If watching

IMAX Everest

on a 4,000-square-foot screen didn't satisfy your need to visit the top of the world, take heart. You, too, could climb Everest -- but first, do yourself a favor and read the fine print.

Everest is no walk in the park. Picture yourself crouching in a tent, fighting overwhelming nausea, a vicious headache and a hacking cough (inevitable side effects of high altitude), almost too weak to curse the wind that raps on the sides of your tent like a hyperactive 2-year-old on a snare drum.

Nepal Side Base Camp With Avalanche

Source: Eric Simonson/International Mountain Guides

And bear in mind that even if you ride out such suffering, you might not get to the summit. Professional guides have led almost 300 amateurs to the top of Everest since 2000, but 450 amateurs have tried and failed to summit the peak.

Oh, one other thing: Everest is extremely expensive. You'll need to pay a professional guiding company big bucks for a shot at the top of the world.

Still interested? You're not alone. Ironically, guided climbing on Everest has become more popular since the 1996 disaster that killed eight people. The disaster, which inspired best-selling books such as

Into Thin Air

and

The Climb

, has helped inspire a new generation of would-be Everest climbers to go for it.

Those climbers turn to firms such as

International Mountain Guides,

Alpine Ascents International and

Adventure Consultants, which leads affluent clients on a variety of climbs around the world. These climbs include the so-called

seven summits, the highest peaks on each continent, the others of which often serve as training grounds for the Big One.

Alpine Ascents alone has successfully led more than 50 amateur mountaineers to the top of Everest since 1992. What's more, expedition success rates are improving from year to year, thanks to improved weather reporting and well-polished logistics. Still, AAI founder Todd Burleson is quick to qualify that point with this one: "Everest decides who makes it up."

What It Takes

Here's what you need to do to give yourself the best chance of making the cut:

Physical fitness

: For the purposes of mountaineering, you need both cardiovascular training and strength training. You'll be climbing for six to eight hours a day on snow and ice, day in and day out, with 50 pounds on your back. In the months before your climb, a typical week should involve five to six aerobic workouts, each lasting more than an hour and involving a mix of hills, stairs and stress workouts. In addition, four strength workouts a week are a must.

Approaching Advanced Base Camp

Source: Eric Simonson/International Mountain Guides

Long-term commitment

: The typical amateur climbing Everest with AAI has already climbed

Denali and maybe

Aconcagua (Chile/Argentina), two of the toughest of the seven summits. Each of these climbs requires its own training and preparation time.

A pile of cash

: A spot on an Everest expedition typically costs about $65,000, not including airfare or personal gear. The price tag for training in the years leading up to the actual expedition isn't small change either. Climbing Denali and Aconcagua can cost about $10,000 total. Throw in a training course or two at a couple of grand each, and you're looking at a price tag somewhere north of $80,000.

Daunted? If so, back off now. Not everyone can climb Everest -- and those who can tend to want it very, very badly. For them, the mountain can offer rewards that may lie beyond description. For the rest of us, that walk in the park will have to do.

Peter McDougall is a freelance writer who lives in Freeport, Maine, with his wife and their dog.

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