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.
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.