About 60 million years ago (give or take a few million years), Mount Everest was formed, giving Earth one of its most spectacular natural landmarks. The mountain, the highest in the world, is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet, China. These two countries, especially Nepal, make a significant amount of money every year due to Mount Everest tourism. With more and more people interested in eco-tourism (tourism which focuses on the environment and local culture), Everest and the surrounding areas are even more of a draw. At the end of 2006, over 2,000 people have reached the summit, and 203 lives have been claimed along the way. If you're interested in an adventure on your next vacation, head to Nepal for a fun-filled mountain expedition.
Mount Everest's claim to fame is sometimes disputed. It is important to note that the mountain has the summit with the greatest distance above sea level. Mauna Kea in Hawaii and Denali in Alaska are both taller than Everest when measured from base to peak. No matter who you count as the leader in this quest, is it important to note that the deepest spot in the ocean, located in the Mariana Trench, is much deeper than Everest is high. If you could place the mountain upside down at that spot, over a mile of water wound still flow beneath it until you'd reach the ocean floor. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay were the first climbers to make the ascent and safe descent, reaching the peak in 1953.
There are two main ways to reach the peak, and using these trails is often the best way for climbers to ascend successfully. The best time to climb the mountain is during April and May, before the region's monsoon season begins. Some attempt the climb in September or October when the monsoon season is over, but the snow and weather make these climbs more dangerous and difficult. The Southeastern Ridge route is one of the two most popular routes to the peak. This ascent begins in Nepal, with a hike to the Base Camp that lies about a week's journey from Lukla. Spending two weeks or more at Base Camp is important for climbers to overcome altitude sickness, and preparations will be made for the climb, especially over the deadly Khumbu Icefall. The climb then takes adventurers through a series of camps until they reach the fourth camp, South Col. From there, they can only rest for two or three days before making the short-reach for the summit. However, bad weather, sickness, and sheer exhaustion can prevent climbers from deciding to make the summit bid. The Northeast Ridge route is the second path to the peak. This route begins in Tibet, and climbers start with a hike to their Base Camp, found at the Rongbuk Glacier. Again, climbers go through a series of legs to reach camps along the mountain's path before stopping at the final camp and deciding about carrying on to the final peak. To accommodate tourists and novice climbers, China's route is now paving a 66-mile road from Tingri Country to the first Base Camp, and it will be the high asphalt road in the world when finished.
The growing number of tourists is the main point of controversy surrounding Mount Everest. Although most agree that the climb and learning about Nepal and Tibet's cultures are wonderful alternatives to tourist traps and commercialistic vacations, many question the safety of this kind of trek. Hundreds of people have died on the Everest climb, and Nepal only allows climbers to attempt buying permits which total more than $25,000 in some cases. It's not a vacation to take lightly. Also, a major problem is trash and other non-natural items left behind by travelers. Today, some groups set out with the sole goal of cleaning up after other groups to help preserve the environment. However, for those who wish to taste the mountain without overdoing it, smaller climbs and shorter expeditions and tours are available. These treks usually don't go far beyond the Base Camp on either side of the mountain and are more interesting for people who love eco-tourism but aren't physically ready to climb to the peak. To do this, many people hire Sherpas. The Sherpas are an ethnic group living in Nepal and are known for their physical fitness and endurance.
The Sherpas are usually the guides to the peak for expedition groups, but many also run less grueling mountain tours. As eco-tourism becomes more and more popular, many vacationers are becoming increasingly interested in the culture of this group of people, most of which are Buddhists. While in the area, instead of traditional tourist traps, consider taking part in some local festivals, learning about Sherpa traditions, and eating Sherpa food. This alone can be quite a rewarding experience, even if you decide not to climb to the summit.
As the number of tourists to Everest continues to grow every year, the area will remain prosperous and the subject of controversy. Should so many non-professionals be allowed to climb this great mountain? Are the risks worth the success? For many people, yes. If you are considering a trip to Mount Everest, keep in mind the dangers involved and take some time to learn about the ways you can enjoy the area other than doing the big climb.