Best Climbing Routes of Mount Everest

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Apr. 12, 2021

Early in the 19th century, Mt. Everest has been a dreamland for lots of scientists and mountaineers from all over the world. But no one ever succeeds. On the 29th of May 1953, British Expeditions led by Edmund Hillary, who is from New Zealand, and Tenzing Norgay, who is from Nepal, successfully left the first steps on the summit of Mt. Everest. They started from the southeast slope in Nepal and opened up a brand-new page for mountaineering.

By the end of 1998, there are 1054 mountaineers who had been on the top. Then they spared no effort to research and open up 11 climbing routes. Among these, there are two main climbing routes on Mt. Everest, and others are less frequently climbed routes. One is the technically easier one from Southeast Ridge - South Col Route in Nepal and the other is a challenging one from Northeast Ridge - North Col Route in Tibet.

All the Climbing Routes

South Col Route -- South Ridge in Nepal

Located in Nepal, the South Col Route was the route the first gain the summit in 1953. It’s not as steep as the North Ridge in Tibet. Hence, lots of mountaineers are more like to climb along this route, especially beginners.

The South Col Route starts from the base camp located on the south side of Mt. Everest at 5380 meters. You can fly from Kathmandu to Lukla and pass through Namche Bazaar. Then start 7-day trekking to the base camp, which allows for proper altitude acclimatization and reduces the risk of getting altitude sickness.

From the base camp onwards you usually have four camps on your way to the top. Camp I is at an altitude of 6065 meters, which is above the icefall. Then you can go ahead to Camp II, also known as Advanced Base Camp (ABC). It’s at the Western Cwm at the base of the Lhotse Face, with an altitude of 6500 meters. This section is comparatively sheltered and makes for sweltering conditions in the sunlight.

From Camp II, you can ascend the Lhotse face on a fixed rope, up to Camp III. From here, it’s only another 500m up to Camp IV but requires getting over the bulge of the Geneva Spur and traversing the Yellow Band of rock, which takes about 4 hours in total.

The next leg is the final summit push. This section will start around midnight and will take about 10-12 hours with a distance of 1000m to the summit. You will first reach the Balcony at 8400m, a small ledge famous for its views. You cross the small mound of the South Summit (8750m) and follow a narrow ridge to the large rock wall known as Hillary Step (8790m).

Elevations and Times Between Camps

North Col Route -- North Ridge in Tibet

North Col Route begins from the north side of Mt. Everest in Tibet, which is much more challenging. The North Col Route starts from the north side of Mt. Everest.

There are six camps on the routes. You get to Camp I via bus or trekking and it’s on a gravel plain by the Rongbuk Glacier at around 5180m. Then you can ascend the east Rongbuk Glacier’s medial moraine to the Camp II at the base of Changtse with a height of about 6100m.

Camp III or Camp ABC (Advanced Base Camp) is located at 6500m under the North Col. You need to climb the fixed ropes to reach Camp IV on the North Col (7010m).

Then you can ascend the rocky north side to set up Camp V at 7775m. Camp VI is on the Yellow Band at about 8230m, where you need to cross the north face.

You’re now ready for the summit attempt along the Northeast Ridge itself. The ridge comprises three large “steps”. The first step is to climb from 8501 m to 8534m. The second step is ascending from 8577m to 8626m, which requires climbing the “Chinese Ladder”. The third step is to climb from 8690m to 8800m. After this, there’s a snow slope and the final ridge to 8848m.

Elevations and Times Between Camps

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