You (Probably) Can’t Everest Mount Everest
And here’s why
Maybe you’re familiar with this thing known as Everesting, in which people pick a hill of a certain height and bicycle or run up and down it until they’ve climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest.
If you’re saying to yourself, “That’s ridiculous!” well, you’re correct. It is absolutely ridiculous, just like attempting to run a 100-mile ultramarathon, climbing mountains for fun, or eating an entire Taco John’s Six-Pack and a Pound in one sitting all by yourself.
But people are doing it. More than 7,500 successful such attempts have been logged on Everesting, including the original Everesting of Australia’s 4,100-foot Mount Donna Buang in 1994 by a cyclist named George Mallory. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Mallory shares a name with his grandfather, mountaineer George Mallory, who was lost on Mount Everest in 1924.
At the time he invented Everesting on his bicycle, Mallory was training for his own climb of Everest, which, as you might know, involves zero cycling. (You might not know, however, that Everesting sucks worse than actually climbing Everest, according to Mallory, who told Outside in 2016: “Everest by bike is, in my experience, physically harder than any one day on Everest.”)
You can Everest anywhere you can find a decent-size hill. You can Everest a big hill, or a small hill, and you can do it via bicycle or on foot. If you wanted to Everest Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, Colorado, via bicycle, which is a road climb a little over 1,000 feet, it would take 28 laps.
If you wanted to Everest the 52-foot Mount Trashmore in Evanston, Illinois, it would take 559 laps.
But no one has technically Everested Mount Everest itself. Seems pretty obvious, so why not?
If you guessed laziness, you’re a bit off the mark. If you guessed certain death, you’re closer. But really, the correct answer is because it’s pretty much fucking impossible. Now, we all love referring to elevation in terms of equivalence to Mount Everest, which is 29,029 feet above sea level. But you know who climbs Mount Everest from sea level? No one. (OK, not exactly no one—more on that later.)
Most Mount Everest climbs begin in earnest at Base Camp, approximately 17,600 feet in elevation, where climbers acclimatize to the high altitude and carry supplies to higher camps for several days or weeks while waiting for good weather, and then ascend 11,430 feet to the summit in a push lasting a few days.
So if you wanted to Everest Everest from Base Camp, you’d have to climb to the summit twice and then up to roughly Camp III (23,500 feet). Easy, right? Well, not really. Only a few people have climbed Everest twice in one season, and only a couple people have climbed it twice in the span of a week. And no one’s climbed it twice without sleeping in between climbs.
And as one of the rules of Everesting states, you cannot sleep during an Everesting attempt. That rule, plus getting a weather window that would allow for 2.5-ish summit attempts, plus going through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall not once, not twice, but six times, makes it, you know, pretty much impossible. Oh and also: it’s pretty far beyond the limit of human endurance at this point, so there’s that. Oh, and permits.
A more feasible option for Everesting Everest might be to start in Lukla, Nepal, where the actual trekking to Everest Base Camp begins. Lukla sits at about 9,385 feet and is about a 40-mile walk from Base Camp. Because of some ups and downs along the trekking route, your actual elevation gain from Lukla to Everest Base Camp is about 13,700 feet. So if you just haul ass from Lukla to the summit of Everest without stopping, you’d get about 25,100 feet of elevation gain.
And then you could just romp down from the summit, back to Lukla, and bust out another 4,000 feet of elevation gain by trekking uphill almost to Namche Bazaar. The total would be around 100 miles.
You’d only need one good weather window and one permit! And I guess superhuman strength, endurance, and the uncanny ability to acclimatize to almost 20,000 feet of elevation change without dying.
Option three, the simplest option to Everesting Everest, would be to just climb it from sea level. Which takes a really long time, because the sea is not that close to the base of Mount Everest—as proven by Tim Macartney-Snape in 1990, when he literally started his Everest climb standing in the waters of the Bay of Bengal, then walked 745 miles through India and Nepal, and then climbed Mount Everest solo, without oxygen. Not that he was going for a speed record, but as the only person to ever climb Everest from sea level, he does hold the current speed record at approximately 95 days (February 5, 1990, to May 11, 1990).
Given the no-sleep requirement for Everesting attempts, the “Climbing Everest from Sea Level—No, Really, from the Actual Sea” approach to Everesting Everest is probably not possible either. At least until we invent a human capable of running 750-some miles to the top of the highest mountain on the planet without taking a nap.
All this math to say: Mount Everest is probably safe from being Everested for the near future. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I am saying I’d bet you $50 that you can’t do it. Which will buy me four Six-Pack and a Pounds with a little change left over.
Brendan Leonard’s new book, I Hate Running and You Can Too, is out now.