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Mountaineering & Expeditions

Mount Everest | Essential Guide

How high is Everest? Who was the first person to climb Everest? How much does it cost to climb Everest? Are there dead bodies on Everest? All these questions, and so many more, answered right here.

In case you didn’t know, Mount Everest is officially the world’s highest mountain. It has an elevation of 8,848 metres, and is situated in the Mahalangur Range of the Himalayas.

Known in Nepal as Sagarmāthā and China as Chomolungma, the mountain’s summit features the international land border that divides Nepal and Tibet (an autonomous region of China). Everest’s neighbouring mountains include Lhotse (8,516m), Nuptse (7,855m), and Changtse (7,580m).

“It’s been estimated that there’s well over 200 dead bodies on Everest.”

Between the years 2005 and 2010, Nepal and China got into a big old argument over whether Everest should be measured by its rock height or its snow height. China argued that the mountain should be measured by its rock height of 8,844m while Nepal claimed it should be measured by its snow height of 8,848m. After some back and forth between the two sides, an agreement was reached that Everest’s official height would be cited as 8,848m and that Nepal would recognise China’s rock height claim of 8,844m (because what’s four metres between friends?)

Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society in 1865. Andrew Waugh, who was the British Surveyor General of India at the time, chose to name the big old mountain after his predecessor Sir George Everest. Apparently, George Everest objected to the decision; a reaction we find hard to comprehend. I mean, just imagine having the world’s highest mountain named after you and then not being 100% down with that. Some people, I don’t know.

Mount Everest | Climbing History

Sir Edmund Hillary (right), along with Tenzing Norgay, summited Everest in 1953. Images via. Getty Images.

Climbing Everest | The First Ascent

Officially speaking, the first ascent of Everest was in 1953 when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made it to the summit via the southeast ridge. Tenzing had gone very close to making it only a year earlier when he reached the height of 8,595m as part of a Swiss expedition.

One of the great mysteries surrounding Everest’s first ascent, however, is whether a 1924 attempt on the summit was successful or not. George Mallory and Andrew Irvine set out for the top of the mountain on the 8th of June, but never returned. The pair had been spotted high on the mountain that day, but they disappeared from sight when the clouds rolled in. In 1999, Mallory’s body was discovered on the north face at a height of 8,155m. It is still not known whether he died on the way up to the summit, or on the way back down from it.

Bodies On Everest | Deaths On The Mountain

The body of Tsewang Samanla, also known as ‘Green Boots’, is a landmark on the way up Everest.

It’s been estimated that there’s well over 200 dead bodies on Everest. Because of the extremely cold temperatures, these corpses are remarkably well preserved. While some bodies are brought back down, the difficulty in retrieving them from such an altitude means many of them are left where they lay. “Green Boots”, thought to be the body of Indian climber Tsewang Paljor who perished in the 1996 Everest disaster, is a landmark that every climber attempting the north east route must pass.

The 1996 Everest disaster, in which eight climbers lost their lives in a single day after getting caught up in a blizzard high on the mountain, is one of the most tragic incidents to befall the mountain. The 2015 film ‘Everest’, starring among others Jake Gyllenhaal, is based on the disaster.

“I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying.”

In April 2014, an ice avalanche on the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 Nepalese guides. The Khumbu Icefall, widely considered to be one of the most dangerous parts of the South Col route to the summit, is also the place where six Nepalese Sherpas died in the 1970 Everest disaster.

In 2015, an earthquake of 7.8 on the Richter scale hit Nepal. This quake triggered an avalanche that hit Everest’s basecamp, and killed at least twenty-two people.

One death on Everest that received a lot of criticism, some from none other than Sir Edmund Hillary, was the death of David Sharp in May 2006. Sharp had already made it to the top of Everest and was on his way back down when he paused for a rest in the “Green Boots” cave about 460 metres below the summit.

Pictured: David Sharp’s corpse frozen in a sitting position inside “Green Boots” cave.

As many as 40 climbers went past him, believing Sharp to be either already dead or beyond rescue. One group passed him at one in the morning, saw he was still breathing, but continued on to the summit as they felt evacuating him would have put further lives in danger. Sharp continued to freeze during the night, and probably suffered the effects of Hypoxia, before eventually succumbing to death. His body, removed from sight in 2007, remains on the mountain.

Commenting on the incident in a New Zealand newspaper, Hillary said: “I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top. It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say good morning and pass on by.”

Despite the 1.3% mortality rate for people climbing Everest, and they’re being an average of more than one death for every ten successful ascents, there remains a seemingly unquenchable desire to summit the world’s highest mountain. This, combined with the sheer number of companies that offer climbing packages, means concerns about risk continue to sit front and centre.

Everest | Climbing Records

The summit of Mount Everest. Photo: Kenton Cool.

The Mount Everest climbing records contain some truly astounding feats. Feats so impressive that they make you question what the hell you’ve been doing with your time, and whether you should…you know…get out more.

In 2010, for example, American teenager Jordan Romero became the youngest person to summit Everest aged 13 years, 10 months and 10 days. At the other end of the scale, Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura is the oldest person to ever summit Everest. In 2013, Miura conquered it aged 80 years and 224 days.

“Jordan Romero became the youngest person to summit Everest aged 13 years, 10 months and 10 days.”

In May 2017, Anshu Jamsenpa became the first woman to achieve a double ascent of Everest in only five days. Junko Tabei, a climber from Japan, was the first woman in history to summit Everest; a feat she accomplished in 1975.

The first ascent without supplemental oxygen was achieved by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler in 1978. Messner then followed this up in 1980 by becoming the first person to do a solo ascent of the mountain without supplemental oxygen.

In 2006, Mark Inglis became the first double leg amputee to summit Everest. Photo via . Mark Inglis.co.nz

The highest number of successful ascents, by one individual is jointly held by Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi. They’ve both been up to the mountain’s peak an absolutely astonishing 21 times.

Kenton Cool is the most successful Everest climber that Britain’s produced. Cool has made it to the peak 12 times during his mountaineering career.

In May 2006, Mark Inglis became the first double leg amputee to summit Everest. Seven years later, in 2013, Sudarshan Gautam became the first double arm amputee to reach the peak.

Over the years, Everest has witnessed a number of bizarre and unusual stunts. This long list of Everest stunts include the first person to descend the mountain on a snowboard (Marco Siffredi – 2001), the first person to paraglide from the summit (Jean-Marc Boivin – 1988), the first person to descend on skis (Davo Karničar – 2000) and the first people to get married on top of Everest (Pem Dorjee and Mone Mulepati – 2005).

Everest | Controversies

People will stop at nothing to conquer Everest, even going so far as to Photoshop themselves up there (see image on the right).

Because of all the attention the mountain gets, it tends to throw up a wide array of controversies on a pretty regular basis. In 2016, for example, an Indian couple were accused of photoshopping themselves onto Everest’s summit. A silly story you might think, but these types of shenanigans tend to stir up a lot of strong feelings in the mountaineering community.

A far more serious Everest controversy occurred in 2014 when the Nepalese government offered meagre compensation to families personally affected by a lethal ice avalanche that took 16 lives. In response to the tragedy, Sherpa climbing guides walked out on the job. And while some still wanted to climb, it was felt to be too controversial to make anymore summit attempts that year. The incident shone a spotlight on the work of Sherpas, who are often put in risky situations for substandard pay due to the demands of Western climbers.

Another Sherpa controversy on Everest, albeit one with a very different feel to it, occurred in 2013 when a team of three Europeans (including the late, great, Ueli Steck) were supposedly confronted by about 100 Sherpas. The violent confrontation at Camp Two involved rocks and punches being thrown, and ice axes being wielded. The incident is believed to have happened after a disagreement over dislodged ice falling and hitting a Sherpa in the face. Stories that circulated at the time suggest the Sherpas didn’t want to climb for safety reasons, while the Europeans wanted to continue; leading to tension between the parties.

Trash On Everest | Pollution Problems

Pictured: Mount Everest’s Base Camp. Photo via. Getty Images.

For many years now, environmentalists have expressed concerns about the amount of pollution left behind on Everest; specifically human waste. According to a quote from the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, uttered in 2015, an eye-watering “26,500 pounds of human excrement” is left behind on the mountain every season. I think we can all agree that that’s an ungodly amount of turd.

There’s ‘Too Much Poo’ On Mt. Everest, Say Nepalese Authorities

This massive great big poo problem is made by worse by the fact there’s also a load of oxygen tanks, tents, and general litter left behind as well. Because of the negative human impact that increased mountain traffic was having on Everest, the Nepalese government brought in a policy whereby each climber needs to collect 8kg of litter when coming back down the mountain. The ruling applies to anyone climbing above base camp.

Climbing Everest | Essential Information

Climbing to the summit of Everest isn’t cheap. Photo via. Getty Images.

Maybe you’ve read something about Everest before, and thought “Yeah. I fancy a crack at that. I think I want to climb the world’s highest mountain.” But, hold up one second. Do you know how much it costs? Because, let’s just clear one thing up here and now, it’s not a cheap thing to do.

Depending on which website you consult, the cost of climbing Everest can vary significantly. Realistically though, you’ll be spending somewhere between £30,000 and £50,000 all in. Costs of climbing Everest include climbing permits, Sherpa hire, support team hire, transfers, government taxes, international flights, and mandatory life insurance.

“…you’ll be spending somewhere between £30,000 and £50,000…”

Because of the insatiable demand for climbing Everest, you might come across some cut-price tour group offerings. A word of warning, however. These bargain basement packages have raised a number of concerns in the mountaineering industry re: sub-standard Sherpa pay, and general health and safety.

You can approach the summit of Everest from either the Nepalese side, or the Tibetan side. The majority of climbers take the South Col route, with a minority taking the North Col.

The South Col is the route that was taken by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their first ascent of the mountain in 1953. It features the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, and the Westerm Cwm up the Lhotse Face. Before its collapse, it also featured the legendary Hillary Step. The South Col begins at Everest’s southern Base Camp, which has an altitude of 5,364 metres.

Everest VR | The Impact Of Technology

Thanks to evolving technology, people are now able to explore Everest in virtual reality. You can either play the Everest VR yourself, or watch someone trying it out on the YouTube video featured below.

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