As far as what we look in the climbers here is a small guideline: The experience requirements are not absolute (nothing in climbing really is), it all depends on the person, but here are a few generalizations of what we expect:
Everest - High altitude experience. Not necessarily an 8k meters peak, but something on the order of 6,000 meters (McKinley) to 7,000 meters (Aconcagua) will give you a good idea how your body reacts to altitude. I think this is much more important than climbing skill in itself, as the physical/mental condition make the biggest difference. Good winter mountaineering skills are strongly recommended as well as general climbing experience (crampons/ice axe). You will need to be in a top shape!
Broad Peak - High altitude experience is strongly recommended. Excellent physical condition and mountaineering experience. Basically same as Everest, but with a wider margin.
Makalu - Experienced mountaineers only. This is a very serious undertaking with technical climbing at altitude.
Ama Dablam - No high altitude experience necessary. It is mostly a rock climb up fixed lines, so some rock climbing ability really helps here. You will also need crampons for some of the snow/ice (the upper mountain) and mixed stretches, so experience with the use of these helps a lot. Of course you still need to be in an above average shape.
Pumori - It is mostly a snow/ice climb. You should feel fairly comfortable in crampons, as well as in snow and ice climbing techniques. It is quite a bit more serious undertaking than Ama Dablam.
Aconcagua - Although not technically difficult, Aconcagua still places great physical demands. I think being in a very good shape is definitelly a requirement, the amount of which is dependent on the person.
Additionally, I think it all depends on the individual. Some will require a lot of experience in order to feel comfortable, whereas others can pick up skills and adapt quickly.
Most important, however, is your experience at altitude. Therefore, a mountain excursion above 20,000 feet will give you a clue as to how you will respond to altitude. Additionally, it appears that the body acquires some sort of a "memory" that allows one to respond better to altitude the next time they find themselves in the thinner air.
Jacek Maselko, Guide
Patagonia Mountain Agency
Auke Bay, Alaska
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