Mount Everest: The Highest Mountain in the World

Facts, Figures and Trivia About Mount Everest

Mount Everest, highest mountain in the world, and Lhotse bask in evening's last light.
Photograph copyright Whitworth Images/Getty Images

Mount Everest is the world's tallest and most prominent mountain at 29,035 feet (8,850 meters). It lies on the border of Nepal and Tibet/China, in Asia. The first successful ascent was by Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal on May 29, 1953.

Native Name for Everest

Mount Everest, called Peak XV after its survey by the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, conducted by Great Britain, in 1856,  is also called Chomolungma, meaning “Goddess Mother of Snows” or literally "Holy Mother" in Tibetan and Sagarmatha, meaning "Mother of the Universe" in Nepalese.

The mountain is sacred to the native people in Tibet and Nepal.

Named for George Everest

British surveyors named Mount Everest for George Everest (properly pronounced “I-ver-ist”) a Surveyor General of India in the mid-nineteenth century. British surveyor Andrew Waugh calculated the elevation of the mountain over several years based on data from the Great Trigonometric Survey, announcing that it was the highest mountain in the world in 1856.

Waugh also called the mountain, previously called Peak XV, Mount Everest after the previous Surveyor General of India. Everest himself was against the name, arguing that native people could not pronounce it. The Royal Geographic Society, however, officially named it Mount Everest in 1865. 

Everest's Current Elevation

Mount Everest's current elevation of 29,035 feet is based on a GPS device implanted on the highest bedrock point under ice and snow in 1999 by an American expedition led by Bradford Washburn.

This exact elevation is not officially recognized by many countries, including Nepal.

A measurement in 2005 by the Chinese State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping determined that the elevation of Mount Everest is 29,017.16 feet (8,844.43 meters), with a variance of 8.3 inches. This elevation was also made from the highest rock point.

A cap of ice and snow atop the bedrock varies between three and four feet deep, as determined by both the American and Chinese expeditions. Mount Everest was once surveyed at exactly 29,000 feet but the surveyors didn't think people would believe that so they added two feet to its elevation, making it 29,002 feet.

Peak Still Rising and Moving

Mount Everest is rising from 3 to 6 millimeters or about 1/3 inch a year. Everest is also moving northeastward about 3 inches a year. Mount Everest is higher than 21 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other.

During the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake which shook Nepal on April 25, 2015, Mount Everest shifted three centimeters to the southwest, according to data from a Chinese satellite run by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation. The agency says that Mount Everest has moved an average of four centimeters annually between 2005 and 2015. Read more about the 2015 earthquake and avalanche that killed climbers on Mt. Everest.

Glaciers Shape Mount Everest

Mount Everest was dissected by glaciers into a huge pyramid with three faces and three major ridges on the north, south, and west sides of the mountain. Five major glaciers continue to chisel Mount Everest—Kangshung Glacier on the east; East Rongbuk Glacier on the northeast; Rongbuk Glacier on the north; and Khumbu Glacier on the west and southwest.

Read more about the geology of Mount Everest.

An Extreme Climate

Mount Everest has an extreme climate. The summit temperature never rises above freezing or 32 F (0 C). Its summit temperatures in January average -33 F (-36 C) and can drop to -76 F (-60 C). In July, the average summit temperature is -2 F (-19 C).

Everest's Jumping Spider

A small black jumping spider (Euophrys omnisuperstes) lives as high as 22,000 feet (6,700 meters) on Mount Everest. This is the highest non-microscopic life form found on the planet. Biologists say there is the possibility that microscopic organisms may live at higher elevations in the Himalaya and Karakoram mountains.

What's Best Time to Climb?

The best time to climb Mount Everest is in early May before the monsoon season. This small window has led to massive traffic jams of climbers at the Hillary Step attempting to summit during breaks in the weather.

Two Normal Routes

The Southeast Ridge from Nepal called the South Col Route, and the Northeast Ridge or the North Col Route from Tibet are the usual climbing routes up Mount Everest.

First to Climb without Supplemental Oxygen

In 1978, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Messner later described his summit experience: "In my state of spiritual abstraction, I no longer belong to myself and to my eyesight. I am nothing more than a single narrow gasping lung, floating over the mists and summits." In 1980 Reinhold Messner made the first solo ascent, which was via a new route on the mountain's north side.

Largest Climbing Expedition

The largest expedition to climb Mount Everest was a 410-climber Chinese team in 1975.

Total Number of Ascents 

As of January 2017, a total of 7,646 ascents of Mount Everest have been made by 4,469 different climbers. The difference in the two numbers are due to multiple ascents by climbers; many of them are Sherpas.

Total Deaths

Since the year 2000, an average of almost seven people per year die on Mount Everest. Through 2016, a total of 282 climbers (168 Westerners and others and 114 Sherpas) have died on Mount Everest between 1924 and 2016. Of those deaths, 176 occurred on the Nepalese side of the mountain and 106 on the Tibetan side. Deaths commonly occur from exposure to weather, avalanches, icefall, and altitude-related illnesses. Read more about how climbers die on Mount Everest.

Most on Summit in a Day

The most climbers to reach the summit in a single day was 234 on a single day in 2012. With the popularity of commercial expeditions. unless the government places restrictions, this record is likely to fall.

Most Tragic Day on Mt. Everest

The single most tragic day on Mount Everest was April 18, 2014, when a massive avalanche killed 16 Sherpa guides in the Khumbu Icefall above Everest Base Camp in Nepal while they were fixing a route through the deadly icefall. The Sherpa guides then ended the climbing season.

The earthquake and avalanches on April 25, 2015, also might be listed as the most tragic day, killing 21 on Everest.

Safest Climbing Year

The safest year on Mount Everest in recent times was 1993 when 129 climbers reached the summit and only 8 died.

Most Dangerous Year

The least safe year on Mount Everest was 1996 when 98 climbers summitted and 15 died. That season was the "Into Thin Air" fiasco documented by author Jon Krakauer.

Longest Stay on Summit

Sherpa Babu Chiri stayed on the summit of Mount Everest for 21 hours and 30 minutes.

First Ascent by American Woman

Stacey Allison from Portland, Oregon made the first ascent by an American woman on September 29, 1988.

Fastest Descent

Jean-Marc Boivin of France made the fastest descent from the summit of Mount Everest to the base by swiftly paragliding down in 11 minutes.

Notable Ski Descents

Davo Kamicar of Slovenia made the first ski descent of Mount Everest from the summit to the south side base camp on October 10, 2000.

A noted previous ski descent was on May 6, 1970 by Japanese skier Yuichiro Miura, who descended 4,200 feet on skis from the South Col until crashing. His descent was made into the movie "The Man Who Skied Down Everest," which won an Academy Award for best documentary.

Italian climber Bert Kammerlander partially skied down the north side of Everest in 1996, while American skier Kit DesLauriers also partly skied the north side in 2006.

On May 16, 2006, Swedish skier Tomas Olsson attempted to ski the direct North Face of Mount Everest via Norton's Couloir, a 60-degree couloir that drops about 9,000 feet down the mountain. Despite extreme fatigue on the summit, Olsson and Tormod Granheim skied down the face. After descending 1,500 feet, one of Olsson's skis broke so they fixed it with tape. Lower they had to ​rappel down a cliff band. While rappelling, the snow anchor failed and Olsson fell to his death.

Bodies Still on Everest

There is no official count of how many dead climbers still remain on the slopes of Mount Everest. Some sources say there as many as 200 climbers on the mountain, with their bodies buried in crevasses, under avalanched snow, on mountain slopes after falls, and even alongside popular climbing routes. It is generally not possible to evacuate bodies.

Helicopter Lands on Summit

A  Eurocopter AS350 B3 helicopter flown by Didier Delsalle, a French pilot, landed on Mount Everest's summit in May 2005. To set a record recognized by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FIA), Delsalle had to land on the summit for two minutes. He landed and stayed on the summit twice for four minutes each time. This set the world rotorcraft records for the highest landing and the highest take-off.

Coordinates: 27°59′17″ N / 86°55′31″ E