Since the early 1920s, the mysterious Mount Everest has attracted mountaineers and scientists from across the globe. Hundreds have lost their lives while making attempts to conquer the tallest peak in the world, yet the fascination continues. The month of May, also called ‘the window,’ is considered to be the ideal time to scale Mount Everest; the weather is stable and winds speeds are favourable for the climbers. As the climbing season nears, let’s take a look at some interesting facts related to Mount Everest.
While Nepal pegs the height of the mountain to be 8,848 m (29,029 ft), China, till 2010, claimed it to be 8,844 m (29,016 ft). The difference was due to China’s earlier refusal to consider the ice at the top of the mountain while calculating its height. Following several rounds of talks between the two countries, the official height was designated as 8,848 m. Interestingly, in 2009, a GPS device was placed below the summit by American Millennium Expedition and the findings readjusted the height to 8,850 m (29,035 ft).
The Indian subcontinent was originally an independent landmass which collided with the Asian continent and led to the formation of the Himalayan chain of mountains. Researchers claim that the continental plates are still moving, making Mount Everest gain approximately four millimetres (0.16 in) in height every year.
The rock at the summit is made up of marine limestone and it is estimated that the rock was deposited at the seafloor around 450 to 500 million years ago.
The first successful summit was accomplished on May 29, 1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa from Nepal. Italian climber Reinhold Messner and Austrian Peter Habeler were the first to reach the peak without bottled oxygen in 1978. Japanese climber Junko Tabei became the first woman to climb the summit in 1975. British mountaineer Kenton Cool sent the first tweet from the summit in 2011. Japan’s Yuichiro Miura became the world’s oldest person at the age of 80 years and 223 days to climb the peak of Mount Everest in 2013.
Tibetans call it Chomolungma, which means ‘Goddess Mother of Mountains.’ In Nepal, it is known as Sagarmatha, which translates to ‘Forehead in the Sky.’ The peak was initially called Peak XV, after it was first discovered in 1841 by a British survey team led by Surveyor General of India, Colonel Sir George Everest. In 1865, British surveyor Andrew Waugh’s failure to find a common local name for the mountain, led the British to officially name it after Everest.
An inactive volcano in Hawaii, Mauna Kea, rises 4,205 m (13,796 ft) above sea level. It also extends an incredible 6,000 m (19,700 ft) below the surface of the water. When measured from the floor of the ocean, the height of Mauna Kea was found to be 10,200 m (33,465 ft) making it almost a mile taller than Everest, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Euophrys omnisuperstes, also known as the Himalayan Jumping Spider, is said to be one of the Earth’s highest permanent residents with sightings reported from heights of 6,700 m (22,000 ft). The spider is believed to survive on stray insects the severe winds blowing on top of the mountain bring along.
Mount Everest has been summited more than 6,871 times by over 4,042 climbers. Climbing attempts have left over 248 (estimated) people dead between 1924 and 2013. The inhospitable terrain has claimed the life of at least one climber every year, except in 1977. On an average, one in every 10 successful climbers never makes it back to the base camp. Over 200 bodies are lying along the various routes used by climbers.
Weather, along with the treacherous terrain, is one of the main reason that makes climbing Mount Everest one of the most challenging tasks on the planet. The temperature never rises above freezing levels and averages -36 degrees Celsius in winters and -19 degrees Celsius in summers. Wind speed in excess of 200 mph have been recorded. Avalanches, altitude sickness and exposure are some of the common causes of death, beside falls.
Khumbu Icefall, a river of constantly shifting ice, is considered to be the most dangerous area of the mountain. It normally takes around 12 hours to climb the final mile from the highest base camp to the summit.
Normally, a plume of white stream blows off the top of the Everest’s peak. It is a jet stream with wind currents reaching up to 250 mph.
Sherpas have become synonymous with climbing Mount Everest. Excellent mountaineers and knowledgeable about the terrain, they guide expedition teams and also work as porters.
The number of climbers attempting to conquer the peak have steadily increased over the years. An image taken in 2012 by climber Ralf Dujmovits showed a ‘human snake’ of 600 climbers lining to reach the summit. On May 19, 2012, 176 people managed to reach the peak in course of just half a day!
Apa Sherpa currently holds the record for the highest number of peak conquests with 21 successful summits.
In March this year, Google teamed up with Apa Sherpa to map various local landmarks, schools and base camps around the base of the peak.
In May 2012, Chhurim Sherpa made two back-to-back attempt to scale the peak in the same climbing season. Her first attempt was made on May 12, along with four other mountaineers. Five days later, she initiated her second attempt to the top from the steepest side, all on her own.
French Marco Siffredi and Austrian Stefan Gatt became the first two men to snowboard down Everest in May 2001. In 2002, Siffredi chose the steepest and the most hazardous route for his second attempt, but he disappeared midway during his descent.
Nepal’s Pemba Dorje Sherpa became the fastest man to climb Mount Everest when he climbed to the top in eight hours and 10 minutes in 2004.
The air pressure at the peak is one-third of sea level pressure, resulting in reduced levels of oxygen for breathing. Climbers are required to carry oxygen canisters to supplement the shortfall.