How a lot does it price to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits?

Vivian James Rigney is not a casual traveller.

The executive coach and speaker has visited more than 80 countries and lived on three continents.

He has also climbed the highest mountains on all seven continents, the so-called Seven Summits.

It’s a feat that took him 14 years — one he estimates fewer than 1,000 people have completed.

And he did it despite being “scared of heights,” he said.

In an interview with CNBC Travel, Rigney spoke about what he learned — and how much it took him — to reach some of the highest points on earth.

The cost of the climb

Rigney estimates he paid between $170,000 and $180,000 to climb the Seven Summits, he said.

“Everest is by far the most expensive,” he said, adding that he paid about $80,000 to climb it in 2010.

“You have to save and make a plan,” he said. “That’s why it took me years. I started, then I went to business school, all my money was in there, then I started again, got a new job … Bit by bit I made it.”

But there’s another price – being away from work, Rigney said. Fortunately, he said his employers supported his goals.

“If you have a good employer…they can see it [personal goals] as something that can help lift the spirits of the company,” he said.

From “simple” to “excruciatingly painful”

In addition to cost, the Seven Summits vary significantly in terms of climbing difficulty, Rigney said.

He said climbing Kilimanjaro in Africa was “easy” and called it “not technically challenging at all”.

But it’s high enough to experience altitude sickness, he said, which puts some climbers off reaching the summit.

Kilimanjaro can be climbed in a week, he said. The Vinson Massif in Antarctica can take two weeks – “if you’re lucky” – and North America’s Denali three to four weeks.

But Mount Everest is a “massive logistical operation” that will take about two months, he said. It’s by far the most difficult and dangerous climb, he said, calling the experience “excruciatingly painful”.

“Every cell in your body says you shouldn’t be here,” he said. “Your intuition is going crazy.”

Rigney climbed Mount Everest about four to five hours a day. The rest of the time “you’re relaxing alone in your tent…no devices, no internet…nothing.”

Courtesy of Inside Us LLC

He said he arrived “bloated and super fit”. Although he ate 7,000 to 8,000 calories a day – mostly potatoes, pasta and kibble – he said he lost 20 pounds during Everest’s climb.

Staying warm takes a tremendous amount of energy, he said. Everything freezes, he said, including the LCD camera screens.

“We have a so-called pee bag. You pee in this bag, seal it and put it in the sleeping bag because it’s warm.”

There are only about three to five days in the climbing season when climbers can reach the summit of Everest. If they do, it’s a quick win, Rigney said.

“People don’t hang around the summit for hours,” he said. “Damn it, get off the mountain as fast as you can.”

From climbing to coaching

Rigney is now an executive coach and speaker, teaching business leaders lessons he learned from pushing himself mentally and physically to his limits.

He is also the author of Naked at the Knife’s Edge, a book about how he used some of the most harrowing moments of his Everest climb for professional success.

Climbers don’t stay long once they reach the top of Mount Everest, Rigney said. “Damn it, get off the mountain as fast as you can.”

Courtesy of Inside Us LLC

He said he helps “high flyers… [with] Tons in the head” finding balance and breaking habits “that pull us along … like on an assembly line.”

For example, fear — whether it’s of public speaking or your own fear of heights — can be overcome with mental tricks, he said.

And leaders must learn to accept things that are out of their control, whether it’s an injury or a pandemic, he said.

He said he still laughs when he thinks of arriving at a small aircraft hangar in Kathmandu an hour before his scheduled flight to the Himalayan foothills.

After climbing the Seven Summits, Rigney said he consciously chooses less risky travel experiences. He said he found a hobby a few years ago that is both challenging and fun: scuba diving.

Courtesy of Inside Us LLC

“I remember walking up to this gentleman… and I was like, ‘Hey… when do you think we’re leaving?'” Rigney said. “He said, ‘Maybe today, hopefully by tomorrow, probably by the end of the week.'”

Ten minutes later, another climber who received the same response exploded with anger, he said.

“At one point this guy looks over, red with steam coming out of his ears, and we just howl. I think it finally clicked – like you’re here. This is about the weather in the Himalayas!”

It’s just one of a long list of “things we can control and things we can’t control,” Rigney said.

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