Located in the Himalayan mountain range between Tibet and Nepal, Mount Everest is well known as Earth's highest point above sea level. It was first sucessfully scaled in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Climing Mount Everest remains a popular public metaphor for difficulty, despite more technically difficult climbs such as K2 becoming more widely known. Everest is also famous for its rugged beauty, with features like the Khumbu Icefall gracing the pages of National Geographic.

Everest is also known as Sagarmatha and Chomo-Lungma (also Qomolangma, meaning "goddess") in Nepal and Tibet, respectively. China's state bureau of surveying and mapping actively promotes Qomolangma in place of the Western name.

Size does matter

The original estimate of Mount Everest's height was made by Sir George Everest. Sir George gave a figure of 29,002 feet for the mountain then known as "Peak 15". Legend says Sir George added 2' to his average value of 29,000 so that people would not think it was a guess! Sir George's successor as Surveyor General in India, Andrew Waugh, named the peak after his predecessor.

Since 1954, it was accepted that Everest was 8,848 meters (29,028 feet) in height. Indian surveyor B. L. Gulatee calculated this number. More recent calculations using GPS equipment reveal that Everest is 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) high. The same data also revealed that Mount Everest is moving northeast at a rate of 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) a year, pushed by the geological fault system that creates the Himalayas.

In 2005, a Chinese survey produced a new value: 29,017.16 feet above sea level. In May 2005, a 50-strong Chinese survey team used laser rangers, radar altimeters, and GPS equipment to measure the height against six control points near the base of Everest.

Competition

Everest is not the tallest mountain on Earth from base to peak - this honour belongs to Hawaii's Mauna Kea, rising 9,698 meters (31,796 feet) from the seafloor to its peak. Mauna Kea rises 4,260 meters (13,796 feet) above the surface of the sea. Nearby Mauna Loa is the largest single mountain on Earth by volume, and also the world's tallest active volcano, with a central lava column running a mind-boggling 17,170 meters (56,080 ft) deep.

Yet another competitor is Ecuador's Mount Chimborazo in the Andes. (Sometimes nearby Mount Cayambe is mentioned as well). At 6,310 meters (20,703 feet) above sea level, Chimborazo does not seem like a serious threat to Everest's records, but it lies near the equator at 1.3 S latitude. The equatorial bulge adds approximately 26.7 miles to the Earth's diameter (versus the poles), so a point at sea level on the equator 13.35 miles above a similar point at the pole. It has been calculated1 that Everest, at latitude 28 degrees North, gives up about 33,100 feet to a point on the equator. Thus a tourist lounging on a sandy Equadorian beach in her Panama Hat is further from the Earth's core than a Sherpa freezing his butt atop Mount Everest! Chimborazo's peak ends up about 2,200 metres (7,217 feet) further from the core than Everest's.

Within the Solar system, Mars' Olympus Mons takes first place with a 26 kilometer rise that pokes right out of the Martian atmosphere.


  1. http://www.ex.ac.uk/nlo/news/nlonews/1995-01/9501-10a.htm

Mount Everest was first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The two climbers agreed upon not revealing who was first among them, and to this day noone else knows. Update: I've found a reference that mentions that Tenzing revealed in a biography before his death that Hillary was first and that they didn't think much about it.

Named 1865 after Sir George Everest who was the leader of the Great Trigonometrical Survey in 1852, when the westerners found the mountain, then referred to as Peak XV. It was then measured to be 29,002 feet, which is less than 30 feet off today's value. Pretty good don't you think!

Tibetan name: Chomolungma or Jonolungma, meaning "Goddess, mother of the world"
Nepali name: Sagarmatha, meaning "Goddess of the sky"
Chinese name: "Chu-mu-lung-ma feng" (thx liveforever)

The perhaps most famous climbers that never made it, were George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, who disappeared very high up on the mountain in 1924. Mallory was one of the pioneers in Everest climbing. His body was found in 1999 by an expedition which specifically were looking for the two British climbers. It is not known whether Mallory and Irvine actually made it to the top - 30 years before Hillary and Norgay. It is believed however that they never reached the summit, but in fact died at 8200 meters - where Mallory's body was found - without having been higher up on the mountain.

There are three ridges that lead to the top of Mount Everest, and consequently the mountain has three faces. Successful ascents have been made from all ridges and faces. The mostly used path is the Southeast Ridge, which was the one Hillary and Norgay used, and it's the route most-used by commercial expeditions. This is reached by climbing the Khumbhu Icefall and then passing the under Southwest Face. This leads up to the South Col, which is a plateau at 7925m, 26,000 feet, where the Southeast Ridge begins. This route lies entirely in Nepal, and intrepid would-be climbers must pay for a climbing permit before embarking. These permits are sold by the Nepali government, and they normally go for approximately $45,000 (USD) apiece. In the early 2000s, maiost rebels in the areas along the treks (usually from Lukla or Jiri, both of which are about thirty minutes' flight from Kathmandu) to base camp have added an element of danger to those on their way to base camp.

It is also possible to reach the South Col via the East Face, the Kanshung Face, which lies in China. The older expeditions tried, for political reasons, to climb via the West Ridge, on the border of Nepal and China. It was on this route that Mallory and Irvine disappeared. Nowadays, climbing from the West Ridge in Tibet is not allowed by the government of China, and climbing the Kanshung Face is usually not allowed to foreigners except under special circumstances.

The third ridge, the Northeast Ridge, is mostly used in combination with the North Face. This was the route chosen by Reinhold Messner in his first solo ascent without oxygen.

Expeditions, usually of the non-commercial variety, have also climbed the relatively unused Southwest Face to the summit.

Other notable records:

Facts from different sources such as: everest.com, britannica.com and various climbing websites.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, this was a good week to climb Everest, with 4 days in a row of good weather allowing 94 people to reach the summit, including 4 who set new records:
  • Youngest climber to reach the summit: Temba Tsheri, age 15, May 22, 2001. (He previously attempted to climb Everest last year but turned back before reaching the top and ended up losing five fingers to frostbite.)
  • Oldest climber to reach the summit: Sherman Bull, age 64, a physician from New Canaan, Connecticut, May 24, 2001.
  • First father and son team to reach the summit together: Sherman Bull and his son Brad Bull, May 24, 2001.
  • First blind person to reach the summit: Erik Weihenmayer, May 24, 2001.

Weihenmayer & the Bulls were part of an expedition financed in part by the National Federation of the Blind, who have chronicled their journey on the website http://www.2001everest.com/

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