Mountains of the World Mt. Everest

About the history and height of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, account of expedictions and climbing adventures.

MOUNTAINS

MT. EVEREST

In 1852 a clerk rushed into the office of the surveyor general of India shouting, "Sir, I have discovered the highest mountain in the world!"

The 29,028-ft. peak, located in the Himalayas on the Nepal-Tibet border, was later named for Sir George Everest, but the locals continued to call it Chomolungma, "Goddess Mother of the Earth." The yeti, or Abominable Snowman, half-human, half-ape, is said to inhabit the lower slopes.

The first official survey of Everest took place in 1852. The surveyors took measurements in six places and derived an average figure of 29,000 ft. This seemed too much like a round-number estimate for an official report, so they added 2 ft. to their published finding to make the height 29,002. An Indian team surveying in 1954 found the mountain to be 29,028 ft., 26 ft. higher than the 1852 "estimate." Either way, Everest is the highest mountain in the world.

After many celebrated attempts, Everest was first climbed in 1953 by New Zealand beekeeper Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norkay, his Sherpa guide. Since then, many flags have flown on the summit-Swiss, American, Indian, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, and British-but two international expeditions failed miserably.

1971 was a banner year: A 35-year-old Japanese housewife became the first woman to climb Everest, the British conquered the southwest face, and China triumphed, reportedly without oxygen masks.

The 64-man Italian expedition of 1973 was rumored to cost $8 million. When one of their two helicopters crashed, the Italian army quickly replaced it. Supplies included lobster bisque and petits fours. Later that year, a low-budget Japanese expedition, unable to match the exorbitant Italian salaries, faced a Sherpa strike at Camp V.

A Spanish team has ridden motorcycles up it. Yuichiro Muira skied down it. A lone Scotsman was last seen at 26,000 ft. with a shopping bag and two loaves of bread.

Everest, 25 years after its first ascent, still attracts mountaineers like a magnet. They climb it "because it's there."

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