It used to be that serious mountaineers spent their entire careers working their way up to a Mount Everest summit bid. But in recent years, climbing Everest has seemed like a dilettante's pursuit: Any socialite with a Himalayan-size wallet can buy their way up the Big One, no matter if they endanger themselves, their teammates, or their guides. Today's reality lies somewhere in between. Radically light new gear, flexible work schedules, and a glut of guiding services have made Everest's 29,035-foot summit a much more attainable goal than it was even 20 years ago. But no matter how rich you are, you've still got to be prepared for the ordeal. Our three-year training program explains how a rank amateur can make it to the top of the world – the right way.
Bag a 14er (July–October 2014)
Then another. Hiking 14,000-foot peaks, or even ones above 10,000 feet, is essential for developing leg strength, increasing lung capacity, learning to breathe calmly and slowly while moving sluggishly at elevation, and withstanding high winds and cold temperatures above the treeline. Start with day hikes, then work up to overnights, bagging two or more high peaks in a trip – and getting used to carrying a heavy pack. If you live far from the high country, fly to Denver and try Quandary Peak (14,265) in the Mosquito Range and Mount Bierstadt (14,060) in the Front Range, or head for Durango and the San Juans, which have 13 peaks over 14,000 feet. (New Hampshire's famously nasty Mount Washington is also a good practice ground.)
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