With the joint declaration today by China and Nepal, Everest’s new official elevation is now set at 8848.86 Meters (29,031 feet, 8.315 inches to be rather exact).
With the top of the world first measured at 29,000 in the 1850’s, it was then publicized as 29,002 feet high. The 2 feet were reportedly added, as the exact 29,000 was thought to be too perfect to be believed. The defined height of Everest has been controversial and has continued to go up and down ever since.
There was also a point in 1987, when an American expedition measured K2, the world’s second tallest peak, and found that by their calculations, as reported in the Washington Post, K2 could perhaps be a bit taller than Everest. That would have caused a great conundrum in the climbing world, and rumors circulated for a few years that Everest might actually be #2.
While being a few meters taller or shorter is of little consequence to climbers, with the top of Everest defining the border between Nepal and China, having bragging rights over defining the exact height has recently increased in importance. Mountain ranges involving borders have long created geopolitical challenges, and certainly no more so than in the Himalaya.
China then set off to make it own final calculation this spring, being the only team to climb the mountain in 2020, with the prevailing Covid conditions.
Despite GPS mapping and google earth, the only way to get a true and highly accurate measurement is still to put people on top, with some highly sensitive instruments to verify the exact height and location – in a way that at least keeps it real and maintains the challenge. The Chinese this spring made a number of attempts before they finally reached the top – reassuring that the mountain still holds the final cards.
With a bit of luck, we are all hoping the season opens up and we can go back up and climb every inch of our way to the newly defined top of the world.