Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday's Seven Wonders - Mount Everest

(Mount Everest from Kalapatthar - image by Pavel Novak)

Mount Everest is the highest mountain on Earth, as measured by the height above sea level of its summit - 29,029 feet. The mountain, which is part of the Himalaya mountain range in High Asia, is located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone (Nepal) and Tibet (China).

Location within Nepal on the Nepal–Tibet border

The Tibetan name for Mount Everest is Chomolungma or Qomolangma - which means "Saint Mother." The Chinese translation is Shèngmǔ Fēng - which refers to "Holy Mother." According to English accounts of the mid-19th century, the local name in Darjeeling for Mount Everest was Deodungha, or "Holy Mountain."

In 1865, the mountain was officially given its English name by the Royal Geographical Society after being proposed by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India. He chose to name the mountain after Colonel Sir George Everest who was a Welsh surveyor, geographer and Surveyor-General of India from 1830 to 1843. George Everest opposed the name suggested by Waugh and told the Royal Geographical Society in 1857 Everest could not be written in Hindi nor pronounced by "the native of India."

Although I have never had the desire to do such extensive hiking, 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.

The southeast ridge is technically easier and is the more frequently-used route. This trek usually begins at Base Camp located at 17,700 feet on the south side of Everest in Nepal. Climbers will spend a couple of weeks in Base Camp, acclimatizing to the altitude. The next stop is the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 21,300 feet, then Camp III at 24,500 feet. From Camp III to Camp IV - South Col - it is another 1,500 feet. Once climbers reach South Col, they enter the "death zone," typically having only a maximum of two or three days where they can endure the 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.

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 May 11th alone. The disaster gained wide publicity and raised questions about the commercialization of Everest. On May 14, 2005, pilot Didier Delsalle of France landed a helicopter on the summit of Mt. Everest, implementing a "hover landing", and avoiding the risks of relying on the snow to support the aircraft; he took off again after about four minutes. China routed the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay over Everest, going up the South Col route and back down the North Col route, on the way to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

1 comment:

Julia Smith said...

Hey - thanks for the love, two posts ago! And Earth Hour was a big hit here in our home. We turned off everything and lit candles for the hour. I tidied the kitchen by candlelight.

Your Mount Everest post is completely fascinating. Especially how Everest himself asked for the mountain to be given another name than his own. It's funny, but his concern for the people of the area being unable to say it actually speaks so well of his character.