|Mount Everest from Kalapatthar.|
Mount Everest (Nepali: सगरमाथा, Sagarmāthā; Tibetan: ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ, Wylie: jo mo glang ma; Chomolungma or Qomolangma // “Holy Mother“; Chinese: 珠穆朗玛峰; pinyin: Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng;) is the Earth‘s highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level and the 5th tallest mountain measured from the centre of the Earth. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international border between China and Nepal runs across the precise summit point. Its massif includes neighboring peaks Lhotse, 8,516 m (27,940 ft); Nuptse, 7,855 m (25,771 ft) and Changtse, 7,580 m (24,870 ft).
In 1856, the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India established the first published height of Everest, then known as Peak XV, at 29,002 ft (8,840 m). In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society upon a recommendation by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India. Waugh named the mountain after his predecessor in the post, Sir George Everest. Although Tibetans had called Everest “Chomolungma” for centuries, Waugh was unaware of this because Nepal and Tibet were closed to foreigners.
Mount Everest attracts many highly experienced mountaineers as well as capable climbers willing to hire professional guides. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind.
In 1802, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey of India to determine the location and names of the world’s highest mountains. Starting in southern India, the survey teams moved northward using giant theodolites, each weighing 500 kg (1,100 lb) and requiring 12 men to carry, to measure heights as accurately as possible. They reached the Himalayan foothills by the 1830s, but Nepal was unwilling to allow the British to enter the country because of suspicions of political aggression and possible annexation. Several requests by the surveyors to enter Nepal were turned down.
The British were forced to continue their observations from Terai, a region south of Nepal which is parallel to the Himalayas. Conditions in Terai were difficult because of torrential rains and malaria. Three survey officers died from malaria while two others had to retire due to failing health.
Nonetheless, in 1847, the British continued the Great Trigonometric survey and began detailed observations of the Himalayan peaks from observation stations up to 240 km (150 mi) away. Weather restricted work to the last three months of the year. In November 1847, Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India made several observations from the Sawajpore station located in the eastern end of the Himalayas. Kangchenjunga was then considered the highest peak in the world, and with interest he noted a peak beyond it, about 230 km (140 mi) away. John Armstrong, one of Waugh’s officials, also saw the peak from a location farther west and called it peak “b”. Waugh would later write that the observations indicated that peak “b” was higher than Kangchenjunga, but given the great distance of the observations, closer observations were required for verification. The following year, Waugh sent a survey official back to Terai to make closer observations of peak “b”, but clouds thwarted all attempts.
In 1849, Waugh dispatched James Nicolson to the area, who made two observations from Jirol, 190 km (120 mi) away. Nicolson then took the largest theodolite and headed east, obtaining over 30 observations from five different locations, with the closest being 174 km (108 mi) from the peak.
Nicolson retreated to Patna on the Ganges to perform the necessary calculations based on his observations. His raw data gave an average height of 9,200 m (30,200 ft) for peak “b”, but this did not consider light refraction, which distorts heights. However, the number clearly indicated, that peak “b” was higher than Kangchenjunga. Then, Nicolson contracted malaria and was forced to return home without finishing his calculations. Michael Hennessy, one of Waugh’s assistants, had begun designating peaks based on roman numerals, with Kangchenjunga named Peak IX, while peak “b” now became known as Peak XV.
In 1852, stationed at the survey headquarters in Dehradun, Radhanath Sikdar, an Indian mathematician and surveyor from Bengal, was the first to identify Everest as the world’s highest peak, using trigonometric calculations based on Nicolson’s measurements. An official announcement that Peak XV was the highest was delayed for several years as the calculations were repeatedly verified. Waugh began work on Nicolson’s data in 1854, and along with his staff spent almost two years working on the calculations, having to deal with the problems of light refraction, barometric pressure, and temperature over the vast distances of the observations. Finally, in March 1856 he announced his findings in a letter to his deputy in Calcutta. Kangchenjunga was declared to be 28,156 ft (8,582 m), while Peak XV was given the height of 29,002 ft (8,840 m). Waugh concluded that Peak XV was “most probably the highest in the world”. Peak XV (measured in feet) was calculated to be exactly 29,000 ft (8,839.2 m) high, but was publicly declared to be 29,002 ft (8,839.8 m) in order to avoid the impression that an exact height of 29,000 feet (8,839.2 m) was nothing more than a rounded estimate.
While the survey wanted to preserve local names if possible (e.g. Kangchenjunga and Dhaulagiri), Waugh argued that he could not find any commonly used local name. Waugh’s search for a local name was hampered by Nepal and Tibet’s exclusion of foreigners. Many local names existed, including “Deodungha” (“Holy Mountain”) in Darjeeling and the Tibetan “Chomolungma”, which appeared on a 1733 map published in Paris by the French geographer D’Anville. In the late 19th century, many European cartographers further believed (incorrectly) that a native name for the mountain was “Gaurisankar”. (Gauri Sankar is a mountain between Kathmandu and Everest.)
Waugh argued that because there were many local names, it would be difficult to favour one name over all others, so he decided that Peak XV should be named after George Everest, his predecessor as Surveyor General of India. He wrote:
I was taught by my respected chief and predecessor, Colonel Sir George Everest, to assign to every geographical object its true local or native appellation. But here is a mountain, most probably the highest in the world, without any local name that we can discover, whose native appellation, if it has any, will not very likely be ascertained before we are allowed to penetrate into Nepal. In the meantime the privilege as well as the duty devolves on me to assign…a name whereby it may be known among citizens and geographers and become a household word among civilized nations.
George Everest opposed the name suggested by Waugh and told the Royal Geographical Society in 1857 that Everest could not be written in Hindi nor pronounced by “the native of India”. Waugh’s proposed name prevailed despite the objections, and in 1865, the Royal Geographical Society officially adopted Mount Everest as the name for the highest mountain in the world. The modern pronunciation of Everest /ˈɛvərɨst, ˈɛvrɨst/ is different from Sir George’s pronunciation of his surname, which was /ˈiːvrɨst/ (EEV-rist).
The official Tibetan name for Mount Everest is Qomolangma (Tibetan: ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ, Wylie: Jo mo glang ma, ZYPY: Qomolangma, often spelled Chomolungma; literally “Holy Mother”). The official Chinese name is Zhumulangma (simplified Chinese: 珠穆朗玛峰; traditional Chinese: 珠穆朗瑪峰; pinyin: Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng; literally “Qomolangma Peak”) although it is sometimes known as Shengmu Feng (simplified Chinese: 圣母峰; traditional Chinese: 聖母峰; pinyin: Shèngmǔ Fēng; literally “Holy Mother”). In the early 1960s, the Nepalese government coined a Nepali name for Mount Everest, Sagarmāthā (सगरमाथा), allegedly to supplant the Tibetan name among the locals, which the Nepali government felt was “not acceptable”.
In 2002, the Chinese People’s Daily newspaper published an article making a case against the use of “Mount Everest” for the mountain in English, insisting that it should be referred to as “Mount Qomolangma”, based on the local Tibetan name. The article argued that British colonialists did not “first discover” the mountain, as it had been known to the Tibetans and mapped by the Chinese as “Qomolangma” since at least 1719.