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No mountain in the world has a greater attraction on climbers than the highest of them all. Mount Everest is situated on the border of Nepal and China's Tibetan Autonomous Region. For the Nepalese government it's a major source of income, as each climber needs to pay up to US$25,000 to obtain a permit to be able to climb the mountain. Expeditions also hire a lot of local people as carriers or guides to haul the equipment needed for a succesful expedition to the basecamp.
In 1802, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey to map the entire region of India. The survey reached the foothills of the Himalayas in the 1830s, and observations on a peak, simply labelled as peak 'b', began in 1847. It took several years of surveys to determine the height of the peak. In the early 1850s, the surveyor team had redesignated the peak as Peak XV, and it had, by then, been identified by the team as possibly the world's highest. An oficial announcement of this finding was delayed for several years while the calculations were repeatedly verified. Finally, in 1856, the height of Peak XV was publicly declared to be 29,002 ft (8,839.8 metres).
It was a challenge for the survey team to name the mountain. There were many different local names existed –Chomolungma or Qomolangma in Tibet; Deodungha in Darjeeling – and they were unable to find any commonly used local name. Andrew Waugh, the Surveyor-General of India at that time, argued that it would be difficult to favour one specific name over all others. So he decided to name Peak XV after his predecessor, George Everest.
George Everest was against the decision of his successor because his name could not be written in Hindi nor pronounced by "the native of India". Despite the objections, the Royal Geographical Society in 1865 officially adopted Mount Everest as the name for the highest mountain in the world.
In the early 1960s, the Nepal government gave the mountain the official name Sagarmāthā (meaning head of the sky), a name that had not previously been used.
The first successful ascent of Mount Everest was accomplished on 29 May 1953 by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa from Nepal. Both men refused to tell to the world who actually reached the summit first, but Tenzing revealed a few years later that Hillary had put his foot on the summit first.
There are people who believe that the mountain was already climbed in 1924 by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, but both died on the mountain during the expedition. It is however generaly believed that the men did not reach the summit, and the recovery of the body of George Mallory in 1999, seem to support the theory that both men did not climb all the way to the summit.
Some other succesful first climbs were by Junko Tabei from Japan (the first woman on the top) in 1975, the first climb without the use of oxygen by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler in 1978 (a story recorded in the book "Everest" by Reinhold Messner himself), and in 1980 Reinhold Messner was the first solo-climber to ascent the summit without the help of a huge expedition.
In April 2010, both China and Nepal agreed on the official height of Mount Everest. Both countries, which shared the mountain, now recognised Mount Everest as being 8,848 metres tall. This official height included the snow cap. Nepal also recognised the rock height as 8,844 metres, a claim made by China.
Mount Everest is part of the Mahalangur Himal, the subrange of the Himalaya mountain range, which spans along the border between Nepal and Tibet.
The height of Mount Everest is officially recognised by China and Nepal as 8,848 metres including the snow cap. Both countries also recognised the rock height as 8,844 metres. However, geologists say that both estimated could be wrong as the shifting continental plates gradually pushed the mountain higher.
In the vicinity of Mount Everest is Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain, at 8,516 metres.
As a normal traveler, with the wish to see the Mount Everest, you can book hikes with a couple of companies in Kathmandu in Nepal. There are a number of organised tours from 11 to 19 days, that take you from Jiri to Everest Base camp and back again. Be aware that this include hiking days with around 7 to 8 hours of walking every day, so you have to be reasonably fit to be able to complete the trek successfully.
If you only want to catch a glimpse of Mount Everest and the Himalayas, you can book flights from Kathmandu, that make a roundtrip of about 2 hours to the Everest region and back to Kathmandu.
On the Tibetan side of the mountain it is easier to get to the basecamp. You can head to Rongbuk Monastery and from there it is only a 12 km hike to the basecamp on that side of the mountain.
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