Mount Everest is ranked as the highest mountain worldwide with its summit sitting at an elevation of 8,848 metres. It is part of the Mahalangur Himal shared by Nepal and Tibet which is an Autonomous Region of China. The range has four of the six highest peaks in the world. Besides Mount Everest, the other peaks are Lhotse at 8,516 metres, Makalu at 8,485 metres and Cho Oyu at 8,188 metres. In the Nepali language, the mountain is known as Sagarmāthā and Tibetans call it Chomolungma.
Surveys and Etymology
Surveys to determine the highest peaks in the world began in 1802 with Indian based British survey teams. At first, the surveyors thought Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas was the world’s highest peak but further observations revealed a higher peak that the surveyors named peak b. The name was later changed to peak XV and calculations by Andrew Waugh, a British surveyor, revealed the peak was 8,840 metres and it was the highest in the world.
There have been various arguments on whether the mountain’s height should be determined by its rock head or snow cap. A survey by India in 1955 was the first to give the height of 8,848 metres and Chinese measurements confirmed the elevation. The mountain was named after India’s Surveyor General Sir George Everest even though he himself opposed the move.
Animal and Plant Life on the Mountain
Very little flora and fauna exists on the mountain. At 6,480 metres, a moss that is considered to be the plant species that grows at the highest altitude can be seen. Another native plant of the mountain is Araneria which grows at altitudes lower than 5,500 metres. A small jumping spider found at 6,700 metres on the mountain is thought to be the world’s highest altitude non-microscopic inhabitant. Birds have also been reported to fly at higher elevations. Yaks are used by climbers to pull climbing gear up the mountain. Other animals found within Mount Everest are the snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, red panda, Himalayan black bear, pikas and ants.
The mountain attracts a lot of climbers from all walks of life and they either approach the peak from Tibet or from Nepal. Mountaineers of British origin are recorded to have made the earliest attempts to reach its peak. The premier expedition of 1921 reached 7,000 metres and the second one of 1922 went up to 8,320 metres going down in record as the first human being ascent beyond 8,000 metres. One of the most mysterious expeditions was carried out in 1924 and the climbers never returned and hence it remains unknown whether they reached the peak or not.
The first successful ascent approaching the summit from Nepal was recorded by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Another team of Chinese climbers reached the summit for the first time using the route from Tibet in May 1960. A report of March 2012 revealed that by then, 5,656 climbers had climbed the mountain with 223 deaths being reported. Permits to climb Everest are issued by both Nepalese and Chinese authorities.