CTC -The Cost to Climb

One of the most dramatic reactions I get (and admittedly, invariably instigated) while talking to people is not to the fact that I’m actually climbing Mount Everest, but is instead the universally shocked response to finding out just how much this expedition costs.  The cost of climbing Mt. Everest for a single climber in my expedition is USD 50,000/- or Rs 31,00,000/- Indian Rupees!  The gasps of astonishment I receive . . . . Priceless.

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THE COST FACTORS

The first major expense before you can even set foot on the mountain is procuring the Everest climbing permit issued by the Ministry of Nepal which itself sets one back by a whopping $11,000!  This climbing permit is, in other words, a ‘Royalty’, or a fee collected by the Government of Nepal, acting in the literal sense as the granting of a rite of passage for anyone; experienced or amateur, brave enough to attempt to climb Everest.  This is a nonnegotiable, nonrefundable, onetime payment that is completely independent of one’s success or failure in reaching the summit of Everest.

The next big expense bucket is of course, the actual expedition cost. There are fees every climber and expedition must pay – directly or indirectly: a climbing permit, liaison officer, visa, park fee, yaks, porters, icefall ladders and fixed ropes, waste deposit, travel, insurance, tents, food and fuel. At a minimum these total $23,000 for one person going alone.

As if that wasn’t enough to make you feeling light headed, you now realize that you are embarking on an expedition into extremely rarefied atmosphere thus necessitating, (for most of us), the use of supplementary oxygen.  Each climber must cater for at least 8 cylinders of Oxygen for him and his Sherpa in order to secure a realistic shot at attaining the summit, and more importantly, returning safely.  At $700 a cylinder, the cost for just the O2 becomes $5400.

Extreme temperatures, incredibly low wind chill factors and harsh terrain, compels us to invest in some very specialized equipment.  ‘Everest-grade’ expedition climbing boots, down-suits and apparels, thermal layers all-in-all add up to another $5000. Naturally, none of the costs mentioned thus far include tips for the team and staff that sustain you for the period of two months while on the glacier, which, one can hardly argue, is certainly amongst the most deserving of a significant budget allocation and easily amounts to a few thousand dollars in total.

THE CHASE

One of the toughest challenges associated with this expedition, before we have even begun to climb the mountain, is therefore, raising this incredible amount of money.  To make it more interesting / challenging, we decided to conduct our very own Everest Expedition, rather than run with an existing commercial company, thus requiring us to raise a grand capital of $100,000/ INR 62,00,000/- for our entire team.

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Most climbers, especially when it comes to big mountain expeditions, become extremely creative when it comes to raising capital for their climbs, and so were we.  Couple of options that did cross our minds, but we did not exercise were taking Bank Loans, refinancing our home loans, or trying to chase down the ‘infamous’ rich uncle.

Our major source of revenue while financing the Expedition in 2015 was through personal funding, that is setting aside some money every month and making it a priority in our monthly savings.  It also goes without saying that my family, being my wife, Dad & Mom, my sister and brothers, not to forget my cousins, were incredibly generous in their support, both physically and financially, taking on a huge chunk of the cost to the tune of as much as $16,000/- or INR 10,00,000/- .

Our attempts at creativity extended to creating specific merchandise to promote the expedition and raise funds through T-shirt sales and other apparels.  Through it we managed to raise some money, but more than that, we raised tremendous awareness and goodwill. We even promoted a Lucky Draw and Raffle, selling tickets for Rs 50/- thus raising an incredible amount of INR 65,000/-

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One incredible experience, which I am extremely guilty of initially dismissing (out of sheer ignorance), was raising money through the medium of CROWD FUNDING. Crowd funding is essentially an appeal to the masses to help support a cause, requesting small amounts of money but in the process targeting an extremely large population.  Though established websites exist such as Ketto.org., Milaap.com and Kickstarter.com which help add structure to the project and more importantly allow you to receive payments through a payment gateway, I decided to go about it in a more personalized way.  I drafted out an appeal and circulated it among my 1000 odd friends on Facebook.  I then requested them to circulate it among their friends, and so on and so forth.  Immediately, the responses started trickling in and then it became a flood of not just donations and contributions, but messages and good will, words of encouragement and support.  Friends from school who I hadn’t spoken to for 15-20 years reached out to me, my Biology Teacher from the 9th Grade, contributed an incredible INR 10,000/- even though last time she saw, let alone spoke to me, was when I was in a scruffy school uniform and unpolished shoes. One particular friend, without any prior intimation, transferred an incredible $1600 / INR1,00,000/- to my account . This entire experience of crowd funding has simply incredible!  In a period of 45 days, we raised a fantastic sum of $9000/INR 5,58,000/- , but the good will and support has been priceless.

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Often, the first resort is to try obtaining a sponsor and this question often comes up. It is extremely difficult to get on a sponsored team for example by one of the large outdoor gear companies. Other companies are often hesitant to endorse big mountain expeditions for numerous reasons, the high risk factor being chief amongst them.  There are ways to obtain a sponsor but it takes years of work, a solid plan, proven experience and often comes down to who you know and a lot of luck.  In our case, we were able to bag a few sponsors but had to deal with the heartache of them pulling out as recently as a month short of the expedition.  Fortunately for us, Druva Software, had been incredible, by being consistent in their support, encouragement and words of wisdom, giving us incredible confidence in my endeavor to reach new heights; literally.

All in all, from my experience, I have learnt that an expedition to the Top of the World is not just about determination, physical grit and mental toughness compelling you to rise to such a challenge.  It requires an uncanny amount of resourcefulness in terms of leveraging such large finances.  I have, without a doubt, developed more ‘Business Acumen’ in the past one year while trying to raise finances for this expedition, than in all my years of pursuing my Masters in Business Administration and my career in the corporate world put together.  We now embark once more on this fantastic quest, remaining adamant on setting out on this epic odyssey to reach the Top of the World with MISSION EVEREST-2017, with the eternal hope that it will all come together, in the end.


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