The height of Everest and other curiosities of the highest mountain in the world

China and Nepal have ‘agreed’ for the first time on the height of Everest, a source of controversy between both countries since Beijing lowered the traditionally accepted height (8,848) in 2005 on understanding that it was not necessary to measure the permanent ice and snow layers of the summit.

Finally, and after a recent expedition, China and Nepal have established their height in 8,848.86 meters, this is 86 centimeters more than the one recognized so far internationally.

Aerial view of the Himalayas with Mount Everest.

And the result seems to agree with Nepal, because it is China that has made the greatest correction to its previous measurement, since Kathmandu always defended the traditional height.

In short, China accepts the international protocol that sets the height of a mountain in the uppermost layer of the summit, that is, including permanent ice, if any.

According to Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineers Association, China has given in for a simple economic reason: mountaineers who climbed Everest on the Nepalese slope received an official certificate for having ascended 8,848 meters, while China only credited 8,844.43 to those who climbed its slope. And, of course, few were those who were willing to ‘lose’ those meters in their diploma after having climbed, on top, the Tibetan route, much more complicated.

First measurements

They were made by British royal surveyors in 1849, when Everest was known as peak XV and it was still not considered the highest in the world. In 1856, the British surveyor Andrew Waugh set it at 8,840 meters, very close to the 8,848 that determined the Indian expedition of 1955 and which was accepted by the international community.

The so-called XV peak was baptized in 1865 as Everest in honor of George Everest, British surveyor (then India was a British colony) who gave up his name reluctantly, as he was in favor of local place names: Sagarmatha (front of the sky) for Nepalese and Chomolungma (mother of the universe) for Tibetans.

Ascents and accidents

The New Zealand Mountaineer Edmund hillary He was the first to climb it, in 1953. 12 climbers, 40 Sherpas and around 700 porters participated in that expedition. In total, the expedition transported seven tons of material.

The first woman to set foot on the summit of Everest was the Japanese Junko Tabei, in 1975, while Martin Zabaleta She was the first Spaniard, in 1980. The first Spaniard was Araceli Segarra, in 1996.

More than 8,000 people have stepped on the top of Everest, which in recent years has seen ‘traffic jams’ of ropes near the summit. The Nepalese authorities annually withdraw some 500 kilos of garbage that climbers leave, this despite the strict regulations that oblige all climbers to descend with their own garbage under fines of more than 3,000 euros.

The most serious accidents have been caused by avalanches. In 2014, an avalanche killed 16 Sherpas on the Khumbu Icefall, the most difficult stretch on the south face. In 2015, the great earthquake in Nepal caused a series of avalanches that killed at least 22 people on Everest.

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