On the Money

How to climb Mount Everest with just guts and Snapchat

Peak performance
Peak performance

It's hard enough to scale Mount Everest. It's even harder to reach its summit without an oxygen boost.

While 4,000 hikers have reached the top of the world's tallest mountain since 1953, fewer than 200 have accomplished that feat without supplemental oxygen.

That's what two professional hikers, explorer Adrian Ballinger and photojournalist Cory Richards, recently attempted.

"This was something I'd dreamt about since I was a kid," Ballinger told CNBC's "On The Money" in an interview.

Both survived. Yet only one made it to the top successfully.

Ballinger described the moment he knew he had to turn around. AT "1500 feet from the summit, [it] got dangerously cold," he said. Ballinger was "shivering uncontrollably," he added.

"There was no question in the decision. I had to turn around. I had to come down," said the explorer, who has reached the summit of Everest six times before (but each time with oxygen).

snapping Everest

Explorer Adrian Ballinger and photojournalist Cory Richards, climbers behind EverestNoFilter Snapchat
Source: Adrian Ballinger, Cory Richards

Difficult as Ballinger said that choice was for him, his hiking partner also described the moment Adrian turned around as the hardest point of his own journey.

"That put me in the position of being alone on the mountain, in the dark, in a storm," said Richards. "That's very scary."

The National Geographic photographer and professional mountaineer—who was on his first Everest climb—continued to the summit. However, he didn't stay long.

"I was there for three minutes, and then I was gone," Richards told CNBC. "The most striking thing for me is how little impact being on the summit actually had."

He added: "A whole lifetime of investment into climbing and thinking about this, and wanting to do this and then you're there and you're like, 'I'm scared and I want to leave.'"

While they didn't take along oxygen, the two explorers took along Snapchat.

With the hashtag, #EverestNoFilter, thousands of followers could see their real time feed on Snapchat live as it was happening.

Ballinger said since Snapchat has to post right away, "It's instant and I just loved that, because I think people don't understand what it takes to climb Everest."

Both climbers agreed having that social media connection and feedback was motivating while scaling the mountain.

"Especially on summit day," Richards said. "I don't want to say the world's watching, but it kind of feels good to have people who have your back, and they're invested and they're excited."

Ballinger, a professional guide who founded Alpenglow Expeditions, said he "truly love[s] the human struggle that happens on Everest."

Ballinger leads 40-day Everest trips for experienced clients for $85,000. "It takes so much mental strength, I loved watching that."

While he fell just short of his goal this time, Ballinger told CNBC that he loved "finally finding that point of failure and being broken by the mountain. Of course, I'm dreaming of going back."

Without oxygen? "I'm certainly going to try," he added.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Cory Richards' name.

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.