Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth-its peak is almost 30,000 feet above sea level, or almost as high as commercial airplanes fly. The mountain is part of the Himalayas mountain range, and located on the border between Nepal and China.
The mountain is known by various names by the local people who live around it. The name 'Everest' was coined in 1865 by Andrew Waugh, who was the British Surveyor General of India-as India was a British colony at the time. Andrew chose 'Everest' as it was the last name of the man who held his position before him, Sir George Everest.
Everest has been difficult to climb for several reasons, aside from the actual distance there is to climb. The first is weather-the mountain is inaccessible for half of the year because of heavy snow and wind. The second is altitude. The mountain is so high that the air at the top is much thinner than the air at the bottom. This means that people climb higher up than 8,000 feet can get altitude sickness. Symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, nausea, dizziness, sweating, nosebleeds, fatigue, and insomnia. This is because the air is so thin that the heart does not have enough oxygen to fuel the muscles. These symptoms might not be bad with a hospital nearby, but on the top of an icy mountain, they can lead a climber to make a fatal mistake. More serious cases of altitude sickness can even result in death.
The reason for climbing Everest was prestige, especially national prestige. The British wanted to show that they were masters of the world by climbing its tallest mountain. The first recorded attempt to climb Everest was by British mountaineers in 1921, though they climbed to only 22,000 feet. A controversial attempt took place in 1924. George Mallory and Andrew Irvine set out to scale the mountain and disappeared. Only Mallory's body was discovered... in 1999. It is possible that Mallory and Irvine were the first to reach the peak of Everest, but as they did not survive to tell the tale, it remains a mystery.
The first successful expedition to the peak was by a team of several people led by British army officer John Hunt. Hunt chose two groups of two to make the climb. The first group, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, both British, got within 300 feet of the peak but were forced to turn back. The second group, made up of Edmund Hillary, from New Zealand, and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa climber from Nepal, climbed up next. Bourdillon and Evans had planted supplies and found a route up the mountain, and these supplies helped Hillary and Norgay on their trip up. They climbed the peak in 1953. They took photos, buried some items in the snow to prove they were there, and made the trip down.
Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the Queen for their actions. Hillary and Norgay, the two climbers, have been honored all over the world ever since.
Since then, many other groups of climbers have faced disasters while climbing. A Japanese group in 1970 sent up over 100 people, but failed to reach the top and suffered 8 deaths. In 1996, nineteen people died trying to climb Everest. However, since the 1990s, climbing Everest has gotten much safer. More than 4,000 people have reached the top since 1953. These climbs have increased the problems of pollution. It is reported that 26,000 pounds of human excrement is left behind on the mountain each year.
Apa Sherpa, and Phurba Tashi, both Nepalese, are tied for the record of most times climbed Everest-with 21 ascents to the top.
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