Located at 27°59’ North latitude and 86°55’ East longitude, Everest technically belongs to Nepal, a small nation bordered by India and China. But its edges also protrude into Tibet, so both lands lay claim to parts of the mountain range. Everest also abuts India, Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China.
Called Sagarmantha by the people of Nepal and Chomolungma by Tibetans, it’s a wonder this challenging mountain doesn’t suffer from identity confusion. Especially since it’s known worldwide as the peak named for Brit Sir George Everest, an emissary based in the region during England’s Asian colonization period.
Ruling authorities weave a complex tapestry
Proximity to China and India, at a time when regional religions competed for control, made the Mt. Everest region a hotbed of change. By 1700, this territory was home to 100 states and kingdoms that included 24 independent principalities divided between Nepal, Tibet and China.
From absolute rule by the Qing Empire to Mongol control, India became a principle influence once the British colonized the region in the 1800s. China’s occupation of Tibet tipped the scales as did “the British Raj” claiming jurisdiction over Himalayan lands. In 1975, “India annexed the Himalayan territory of Sikkim,” making it the nation’s 22nd state.
Control over the land has become so controversial, “notions of territory in the Himalayas meant that both Chinese and Indian states exercised direct sovereignty only up to the foothills of the Himalayas,” according to The Diplomat.com. Mt. Everest, therefore, belongs to no country!
A geologic masterpiece
Imagine a wedding cake and you’ll have a better understanding of the relationship between the Himalayan range and Mt. Everest. The tallest mountain on the planet sits atop the Himalayas at 29,035-feet. It is oriented on a northwest to southeast slant and, depending upon where you take the measurement, Mt. Everest’s width can stretch between 140- and 200-miles.
At a total land mass of around 1,400 miles, this peak may look as though it’s been around forever, but in fact, Mt. Everest is rather youthful as mountain ranges go. Geologists estimate the Himalayas and Mt. Everest are more than 65 million years old.
How the Himalayan range gave birth to Mt. Everest
The creation of Mount Everest was quite dramatic. When two of the world’s tectonic plates collided, the earth’s core erupted, applying so much pressure to both the Eurasian and the Indo-Australia plates, core material oozed through the breach and shaped the Himalayan range.
Volatile materials bubbling up from the earth’s core gave way to the expression of lighter rock as things began to cool down. This combination of circumstances caused limestone and sandstone deposits to push their way to the surface. Mt. Everest was the result of this new distribution of materials.
Because the peak itself pushed through the Tethys Sea before hardening, trekkers at all elevations still encounter 400-million-year-old shells and sea creature fossils as far north as 25,000-feet above sea level. Scientists have concluded that the most dominant type of rock on the mountain is marine limestone, explicitly because core materials were formed on an ocean bottom.
Ecological facts about Mt. Everest
Due to its unique geographic location at the crossroads of Asia, Mt. Everest is subject to a wide variety of weather patterns and ecological disturbances. And because weather patterns are shifting due to global warming—as well as Everest’s continual growth of about a quarter of an inch annually–you’ll find dramatic changes at all elevations on the way to the 29,035-foot summit.
Though it’s fairly common knowledge that the legendary summit is covered with snow year-round, not everyone knows that the Jet Stream “sits on top of Everest” most of the year, too. Winds of over 200 mph can dwarf hurricane-force winds and temperatures can drop to a numbing minus 80-degrees F. That stated, on the western face and at lower elevations, 100-degree F temperatures are also reported from time-to-time.
About regional faith and mysticism
Like so many of the Asian nations surrounding Mt. Everest, you will find a plethora of ancient tales of gods, goddesses and miraculous happenings. The peak is so sacred, Tibetan Sherpas accompanying climbing parties will not stand at the top. They believe that Miyolangsangma, the Tibetan Goddess of Mountains, lives there, thus setting foot on her home turf is considered disrespectful.
On the other hand, modern-day Buddhism is alive and well at the legendary Rongbuk Monastery, located north of Base Camp 1 on the Tibet side. Trekkers often stop at this 5,000-meter-high monastery to soak in the area’s culture and learn more from the monks and nuns residing in this ancient temple of worship. One can rent digs within the monastery or sleep beneath tents featuring all of the amenities of home, including beds, desks and heating that make nighttime temperature extremes tolerable.
By the numbers
-Although most travel publications say there are only two routes to ascend the mountain, there are actually 18.
-Expect to spend around 40 days getting to the top via any route.
-On average, climbers drop between 10 and 20 pounds on a typical expedition to the summit.
-Every breath you take near the summit contains 66-percent less oxygen than it would at sea level.
-You can be 16-years-old to climb from Nepal; begin in Tibet and you must be 18-years-old.
-The youngest person to reach the summit thus far was just 13; the eldest was 80.
-There are an estimated 33,000 feet of fixed rope situated along the southern climb route.
-Climbers burns 10,000+ calories daily enroute to the top. That number reaches 20,000+ near the summit.