to move on to camp three and finally camp 4.

When you reach camp three without any health problems, you’ll probably descend to base camp to eat and rest, then ascend to camp 4 for the last summit bid. 

The weather determines whether or not you’ll summit this mountain. Usually, there’s a time when the cold and wind aren’t dangerous, and this might be a day or two annually. And, bad weather can hinder climbers from summiting regardless of where they’ve reached. 

When the winds are too strong, the camps are wrecked, equipment is blown away, and the icefall routes vary. Additionally, this could cause avalanches. So, your adventure depends on the weather despite your psych and energy. 

When Can You Climb Mount Everest?

Now that you know how long it takes to climb Mount Everest, let’s see when it’s best to summit it. Typically, the best time to climb Mount Everest is in May.

You can ascend it in April, but many climbers will embark on their adventure in March. Adjusting to the altitude takes several weeks, so many climbers start early. 

Related Article: The 10 Hardest Mountains to Climb in the World

How Long Does It Take to Descend Mount Everest?

While you can go from the summit attempt and back to base camp within 24 hours, it is not common. Mostly, climbers prefer to rest when they reach camp four and then eventually descend to camps 3, 2, and base camp; within 24 hours, provided the Khumbu icefall is steady. 

Again, if you would like to get down fast, you can ascend the mountain using unorthodox means. For instance, Davo Karnicar skied to base camp within 5 hours, and Jean-Marc Boivin, the first climber to go down the entire route on skis, paraglided from slightly under the summit to camp 2 in less than 15 minutes. 

The first person to ski down Mount Everest, Yuichiro Miura, didn’t ski the whole run down. More climbers have attempted to ski down, though they’ve had to shift to trekking. 

On the other hand, the first climbers to descend by snowboarding, Stefan Gatt and Marco Siffredi, had some challenges running down the whole route. 

Related Article: Who Was the Rock Climber and Mountaineer David Lama?

How Long Does It Take to Get to The Base Camp of Mount Everest?

It will take you 7 to 14 days to reach the base camp of Mount Everest. As mentioned previously, your journey will start at Lukla’s scary airport. You’ll take a small plane to the airport, buy supplies, hire porters, take a chopper, or walk to base camp. 

If walking to the base camp, you can take some time to enjoy the view of the beautiful villages and picturesque peaks. Again, if you’re summitting, you’ll require many porters for the wide range of equipment and food you’ll need. 

At 5830 meters above sea level, going to base camp is an uphill walk. It would help if you came with all necessary mountaineering equipment, cooking equipment, food, water, bedding, and tents.

During your journey, you’ll stop at beautiful small villages with views of monasteries in the mountains; it’s a site to see. 

Walking at this altitude is extremely demanding, and most climbers experience shortness of breath, even when sleeping. Besides, some might have altitude sickness even before reaching the base camp, with different people responding differently. 

Going back to Lukla from base camp is a 48 to 72-hour walk as it’s downhill. Again, since you’re tired, you might prefer to take a chopper back to Lukla. 

How Far Is Everest’s Base Camp to the Summit?

The distance from the base camp to Everest’s summit is approximately 20.5 Km. This distance comprises an ascend of 11,433.7ft.

  • Lukla is 2860 meters above sea level. 
  • Nepal’s side of the Base camp is 5364 meters above sea level. 
  • Camp 1 is 6100 meters above sea level.
  • Camp 2 is 6400 meters above sea level. 
  • Camp 3 is 6800 meters above sea level. 
  • Camp 4, also known as South Col, is 8000 meters above sea level.
  • Lastly, the Everest summit is 8864 meters. 
A view of Mountain Everest
A view of Mountain Everest

What and Where Is the Balcony on Everest?

After camp 4 is a vertical climb that never seems to end. Next is a relatively even area at 8400 meters, referred to as the Balcony of Everest. This is a small section where you can take a break, switch oxygen, and continue your journey. 

A team from the National Geographic Society May 2019 made history when they established the highest weather station in the world on this balcony. Here, it’s possible to view live information on the weather. 

What and Where Is the Hillary Step on Everest?

Hillary Step was a technical climbing area, 12 meters high, situated on a rock past the balcony, and it’s quite a distance from the summit.

The rocky areas are difficult to maneuver since you require the use of an ice ax or ascend by hand. A fixed climbing rope will come in handy, though it still is challenging to climb. 

Mount Everest is covered with snow, with a minor portion of gravel or even rock. The snow sections are relatively easy to climb.

You can also utilize a fixed-line along with an ascender for additional convenience. Plus, ensure you have metal crampons as they ensure a firm grasp. 

So, why is it called the Hillary Step? Edmund Hillary, the man this step is named after, described it beautifully as “smooth and almost holdless” while remembering his first climb of Mount Everest. He ascended together with Tenzing Norgay. 

Related Article: Who Was Marc-André Leclerc from The Alpinist?

What Happened to the Hillary Step?

The Hillary Step is not there anymore. After consistent severe weather, the Hillary step was pushed down Mount Everest and other formations. Whatever was left behind is covered in snow, mostly a collection of small rock steps. 

Photo evidence shows that it transformed and now provides less difficulty. Allegedly, Nepal officials forbade discussions of the absence of the Hillary step on media platforms and imposed a “no picture” rule. 

Can You Fly or Take a Helicopter to Mount Everest?

You can get a chopper to tour the base camp; however, it can’t fly you to the summit of Mount Everest. You can go by plane to the summit as there’s no place to land.

Generally, it is considered extremely dangerous to fly above 8000 meters, typically known as the “death zone.” The higher you go, the more oxygen levels drop due to the absence of air pressure. 

Which Is the Only Helicopter Landing on Everest Summit?

The only helicopter that landed on Mount Everest summit was flown by Didier Delsalle, a French air force fighter pilot, in 2005.

He attempted to land on the summit with an Airbus AS350 Squirrel, with most parts removed, including the passenger seats. He successfully landed on the summit, and no one else has tried it since. 

Which Is the Highest Helicopter Rescue on Everest?

In terms of the highest chopper rescue on Mount Everest, it took place in 2019. A climber was hurt 8500 meters above sea level.

The chopper brought him back to camp 4 with Sherpa Pasang’s assistance, and he was lowered using ropes to base camp the following day. The pilot was Maurizio Folini, and the 7800 meters rescue happened successfully. 

Helicopter Flight on Everest – Camp 2 

Wang Jing flew on a helicopter to get herself and her team to camp 2 with their essentials in 2014. Again, with this team, she successfully reached the summit and descended. 

Unfortunately, a recent avalanche massacred 16 sherpas moving gear on Khumbu icefall. Consequently, out of respect, the sherpas and clients paid their respects by not climbing that year. 

Helicopter Flights on Everest – Gear Transport 

Most of the work sherpas do is moving food and gear throughout all camps on Khumbu icefalls, the most perilous areas on Mount Everest. Hence, unfortunately, most sherpas die in the icefall. 

Recently, Nepal and touring companies have begun utilizing helicopters to move gear to all camps. While this is relatively controversial, it could lessen the sherpas’ danger on icefall. 

Some people have suggested that climbers should fly to camp 1. This way, they get to forfeit the riskiest part of the climbing, Everest. However, this suggestion has not been accepted. 

What Is the Fastest Climb of Everest?

There are several disputable records on the quickest climb to Everest’s summit. Unfortunately, none of these records has been confirmed by photo or video. Ideally, while many records have been ‘set’ and ‘broken,’ all seem to have as much evidence as others. 

The latest record is 10 hours and 56 minutes by Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa. This record was set in 2003 and has not been officially broken. The ascension started at the mountains Base Camp and was carried out using oxygen bottles.

A few days before, Pemba Dorje Sherpa had set a close record time of 12 hours 45 minutes, although the Nepal Supreme Court has since annulled it. 

Kilian Jornet, who reached the summit in 26 hours without using fixed ropes and oxygen, claimed another outstanding record.

However, this claim has been continually disputed due to inaccurate GPS data and lack of photo evidence. The claim is further disputable since there is photo evidence of Jornet fixed on a rope at some point in the endeavor. 

Jornet also claims to have ascended to the summit a few days later, with the latest stats from the Advanced Base Camp (Tibetan Side of the Summit) claiming he summited in 17 hours, also without oxygen. 

When considering the difference in claimed times, it isn’t easy to believe some stated records. However, Kilian has proven a consistent record holder with several other speed records for other peaks like Mont Blanc, Mount Elbrus, and Aconcagua. However, some of these records have been questioned. 

Many other individuals have had their claims scrutinized and doubtfully questioned. Since the average times from Base Camp to the summit range from 2-3 days, summiting in less than a day is always debatable, let alone doing it in under 12 hours! 

Fortunately, it is now easier to track new ascents with advanced GPS tracking, photo evidence from other climbers, radio contact, and GoPro footage. 

Why Do People Climb Mount Everest?

People climb Mount Everest for the same reason you are here: it’s mesmerizing! Having climbed the highest mountain worldwide and ascended to the highest point globally is exceptional. Also, the scenes of adverse weather conditions are something to behold. 

For most individuals, it’s the thrill of adventure and beating a personal challenge. For others, it’s all about the ego! It’s often the ultimate goal and a logical conclusion, especially for experienced mountain climbers. 

Can Anyone Climb Mount Everest?

Well, yes and no. Ideally, being able to ascend to the top of Mount Everest, you must identify a suitable guiding company to help you navigate, apply and get a permit from the Tibetan or Nepalese government.

You have to be comfortable paying for the necessary equipment, guiding, Sherpa guides, porters, insurance, trash recovery expenses, and a myriad of other necessities. 

Typically, even after application, it’s usually up to your guide company to determine if they will accept your application or not.

While it may seem like a rather improbable challenge, the mountain has been surprisingly summited by an 80-old, a person without legs, another without arms, a blind individual, and two separate teenagers (both aged 13 years). 

With a remarkably high fitness level, proper guidance, and self-belief, you can conquer Mt. Everest! Didn’t know how long it takes to climb Mount Everest? Now you know.

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About the author 

Jullie

Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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