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.
Break 19,000 Feet (December 2015)
Get down to Ecuador and scale 19,347-foot Cotopaxi; it's not as technical as big glacier climbs, but it will get you acquainted with the notion that the higher you go, the worse you feel. "You need to get accustomed to those feelings in order to know the difference between 'normal' and 'fixin' to die,' " says Whittaker. You'll also expose your system to such challenges of Third World travel as fever, diarrhea, and crowded public transit – probably some gruesome combination of all three. Two-thirds of travelers to Nepal get a gastrointestinal malady within two weeks of arrival. "The culture shock and potential bacterial challenges of traveling from Kathmandu to Everest base camp have ended many a climber's trip before they even reached the mountain," says Whittaker. [EarthTreks; $2750]
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