Mount Everest: The World's Tallest Mountain

Aerial view of Mt. Everest
John Wang / Getty Images

With a peak elevation of 29,035 feet (8850 meters), the top of Mount Everest is the world's highest point above sea level. As the world's highest mountain, climbing to the top of Mount Everest has been a goal of many mountain climbers for many decades.

Geography and Climate

Mount Everest is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet. Mount Everest is part of the Himalayas, the 1500-mile–long (2414-kilometer–long) mountain system that was formed when the Indo-Australian plate crashed into the Eurasian plate. The Himalayas rose in response to the subduction of the Indo-Australian plate under the Eurasian plate. The Himalayan mountains continue to rise a few centimeters each year as the Indo-Australian plate continues moving northward into and under the Eurasian plate.

The peak of Mount Everest has three somewhat flat sides; it is said to be shaped like a three-sided pyramid. Glaciers and ice cover the sides of the mountain. In July, temperatures can get as high as nearly zero degrees Fahrenheit (about -18 degrees Celsius). In January, temperatures drop to as low as -76 degrees F (-60 degrees C).

Names of the Mountain

Local names for Mount Everest include Chomolungma in Tibetan (which means "Goddess mother of the world") and Sagarmatha (which means "Ocean mother") in Sanskrit.

Indian surveyor Radhanath Sikdar, part of the British-led Survey of India, determined in 1852 that Mount Everest was the tallest mountain in the world and established an initial elevation of 29,000 feet. The mountain was known as Peak XV by the British until 1865 when it was named after Sir George Everest, who served as the Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843. 

Expeditions to the Top of Mount Everest

Despite the extreme cold, hurricane-force winds, and low oxygen levels (about one-third of the oxygen in the atmosphere as at sea level), climbers seek to successfully climb Mount Everest every year. Since the first historic climb of New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Tenzing Norgay in 1953, more than 2000 people have successfully climbed Mount Everest.

Unfortunately, due to the hazards and rigors of climbing such a dangerous mountain, over 200 have died attempting to climb—making the death rate for Mount Everest climbers about 1 in 10. Nonetheless, in the late spring or summer months (the climbing season), there can be tens of climbers attempting to reach the peak of Mount Everest each day.

The cost to climb Mount Everest is substantial. The permit from the government of Nepal can run from $10,000 to $25,000 per person, depending on the number in a group of climbers. Add to that equipment, Sherpa guides, additional permits, helicopters, and other essentials, and the cost per person can be well over $65,000.

1999 Elevation of Mount Everest

In 1999, climbers using GPS (Global Positioning System) equipment determined a new height for Mount Everest: 29,035 feet above sea level, seven feet (2.1 meters) above the previously accepted height of 29,028 feet. The climb to determine the accurate height was co-sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Boston's Museum of Science. This new height 0f 29,035 feet was immediately and widely accepted.

Mount Everest vs. Mauna Kea

While Mount Everest can claim the record for the highest point above sea level, the tallest mountain on earth from the base of the mountain to the peak of the mountain is, in fact, Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Mauna Kea is 33,480 feet (10,204 meters) high from the base (at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean) to peak. However, it only rises to 13,796 feet (4205 meters) above sea level.

Regardless of this competition, Mount Everest will always be famous for its extreme height that reaches nearly five and a half miles (8.85 km) into the sky.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "Mount Everest: The World's Tallest Mountain." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Rosenberg, Matt. (2021, July 30). Mount Everest: The World's Tallest Mountain. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "Mount Everest: The World's Tallest Mountain." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).