Mount Everest – also called Qomolangma
Peak (Tibetan: ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ), Mount Sagarmāthā (Nepali: सगरमाथा), Chajamlangma (Limbu),
Zhumulangma Peak (Chinese: 珠穆朗玛峰 Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng) or Mount Chomolangma – is the highest mountain on Earth above sea
level, and the highest point on the Earth's continental crust, as measured by the height above sea
level of its summit,
8,848 metres (29,029 ft). The mountain, which is part of the Himalaya range in Asia, is
located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone, Nepal, and Tibet, China.
In 1856, the Great Trigonometric Survey of India
established the first published height of Everest, then known as Peak
XV, at 29,002 ft (8,840 m). In 1865, 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. Chomolangma 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 foreigners.
The highest mountain in the world attracts well-experienced
mountaineers as well as novice climbers who are 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 $ 25,000 per person.
By the end of 2009 Everest had claimed 216 lives,
including eight who perished during a 1996 storm high on the mountain. Conditions are so
difficult in the death zone (altitudes higher
than 8,000 m/26,246 ft) that most corpses have been left where they
fell. Some of them are visible from standard climbing routes.
the highest mountain
In 1808, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey of
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 500 kg (1,100 lb) 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 turned down.
The British were forced to continue their observations from Terai, a
region south of Nepal which is parallel to the Himalayas. Conditions in
Terai were difficult owing to torrential rains and malaria —
three 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
240 km (150 mi) away. Weather restricted work to the last three months
of the year. In 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, some
230 km (140 mi) away. 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, 190 km
(120 mi) away. Nicolson then took the largest theodolite and headed
east, obtaining over 30 observations from five different locations, with
the closest being 174 km (108 mi) away from the peak.
Nicolson retreated to Patna on the Ganges to
perform the necessary calculations based on his observations. His raw
data gave an average height of 9,200 m (30,200 ft) 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, with Kangchenjunga named Peak IX, while
peak 'b' now became known as Peak XV.
In 1852, 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 Nicolson's measurements.
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 28,156 ft (8,582 m), while Peak XV was
given the height of 29,002 ft (8,840 m). Waugh concluded that Peak XV
was "most probably the highest in the world".
In fact, Peak XV (measured in feet) was calculated to be exactly 29,000 ft (8,839.2 m)
high, but was publicly declared to be 29,002 ft (8,839.8 m). The
arbitrary addition of 2 ft (61 cm) was to avoid the impression that an
exact height of 29,000 feet (8,839.2 m) was nothing more than a rounded
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 Chomolangma, which had appeared on a 1733 map
published in Paris by the French geographer D'Anville. However,
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
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 assign…a name whereby it may be
known among citizens and geographers and become a household word among
George 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 India". 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
Interestingly, the modern pronunciation of Everest /ˈɛvərɨst, ˈɛvrɨst/
is in fact different from Sir George's pronunciation of his surname,
which was /ˈiːvrɨst/.
Aerial view of Mount Everest from the south
The Tibetan name for Mount
Everest is Chomolangma or Qomolangma (ཇོ་མོ་གླིང་མ, which means "Saint
Mother"), phonetically transliterated into Chinese as Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng
(simplified Chinese: 珠穆朗玛峰; traditional Chinese: 珠穆朗瑪峰), or translated by
meaning as Shèngmǔ Fēng (simplified Chinese: 圣母峰; traditional Chinese: 聖母峰), literally "Holy Mother".
According to English accounts of the mid-19th century, the local name in
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 Everest. 
In the early 1960s, the Nepalese government gave Mount Everest the official
name Sagarmāthā (सगरमाथा).
This name had not previously been used; the local inhabitants knew the
mountain as Chomolangma. 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 was not acceptable, as it would have been
against the idea of unification (Nepalization) of the country.
In 2002, the Chinese People's Daily newspaper published an article making a
case against the continued use of the English name for the mountain in
the Western world, 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.
Another aerial view of Mount Everest from the south, with Lhotse in
front and Nuptse
on the left
In 1856, Andrew Waugh announced Everest (then known as Peak XV) as
29,002 ft high, after several years of calculations based on
observations made by the Great Trigonometric Survey.
The 8,848 m (29,029 ft) height given in this article is now
officially recognised by both Nepal and China.
On 9 October 2005, after several months of measurement and calculation,
the Chinese Academy of Sciences and
State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping officially announced the height of
Everest as 8,844.43 m (29,017.16 ft) with accuracy of ±0.21 m
(0.69 ft). They claimed it was the most accurate and precise measurement
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 3.5 m (11 ft),
which is in agreement with a net elevation of 8,848 m (29,029 ft). The
snow and ice thickness varies over time, making a definitive height of
the snow cap impossible to determine.
The elevation of 8,848 m (29,029 ft) 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 8,848.13 m
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 unit into the highest bedrock.
A rock head elevation of 8,850 m (29,035 ft), and a snow/ice elevation
1 m (3 ft) higher, were obtained via this device.
Although it has not been officially recognized by Nepal,
this figure is widely quoted. Geoid
uncertainty casts doubt upon the accuracy claimed by both the 1999 and
A 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. An 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 tectonics of the area are adding to the height and
moving the summit northeastwards. Two accounts suggest the rates of
change are 4 mm (0.16 in) per year (upwards) and 3 to 6 mm (0.12 to 0.24
in) per year (northeastwards),
but another account mentions more lateral movement (27 mm/1.1 in),
and even shrinkage has been suggested.
The summit of Everest is the point at which the Earth's surface
reaches 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 10,200 m (6.3 mi) when measured from its base on the
mid-ocean floor, but only attains 4,205 m (13,796 ft) above sea level.
By the same measure of base
to summit, Mount McKinley, in Alaska, is
also taller than Everest. Despite its height above sea level of only
6,193.6 m (20,320 ft), Mount McKinley sits atop a sloping plain with
elevations from 300 m (980 ft) to 900 m (3,000 ft), yielding a height
above base in the range of 5,300 to 5,900 m (17,400 to 19,400 ft); a
commonly quoted figure is 5,600 m (18,400 ft).
By comparison, reasonable base elevations for Everest range from
4,200 m (13,800 ft) on the south side to 5,200 m (17,100 ft) on the Tibetan Plateau, yielding a height above base in the range
of 3,650 to 4,650 m (11,980 to 15,260 ft).
The summit of Chimborazo in Ecuador
is 2,168 m (7,113 ft) farther from the Earth's centre (6,384.4 km
(3,967.1 mi)) than that of Everest (6,382.3 km (3,965.8 mi)), because
the Earth bulges at the Equator. However, Chimborazo attains a height of
only 6,267 m (20,561 ft) above sea level, and by this criterion it is
not even the highest peak of the Andes.
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
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 the People's Republic of China took
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 5,380 m (17,700 ft) 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 Glacier. 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. Seracs,
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 6,065 metres (19,900 ft).
From Camp 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
6,500 m (21,300 ft). The Western Cwm is a relatively flat, gently rising
glacial valley, marked by huge lateral crevasses
in the centre which prevent direct access to the upper reaches of the
Cwm. Climbers 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 7,470 m
(24,500 ft). From there, it is another 500 metres to Camp IV on the South
Col at 7,920 m (26,000 ft). 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 marble, phyllite,
which also requires about 100 metres of rope for traversing it.
On the South Col, climbers enter the death zone. 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.
A view of Everest southeast ridge base camp. The Khumbu Icefall can be seen in the left. In the center are
the remains of a helicopter that crashed in 2003.
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
8,400 m (27,600 ft), 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 8,750 m (28,700 ft), a small table-sized dome of ice and
snow marks the South Summit.
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 8,760 m (28,740 ft).
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,
with 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 5,180 m (16,990 ft) on a gravel plain just
below the glacier. To reach Camp II, climbers ascend the medial moraine
of the east Rongbuk Glacier up to the base of Changtse
at around 6,100 m (20,000 ft). Camp III (ABC - Advanced Base Camp) is
situated below the North Col at 6,500 m (21,300 ft). To reach 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 7,010 m
(23,000 ft). From the North Col, climbers ascend the rocky north ridge
to set up Camp V at around 7,775 m (25,500 ft). The route crosses the
North Face in a diagonal climb to the base of the Yellow Band reaching
the site of Camp VI at 8,230 m (27,000 ft). 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 ladders have been 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
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 7,007 metres
(22,989 ft). From there, Mallory espied a route to the top, but the
party was unprepared for the great task of climbing any further and
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 — 950 feet (290 m) per hour, and
reached an altitude of 8,320 m (27,300 ft), the first time a human
climbed higher than 8,000m. This feat was entirely lost on the British
climbing establishment — 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
The next 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 8,558 metres (28,077 ft), though he ascended
only 100 feet (30 m) or so in the last hour. Mallory rustled up oxygen
equipment for a last-ditch effort. He chose the young Andrew Irvine as
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
Research Expedition 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 Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
In 1933, 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 top.
Early expeditions — such as Bruce's in the 1920s and Hugh Ruttledge's two unsuccessful attempts in 1933 and
1936 — tried to make an ascent of the mountain from Tibet, 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
Tilman 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
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 7,986 metres (26,201 ft). Raymond Lambert and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were able to reach a height of about
8,595 metres (28,199 ft) 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 in 1953.
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 Bourdillon and Charles Evans) came 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, a sherpa climber from India and 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.
News of 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 Medal by the UK. Hunt was ultimately
made a life peer in Britain, while Hillary became a founding member
of the Order of New Zealand.
First ascents without
On 8 May 1978, Reinhold Messner (Italy) and Peter
Habeler (Austria) 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 6,500 metres (21,300 ft).
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 from Outside magazine, was in one of the
affected parties, and afterwards published the bestseller Into
Thin Air, which related his experience. Anatoli Boukreev, 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 University of Toronto, told New
Scientist magazine that an analysis of weather conditions on 11
May suggested that freak weather caused oxygen levels to plunge
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 of Everest.
On 14 May 2005, pilot Didier
Delsalle of France landed a Eurocopter
AS 350 B3 helicopter on the summit of Mount
(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.
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, David Sharp, 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 Discovery Channel while filming the television program Everest: Beyond the Limit. A
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 frostbite,
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
Summer Olympic torch summit
Beginning in 2007, China paved a 130 km (81 mi) dirt
road from Tingri County to Everest's Tibet base camp, at
a reported cost of 150 million yuan (US$19.7 million), to accommodate
growing numbers of climbers on the north side of the mountain. Upon
completion, China routed the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay
over this road and to the summit of Everest, via the North Col route, on
the way to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
A China Telecom cellular tower near the Base Camp provides
phone coverage all the way to the summit.
The youngest person to climb Mount Everest was 13-year-old Jordan
Romero in May 2010.
Sherpa holds the record for reaching the summit more times than any
other person (20 times as of May 2010).
The fastest ascent over the northeast ridge was accomplished in 2007
by Austrian climber Christian Stangl, 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 reached the summit in 22h 30min in 1988.
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
The oldest climber to successfully reach Mt. Everest's summit from both
sides (Nepal and Tibet) of the mountain is 60-year-old Dr. Julio Bird, a
Rican cardiologist at Gundersen Lutheran Medical
Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Dr. Bird reached the summit
of Mt. Everest from the north side at 7:00am on May 17, 2010.
At the higher regions of Mount Everest, climbers seeking the summit
typically spend substantial time within the "death zone" (altitudes higher than
8,000 m/26,246 ft), and face significant challenges to survival.
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
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
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.
Most expeditions use oxygen
masks and 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 himself 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.
Reinhold Messner was the first climber to
break the bottled oxygen tradition and in 1978, with Peter
Habeler, 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 disaster 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 Everest—many bottles have accumulated on its slopes—and
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 Boukreev'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 Climb) 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
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 Climb: "For me, it was business
as usual, Anatoli's going by, and I had no problems with that."
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 by Michael
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
Flora and fauna
Euophrys omnisuperstes, a minute
black jumping spider, has been found at elevations
as high as 6,700 metres (22,000 ft), possibly making it the highest
confirmed non-microscopic permanent resident on Earth. It lurks in
crevices and may 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 Chough,
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 faults, called “detachments”, 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
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 bedded, Ordovician
interlayered with 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 the limestones 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. A thick, white-weathering thrombolite
bed that is 60 m (200 ft) thick comprises the foot of the "Third Step,"
and base of the summit pyramid of Everest. This bed, which crops out
starting about 70 m (300 ft) below the summit of Mount Everest, consists
of sediments trapped, bound, and cemented by the biofilms of
microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria, in shallow marine waters. 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
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 Middle Cambrian
diopside-epidote-bearing marble, which weathers a distinctive yellowish brown,
and muscovite-biotite phyllite and semischist.
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
5–40 cm (2–16 in) thick fault breccia
separates 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 late Middle Cambrian deep sea flysch
composed of interbedded, mudstone, shale,
clayey sandstone, calcareous sandstone, graywacke, and sandy limestone. The base of the
North Col Formation is a regional thrust fault called the "Lhotse
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 gneiss
intruded by numerous sills and dikes of leucogranite ranging in thickness from 1 cm to
1,500 m (0.4 in to 4,900 ft).
- American Alpine Journal, 2005, p. 393.
- Hillary, Edmund, High Adventure, London, Hodder
& Stoughton, 1953.
- Irving, R. L. G., Ten Great
Mountains. London, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1940.
- Murray, W. H., The Story of Everest, 1921-1952,
London, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1953.
Eric, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, London, Hodder &
- Tilman, H. W., Nepal Himalaya, Cambridge University