Navigating the Routes to Mount Everest: Challenges and Features

Navigating the Routes to Mount Everest: Challenges and Features

Published on Aug 16, 2023

Navigating the routes to Mount Everest reveals its position within the magnificent Himalayan mountain range. Moreover, it forms a natural border between the two countries. Specifically, Mount Everest’s southern flank extends from Nepal, while its northern flank rests in Tibet.

This unique geographical arrangement gives rise to two primary climbing pathways. One of these routes ascends the southeast ridge from Nepal, while the other traverses the south ridge from Tibet.

Notably, the southeast climbing route, used by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953, led them to become the first individuals to conquer the Everest summit.

Importantly, the Chinese border stayed inaccessible to the Western world during that period. When navigating the routes to Mount Everest, the question arises: which route is the easiest?

Both routes pose exceptional challenges, each with its distinct characteristics. However, most consider the north route to involve a comparatively less intricate technical ascent.

In contrast, the south side proves considerably more demanding due to prolonged exposure to high altitudes, unpredictable weather conditions, and the extensive distance one must cover to attain the summit.

A vast majority of climbers choose one of two routes:

  1. The South Col Route
  2. The Northeast Ridge Route

The South Col Route – South Route of Everest

When navigating the routes to Mount Everest, it’s evident that the primary climbing pathways on the South and North sides of the mountain diverge significantly.

Commencing with the southeast ridge route, the journey initiates from the Base Camp positioned at 5,380 m (17,700 ft) on the southern side of Everest in Nepal.

Notably, the climb along the south route to the summit takes a more direct and steep trajectory compared to the North side. 

Although this imparts a greater level of difficulty to the ascent, it offers the advantage of quicker access to safety for climbers facing challenges. This characteristic can be particularly valuable in times of distress.

Additionally, it’s crucial to emphasize that both Base Camp and Camp 1, located past the challenging Khumbu Icefall, allow for helicopter evacuations. This distinction sets apart the South side from the North side in terms of emergency response capabilities.

Hence, the distinct attributes of each ascent path underscore the intricacies involved in navigating the routes to Mount Everest.

The Process of Navigating the South Routes to Mount Everest

When navigating the routes to Mount Everest, climbers spend a couple of weeks acclimatizing to the altitude at Base Camp. Camp I stands at 6,065 m (19,900 ft), while Camp II, also known as Camp ABC, is positioned at 6,500 m (21,300 ft).

To reach Camp III, situated at 7,470 m (24,500 ft) on a narrow ledge, climbers ascend the Lhotse face using fixed ropes. Ascending further, an additional 500 m leads to Camp IV at 7,920 m (26,000 ft) on the South Col.

From this point, climbers embark on their ultimate summit push.

Progressing, climbers initially reach the “Balcony” at an altitude of 8,400 m (27,600 ft). Continuing to ascend along the ridge, they encounter a small dome of ice and snow, marking the South Summit.

This critical phase typically begins around midnight and spans 10-12 hours, covering a distance of 1,000m to ultimately reach the summit. 

The intricate journey of navigating the routes to Mount Everest encompasses these distinct altitude markers, each presenting its own set of challenges and achievements.

Outline Itinerary for the Everest South Col Route

Climbing Mount Everest’s South Col Route is a remarkable adventure that demands careful planning and preparation.

This outline provides a general overview of the itinerary, allowing climbers to understand the stages and challenges they will encounter while ascending from the Nepal side.

  • Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu
  • Day 2: Kathmandu to Lukla and Phakding
  • Day 3: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
  • Day 4: Acclimatization Day in Namche Bazaar
  • Day 5: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
  • Day 6: Tengboche to Dingboche
  • Day 7: Acclimatization Day in Dingboche
  • Day 8: Dingboche to Lobuche
  • Day 9: Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp
  • Day 10: Acclimatization and Preparation at Everest Base Camp
  • Day 11-15: Climbing and Acclimatization: Begin the process of climbing higher and returning to lower altitudes for acclimatization. Spend time at Camps 1, 2, and 3 to adapt to the thinner air.
  • Day 16-18: Summit Push. Begin the final push to the summit of Everest. Progress through Camps 3 and 4 (South Col).
  • Day 19: Summit Day and Descent to Base Camp: Descend to Camp 2 or 3 for the night.
  • Day 20-23: Descent to Base Camp
  • Day 24: Base Camp to Lukla
  • Day 25: Lukla to Kathmandu: Fly from Lukla back to Kathmandu.
  • Day 26: Departure from Kathmandu

The Northeast Ridge Route -North Route of Everest

When navigating the routes to Mount Everest, these factors come into play, making the south route notably more arduous.

While navigating the routes to Mount Everest, it’s important to note distinctions between the North and South sides. Unlike the South side, the North side lacks an icefall, but climbers on the North route must contend with the challenges of high altitude for a longer duration.

Moreover, helicopter evacuation is unavailable anywhere on the mountain’s Northside. In case of emergencies, climbers must descend to the Chinese Base Camp to access vehicle evacuation to the nearest hospital.

Additionally, the weather on the North side tends to be harsher, particularly concerning winds that can escalate to hurricane force. When navigating the routes to Mount Everest, these factors come into play, shaping the experiences of climbers on both sides.

The process of navigating the North routes to Mount Everest

In the process of navigating the routes to Mount Everest, a sequence of six camps comes into play. The journey commences with Camp I, positioned on a gravel plain beneath the Rongbuk Glacier, situated at an altitude of 5,180 m (16,990 ft).

Climbers proceed from Camp I, ascending the medial moraine of the east Rongbuk Glacier to reach Camp II at the base of Changtse, reaching an elevation of approximately 6,500 m (21,300 ft).

Further up the ascent lies Camp III, also known as Camp ABC (Advanced Base Camp), strategically located at 6,500 m (21,300 ft) beneath the North Col.

Transitioning from Camp ABC to Camp IV, situated on the North Col, climbers tackle the glacier with the aid of fixed ropes, a necessary tool to reach the North Col standing at an altitude of 7,010 m (23,000 ft).

Subsequently, from the North Col, the journey leads to Camp V, where climbers confront the rocky north ridge, scaling to a height of roughly 7,775 m (25,500 ft).

Notably, the north ridge route crosses the north face of Mount Everest in a diagonal climbing trajectory, culminating at Camp VI situated at the base of the Yellow Band, positioned at 8,230 m (27,000 ft).

Throughout the process of navigating the routes to Mount Everest, these six camps delineate the path to the summit with their progressively challenging elevations and terrains.

As one continues navigating the routes to Mount Everest, the path leads from Camp VI positioned on the Yellow Band to the ultimate summit endeavor. The journey unfolds in three crucial steps, each posing unique challenges.

At Last

The initial step involves ascending from an altitude of 8,501m (27,890 ft) to 8,534 m (28,000 ft), demanding a perilous traverse from the base Camp IV.

Moving forward, the second step entails climbing from a height of 8,577 meters (28,140 ft) to 8,626 m (28,300 ft).

This phase includes ascending through the “Chinese ladder,” a semi-permanent climbing aid installed by Chinese climbers in 1975. The ladder aids climbers in their ascent, bridging the gap between these elevations.

Proceeding to the third step, climbers face the challenge of ascending from 8,690 m (28,510 ft) to 8,800 m (28,870 ft).

Conquering these steps brings into view the summit pyramid, crowned with a snow-capped peak boasting a steep slope of around 50 degrees. As climbers traverse this slope, they ultimately conquer the final stretch, achieving the triumphant goal of reaching the summit.

The arduous journey through these steps encapsulates the true essence of navigating the routes to Mount Everest.

Outline Itinerary for the Everest Northeast Ridge Route

  • Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu,
  • Day 2-3: In Kathmandu for Tibet visa processing
  • Day 4:Transfer to the airport for flight to Lhasa (Gonggar airport) and drive to Lhasa (3650m-11680 ft), transfer to Hotel
  • Day 5: In Lhasa: sightseeing
  • Day 6: Drive to  Shigatse (3900m-12480 ft)
  • Day 7: Drive to Thingri (4350m-14,268ft)
  • Day 8: Rest day in Thingri
  • Day 9:Trek to Everest base camp (5200m-17,056ft)
  • Day 10-14: Acclimatization at base camp, packing for advance base camp, puja ritual, and erecting intermediate and advance base camps
  • Day 15: Trek to Intermediate Camp (5800m-19,024 ft)
  • Day 16: Arrive at Advance base camp (6400m-20,992 ft)
  • Day 17-53: Climbing Period
  • Day 54: Advance base camp to base camp
  • Day 55:  Drive to Kyirong border (2700m-8856ft)
  • Day 56: Short drive to the Nepal-Tibet border and drive to Kathmandu
  • Day 57: In Kathmandu
  • Day 58: International departure

Challenges and Features of the South Col and Northeast Ridge Routes on Mount Everest

Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, presents climbers with both extraordinary challenges and breathtaking views. Among the various routes to conquer this iconic summit, the South Col Route and the Northeast Ridge Route stand out as two of the most prominent pathways.

Let’s explore the unique challenges and distinctive features that these routes offer to intrepid climbers.

South Col Route: The Ultimate Ascent

The South Col Route, often known as the Southeast Ridge Route, is the most popular route for climbers tackling Everest from the Nepal side. This path offers a mix of treacherous terrain and awe-inspiring beauty.


Khumbu Icefall: Climbers embarking on the South Col Route must first navigate the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. This frozen labyrinth of towering ice formations presents a constant risk of collapse and crevasses, making it a hazardous passage.

Lhotse Wall: Once past the icefall, climbers face the daunting challenge of the Lhotse Wall, an almost vertical rock and ice face that demands technical skill and endurance.

South Col: At around 26,000 feet (8,000 meters), the South Col aids acclimatization. Climbers conquer fatigue and adjust to thin air for the final summit push.


Hillary Step: Named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to reach Everest’s summit. The Hillary Step is a famous rock wall just below the summit. Climbers must navigate this steep section, often using fixed ropes, to reach the top.

Breathtaking Views: Despite the challenges, the South Col Route rewards climbers with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks and the world below.

Northeast Ridge Route: The Tibetan Adventure

The Northeast Ridge Route, commonly accessed from the Tibetan side of Everest, provides a unique and adventurous path to the summit.


Weather Conditions: Climbers on the Northeast Ridge Route contend with extreme weather conditions, including biting cold, strong winds, and sudden storms that can test their resilience.

North Col: The route involves crossing the North Col, a high point on Everest’s north side, before ascending further. This requires immense physical effort at high altitudes.


Less Crowded: Compared to the South Col Route, the Northeast Ridge Route tends to be less crowded, allowing climbers to experience a sense of solitude and tranquility amid the grandeur of the Himalayas.

Chinese Base Camp: The starting point for climbers on the Northeast Ridge Route is the Chinese Base Camp, offering a different perspective and approach to the ascent.

Both the South Col Route and the Northeast Ridge Route demand unparalleled dedication, physical prowess, and mental fortitude. Climbers must overcome the formidable challenges that each route presents while embracing the unique features that set them apart. 

No matter the route chosen, the ultimate reward includes not just reaching Everest’s summit, but also the lasting memories and valuable lessons gained from overcoming nature’s extraordinary challenge.

Best time of the year to attempt the South Col and Northeast Ridge Routes to Mount Everest

When embarking on the monumental journey to conquer Mount Everest via the South Col Route or the Northeast Ridge Route, timing is of the essence. The challenges and conditions of these routes vary with the changing seasons. Let’s explore the best times of the year to attempt each route, ensuring a safer and more rewarding climb.

South Col Route: Ideal Season

The South Col Route, commonly chosen by climbers approaching from the Nepal side, is best attempted during the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon seasons, which fall between spring and autumn.

Pre-Monsoon Season (Spring):

Running from late March to early June, this is the most popular time for climbers to attempt the South Col Route. During this period, the weather is relatively stable, and the days are longer, allowing climbers to make steady progress.

 The route becomes accessible, and the Khumbu Icefall is typically safer to traverse due to colder temperatures stabilizing the ice formations.

Post-Monsoon Season (Autumn):

From late September to early December, the post-monsoon season offers another window of opportunity for climbers. The weather is generally clear and stable, making it conducive for summit attempts. The route remains accessible, and the challenges of the Lhotse Wall and South Col are mitigated by favorable conditions.

Northeast Ridge Route: Optimal Season

Climbing Everest via the Northeast Ridge Route, commonly taken from the Tibetan side, is best undertaken during the same pre-monsoon and post-monsoon seasons as the South Col Route.

Pre-Monsoon Season (Spring):

Similar to the South Col Route, the pre-monsoon season (late March to early June) is ideal for attempting the Northeast Ridge Route from Tibet. Stable weather, clear skies, and minimal precipitation favor climbers during this period.

Post-Monsoon Season (Autumn):

From late September to early December, the post-monsoon season offers ideal conditions for climbers taking the Northeast Ridge Route. The weather is crisp, and the route’s challenges are more manageable due to cooler temperatures.

Considerations for Both Routes to Mount Everest :

Climber Traffic: The pre-monsoon season tends to see higher climber traffic, especially on the South Col Route. Climbers should plan accordingly to avoid overcrowding.

Avalanche Risk: Be cautious of potential avalanches, especially on the Northeast Ridge Route during the post-monsoon season when melting snow and ice can increase the risk.

Both the South Col and the Northeast Ridge Routes to Mount Everest offer the best summiting opportunities during the pre-monsoon (spring). And Also, In post-monsoon (autumn) seasons. These periods feature favorable weather and safer route conditions.

As climbers embark on this remarkable journey, choosing the right time to attempt these routes is essential for a successful and memorable ascent.


Why is the north face of a mountain the hardest to climb?

The north face of a mountain is toughest due to less sunlight, harsher conditions, and greater accumulation of snow and ice.

Which is the most difficult route to Mount Everest?

The most difficult route to Mount Everest is the Kangshung Face, also known as the East Face. Additionally, The most difficult route to Mount Everest is the Kangshung Face, also known as the East Face.

It is the least climbed face of Everest due to its extreme difficulty. And also complex route-finding, and significant objective dangers like avalanches.

What are the difficulties in climbing Mount Everest?

Climbing Everest poses challenges like high altitudes, harsh weather, avalanches, crevasses, fatigue, and altitude sickness. Also, the technical climbing skills for tough sections like Khumbu Icefall and Hillary Step.

How many days does it take to climb Mount Everest?

Climbing Mount Everest typically takes around 60 days. It includes acclimatization periods, establishing high camps, and waiting for a suitable weather window to make the summit push.

The exact duration can vary based on weather, route, and individual acclimatization needs.

How long can you stay at the top of Mount Everest?

At Everest’s summit, time is short due to harsh conditions and safety. Climbers Stay 10-20 mins for photos, and celebrations, then descend for safety.

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