No Higher: At 29,028' (8850m), about five miles up, the world's highest summit is at about the cruising altitude of a jet.
The Name: the Tibetans call Mount Everest "Chomolungma" which means "mother goddess of the universe." Once known to Westerners as Peak XV, Everest was named for Sir George Everest, the British surveyor-general of India, in 1859.
Thin Air: Decreasing atmospheric pressure at high altitude means there are less oxygen molecules in a given space. At the top of Mount Everest, the actual percentage of oxygen in the air is the same as that at sea level (about 20%). However, the atmospheric pressure at the summit of Everest is 33% that of sea level. So if you had a shoe box full of air, there would be 66% less oxygen in the box at the summit of Everest than at sea level. Each breath pulls in 33% of the oxygen as that at sea level.
The Death Zone: Above 26,000' there's about a third of the oxygen available at sea level. Even acclimated, the body begins to shut down, and if a person stays that high long enough, they will die. Most climbers use oxygen here for climbing and sleeping.
First Ascent: 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary, NZ and Tenzing Norgay, Nepal, via the South Col Route. Neither has ever said who stepped on the summit first.
Fastest Ascent: October 17, 1998, Kagzi Sherpa of Nepal climbed Everest in 20 hours 24 minutes to break Frenchman Mark Batard's longstanding mountaineering record from October 1990 when Batard did it in 22 hours 29 minutes.
Most Summits: 10 summits by Ang Rita Sherpa of the Solukhumbu region of Nepal. On May 26, 1999, Apa Sherpa of Nepal reached the summit at 11am tying Ang Rita's record.
Longest Time Spent on the Summit: on May 7th, 1999, Babu Chirri Sherpa of Nepal set a new record by spending 21 hours on the summit without oxygen.
Youngest Summiter: Shambu Tamang of Nepal, 16 years old, reached the summit on May 5, 1975.
Oldest Summiter: Lev Sarkisov (12/2/38) of Georgia reached the summit on May 12, 1999. At 60 years and 161 days old, he beat Spaniard Ramon Blanco's record by one day.
Because It's There: in 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, GBR, were last seen going strong for the top. It is unknown if they reached the summit before disappearing. In 1921, Mallory had led the first ever expedition to Everest.
Wind on the North Side: "We use nets over our tents, anchored independently, to guarantee a good nights sleep (if your tent blows away at night you are dead meat)... You want to put in earplugs and turn up your walkman so you can sleep in the wind, but then you won't hear the tent ripping if all hell breaks loose during the night. Plan on clipping into a rope if you have to go to the bathroom without your crampons on..." Eric Simonson
Narrow Window: weather on Everest permits reasonable climbing only in May and October between winter snows and summer monsoons.
Set Your GPS: Everest sits on a Latitude of 27°59'N and a longitude of 86°56'E
That's A Lot of Candles: In Geologic terms, Mount Everest is 60 Million years old.
As India Slides Under China: GPS research done by the Boston Museum of Science suggests that plate tectonics is causing Everest to grow 3-5mm and move 27mm northeast annually.
Climbing Permits Under Chinese Rule: After China occupied Tibet in 1950, they closed off the north side of the mountain to foreigners for the purposes of climbing until 1980. The two recorded ascents in that time were the Chinese Expedition of 1960 and the Chinese Expedition of 1975 which put the first woman on top of Everest via the north ridge route, Phantog.
Base Camp (17,000', 5200m)
North Col (23,100', 7066m)
Summit (29,028', 8850m)
First Oxygenless Ascent: 1978, Reinhold Messner, ITL, and Peter Habeler, AUT, via the South-East Ridge.
First Solo Ascent: 1980, Reinhold Messner, via the North Col to North Face, a first for this route.
First Ascent by a Woman: 1975, Junko Tabei, JAP, via the South-East Ridge.
First Ascent by an American: 1963, James Whittaker, via the South-East Ridge.
First Ascent by an American Woman: 1988, Stacy Allison, via the South-East Ridge.
North Ridge from the North Col:
North Face by the Great Couloir
Fastest Ascent via the North Col Ridge
Notable North Side Climbs
1921 First British reconnaissance expedition to map and survey the vast area to the north and east of the mountain. George Mallory, Bullock, Wheeler and their 10 sherpas climbed to the North Col 7066m (23,180').
1922 Mallory, Norton and Somervell became the first men to pass the 8000m mark. Climbing without supplementary oxygen, they reached a point a short way below the top of the North Ridge at 8100m (26,575') before turning back. Six days later, George Ingle Finch and Geoffrey Bruce traversed out onto the North Face to just below the First Step. Theirs was the first application of supplemental oxygen and initiated a still ongoing debate of what is "sporting" in high altitude mountaineering. A planned third summit attempt was cancelled after seven porters: Norbu, Lhakpa, Pasang, Pema, Sange, Dorje and Temba were swept away by an avalanche below the North Col.
1924 The third British expedition to the world's highest mountain, was the first attempt on the summit. On June 4th, Edward Norton and Theodore Somervell set off from Camp VI near the top of the North Ridge at 8220m (27,000') for the summit. Somervell was forced to give up due to respiratory problems, and Norton struggled on to reach 8572m (28,125'), a record not to be broken until the first oxygenless ascent of Everest by Messner and Habeler 54 years later. Four days later, George Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine, made a final summit bid with oxygen. The pair was last seen by the expedition's geologist, Noel Odell, at 12:50pm on June 8, 1924, high on the NE Ridge "going strong for the top." The details of their summit attempt how high they got and how they disappeared remain one of the great mysteries of mountaineering.
1933 This expedition included climbers E.E. Shipton and H. Rutledge. F.S. Smythe climbing alone reached an elevation of 8580m. Aerial photographs aided this expediton.
1938 Led by H.W. Tilman and including E.E. Shipton as well as N.E. Odell and Karma Paul, this expedition reached a height of 8320m.
1934/1947/1951 On each of these years, a British ex-army captain, a Canadian and a Danish man, respectively tried solo attempts by disguising themselves as Tibetans, crossing the India-China border and rendezvousing with Sherpas in Tibet. All three failed. The 1951 attempt was from Nepal, not Tibet.
1960 A summit team consisted of Chinese climbers Wang Fu-chou, Chu Yin-hua, Gonpa, and Liu Lien-man spent three hours climbing the Second Step at 28,300', the crux of the NE Ridge Route. Chu Yin-hua took off his boots in one attempt to free climb the vertical rock but failed. Then Liu climbed partway up, Chu climbed up and stood on his shoulders and was then able to hoist himself over the top. Liu waited at the top of the step while the others reached the summit well after dark. They bivouacked on the way down and eventually lost fingers and toes to frostbite. The only other documented free climb of the Second Step was by American Conrad Anker in 1999; all other ascents of the step were via the ladder fixed there in 1975 by the second Chinese team on the route.
1980 A Japanese climber, Yasuo Kato, reached the summit after climbing alone on the Northeast Ridge. He was the first climber to climb both the North and South sides of Everest.
1982 Joe Tasker and Peter Boardman, climbing in the Autumn season, alpine style and without oxygen, disappeared at the base of the second pinnacle on the Northeast Ridge.
1986 Swiss climbers, Jean Troillet and Erhard Loretan, made a two day speed ascent of the North Face, climbing throughout the night and morning. Their descent to Base Camp took five hours.
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