Mount Everest - Discover the mystique of Everest

  • Sunil Gurung
  • Last Updated on Jan 22, 2024

Mount Everest: The Top of the World:

The Fascinating History and Enduring Mystique of Mount Everest:

Towering at the new height of 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet) into the sky is Mount Everest: The Top of the World. It is the world's highest mountain and an apex of human exploration.

Close your eyes and imagine a sanctuary high in the heavens, a pinnacle in the clouds crowned with eternal snow. As you draw nearer, mighty granite pillars tower into an icy blue sky adorned with shimmering glacier stands solid. This is the view that would humble any mortals, revealed only to the gods until modern times. This is MOUNT EVEREST, the top of the world.

These enormous granite pyramids hide legendary secrets in their folds. In its body, a sea of clouds rolls below, and above, and the profound expanse of the jet stream roars. Don’t be fooled because those seduced by its summit may gain the world yet lose their soul. So what magnetic force pulls us towards this forbidding and mystic peak again and again?

We will discuss its sacred origins, lost in the swirling snows of time and Tibetan myth. We will recall the pioneering footsteps of Mallory, Hillary, and other quests to stand atop Everest. On this adventure, we will discover if Everest is but a mountain or a gateway to something far greater than ourselves.

Mount Everest

Table of Contents

Where is Mount Everest?

Mount Everest is located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. Mount Everest overlaps the continental boundary between the Indian tectonic plate (Nepal) and the Eurasian tectonic plate (Tibetan Plateau), right along the Nepal-Tibet (China) border situated at the ridge of the Himalayan mountain chain.

More specifically:

The Nepali side of Mount Everest lies within Sagarmatha National Park, in the Solu-Khumbu district of Nepal.
On the Tibetan side, Mount Everest is located within Chomolungma or Qomolangma National Nature Preserve which falls under the administration of Dingri County, Shigatse Prefecture.

The precise summit coordinates of Mount Everest are:

27°59′17′′N 86°55′31′′E

  • 27°59′17′′N - This indicates the mountain is located at 27.98806 degrees North latitude.
  • 86°55′31′′E - This longitude of 86.92528 degrees East means it lies towards the eastern side of Nepal and the country's border with China.

For centuries, indigenous Sherpa people in Nepal and Tibet revered "Mount Everest" as a sacred abode for deities. Scientists and geographers were for so long in the quest of discovering the world's highest point. In 1856, Everest was officially designated the highest mountain in the world after years of painstaking trigonometrical surveys across the Himalayas.

Since then, brave adventurers from around the globe have been captivated by the allure of Everest, risking their lives to stand on its summit and take in views from the "top of the world." Over 300 people have died trying. Today, thanks to advanced equipment and commercial guiding operations, hundreds now reach the top annually during narrow weather windows in April/May. However, the mountain retains an air of mystery and danger.

Birth of Mount Everest: How Everest Came into Existence?

The history of Everest begins with the collision of continents. When the Indian tectonic plate slammed into Eurasia 50-60 million years ago, it crumbled rock and pushed up the Himalayas, the planet’s youngest, highest mountain range. Mount Everest formed as layers of marine sedimentary rock lifted and metamorphosed into higher-grade metamorphic rocks under rising pressure and temperatures.

Standing on the border of Nepal and Tibet (China), Everest’s permanent snow line is at 26,000 feet. The upper third is composed of metamorphosed limestone and sedimentary rock topped with Ordovician limestone that once lay under an ancient ocean. With peak temperatures below -30° F and jet stream winds exceeding 100 mph, it hosts an intensely sub-zero, inhospitable environment.

Mount Everest Folding

Naming the Everest: How Peak XV was named Everest?

For centuries, the world's tallest peak remained shrouded in mystery, its soaring summit unseen by any mortal eye. Towering somewhere high in the Himalayas, this unnamed titan fascinated explorers and mapmakers.

After the British Colonial administration extended its territory into the Himalayas in the early 1800s, the Imperial British surveyed the Indian subcontinent. During that time, uncovering the HIGHEST POINT ON EARTH became an irresistible challenge. They spent years obsessively hunting altitudes, calculating angles, and plotting coordinate points.

However, In 1841, British surveyor George Everest calculated the Himalayas’ tallest peak at 29,002 feet, very close to the currently accepted measurement. Until then Everest went by Chomolungma (“Goddess Mother of Mountains”) in Tibet and Sagarmatha (“Goddess of the Sky”) in Nepal. This newly discovered highest point on earth was given the name "PEAK XV". Upon his death, the Royal Geographical Society officially named it after him as "EVEREST" despite his objections. In 1865 after careful surveys, Everest was confirmed as Earth’s highest point.

The religious significance of Mount Everest:

For centuries, Mount Everest has been revered by local Tibetan and Nepali people as a sacred mountain. In Tibetan culture, it carries the name "Chomolungma" meaning "Goddess Mother of the World." The Sherpa people of Nepal similarly call Everest "Sagarmatha" referring to the "Goddess of the Sky." These names reflect the divine symbolism surrounding the mountain peak.

In the Buddhist and Bon religions it is believed that, as part of the Himalayan range, Everest links heaven and earth like a bridge. In Tibet, Mt. Chomolungma is believed to be the sacred dwelling place of the goddess Miyo Langsangma, who is considered the protector of the region.

Mount Everest has long been viewed as a holy and spiritual place for female deities and mother goddesses to reside. The mountain has served as a refuge where these maternal divine beings are revered and find sanctuary to dwell. As such, Mount Everest has always been worshipped with devotion and was never meant for human conquest. Since outsiders first arrived in the 1900s seeking to conquer the mountain, tension has persisted between the believers who worship Everest as their God and the crowds of modern climbers conquering Everest for glory.

Famous peaks surrounding Mount Everest:

Some of the most famous peaks surrounding Mount Everest include:

  • Mt. Lhotse: The 4th highest mountain in the world at 8,516 meters (27,940 feet), Lhotse is connected to Everest by the South Col pass.
  • Mt. Makalu: The 5th highest mountain at 8,485 meters (27,762 feet), Makalu lies just 12 miles southeast of Everest on the Nepal/Tibet border. It is considered one of the most difficult 8000-meter peaks to climb.
  • Mt. Cho Oyu: At 8,201 meters (26,907 feet), Cho Oyu is the 6th tallest mountain and is often described as the "easiest" 8000-meter peak due to a gentler slope.
  • Mt. Pumori: Although just 7,161 meters (23,494 ft), Pumori is known as Everest's "daughter peak,". Pumori is a stunningly beautiful peak but notoriously difficult climb.
  • Nuptse: Adjacent to Everest's Western Cwm route, Nuptse has several small summits, the highest reaching 7,861 meters (25,791 feet). 
  • Changtse: At 24,870 feet (7,580 m), Changste is a popular acclimatization climb for Everest aspirants. Linked to Everest by the North Col, climbers traverse Changtse to prepare for Everest's extreme elevation.

Pioneering Expeditions

In 1921, Britain’s Mount Everest Committee launched a Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition to find routes to the summit. British climber George Mallory was part of the early British expeditions in 1921, 1922, and 1924 that attempted to be the first to reach Mount Everest's summit. As a skilled alpinist, Mallory was chosen to lead the first-ever climbing attempts on Mount Everest.

In 1922, Armed with primitive oxygen tanks and clothing, Mallory with his 3 other climbing associates managed to get to the height of  26,985 feet (8,225 meters). Due to adverse weather, they had to return from 26,985 feet which was indeed the highest elevation reached by humans in the history of mountaineering.

Driven by his burning desire to conquer Everest, Mallory returned in 1924 with climbing partner Andrew Irvine. On June 6th, fellow expedition member Noel Odell spotted them climbing high on Everest’s Northeast Ridge. Then the clouds rolled in and the men vanished, never to be seen alive again. Mallory’s body was discovered in 1999 at 26,700 feet, suggesting he and Irvine may have been the first to summit Everest 29 years before the official first ascent.

But whether he stood on the roof of the world remains an enduring mystery. His quest continues to symbolize Everest’s attraction to climbers willing to risk everything for glory. 

After Seven failed attempts later, on May 29, 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made the first verified ascent via the South Col route first attempted in 1992. Hundreds have now summited, with nearly 5,000 reaching the top as of 2022.

Tales from the Death Zone

The greatest danger comes from the oxygen-deprived altitude above 26,000 feet in Everest’s “death zone.” Hypoxia and extreme exhaustion set in as the body struggles to function. Climbers' brains and lungs swell, and frostbite risks get too extreme. Clear thinking grows difficult.

In 1996, Mount Everest witnessed its deadliest day, when eight lives were lost to a fierce blizzard, as told in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. This incident was considered a "Tragic Moment" in the history of the Everest Expedition. Over time, hundreds of climbers have perished on the unforgiving slopes, their bodies buried in ice where they met their end. Simple stone graves now dot the mountain's camps, a reminder that Everest's beauty conceals a lethal danger for those unprepared for its extremes. Yet climbers return each year, drawn by the magnetic pull of Everest.

However, hundreds of people have perished on Everest, about 4.5% of all who tried. Dangers include avalanches, blizzards, high winds, altitude sickness, and falls given difficult terrain. Besides global warming increases risks as melting glaciers loosen rocks and newly exposed crevasses. Unforeseen hazards frequently impact groups on this perilous climb which now requires lots of risk assessments.

Mount Everest Dead Bodies:

The deadly conditions and grueling terrain of Mount Everest have claimed hundreds of lives since expeditions began in the 1920s. When climbers perish in the Death Zone above 26,000 feet, their bodies often remain on the slopes where they took their last breath. Retrieving corpses from this bitter high-altitude environment presents huge challenges. Additionally, many climbers consider removing bodies disrespectful from the "Icy graveyard" Everest has become.

The Sub-Zero temperature and high winds of Everest essentially mummify corpses lying on its slopes and within ice crevasses. Temperatures never rise above freezing while jet stream winds wither the remains. Skin and muscle wither into leather, and solid organs break down slowly over the years.

Even when visible, bodies like that of "Green Boots Cave" climber or "Sleeping Beauty" remain frozen in place. Melting glaciers may eventually eject bodies, but most get preserved and appear as uncanny landmarks dotting popular climbing routes. This is indeed a generous reminder of Everest to all those who test their limits here seeking glory and fame.

Mount Everest Today

In addition to independent climbers pursuing their dreams, today commercial guiding operations take as many as 1,000 clients up the mountain each spring. Costs range from $20,000 to $130,000 due to extensive staff support, supplies and oxygen. Nepal and China try to limit the permits to avoid dangerous overcrowding although numbers topped 800 in 2019.

However, still, many more attain the goal of stepping on the head of Everest, thanks to all the support teams. In all of these expeditions, we always have Behind the Scene Heros, the Mountain PORTERS, without whom nothing is possible in the wilderness. Nevertheless, Everest remains a pinnacle only the most ambitious and capable ever reach, retaining its lethal mystique.

It is believed that as a home to deities Mount Everest is not to be disturbed. This mountain was never there for conquest. Today many lament the over-commercialization of Mount Everest as opposed to Chomolungma's divine status for centuries.

Is Everest Still Growing?

Yes, Mount Everest is said to be growing with more or less 2 cm every year. While exact measurements vary year to year, Everest is still growing due to the tectonic action. The Indian plate continues plunging northward, shoving the Himalayas ever higher. As technology improves, calculations of Mount Everest’s elevation using GPS and satellite data are Refining its summit’s exact position and height down to the centimeter.

In summary, Mount Everest remains the ultimate test for climbers seeking to stand atop the world. Since the first verified summit 70 years ago, more than 300 have died in pursuit of this dangerous yet profoundly pleasing goal. And for cultures that have long worshipped its sacred peaks, Mount Everest and Chomolungma endure as timeless protectors with spiritual power.

Famous treks in the Everest Region

Everest Base Camp
Everest High Passes Trek
Everest Base Camp and Island Peak
Gokyo Lake
Ama Dablam Base Camp

Sunil Gurung

Sunil Gurung

An Adventurer who founded Nepal Pyramids to showcase the enchanting wonders of Nepal. A writer moved to share the wonders, wisdom, and warmth discovered in the mountain communities of this magical country.

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