All aboard the Himalayan Escapes train to Mount Everest! The secret history of Expedition Everest is a wild and daring one. On the rickety steam train, you travel through the Himalayas, including the "forbidden mountain," to the base camp of Mount Everest; along the way, you just might encounter unexpected dangers, such as a Yeti! Ready to uncover the secret history of Expedition Everest? Hold on tight—it's going to be a risky expedition!
The Secret History of Expedition Everest
The tallest of the Walt Disney World "mountains," Expedition Everest has a height of 199.5 feet in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The roller coaster is also one of Disney World's few "thrill" rides! The mountain officially opened for tours on April 7, 2006, and is often compared to Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds because of the snowy mountain and Yeti features.
While guests often believe they're traveling through Mount Everest on the roller coaster, the ride actually ventures through the "Forbidden Mountain." The story of this mysterious peak begins with the fictional Norbu and Bob. According to The Complete Walt Disney World by Julie and Mike Neal, the two entrepreneurs restored the railroad used in the 1920s for carrying tea between the villages. Norbu and Bob called the new business, Himalayan Escapes - Tours and Expeditions.
The railroad would quickly carry trekkers through the Forbidden Mountain to the base of Mount Everest! However, little do many hikers know that the Forbidden Mountain is closely guarded by a Yeti, and he does not welcome trespassers. That's where the story begins with you as the rider! While the largest and main peak is the Forbidden Mountain, you can still see Mount Everest in the far distance on the right.
To make the roller coaster a true thrill, Disney Imagineers designed the ride to travel forward and backwards. In order for this to happen, the roller coaster contains two sets of rotating track segments.
Disney first announced the making of the attraction on April 22, 2003, to celebrate Disney's Animal Kingdom's fifth anniversary—three years before it actually opened. Disney Imagineers actually spent six years, though, creating Expedition Everest. During these years, they took many trips to the Himalayas for research!
Disney also celebrated the upcoming opening of the roller coaster in New York City's Times Square on February 16, 2006. The event, known as "Everest in the City," included Project Bandaloop acrobatic dancers and a rock climber dangling from ropes hundreds of feet in the air, performing cartwheels and other breathtaking stunts. Billboards covered several buildings and were made to look like a mountain rage with a roller coaster speeding down! The Yeti loomed in the distance on these billboards with glowing red eyes. Many special effects were used to bring the Himalayas to life, such as pyrotechnics, avalanche effects and more. Passerby's could text the world "DISNEY" to the code "4YETI" and the Yeti's eyes would flash.
Expedition Everest is unique to Disney's Animal Kingdom— you won't find it anywhere else in the world! Let's learn some interesting facts about this rickety train.
Expedition Everest Fun Facts
- Via DisneyFanatic.com, the Yeti is a towering 25 feet tall! The Imagineers spoke to locals in Nepal to get their insight on the myth of the Yeti. Due to many technical difficulties, the Yeti has been switched to "B Mode," where he doesn't move at all and instead, a strobe light effect creates the illusion of movement.
- According to The Complete Walt Disney World by Julie and Mike Neal, Expedition Everest has 1,800 tons of steel, 18.7 million pounds of concrete, 2,000 gallons of stain and paint, and 200,000 square feet of rock work. Talk about a huge project!
- Many of the artifacts and items found in the queue (including the Buddha statues, Nepalese Coke bottles and desk phone) were imported straight from Asia.
- The steam rising from the train after it pulls into the loading area actually comes from steam vents underneath the train station! Disney Imagineers placed these vents to create the effects of an actual steam powered engine (the steam isn't water-based to prevent rusting).
- Expedition Everest reaches a top speed of 50 mph!
- An interesting fact—when the train approaches and pauses at the broken track, look around and notice the many hairbands thrown on the mountain! It appears to be a weird rider tradition.
- Via The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, the rust-red color of the train cars create their aged look and make for easier maintenance; the cars rarely need any touchups because the more scratches, nicks and dents, the older they truly look!
Next time you're at Disney's Animal Kingdom, you can take an expedition you'll never forget on this roller coaster! Make sure to check out our Expedition Everest wait times, ride details and more. Got a secret fact or a favorite memory from Expedition Everest? Let us know in the comments below!