05/23/2012 06:14 EDT | Updated 07/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Mount Everest climb carries hefty price tag

Getting to the highest place on Earth takes its toll, as the world learned this week, and it also comes with a hefty price tag.

Climbers from Canada, China, Germany and South Korea died on their descent after summiting Mount Everest, apparently overwhelmed by altitude sickness and exhaustion.

According to the website for Utmost Adventure Trekking, the price tag to join its 69-day Everest expedition, which began April 3, totals $36,270. The Nepal-based company was guiding Canadian Shriya Shah-Klorfine, one of the climbers who died on the weekend.

That is at the lower end of what other companies charge.

$110,000 for a guide company

International Mountain Guides lists three expeditions this year, with prices from $40,000 to $110,000. IMG has been in the business since 1975 and "they offer an excellent value," according to Alan Arnette, a veteran climber with a website about climbing that includes an extensive guide on the Everest expedition companies.

Alpine Ascents International, founded in 1986, charges $65,000.

The companies provide the Sherpas, guides and other support staff, cover the costs for running the base camp, accommodation and transport for the climbers while in Nepal, and hand over a $10,000 permit fee to the Nepal government for each expedition.

Each climber also covers many other expenses. There's the cost of travel to Nepal, personal gear and equipment and everything from oxygen to tents that the climber will need above the base camp.

Then there's the cost of training. Climbers usually prepare for an Everest expedition over several years, climbing ever higher and more challenging mountains, each climb with a hefty bill.

Some climbers who try to summit Everest make it, but most do not. The bill doesn't change. Mark Jenkins of National Geographic magazine is currently blogging about the magazine's own Everest expedition. On Monday, Jenkins wrote about the frostbitten and sunburned climbers descending past them: "To a one they were shattered, having gone 15 rounds with the most brutal and merciless of opponents: the weather — inhuman cold and punching wind at high altitude on Everest."

No refunds for those who don't summit

Sometimes the company that has received the big bucks ends the expedition before summiting, with the climbers not entitled to a refund.

In what has been called a shocking move, on May 5 Russell Brice ended the Everest expedition he was leading. The climbers who joined Brice's Himalayan Experience likely would have been trying to summit Everest around now, had the expedition gone ahead.

Brice led the three expeditions on Everest that were documented by the Discovery Channel series, Everest: Beyond the Limit.

The climbers this year had paid €43,000 ($56,000) and there's no refund, though they will get a small discount if they join next year's expedition.

Brice cancelled because he was "very concerned that a major accident could happen if we carry on moving through the icefall," he told the climbers. The high risk, he wrote later, resulted because "the weather is just not right this season."

After it ended, MSNBC's Rebecca Ruiz talked to Joe Martinet, one of the climbers on Brice's expedition. Martinet said he couldn't afford to return next year, not to mention getting two months off from work and keeping up the training schedule. He wished he could have done more but he also told Ruiz the experience "was phenomenal, I loved it, it was what I had gone for."