Mount Everest (Nepali: Sagarmatha सगरमाथा; Tibetan: Chomolungma ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ; Chinese: Zhumulangma 珠穆朗玛) is Earth's highest mountain above sea level, located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. The China–Nepal border runs across its summit point.
The current official elevation of 8,848 m (29,029 ft), recognised by China and Nepal, was established by a 1955 Indian survey and confirmed by a 1975 Chinese survey.
In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society, as recommended by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India, who chose the name of his predecessor in the post, Sir George Everest, despite Everest's objections.
Mount Everest attracts many climbers, some of them highly experienced mountaineers. There are two main climbing routes, one approaching the summit from the southeast in Nepal (known as the "standard route") and the other from the north in Tibet. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather, and wind, as well as significant hazards from avalanches and the Khumbu Icefall. As of 2019, over 300 people have died on Everest, many of whose bodies remain on the mountain.
The first recorded efforts to reach Everest's summit were made by British mountaineers. As Nepal did not allow foreigners to enter the country at the time, the British made several attempts on the north ridge route from the Tibetan side. After the first reconnaissance expedition by the British in 1921 reached 7,000 m (22,970 ft) on the North Col, the 1922 expedition pushed the north ridge route up to 8,320 m (27,300 ft), marking the first time a human had climbed above 8,000 m (26,247 ft). Seven porters were killed in an avalanche on the descent from the North Col. The 1924 expedition resulted in one of the greatest mysteries on Everest to this day: George Mallory and Andrew Irvine made a final summit attempt on 8 June but never returned, sparking debate as to whether or not they were the first to reach the top. They had been spotted high on the mountain that day but disappeared in the clouds, never to be seen again, until Mallory's body was found in 1999 at 8,155 m (26,755 ft) on the north face. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent of Everest in 1953, using the southeast ridge route. Norgay had reached 8,595 m (28,199 ft) the previous year as a member of the 1952 Swiss expedition. The Chinese mountaineering team of Wang Fuzhou, Gonpo, and Qu Yinhua made the first reported ascent of the peak from the north ridge on 25 May 1960.
In 1802, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey of India to fix the locations, heights, 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 due to 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 because of failing health.
Nonetheless, in 1847, the British continued the survey and began detailed observations of the Himalayan peaks from observation stations up to 240 km (150 mi) distant. 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 at the east 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 subordinates, also saw the peak from a site 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 his 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. 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. 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 numbers, 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 8,582 m (28,156 ft), while Peak XV was given the height of 8,840 m (29,002 ft). 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. Waugh is sometimes playfully credited with being "the first person to put two feet on top of Mount Everest".