Known as the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest has become a prime destination for adventurers in this modern world. It rises 29,030 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level and has been scaled by more than 600 people since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay back in 1953. Those who make the summit can see as far as Tibet, India, and Nepal.
Origin of the Name
The name Mount Everest was not the mountain’s first. It was originally called Peak 15 until it was renamed after British surveyor and geographer Sir George Everest back in 1865. The mountain, however, also goes by the name Chomolangma, which means “Goddess Mother of Snows” in Tibetan, and Sagarmatha, which means “Mother of the Universe” in Nepalese.
The struggle of coming up with the official height started in year 1856, when the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India measured it at 29,002 feet. It was believed, however, that the measurement was not accurate since they didn’t have access to Nepal’s territory for security reasons. Over time, another survey was done in 1955, which was later confirmed by another survey done by China in 1975.
Reaching the Earth’s stratosphere, the official height of the mountain is 29,030 feet. That’s 21 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. In fact, the mountain is still growing taller thanks to the shifting of tectonic plates, causing the mountain to increase in height at the rate of ? of an inch annually.
NOTE: Mount Everest is considered to be the highest mountain above sea level. However, in terms of height from base to peak, Mauna Kea in Hawaii rises 33,000 feet starting on the sea floor, making it quite a bit taller than Mount Everest.
Milestones of Mount Everest
Stories of the tallest mountain in the world tell of people who have bravely reached the mountain’s summit. In 1965, a Sherpa named Nawang Gombu became the first person to reach the summit twice. In 1975, Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit. Another person named Yasuo Kato was able to summit Everest twice, in 1973 and 1980, but he was better known for being the first non-Sherpa to achieve this feat. The first person to ever reach the summit solo was Reinhold Messner in 1980.
However, not all climbers are successful. The year 1996 marked the highest number of fatalities in a single year, at 16.
Perhaps one of the most notable climbers of the mountain are Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi. They are known for having the joint record of the most number of ascents to the mountain, reaching its summit 21 times. Phurba was able to accomplish this feat alone three times, while Apa reached the summit almost every year from 1990 to 2011.
Throughout his experience, Apa has spoken of the many changes that Mount Everest has undergone because of global warming. The melting snow and glaciers have made the mountain much harder to climb. He also speaks of many Sherpas losing their homes due to floods caused by the same melted glaciers. Apa has dedicated many of his climbs to promoting awareness about climate change.
Mount Everest is also one of the Dirtiest
Despite what people see in pictures, Mount Everest is not all mountain and snow. The last time it was surveyed, the mountain was documented to have over 50 tons of waste, including used oxygen bottles, climbing equipment, and even human feces. This is on top of all the bodies that are buried in the snow.
To help clean up, the Nepalese government has imposed a new law requiring climbers to make a $4,000 deposit, which they can only get back if they collect at least 17 lb. (8 kg) of waste on their way back.
Dangers of Climbing Mount Everest
Located just along the international border between China and Nepal, this 60 million-year-old mountain has attracted highly experienced mountaineers from all walks of life, who take either of the known climbing routes in an attempt to reach the top. While the route itself isn’t a challenging path, climbers are faced with the dangers of the elements as well as avalanches and altitude sickness. The wind alone can reach 200 miles per hour while the weather can drop as low as -76°F (-60°C). And then there’s the risk of falling. More than 300 people are known to have died climbing Mount Everest, with many of their bodies left on the mountain.
The Death Zone
One particular danger on the mountain is known as the “death zone.” When climbers reach a certain altitude, they experience an atmosphere that provides an oxygen level that is only ? of that at sea level. This means that they are at risk of consuming more oxygen than they can take in.
This is why people who climb the mountain bring oxygen tanks with them. Nevertheless, the extreme lack of oxygen also affects the environment in a way that makes climbers more prone to frostbite or gangrene. In many cases, people have also suffered from hallucinations in this zone.
What to Know Before Climbing
Taking on Mount Everest is not your typical adventure spot. In fact, the attempt can be quite fatal. It’s a place that you should only go to when you’re ready to face the dangers that come with it.
Below are not just tips. They are an essential part of anyone’s preparation when taking on such a dangerous challenge.
Climbing the tallest mountain in the world is, above all things, a physical challenge. This is definitely no place for beginners – so make sure you get lots of survival and mountain climbing experience before you go. Going up the mountain will require lots of strength and stamina and you need to have the best possible physical fitness.
You’re also going to want to see a doctor to make sure you’re not suffering from any condition that will compromise your journey. Climbing high altitudes can greatly affect the human body, so you need to make sure you’re up to it. Seeing a doctor can also help you get the right immunizations and other medical precautions.
It can’t be stressed enough that you have to be absolutely prepared before you step foot on Mount Everest. Below are just some of the things you must have.
- High-grade down jackets
- Glacier glasses
- Sleeping bags
- Oxygen bottles
- Ice axes
- Climbing harnesses
- And much more!
The average climber will bring about 32 lbs. worth of equipment, so being logistically prepared is no joke. In fact, most people who adequately prepare to take the challenge need to invest as much as $70,000, which includes the guide who will lead you up the mountain. While it may be tempting to climb the mountain alone – don’t. Sherpas know the mountain better than anyone else and that kind of experience and knowledge is invaluable to anyone who wants to do the climb safely.
NOTE: The fees for a permit to climb Mount Everest issued by the Nepalese government begin at $10,000.
There are a number of companies offering packages that will provide travelers with everything they need to climb the mountain, so consider doing a bit of research on them as well.
The Climbing Experience
Most successful climbs start in May because this is mid-spring, when the weather around the mountain is warmest. Most climbs take about 70 days, but only 20 days are actually spent climbing. Most of your time will be taken up trying to wait out bad weather and surviving the harsh environment.
There are a lot of known routes, but the two most successful are the northeast and southeast ridges, with the latter being the most popular and having the lowest mortality rate. The southeast ridge also happens to be the route that was used by Norgay and Hillary. The trip starts in Nepal and the route will take you journeying towards four base camps until you finally reach the summit.
Along the way, take note of the three landmarks you’ll be passing by. The first is the Khumbu Icefall at the base, which is actually a glacial wall that forms part of the fourth highest mountain in the world. Moving forward, you’ll find a large rock formation near Mount Everest’s summit called the Geneva Spur. The final landmark is a vertical rock formation called the Hillary Step, named after Sir Edmund Hillary himself.
Remember: Safety First
When climbing, always remember that your safety comes first. Be aware of the weather forecasts and never take risks. Keep in mind that many climbers need two or three attempts before they finally reach the summit, so when things get rough, turn around and try again some other time.
Hopefully these facts have helped you know more about the world’s tallest mountain.