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Mt Everest, is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at 29,029 ft (8,848 meters) above sea level. On the Nepal side of the Nepal China (Tibet) border, it is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. Its massif includes neighboring peaks Changtse (7,580 m), Nuptse (7,855 m) and Lhotse (8,516 m).
Upon a recommendation by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India, Mount Everest was given its official English name, in 1865, by the Royal Geographical Society. After his predecessor in the post, Sir George Everest, Waugh named the mountain. Waugh was unaware of the common name because Tibet and Nepal were closed to foreigners, Tibetans had called Everest Chomolungma for centuries.
As well as novice climbers willing to hire professional guides, Mt Everest attracts many well experienced mountaineers. Mount Everest presents dangers such as wind, weather and altitude sickness, while not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route. Other eight thousanders such as Nanga Parbat or K2 are much more difficult.
There had been 5,104 ascents to the summit of Mt Everest by about 3,142 individuals, by the end of the 2010 climbing season. The Nepal government also requires all prospective climbers to obtain an expensive permit, costing up to 25 thousand USD per person, climbers are a significant source of tourist revenue for Nepal.
Ascent To The Summit Of Mt Everest
Including eight who perished during a 1996 storm high on the mountain, by the end of 2010 Everest had claimed 219 lives. Conditions are so difficult in altitudes higher than 26,000 ft or 8,000 metres (the death zone) that most corpses have been left where they fell. From standard climbing routes, some of them are visible.
As well as many other less frequently climbed routes, Mt Everest has two main climbing routes, the northeast ridge from Tibet and the southeast ridge from Nepal. The southeast ridge is the more frequently used route and is technically easier, of the two main routes. It was the first recognized of fifteen routes to the top by 1996 and the route used by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953.
Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary
As the Chinese border was closed to the western world in the 1950s after the People's Republic of China invaded Tibet, this was a route decision dictated more by politics than by design.
Before the summer monsoon season, most attempts are made during May. Reducing the average wind speeds high on Mt Everest, a change in the jet stream pushes it northward, as the monsoon season approaches.
The less stable weather patterns and the additional snow deposited by the monsoons makes climbing extremely difficult, in September and October, when the jet stream is again temporarily pushed northward.
On the south side of Mt Everest in Nepal, the ascent by the southeast ridge begins with a trek to Base Camp at 17,700 ft (5,380 m). From Kathmandu and pass through Namche Bazaar, expeditions usually fly into Lukla (2,860 m). Allowing for proper altitude acclimatization in order to prevent altitude sickness, climbers hike to Base Camp, which usually takes six to eight days. To Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier, climbing supplies and equipment are carried by human porters, yak cow hybrids (dzopkyos) and yaks. As there were no roads further east at that time, Tenzing and Hillary started from Kathmandu Valley, when they climbed Everest in 1953.
Acclimatizing to the altitude, climbers will spend a couple of weeks in Base Camp. Some expedition climbers and Sherpas will set up ladders and ropes in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, during that time. Making the icefall one of the most dangerous sections of the route, shifting blocks of ice, crevasses and a large pointed mass of ice in a glacier isolated by intersecting crevasses (seracs). In this section, many Sherpas and climbers have been killed. Climbers will usually begin their ascent well before dawn, when the freezing temperatures glue ice blocks in place, to reduce the danger. Camp One at 19,900 ft (6,065 meters) is above the icefall.
The Treacherous Khumbu Icefall!
Climbers make their way up the Western Cwm (cwm, pronounced coom, is Welsh for a bowl shaped valley/Cirque) from Camp One, to the base of the Lhotse face, where Advanced Base Camp or Camp Two is established at 21,300 ft (6,500 m). Marked by huge lateral crevasses in the center, which prevent direct access to the upper reaches of the Cwm, the Western Cwm is a gently rising, flat glacial valley. Known as the Nuptse corner, climbers are forced to cross on the far right to a small passageway right near the base of Nuptse. As the topography of the area generally cuts off wind from the climbing route, the Western Cwm is also called the Valley of Silence. A windless, clear day and the high altitude can make the Western Cwm unbearably hot for climbers.
The Western Cwm
Climbers ascend the Lhotse face on fixed ropes up to Camp Three, located on a small ledge at 24,500 ft (7,470 m), from Advanced Base Camp. It is another 500 meters to Camp Four on a mountain pass (the South Col) at 26,000 ft (7,920 m). Climbers are faced with two additional challenges: The Geneva Spur and The Yellow Band, from Camp Three to Camp Four. Named by the 1952 Swiss expedition, the Geneva Spur is an anvil shaped rib of black rock. In scrambling over this snow covered rock band, fixed ropes assist climbers. Which also requires about one hundred meters of rope for traversing it, the Yellow Band is a section of interlayered marble, phyllite, and semischist.
The Lhotse Face
Climbers enter the Mt Everest death zone on the South Col. For making summit attempts, climbers usually only have a maximum of two or three days they can endure at this altitude. In deciding whether to make a summit attempt, low winds and clear weather are critical factors. Climbers are forced to descend, many all the way back down to Base Camp, if weather does not cooperate within these few short days.
South Col, Khumbu Icefall
With hopes of reaching the summit 1,000 meters above within ten to twelve hours, climbers will begin their summit push around midnight from Camp Four. In the early light of dawn, climbers will first reach The Balcony at 27,600 ft (8,400 m), a small platform where they can gaze at peaks to the east and south and rest. Climbers are then faced with a series of imposing rock steps, after continuing up the ridge, which usually forces them into a serious avalanche hazard, waist deep snow to the east. A small table size dome of snow and ice marks the South Summit, at 28,700 ft (8,750 m).
Approaching The South Summit
Climbers follow the knife edge southeast ridge along what is known as the Cornice traverse, where snow clings to intermittent rock, from the South Summit of Mt Everest. A misstep to the immediate right is the 10,000 ft (3,050 m) Kangshung face, while to the left would send one 8,000 ft (2,400 m) down the southwest face, as this is the most exposed section of the climb. Called the Hillary Step at 28,740 ft (8,760 m), at the end of this traverse is an imposing 40 ft (12 m) rock wall.
The Hillary Step
Tenzing and Hillary did it with primitive ice climbing ropes and equipment and they were the first climbers to ascend this step. Now, using fixed ropes previously set up by Sherpas, climbers will ascend this step. Especially while traversing large cornices of snow, the exposure on the ridge is extreme though it is a comparatively easy climb to the top on moderately angled snow slopes, once above the step. With climbers forced to wait significant amounts of time for their turn on the ropes, leading to problems in getting climbers efficiently up and down the mountain, the Step has frequently become a bottleneck, with increasing numbers of people climbing the mountain in recent years.
Climbers also must traverse a rocky and loose section that has a large entanglement of fixed ropes that can be troublesome in bad weather, after the Hillary Step. To allow time to descend to Camp Four before darkness sets in, supplemental oxygen tanks run out, or afternoon weather becomes a serious problem, climbers will typically spend less than a half hour at the summit.
I can't even imagine climbing to 29,000 feet! I've been to 14,000+feet more than once and have felt dizzy and light headed. But if you're in good physical condition, not afraid of heights and think this would be a great challenge for you, then go for it! Mt Everest is a backpacking trip of a lifetime!
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