Mt. Everest and Khumbu Icefall

Mount Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. It is located at 24° 59' 16" N, 86° 56' 40" E in the Himalayas, and the summit ridge of the mountain marks the border between Nepal and Tibet. In Nepal the mountain is called Sagarmatha (goddess of the sky) and in Tibet Chomolungma (mother of the universe); and although it was named Everest by Sir Andrew Waugh, the British surveyor-general of India, in honour of his predecessor Sir George Everest, the popular pronunciation of Everest is different from how Sir George pronounced his own last name.

Table of contents
1 Measurement
2 Ascents
3 Timeline
4 External link


The mountain is around 8,850 metress (29,035 feet) high, although there is some variation in the measurements. It was first measured in 1856 to have a height of 29,000 feet, but declared to be 29,002 feet high. The arbitrary addition of 2 feet reflected the sentiment at the time that an exact height of 29,000 feet would be viewed as nothing more than a rounded estimate. Today's generally accepted value of 8,850 m was obtained via GPS readings.

Radhanath Sikdar, a Bengali mathematician and surveyor, was the first to identify it as the world's tallest peak through trigonometric calculations, in 1852. At the time it was known as Peak XV.

To be precise, Mount Everest is the mountain whose summit attains the greatest distance above sea level. Two other mountains are sometimes claimed as alternative "highest mountains on Earth." Mauna Loa in Hawaii is highest when measured from its base; it rises 17 km (58,000 ft) when measured from its base on the mid-ocean floor, but only attains 4,170 m (13,680 ft) above sea level. The summit of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is 2,150 m further from the Earth's centre than that of Everest, because the Earth bulges at the Equator. However, Chimborazo attains a height of 6,272 m above sea level, by which criterion it is not even the highest peak of the Andes.


On June 6 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine made an assault on the summit from which they never returned. An eyewitness claimed he saw the party reach the summit. Mallory's body was apparently sighted by a Chinese climber in 1975 but was not positively located until 1999. Its position indicated that the party could have reached the summit. It also indicated that the party fell while high on the mountain; whether this happened while climbing or descending could not be confirmed. See: The British Hero Who Died on Everest and Lost on Everest (TV Documentary)

In 1933, Lady Houston, a millionaire ex-showgirl, funded the Houston Everest Flight of 1933, which saw a formation of aeroplanes led by the Marquess of Clydesdale fly over the summit in an effort to deploy the British Union Jack flag at the top.

Early expeditions ascended the mountain from Tibet, via the north face. However, this access was closed to western expeditions in 1950, after the Chinese took over Tibet. During 1951 and 1952 a British led expedition, including Edmund Hillary, travelled into Nepal to survey a new route via the southern face.

Taking their cue from the British, a Swiss expedition attempted to climb via the southern face but turns back 200 meters short of the summit. Among the assult team was Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

In 1953, a ninth British expedition, lead by John Hunt, returned to Nepal. Hunt selected two climing pairs to attempt to reach the summit. The first pair turned back after becoming exhausted high on the mountain. The next day, the expedition made its second and final assult on the summit with its fittest and most determined climbing pair. The summit was eventually reached at 11:30 AM on May 29, 1953 by the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay from Nepal climbing the South Col Route. Although Hillary admits his foot may have been ahead of Tenzing's, both acknowledged it as a team effort by the whole expedition. They paused at the summit to take photographs and bury a few sweets and a small cross in the snow, before descending. News of the expedition's success reached London on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. Returning to Kathmandu a few days later, Hillary and Hunt discovered that they had been promptly knighted for their efforts.

Up to the end of the 2001 climbing season, 1491 people have reached the summit (560 of them since 1998), and there have been 172 climber deaths (the worst year being 1996, when 15 people died trying to reach the summit). The conditions on the mountain are difficult enough that most of the corpses have been left where they fell, some of them easily visible from the standard climbing routes. On May 16, 1975 Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Everest.

Most expeditions use oxygen masks and tanks ([1]) to climb Everest above 26,000 ft. - known as the death zone. Everest can be climbed without oxygen tanks, but this requires special fitness training and increases the risk to the climber: humans do not think clearly with low oxygen, and the weather, low temperatures and the slopes often require quick, accurate decisions.

Mountain climbers are a significant source of tourist revenue for Nepal; they range from experienced mountaineers to relative novices who count on their paid guides to get them to the top.


  • 1921 The first British expedition explores the access over the Rongbuk glacier.
  • 1922 Seven Sherpa climbers are killed in an avalanche becoming the first reported deaths on Everest.
  • 1922 The second British expedition reaches 8321 meters.
  • 1924 The third British expedition reaches 8500 meters. On June 6, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine ascend to attempt to reach the summit but are lost after cloud closes in. An eyewitness claims seeing them on the summit.
  • 1933 Lady Houston funds formation of aeroplanes to fly over summit to deploy the British Union Jack flag.
  • 1934 Maurice Wilson (British) dies on attempting to climb alone.
  • 1950 Nepal opens its borders to foreigners.
  • 1952 A Swiss expedition, including Sherpa Tenzing Norgay gives up from exhaustion, 200 meters short of the summit.
  • 1953 The summit was first reached at 11:30 AM on May 29, 1953 by the New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay from Nepal climbing the South Col Route.
  • 1960 On May 25, a Chinese team makes the first summit via the North Ridge.
  • 1963 First crossing by a United States expedition, starting from the west and descending over the south-west.
  • 1965 On May 20, Nawang Gombu Sherpa becomes the first person to summit Everest twice.
  • 1975 On May 16, Junko Tabei of Japan is the first woman on the crest.
  • 1975 On May 27, a Tibetan woman, Phantog, becomes the first woman to summit from the Tibetan side.
  • 1978 Reinhold Messner (South Tyrol, Italy) and Peter Habeler (Austria) reach the crest without oxygen tanks.
  • 1980 First winter expedition by a team from Poland.
  • 1980 Reinhold Messner of South Tyrol, Italy, first man to climb the mount Everest alone and without oxygen tanks.
  • 1982 On October 5, Laurie Skreslet becomes the first Canadian to reach the summit.
  • 1988 Jean-Marc Boivin of France starts with a paraglider from the mountaintop.
  • 1993 90 alpinists in the autumn alone, the commercial "Everest-climbing" starts.
  • 1993 Ramon Blanco of Spain became the oldest person to summit aged 60 years, 160 days (record beat in 2001).
  • 1996 Hans Kammerlander of South Tyrol, Italy climbs the mountain from the north side in 16 hours and 45 minutes and returns on skis.
  • 1996 Göran Kropp of Sweden becomes first person to ride his bicycle all the way from his home in Sweden to the mountain, scale it alone without the use of oxygen tanks, and bicycle all the way back.
  • 1998 Edward Grylls of Great Britain is the youngest person to summit aged 23 years old.
  • 1998 Tom Whittaker is the first disabled climber to make it to the summit.
  • 1999 Sherpa Babu Chiri Sherpa of Nepal stays for 21 hours on the mountaintop.
  • 2001 On May 24 15-year-old Sherpa Temba Tsheri became the youngest person to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
  • 2001 On May 25, 32-year old Erik Weihenmayer, of Boulder, Colorado, became the first blind person to reach the summit.
  • 2001 On the same day 64-year old Sherman Bull, of New Canaan, Connecticut, became the oldest person to reach the summit.
  • 2003 - 25-year-old Nepalese Sherpa, Pemba Dorjie Sherpa, made the world's fastest ever ascent of Mount Everest, in 12 hours 45 minutes on May 23.

See also: Geography of China, Sagarmatha National Park

External link