Mount Everest - also called Qomolangma Peak (Tibetan: ), Mount
SagarmÄthÄ ( ), Chajamlungma (Limbu), Zhumulangma Peak (Chinese:
ç ç©æçå³° ZhÅ«mÃ¹lÇngmÇ FÄng) or Mount Chomolungma - is the highest mountain on Earth, and the highest point on the Earth's
continental crust, as
measured by the height above sea level of
its summit, .
mountain, which is part of the Himalaya range in
Asia, is located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone, Nepal, and
In 1856, the Great
of India established the first published
height of Everest, then known as Peak XV
, at .
Everest was given its official English name by the Royal
Geographical Society upon recommendation of Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of
India at the time.
Chomolungma had been in common use by
Tibetans for centuries, but Waugh was unable to propose an
established local name because Nepal and Tibet were closed to
The highest mountain in the world attracts climbers of all levels,
from well experienced mountaineers to novice climbers willing to
pay substantial sums to professional mountain guides to complete a
successful climb. The mountain, while not posing substantial
technical climbing difficulty on the standard route (other eight-thousanders such as K2 or Nanga
Parbat are much more difficult), still has many inherent
dangers such as altitude sickness,
weather and wind.
By the end of the 2008 climbing season,
there had been 4,102 ascents to the summit by about 2,700
individuals. Climbers are a significant source of tourist
revenue for Nepal, whose government also
requires all prospective climbers to obtain an expensive permit,
costing up to US $
person. Everest has claimed 210 lives, including eight who perished
during a 1996 storm high on the mountain. Conditions are so
difficult in the death zone
corpses have been left where they fell. Some of them are visible
from standard climbing routes.
Identifying the highest mountain
In 1808, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey
India to determine the location and names of the world's highest
mountains. Starting in southern India, the survey teams gradually
moved northward using giant theodolites
(each requiring 12 men to carry) to measure heights as accurately
as possible. They reached the Himalayan foothills by the 1830s, but
Nepal was unwilling to allow the British to enter the country
because of suspicions of political aggression and possible
annexation. Several requests by the surveyors to enter Nepal were
The British were forced to continue their observations from
, a region south of Nepal which is
parallel to the Himalayas. Conditions in Terai were difficult owing
to torrential rains and malaria
survey officers died from malaria while two others had to retire
owing to failing health.
Nonetheless, in 1847, the British pressed on and began detailed
observations of the Himalayan peaks from observation stations up to
away. Weather restricted work to the last three months of the year.
November 1847, Andrew Waugh, the
British Surveyor General of
India made a number of observations from Sawajpore station located in the eastern end of
the Himalayas. At the time, Kangchenjunga was considered the highest
peak in the world, and with interest he noted a peak beyond it,
John Armstrong, one of Waugh's officials, also
saw the peak from a location further west and called it peak 'b'.
Waugh would later write that the observations indicated that peak
'b' was higher than Kangchenjunga, but given the great distance of
the observations, closer observations were required for
verification. The following year, Waugh sent a survey official back
to Terai to make closer observations of peak 'b', but clouds
thwarted all attempts.
In 1849, Waugh dispatched James Nicolson to the area. Nicolson was
able to make two observations from Jirol
away. Nicolson then took the largest theodolite and headed east,
obtaining over 30 observations from five different locations, with
the closest being away from the peak.
retreated to Patna on the
Ganges to perform the necessary calculations based on his
His raw data gave an average height of for
peak 'b', but this did not take into account light refraction
which distorts heights.
The number clearly indicated, however, that peak 'b' was higher
than Kangchenjunga. Unfortunately, Nicolson came down with malaria
and was forced to return home, calculations unfinished. Michael
Hennessy, one of Waugh's assistants, had begun designating peaks
based on Roman Numerals
Kangchenjunga named Peak IX, while peak 'b' now became known as
stationed at the survey's headquarters in Dehradun, Radhanath Sikdar,
an Indian mathematician and surveyor from Bengal, was the
first to identify Everest as the world's highest peak, using
trigonometric calculations based on
An official announcement that Peak
XV was the highest was delayed for several years as the
calculations were repeatedly verified. Waugh began work on
Nicolson's data in 1854, and along with his staff spent almost two
years working on the calculations, having to deal with the problems
of light refraction, barometric pressure, and temperature over the
vast distances of the observations. Finally, in March 1856 he announced his
findings in a letter to his deputy in Kolkata.
Kangchenjunga was declared to be , while Peak XV was given the
height of . Waugh concluded that Peak XV was "most probably the
highest in the world". In actuality, Peak XV (measured in feet
) was calculated to be exactly high, but
was publicly declared to be . The arbitrary addition of was to
avoid the impression that an exact height of was nothing more than
a rounded estimate.
With the height now established, what to name the peak was clearly
the next challenge. While the survey was anxious to preserve local
names if possible (e.g. Kangchenjunga and Dhaulagiri) Waugh argued that he was unable to find any
commonly used local name.
Waugh's search for a local name
was hampered by Nepal and Tibet being closed to foreigners at the
time. Many local names existed, with perhaps the best known in
Tibet for several centuries being Chomolungma, which had appeared
on a 1733 map published in Paris by the French geographer D'Anville
Waugh argued that with the plethora of local names, it would be
difficult to favour one specific name over all others. So, he
decided that Peak XV should be named after George Everest
, his predecessor as Surveyor
General of India. He wrote:
I was taught by my respected chief and predecessor,
Colonel Sir George Everest to assign to every geographical object
its true local or native appellation. But here is a mountain, most
probably the highest in the world, without any local name that we
can discover, whose native appellation, if it has any, will not
very likely be ascertained before we are allowed to penetrate into
Nepal. In the meantime the privilege as well as the duty devolves
on me to assignâ¦a name whereby it may be known among citizens and
geographers and become a household word among civilized
Everest opposed the name suggested by Waugh and told the Royal
Geographical Society in 1857 that Everest could not be written in
Hindi nor pronounced by "the native of
Waugh's proposed name prevailed despite the
objections, and in 1865, the Royal Geographical Society officially
adopted Mount Everest as the name for the highest mountain in the
world. Interestingly, the modern pronunciation of Everest "Mount
Everest." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 22
Jul. 2009. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Mount
>. is in fact different from Sir George's
pronunciation of his surname, which was .
Aerial view of Mount Everest from the
name for Mount Everest
which means "Saint
Mother"), and the Chinese
transliteration is ( ), which
refers to Earth Mother; the Chinese translation is ShÃ¨ngmÇ
( ), which refers to Holy Mother. According to English
accounts of the mid-19th century, the local name in Darjeeling for Mount Everest was Deodungha
(meaning "holy mountain").
In the late 19th century, many European cartographers
incorrectly believed that a native
name for the mountain was Gaurisankar
. This was a result of
confusion of Mount Everest with the actual Gauri Sankar, which, when viewed from Kathmandu, stands almost directly in front of
early 1960s, the Nepalese
government gave Mount Everest the official name
This name had not
previously been used; the local inhabitants knew the mountain as
. The mountain was not known and named in
ethnic Nepal (that is, the Kathmandu valley and surrounding areas).
The government set
out to find a Nepalese name for the mountain because the Sherpa
/Tibetan name Chomolangma
acceptable, as it would have been against the idea of unification
(Nepalization) of the country.
In 2002, the Chinese People's
newspaper published an article making a case against
the continued use of the English name for the mountain in the
, insisting that it
should be referred to by its Tibetan name. The newspaper argued
that the Chinese (in nature a Tibetan) name preceded the English
one, as Mount Qomolangma
was marked on a Chinese map more
than 280 years ago.
In 1856, Andrew Waugh announced Everest (then known as Peak XV) as
high, after several years of calculations based on observations
made by the Great
More recently, the mountain has been found to be high, although
there is some variation in the measurements. On 9 October 2005,
after several months of measurement and calculation, the PRC's
State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping officially announced the
height of Everest as with accuracy of Â± . They claimed it was the
most accurate and precise measurement to date. This height is based
on the actual highest point of rock and not on the snow and ice
covering it. The Chinese team also measured a snow/ice depth of ,
which is in agreement with a net elevation of . The snow and ice
thickness varies over time, making a definitive height of the snow
cap impossible to determine.
The elevation of was first determined by an Indian survey in 1955,
made closer to the mountain, also using theodolites
. It was subsequently reaffirmed by a
1975 Chinese measurement. In both cases the snow cap, not the rock
head, was measured. In May 1999 an American Everest Expedition,
directed by Bradford Washburn
anchored a GPS
the highest bedrock. A rock head elevation of , and a snow/ice
elevation higher, were obtained via this device. Although it has
not been officially recognized by Nepal, this figure is widely
uncertainty casts doubt upon the
accuracy claimed by both the 1999 and 2005 surveys.
detailed photogrammetric map (at a
scale of 1:50,000) of the Khumbu region,
including the south side of Mount Everest, was made by Erwin
Schneider as part of the 1955 International Himalayan Expedition,
which also attempted Lhotse.
even more detailed topographic
map of the
Everest area was made in the late 1980s under the direction of
Bradford Washburn, using extensive aerial photography
It is thought that the plate
of the area are adding to the height and moving the
summit northeastwards. Two accounts suggest the rates of change are
per year (upwards) and per year (northeastwards), but another
account mentions more lateral movement ( ),and even shrinkage has
Everest is the mountain whose summit attains the greatest distance
above sea level
. Several other mountains
are sometimes claimed as alternative "tallest mountains on Earth".
Mauna Kea in Hawaii is tallest
when measured from its base; it rises over when measured from its
base on the mid-ocean floor, but only attains above sea
same measure of base to summit, Mount McKinley, in Alaska, is also
taller than Everest.
Despite its height above sea level of
only , Mount McKinley sits atop a sloping plain with elevations
from to , yielding a height above base in the range of ; a commonly
quoted figure is . By comparison, reasonable base elevations
for Everest range from on the south side to on the Tibetan
Plateau, yielding a height above base in the range of
summit of Chimborazo in Ecuador is farther from the Earth's centre ( ) than that of
Everest ( ), because the Earth bulges at the Equator.
However, Chimborazo attains a height of only above sea level, and
by this criterion it is not even the highest peak of the Andes
Image:Himalaya_annotated.jpg|thumb|left|Southern and northern
climbing routes as seen from the International Space
.rect 58 14 160 49 Chomo Lonzorect 200 28 335 52 Makalurect 378 24 566 45 Mount Everestrect 188 581 920 656 Tibetan
rect 250 406 340 427 Rong Riverrect 333 149 409 186 Changtserect 550 284 677 303 Rongbuk
rect 478 196 570 218 North Facerect 237 231 346 267 East Rongbuk
rect 314 290 536 309 North Col north ridge
routerect 531 79 663 105 Lhotserect 582 112 711 130 Nuptse
603 232 733 254 South Col
routerect 716 165 839 206 Gyachung Kangrect 882 147 967 183 Cho Oyu
rect 1 1 999 661
Mt. Everest has two main climbing routes, the
southeast ridge from Nepal and the
northeast ridge from Tibet, as well as many
other less frequently climbed routes.
Of the two main
routes, the southeast ridge is technically easier and is the more
frequently-used route. It was the route used by Edmund Hillary
and Tenzing Norgay
in 1953 and the first
recognized of fifteen routes to the top by 1996. This was, however, a
route decision dictated more by politics than by design as the
Chinese border was closed to the western world in the 1950s after
Republic of China took over Tibet.
View from space showing South Col
route and North Col/Ridge route
Most attempts are made during May before the summer monsoon
season. As the monsoon season approaches, a
change in the jet stream
at this time
pushes it northward, thereby reducing the average wind speeds high
on the mountain. While attempts are sometimes made after the
monsoons in September and October, when the jet stream is again
temporarily pushed northward, the additional snow deposited by the
monsoons and the less stable weather patterns (tail end of the
monsoon) makes climbing extremely difficult.
The ascent via the southeast ridge begins with a trek to Base Camp
at on the south side of Everest
in Nepal. Expeditions usually fly into Lukla
(2,860 m) from Kathmandu and pass through Namche Bazaar.
Climbers then hike to Base Camp, which
usually takes six to eight days, allowing for proper altitude
acclimatization in order to prevent altitude sickness
. Climbing equipment
and supplies are carried by yaks, dzopkyos (yak hybrids) and human porters to Base Camp on the Khumbu
When Hillary and Tenzing climbed Everest in
1953, they started from Kathmandu Valley, as there were no roads
further east at that time.
Climbers will spend a couple of weeks in Base Camp, acclimatizing
to the altitude. During that time, Sherpas
and some expedition climbers will
set up ropes and ladders in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall
crevasses and shifting blocks of ice make the icefall one of the
most dangerous sections of the route. Many climbers and Sherpas
have been killed in this section. To reduce the hazard, climbers
will usually begin their ascent well before dawn when the freezing
temperatures glue ice
blocks in place. Above the
icefall is Camp I at .
I, climbers make their way up the Western
Cwm to the base of the Lhotse face, where
Camp II or Advanced Base Camp (ABC) is established at .
Western Cwm is a relatively flat, gently rising glacial valley,
marked by huge lateral crevasses
centre which prevent direct access to the upper reaches of the Cwm.
are forced to cross on the far right near the base of Nuptse to a small
passageway known as the "Nuptse corner".
The Western Cwm is
also called the "Valley of Silence" as the topography of the area
generally cuts off wind from the climbing route. The high altitude
and a clear, windless day can
make the Western Cwm unbearably hot for climbers.
From ABC, climbers ascend the Lhotse face on fixed ropes
up to Camp III, located on a small
ledge at . From there, it is another 500 metres to Camp IV on the
at . From Camp III to Camp IV,
climbers are faced with two additional challenges: The Geneva Spur
and The Yellow Band. The Geneva Spur is an anvil shaped rib of
black rock named by a 1952 Swiss expedition. Fixed ropes assist
climbers in scrambling
over this snow
covered rock band. The Yellow Band is a section of interlayered
which also requires about 100
metres of rope for traversing it.
On the South Col, climbers enter the death
. Climbers typically only have a maximum of two or three
days they can endure at this altitude for making summit bids. Clear
weather and low winds are critical factors in deciding whether to
make a summit attempt. If weather does not cooperate within these
short few days, climbers are forced to descend, many all the way
back down to Base Camp.
From Camp IV, climbers will begin their summit push around midnight
with hopes of reaching the summit (still another 1,000 metres
above) within 10 to 12 hours. Climbers will first reach "The
Balcony" at , a small platform where they can rest and gaze at
peaks to the south and east in the early dawn of light. Continuing
up the ridge, climbers are then faced with a series of imposing
rock steps which usually forces them to the east into waist deep
snow, a serious avalanche
hazard. At , a
small table-sized dome of ice and snow marks the South
From the South Summit, climbers follow the knife-edge southeast
ridge along what is known as the "Cornice traverse" where snow
clings to intermittent rock. This is the most exposed section of
the climb as a misstep to the left would send one 2,400 m
(8,000 ft) down the southwest face while to the immediate
right is the 3,050 m (10,000 ft) Kangshung face
. At the end of this traverse
is an imposing 12 m (40 ft) rock wall called the "Hillary
Step" at .
Hillary and Tenzing were the first climbers to ascend this step and
they did it with primitive ice climbing equipment and with ropes.
Nowadays, climbers will ascend this step using fixed ropes
previously set up by Sherpas. Once above the step, it is a
comparatively easy climb to the top on moderately angled snow
slopes - though the exposure on the ridge is extreme especially
while traversing very large cornices of snow. With increasing
numbers of people climbing the mountain in recent years, the Step
has frequently become a bottleneck
climbers forced to wait significant amounts of time for their turn
on the ropes, leading to problems in getting climbers efficiently
up and down the mountain. After the Hillary Step, climbers also
must traverse a very loose and rocky section that has a very large
entanglement of fixed ropes that can be troublesome in bad weather.
Climbers will typically spend less than a half-hour on the "top of
the world" as they realize the need to descend to Camp IV before
darkness sets in, afternoon weather becomes a serious problem, or
supplemental oxygen tanks run out.
The northeast ridge route begins from the north side of Everest in
Tibet. Expeditions trek to the Rongbuk
Glacier, setting up Base
Camp at on a gravel plain just below the glacier.
Camp II, climbers ascend the medial moraine of the east Rongbuk
Glacier up to the base of Changtse at around . Camp III (ABC - Advanced Base Camp) is
situated below the North
Col at 6,500 m (21,300 ft).
Camp IV on the north col, climbers ascend the glacier to the foot
of the col where fixed ropes are used to reach the North Col at .
From the North Col, climbers ascend the rocky north ridge to set up
Camp V at around . The route crosses the North Face in a diagonal
climb to the base of the Yellow Band reaching the site of Camp VI
at . From Camp VI, climbers will make their final summit push.
Climbers face a treacherous traverse from the base of the First
Step: 27,890 feet - 28,000 feet, to the crux of the
climb, the Second Step: 28,140 feet - 28,300 feet. (The
Second Step includes a climbing aid called the "Chinese ladder", a
metal ladder placed semi-permanently in 1975 by a party of Chinese
climbers. It has been almost continuously in place since, and is
used by virtually all climbers on the route.) Once above the Second
Step the inconsequential Third Step is clambered over:
28,510 feet - 28,870 feet. Once above these steps, the
summit pyramid is climbed by means of a snow slope of 50 degrees,
to the final summit ridge along which the top is reached.
In 1885, Clinton Thomas Dent
president of the Alpine Club
suggested that climbing Mount Everest was possible in his book
Above the Snow Line
The northern approach to the mountain was discovered by George Mallory
on the first expedition in
1921. It was an exploratory expedition not equipped for a serious
attempt to climb the mountain. With Mallory leading (and thus
becoming the first European to set foot on Everest's flanks) they
climbed the North Col . From there, Mallory espied a route to the
top, but the party was unprepared for the great task of climbing
any further and descended.
The British returned for a 1922 expedition
George Finch ("The other George") climbed using oxygen for the
first time. He ascended at a remarkable speed â per hour, and
reached an altitude of , the first time a human climbed higher than
8,000m. This feat was entirely lost on the British climbing
establishment â except for its "unsporting" nature. Mallory and
Col. Felix Norton made a second unsuccessful attempt. Mallory was
faulted for leading a group down from the North Col which got
caught in an avalanche. Mallory was pulled down too, but seven
native porters were killed.
Expedition was in 1924
. The initial attempt by Mallory and
Bruce, was aborted when weather conditions precluded the
establishment of Camp VI. The next attempt was that of Norton
and Somervell who climbed without oxygen and in perfect weather,
traversing the North Face into the Great Couloir. Norton managed to
reach , though he ascended only or so in the last hour. Mallory
rustled up oxygen equipment for a last-ditch effort. He chose the
young Andrew Irvine as his partner.
On 8 June 1924 George Mallory and Andrew Irvine
made an attempt on
the summit via the North Col/North Ridge/Northeast Ridge route from
which they never returned. On 1 May 1999 the Mallory and Irvine
found Mallory's body on the North Face in a
snow basin below and to the west of the traditional site of
Camp VI. Controversy has raged in the mountaineering community
as to whether or not one or both of them reached the summit
29 years before the confirmed ascent (and of course, safe
descent) of Everest by Sir Edmund
and Tenzing Norgay
Lady Houston, a British millionaire ex-showgirl, funded the Houston Everest Flight of
1933, which saw a formation of aircraft led by the Marquess of
Clydesdale fly over the summit in an effort to deploy the
British Union Flag at the
Early expeditions â such as Bruce's in the 1920s and Hugh Ruttledge
's two unsuccessful attempts in
1933 and 1936 â tried to make an ascent of the mountain from
, via the north face. Access was closed
from the north to western expeditions in 1950, after the Chinese
asserted control over Tibet. In 1950, Bill
and a small party which included Charles Houston
, Oscar Houston and
Betsy Cowles undertook an exploratory expedition to Everest through
Nepal along the route which has now become the standard approach to
Everest from the south.
In the spring of 1952 a Swiss expedition, lead by Edouard
Wyss-Dunant was granted permission to attempt a climb from Nepal.
The expedition established a route through the Khumbu ice fall and
ascended to the South Col at an elevation of . Raymond Lambert
and Sherpa Tenzing
were able to reach a height of about on the southeast
ridge, setting a new climbing altitude record. Tenzing's experience
was useful when he was hired to be part of the British expedition
First successful ascent by Tenzing and Hillary
In 1953, a ninth British expedition, led by John Hunt
returned to Nepal. Hunt selected two climbing pairs to attempt to
reach the summit. The first pair (Tom
and Charles Evans
within 100 m (300 feet) of the summit on 26 May 1953, but
turned back after becoming exhausted. As planned, their work in
route finding and breaking trail and their caches of extra oxygen
were of great aid to the following pair. Two days later, the
expedition made its second and final assault on the summit with its
second climbing pair, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary
and Tenzing Norgay
from Nepal. They reached the
summit at 11:30 a.m. local time on 29 May 1953 via the South Col
Route. At the time, both acknowledged it as a team effort by the
whole expedition, but Tenzing revealed a few years later that
Hillary had put his foot on the summit first. They paused at the
summit to take photographs and buried a few sweets and a small
cross in the snow before descending.
the expedition's success reached London on the
morning of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, June 2. Returning to Kathmandu a few days later, Hunt (a Briton) and Hillary (a
subject of Elizabeth, through her role as head of state of New Zealand) discovered that
they had been promptly knighted in the
Order of the British
Empire, a KBE, for the ascent.
Tenzing (a subject of the
King of Nepal) was granted the George
by the UK. Hunt was ultimately made a life peer
in Britain, while Hillary became a
founding member of the Order of New
First ascents without supplemental oxygen
On 8 May 1978, Reinhold Messner
(Italy) and Peter Habeler
made the first ascent without supplemental oxygen, using the
southeast ridge route. On 20 August 1980, Messner reached the
summit of the mountain solo for the first time, without
supplementary oxygen or support, on the more difficult Northwest
route via the North Col to the North Face and the Great Couloir. He
climbed for three days entirely alone from his base camp at .
First Winter Ascent
In 1980, a team from Poland led by Andrzej Zawada, Leszek Cichy
, and Krzysztof Wielicki
became the first to
reach the summit during the winter season.
During the 1996 climbing season, fifteen people died trying to come
down from the summit, making it the deadliest single year in
Everest history. Eight of them died on 11 May alone. The disaster
gained wide publicity and raised questions about the
commercialization of Everest.
Journalist Jon Krakauer
, on assignment
was in one of the affected parties, and afterwards published the
bestseller Into Thin Air
which related his experience. Anatoli
, a guide who felt impugned by Krakauer's book,
co-authored a rebuttal book called The Climb.
The dispute sparked a large
debate within the climbing community. In May 2004, Kent Moore, a
physicist, and John L. Semple, a surgeon, both researchers from the
of Toronto, told New
Scientist magazine that an analysis of weather conditions
on 11 May suggested that freak weather caused oxygen levels to
plunge approximately 14%.
The storm's impact on climbers on the mountain's other side, the
North Ridge, where several climbers also died, was detailed in a
first hand account by British filmmaker and writer Matt Dickinson
in his book The Other Side
2005 - Helicopter landing
On 14 May 2005, pilot Didier
of France landed a Eurocopter AS 350
helicopter on the summit of Mount Everest (without any
witness) and took off after about four minutes. (His rotors were
continually engaged, constituting a "hover landing", and avoiding
the risks of relying on the snow to support the aircraft.) He
thereby set rotorcraft
world records, for
highest of both landing (de facto) and take-off (formally).
Delsalle had also performed, two days earlier, a take-off from the
South Col; some press reports suggested that the report of the
summit landing was a misunderstanding of a South Col one.
2006 - David Sharp controversy
Double-amputee climber Mark Inglis
revealed in an interview with the press on 23 May 2006, that his
climbing party, and many others, had passed a distressed climber,
, on 15 May, sheltering under
a rock overhang 450 metres below the summit, without attempting a
rescue. The revelation sparked wide debate on climbing ethics,
especially as applied to Everest. The climbers who left him said
that the rescue efforts would have been useless and only have
caused more deaths.Much of this controversy was captured by the
the television program Everest: Beyond the Limit
crucial decision affecting the fate of Sharp is shown in the
program, where an early returning climber (Max Chaya) is descending
and radios to his base camp manager (Russell Brice) that he has
found a climber in distress. He is unable to identify Sharp, who
had chosen to climb solo without any support and so did not
identify himself to other climbers. The base camp manager assumes
that Sharp is part of a group that has abandoned him, and informs
his climber that there is no chance of him being able to help
Sharp. As Sharp's condition deteriorates through the day and other
descending climbers pass him, his opportunities for rescue
diminish: his legs and feet curl from frost-bite, preventing him
from walking; the later descending climbers are lower on oxygen and
lack the strength to offer aid; time runs out for any Sherpas to
return and rescue him. Most importantly, Sharp's decision to forgo
all support leaves him with no margin for recovery.
As this debate raged, on 26 May, Australian climber Lincoln Hall
was found alive, after
being declared dead the day before. He was found by a party of four
climbers (Dan Mazur
, Andrew Brash, Myles
Osborne and Jangbu Sherpa) who, giving up their own summit attempt,
stayed with Hall and descended with him and a party of 11 Sherpas
sent up to carry him down. Hall later fully recovered. Similar actions have
been recorded since, including on 21 May 2007, when Canadian
climber Meagan McGrath initiated the successful high-altitude
rescue of Nepali Usha
2008 - Summer Olympic torch summit
paved a dirt road from Tingri County to its Base Camp in order to accommodate growing
numbers of climbers on the north side of the mountain.
will become the highest asphalt-paved road in the world.
Construction began on 18 June 2007 at a cost of 150 million yuan
(US$19.7 million). China also routed the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay
Everest, via the North Col route, on the way to the 2008 Summer Olympics
. A China
cellular tower near the Base Camp provides phone
coverage all the way to the summit.
According to the Nepalese government, the youngest person to climb
Mount Everest was Ming Kipa Sherpa, a 15-year-old Sherpa girl, and
the youngest non-Nepalese was 17-year-old Malibu resident Johnny Strange
in May 2009. Apa Sherpa
holds the record for reaching the
summit more times than any other person (19 times ).
The fastest ascent over the northeast ridge was accomplished in
2007 by Austrian climber Christian
, who needed 16h 42min for the 10 km distance from
Camp III to the summit, just barely beating Italian Hans Kammerlander
's record of 17 hours,
accomplished in 1996. Both men climbed alone and without
supplementary oxygen. The fastest oxygen-supported ascent over the
southeast ridge was Nepalese Pemba Dorjie Sherpa's 2004 climb,
using 8h 10min for the 17 km route. The fastest ascent without
supplementary oxygen over the southeast ridge was accomplished by
French Marc Batard
who needed 22h 30min
The first descent on ski was accomplished in 2000 by Davo Karnicar
The oldest climber to successfully reach Mt. Everest's summit is
76-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan, who did so 25 May 2008 from the
Nepal side. Sherchan beat the previous record set in 2007 by 71
year old Katsusuke Yanagisawa.
While conditions classifying an area as a death zone apply to Mount
Everest (altitudes higher than 8,000 m/26,246 ft), it is
significantly more difficult for a climber to survive at the
on Mount Everest. Temperatures
can dip to very low levels, resulting in frostbite
of any body part exposed to the air.
Since temperatures are so low, snow is well-frozen in certain areas
and death by slipping and falling can also occur. High winds at
these altitudes on Everest are also a potential threat to climbers.
The atmospheric pressure at the top of Everest is about a third of
sea level pressure, meaning there is about a third as much oxygen
available to breathe as at sea level.
In May 2007, the Caudwell Xtreme Everest undertook a medical study
of oxygen levels in human blood at extreme altitude. Over 200
volunteers climbed to Everest Base Camp where various medical tests
were performed to examine blood oxygen levels. A small team also
performed tests on the way to the summit.
Even at base camp the low level of available oxygen had direct
effect on blood oxygen saturation levels. At sea level these are
usually 98% to 99%, but at base camp this fell to between 85% and
87%. Blood samples taken at the summit indicated very low levels of
oxygen present. A side effect of this is a vastly increased
breathing rate, from 20-30 breaths per minute to 80-90 breaths,
leading to exhaustion just trying to breathe.
Lack of oxygen, exhaustion, extreme cold, and the dangers of the
climb all contribute to the death toll. A person who is injured so
he can't walk himself is in serious trouble since it is often
extremely risky to try to carry someone out, and generally
impractical to use a helicopter.
People who die during the climb are typically left behind. About
150 bodies have never been recovered. It is not uncommon to find
corpses near the standard climbing routes.
Using bottled oxygen
Most expeditions use oxygen masks
tanks above 8,000 m (26,246 ft). Everest can be climbed
without supplementary oxygen, but this increases the risk to the
climber. Humans do not think clearly with low oxygen, and the
combination of extreme weather
, low temperatures
, and steep slopes often require
quick, accurate decisions.
The use of bottled oxygen to ascend Mount Everest has been
controversial. George Mallory
described the use of such oxygen as unsportsmanlike, but he later
concluded that it would be impossible to summit without it and
consequently used it. When Tenzing
and Hillary made the first successful summit in 1953, they used
bottled oxygen. For the next twenty-five years, bottled oxygen was
considered standard for any successful summit.
was the first
climber to break the bottled oxygen tradition and in 1978, with
, made the first
successful climb without it. Although critics alleged that he
sucked mini-bottles of oxygen - a claim that Messner denied -
Messner silenced them when he summited the mountain solo, without
supplemental oxygen or any porters or climbing partners, on the
more difficult northwest route, in 1980.
The aftermath of the 1996
further intensified the debate. Jon Krakauer
's Into Thin Air
(1997) expressed the
author's personal criticisms of the use of bottled oxygen. Krakauer
wrote that the use of bottled oxygen allowed otherwise unqualified
climbers to attempt to summit, leading to dangerous situations and
more deaths. The 11 May 1996
disaster was partially caused by the sheer number of climbers (34
on that day) attempting to ascend, causing bottlenecks at the
Hillary Step and delaying many climbers, most of whom summited
after the usual 2 p.m. turnaround time. He proposed banning bottled
oxygen except for emergency cases, arguing that this would both
decrease the growing pollution on Everestâmany bottles have
accumulated on its slopesâand keep marginally qualified climbers
off the mountain.
The 1996 disaster also introduced the issue of the guide's role in
using bottled oxygen.Guide Anatoli
's decision not to use bottled oxygen was sharply
criticized by Jon Krakauer. Boukreev's supporters (who include G.
Weston DeWalt, who co-wrote The
) state that using bottled oxygen gives a false sense
of security. Krakauer and his supporters point out that, without
bottled oxygen, Boukreev was unable to directly help his clients
descend. They state that Boukreev said that he was going down with
client Martin Adams, but just below the South Summit, Boukreev
determines that Adams was doing fine on the descent and so descends
at a faster pace, leaving Adams behind. Adams states in The
: "For me, it was business as usual, Anatoli's going by,
and I had no problems with that."
Thefts and other crimes
Some climbers have reported life-threatening thefts from supply
caches. Vitor Negrete
, the first
Brazilian to climb Everest without oxygen and part of David Sharp's
party, died during his descent, and theft from his high-altitude
camp may have contributed.
In addition to theft, the 2008 book High Crimes
Kodas describes unethical guides and Sherpas, prostitution and
gambling at the Tibet Base Camp, fraud related to the sale of
oxygen bottles, and climbers collecting donations under the
pretense of removing trash from the mountain.
Flora and fauna
, a minute black jumping spider
, has been found at elevations
as high as , possibly making it the highest confirmed
non-microscopic permanent resident on Earth. They lurk in crevices
and possibly feed on frozen insects that have been blown there by
the wind. It should be noted that there is a high likelihood of
microscopic life at even higher altitudes.
, such as the bar-headed goose
, have been seen flying at
the higher altitudes of the mountain, while others such as the
have been spotted as high as the South
Col (7,920 m), scavenging
on food, or
even corpses, left by prior climbing expeditions.
The last rays of sunlight on Mount
Everest on 5 May 2007
Geologists have subdivided the rocks comprising Mount Everest into
three units called "formations
Each of these formations are separated from each other by low-angle
, called âdetachments
â, along which they have been
thrust over each other. From the summit of Mount Everest to its
base these rock units are the Qomolangma Formation, the North Col
Formation, and the Rongbuk Formation.
From its summit to the top of the Yellow Band, about 8,600 m
(28,000 ft) above sea level, the top of Mount Everest consists
of the Qomolangma Formation, which has also been designated as
either the Everest Formation or Jolmo Lungama Formation. It
consists of grayish to dark gray or white, parallel laminated and
subordinate beds of recrystallized dolomite
with argillaceous laminae and siltstone
Gansser first reported finding microscopic fragments of crinoids
in these limestones. Later petrographic
analysis of samples of this Ordovician
limestone from near the summit revealed them to be composed of
carbonate pellets and finely fragmented remains of trilobites
, crinoids, and ostracods
. Other samples were so badly sheared and
recrystallized that their original constituents could not be
determined. The Qomolangma Formation is broken up by several
high-angle faults that terminate at the low angle thrust fault, the
Qomolangma Detachment. This detachment separates it from the
underlying Yellow Band. The lower five metres of the Qomolangma
Formation overlying this detachment are very highly deformed.
The bulk of Mount Everest, between 7,000 and 8,600 m (23,000
and 28,200 ft), consists of the North Col Formation, of which
the Yellow Band forms its upper part between 8,200 to 8,600 m
(26,900 to 28,200 ft). The Yellow Band consists of
intercalated beds of diopsite-epidote-bearing marble
, which weathers a distinctive yellowish brown,
and muscovite-biotite phyllite
. Petrographic analysis of marble collected
from about 8,300 m (27,200 ft) found it to consist as
much as five percent of the ghosts of recrystallized crinoid
ossicles. The upper five metres of the Yellow Band lying adjacent
to the Qomolangma Detachment is badly deformed. A 5â40 cm
(2â16 in) thick fault breccia
it from the overlying Qomolangma Formation.
The remainder of the North Col Formation, exposed between 7,000 to
8,200 m (23,000 to 26,900 ft) on Mount Everest, consists
of interlayered and deformed schist, phyllite, and minor marble.
Between 7,600 and 8,200 m (24,900 and 26,900 ft), the
North Col Formation consists chiefly of biotite-quartz phyllite and
chlorite-biotite phyllite intercalated with minor amounts of
biotite-sericite-quartz schist. Between 7,000 and 7,600 m
(23,000 and 24,900 ft), the lower part of the North Col
Formation consists of biotite-quartz schist intercalated with
epidote-quartz schist, biotite-calcite-quartz schist, and thin
layers of quartzose marble. These metamorphic rocks appear to the
result of the metamorphism of deep sea flysch
composed of interbedded, mudstone
, clayey sandstone
calcareous sandstone, graywacke
, and sandy
limestone. The base of the North Col Formation is a regional thrust
fault called the "Lhotse detachment".
Below 7,000 m (23,000 ft), the Rongbuk Formation
underlies the North Col Formation and forms the base of Mount
Everest. It consists of sillminite-K-feldspar grade schist and
intruded by numerous sills
ranging in thickness from
1 cm to 1,500 m (0.4 in to 4,900 ft).
- American Alpine Journal 2005, p. 393.
- Irving, R. L. G., Ten Great Mountains
(London, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1940)
- Full list of all ascents of Everest up to and
including 2008 (in pdf format)
- Letters to the Editor, The American Statistician, Vol.
36, No. 1 (Feb., 1982), pp. 64-67 JSTOR
- "Papers relating to the Himalaya and Mount Everest",
Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London,
no.IX pp.345-351, April-May 1857.
- L. A. Waddell, "The Environs and Native Names of Mount
Everest," The Geographical Journal, Vol. 12, No. 6 (Dec.
1898), pp. 564-569. Available at JSTOR.
- The "base" of a mountain is a problematic notion in general
with no universally accepted definition. However for a peak rising
out of relatively flat terrain, such as Mauna Kea or Denali, an
approximate height above "base" can be calculated. For
Everest the situation is more complicated, since it only rises
above relatively flat terrain on its north (Tibetan Plateau) side.
Hence the concept of "base" has even less meaning for Everest than
for Mauna Kea or Denali, and the range of numbers for "height above
base" is wider. In general, comparisons based on "height above
base" are somewhat suspect.
- Mount Everest (1:50,000 scale map), prepared under the
direction of Bradford Washburn for the Boston Museum of
Science, the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, and the
National Geographic Society,
1991, ISBN 3-85515-105-9
Norgay and James Ramsey Ullman, Man of
Everest (1955, also published as Tiger of the
- Federation Aeronautique Internationale records
page. (Search for "Everest" on that page).
- The debate between G. Weston DeWalt and Jon Krakauer on bottled
oxygen and Boukreev's actions can be found in the Salon debates
- Coming Down page 3 DWIGHT GARNER
salon.com 1998 August
- Mounteverest.net article. See also second article.
- Go Sell It on the Mountain, Mother
Jones, 1 February 2008
- The Ascent of Everest by John Hunt (Hodder &
Stoughton, 1953). In chapter 14, Hunt describes seeing a Chough on
the South Col; meanwhile Charles Evans saw some unidentified birds
fly over the Col.
- Yin, C.-H. and Kuo, S.-T. 1978: "Stratigraphy of the Mount
Jolmo Lungma and its north slope." Scientia Sinica. v. 5, pp.
- Sakai, H., M. Sawada,Y. Takigami, Y. Orihashi, T. Danhara, H.
Iwano, Y. Kuwahara, Q. Dong, H. Cai, and J. Li. 2005. "Geology of
the summit limestone of Mount Qomolangma (Everest) and cooling
history of the Yellow Band under the Qomolangma detachment."
Island Arc. v. 14
no. 4 pp. 297-310.
- Gansser, A.1964.Geology of the Himalayas, John Wiley
Interscience, London, 1964 289 pp.
- Searle, M. P. 1999. Emplacement of Himalayan leucogranites by
magma injection along giant sill complexes: examples from the Cho
Oyu, Gyachung Kang and Everest leucogranites (Nepal Himalaya).
Journal of Asian Earth Sciences. v. 17, no. 5-6, pp. 773-783.
- The climbing history up to 1939 of Snowdon, Ben Nevis, Ushba, Mount Logan, Everest, Nanga Parbat, Kanchenjunga, the
Cook and Mont