What are the contingency plans if a climber falls ill or gets injured on Mount Everest?

What are the contingency plans if a climber falls ill or gets injured on Mount Everest?

Contingency Plans for Injuries or Illness on Mount Everest

Climbing Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is a challenging and thrilling adventure that captures the imaginations of adventurers worldwide. Despite its allure, it’s essential to note that it’s not without risks. Navigating the treacherous terrain, dealing with the extreme weather conditions, and coping with altitude sickness are just some of the potential problems that climbers might encounter. Thankfully, there are robust Mount Everest contingency plans in place to respond to emergencies swiftly and efficiently.

High-Altitude Rescue

If a climber falls ill or gets injured while on Mount Everest, immediate medical assistance becomes paramount. High-altitude rescue teams are put into action at a moment’s notice. Comprising of highly experienced Sherpas and alpine rescuers, these teams can handle complex rescue missions even in the harshest conditions.

Base camps on Everest are equipped with medical facilities staffed with trained professionals who can render first-aid responses to climbers. Being acclimatized themselves, their response is quick and targeted. They may offer immediate treatment in situ or decide to evacuate the injured or sick climber.

Helicopter Evacuation

Helicopter evacuations have become increasingly common and more effective in recent years, thanks to technological advancements. Helicopters equipped to operate in high-altitude, thin-air environments can rapidly deliver injured or sick climbers to hospitals.

But this option is usually reserved for severe cases due to the weather conditions and the high costs involved. Remember, winds can reach up to 200 mph and temperatures can plummet to -80 degrees Fahrenheit. The delicate act of hoisting an injured climber while maneuvering in fierce winds is a feat that requires high precision.

Insurance and Support Back Home

Before embarking on an expedition to Mount Everest, climbers are required to have comprehensive insurance, which includes cover for emergency rescue and evacuation.

Back at home, the climber’s family or the climbing agency usually liaises with the insurance company to confirm rescue payments. In certain situations, they may need to organize additional support, such as flying in a medical professional familiar with high-altitude sicknesses, arranging satellite communications, or confirming a hospital bed in Kathmandu or another facility closer to the climber’s home country.

Training and Prevention

While emergency plans are necessary, the best strategy is always prevention. Prospective climbers are encouraged to train adequately and familiarize themselves with conditions on the mountain. Understanding the risks, recognizing symptoms of altitude sickness early, and having the discipline to turn back when conditions deteriorate are all a part of summiting Everest safely.


1. How common are injuries or illnesses on Mount Everest?

Given the harsh environmental conditions and physical exertion required, injuries and illnesses are fairly common on Mount Everest. Altitude sickness is a prime concern. While definitive statistics are hard to gather, it is estimated that around 60% of climbers suffer from some kind of altitude sickness during their ascent.

2. What is the approximate cost for emergency rescue on Mount Everest?

The cost can vary greatly depending on the situation, but a helicopter evacuation can range from $20,000 to $100,000. Comprehensive insurance is crucial due to these potential high costs.

3. Is it possible for every injured or sick climber to be evacuated by helicopter?

While robust systems are in place, not every injured or sick climber can be evacuated by helicopter. Weather and altitude can pose significant barriers to helicopter operations. Furthermore, financial constraints can apply if the climber’s insurance does not cover the cost.

4. What happens if a climber dies on Mount Everest?

Efforts are made to recover the body if circumstances allow, though this can be very challenging due to the terrain and conditions. If impossible, many bodies sadly remain on the mountain.

5. Can Sherpas provide medical help?

Although the primary role of Sherpas is to assist in climbing and carry supplies, many of them have basic first aid training and can provide help until further medical assistance is available.

In conclusion, contingency plans on Mount Everest have improved significantly over the years. However, potential climbers should approach this challenging adventure with solid preparation, a strong understanding of the risks involved, and thorough insurance coverage.