diamond geezer

 Thursday, May 29, 2003

Everest - 50 anniversary facts

1Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, 2located in the Himalayan mountains 3on the border between Nepal and Tibet. 4To be exact, you'll find it at latitude 27º59’16" N and longitude 86º55’40" E. 5In Nepal the mountain is called Sagarmatha, 6which means "goddess of the sky". 7In Tibet the mountain is called Chomolungma, 8which means "mother goddess of the universe". 9The British gave the mountain the rather dull name of Peak b in 1841, 10then renamed it the equally uninspired Peak 15 in 1854. 11The mountain was finally renamed Mount Everest in 1865 12in honour of Sir George Everest, the surveyor-general of India, 13who was the first person to produce detailed maps of the Indian subcontintent.

14Mount Everest is 8848 metres high 15(that's 29,029 feet), 16or at least it was that height until it was measured again by satellite in 1999 17and found to be 6 feet (2 metres) higher. 18The mountain is still rising between 4 and 10 centimetres each year, 19even though it was first formed over 60 million years ago. 20Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa is actually the world's tallest free-standing mountain, 21rising from plains at approximately 2000 metres right up to its summit at 5 895 metres. 22Meanwhile Mauna Loa, an extinct volcano in Hawaii, is the tallest mountain in the world at 9170 metres, 23including the 5000 metres down to the ocean floor.

24Everest was first climbed exactly fifty years ago on May 29th 1953 25on a British expedition led by Colonel John Hunt. 26He decided the team should climb via the South Col route in Nepal 27because the Chinese had taken control of Tibet three years earlier and put a stop to all ascents from the North. 28Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon were chosen to make the first assault on the summit, 29but this pair had to turn back because of faulty oxygen equipment. 30The second attempt was made by 39-year old Tenzing Norgay from Nepal and and 34-year old Edmund Hillary, a beekeeper from New Zealand. 31At 11:30am they became the first people ever to reach the summit, 32with Hillary getting to the top just a few steps ahead of Tenzing. 33They stayed at the summit for 15 minutes, 34leaving behind four flags as evidence of their success. 35News of the historic ascent reached Britain three days later, just in time for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

36Everest is best climbed in April or May before the monsoon begins. 37Since 1953 more than 1300 climbers have climbed to the summit, 38with ages ranging from sixteen to seventy. 39At least 100 people have perished trying to climb the mountain, 40most commonly by avalanches, falls in crevasses, cold, or the effects of thin air. 41The temperature can drop as low as –72°C at the summit. 42The record for most ascents belongs to Sherpa Ang Rita 43who, as of this week, has reached the summit an astonishing thirteen times. 44The first woman to climb Everest was Junko Tabei of Japan in 1975. 45The mountain has been ascended without oxygen (first in 1978) 46single-handed (first in 1980) 47and in less than 11 hours (earlier this week), 48and descended on skis (first in 1970) 49and by snowboard (first in 2001). 50Attempts by two teams of climbers to reach the summit on the 50th anniversary of the original ascent, however, had to be abandoned because of high winds.

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