Measuring a Mountain

Nepal decides to settle a dispute with China over Mount Everest's height by taking new measurements

July 22, 2011

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to ever reach the top of Mount Everest in 1953.

How tall is Mt. Everest, the world's tallest mountain? That's what Nepal and China—the two Asian nations that Everest straddles—want to know. Nepal says the mountain is 29,028 feet (8,448 meters) high. China says that number is wrong. The Chinese claim Nepal's figure is about 13 feet (4 meters) too high. (Meanwhile, some climbers think Nepal's estimate is too low!)

In order to settle the argument, Nepal plans to take a new measurement of Mount Everest. Everest has been measured several times since it was first sized up in 1856. But this one may be the most scientific of all.

"We have begun the measurement to clear the confusion. Now we have the technology and the resources, we can measure ourselves," said Gopal Giri, a spokesman for Nepal's Land Reforms Ministry. "This will be the first time the Nepal government has taken the mountain's height."

Nepalese officials will set up three reference points on the mountain and use global-positioning satellites to calculate the exact height. This process could take up to two years.


A Mountain of Facts

• In 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa from Nepal, were the first to conquer Mount Everest. Since then, more than 3,000 others have made the climb.

• Mount Everest has an extreme climate. The summit temperature never rises above freezing.

• Mount Everest was formed about 60 million years ago by moving tectonic plates.

• The mountain is named after Sir George Everest, a British surveyor in the mid-nineteenth century.

• Everest is part of the Himalayas, which includes all five of the world's highest mountains.

• The Nepalese name for the mountain is "Sagarmatha," which means "goddess of the sky."

• The youngest person to reach the peak of Mount Everest is Jordan Romero who was 13 years old when he made the climb in 2010.

• The mountain is covered with litter that was left behind by climbers. Efforts are being made to clean it up.

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