Mount Everest is the highest point above sea level. It remains one of the most popular and deadly peaks for mountain climbers. Over 5,000 people have now climbed to the peak’s summit. Sadly, over 200 of the climbers died during the attempt.
Photo: Mount Everest is the highest point above sea level (Creative Commons: Stefan Perneborg).
Highest But Not the Tallest?
Mount Everest is known as Sagarmatha by Nepal and Chomolungma by China. It has an elevation of 8,848 meters above sea level. However, it is not the tallest mountain. When total height is considered, Mauna Kea has an elevation of 10,200 meters. Of course, this is only when Mauna Kea is measured from its base below sea level.
Tectonic Plates and Winds at Work
The mountain is the result of the collision between the Indian and Asian tectonic plates. The collision began over 60 million years ago. As the Indian plate collided into the Asian plate, the earth’s surface was pushed upward.
The collision of the plates are still occurring. As a result, Mount Everest grows by about a half a centimeter a year.
The Jet Stream blows across the peak most of the year. Wind speeds can exceed 300 kilometers per hour. Temperatures can drop to below -60° Centigrade. In May and November, the Jet Stream moves away. Wind speeds decrease and temperatures grow much warmer. It is during these ‘windows’ that climbers will try to climb the mountain.
The Price of Reaching the Top
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand became the first person to reach the summit. Since then, nearly 4,500 others have reached the top.
The oldest person to reach the summit was Japan’s 80-year-old Miura Yiuchiro (2013). The youngest person was America’s 13-year-old Jordan Romero (2010). The first woman to reach the summit was Japan’s Junko Tabei (1975).
Over 280 people have died trying to reach the summit since teh 1920’s. Major causes of death have been from falls, avalanches, blizzards, altitude sickness and exposure. It is difficult to bring down the dead. Thus, many corpses remain along the path to the top. The zone above 7900 meters is sometimes called the “death zone”.
Improving Your Reading and Thinking Skills
Think for a few moments. Try to recall the major ideas in this article. When you are done, click the box below for a list of main ideas.
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Seven Wonders of the World, UN Museum.