In December of 2020, China and Nepal made a joint announcement about a new measurement for Mount Everest: 8,849 meters. This is just the latest of several different surveys of Everest since the first measurement was taken in 1855. The reasons why the height has fluctuated have to do with surveying methodology, challenges in determining sea level, and the people who have historically been able to measure Everest.
While Everest is the peak’s English name, the Nepalese have long called it Sagarmatha, and Tibetans call it Chomolungma – “Mother Goddess of the World.”
During the 1960s and 70s Nepal was known as the recreational and spiritual jewel of the world, a destination that was on everyone’s ‘bucket list’. In large part, that allure was due to the achievements and the promotional effort of Edmund Hillary. The so-called hippies matured into the generation that fought to protect the environment, promoted recycling, and planetary sustainability. They were inspired by Nepal, but Hillary was the catalyst.
Hillary’s son Peter Hillary, a world-class adventurer and humanitarian in his own right, wrote of the liberating effect of his father’s achievement on Mt Everest: ‘While Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay just wanted to climb the mountain because no one had reached the summit, it never occurred to them that this daring climb into the physical and physiological unknown expanded the realm of possibility for every one of us down near sea level the fact that we too could climb the world’s highest mountain if we wanted to … we are all liberated by the successes of others, because their successes show that it can be done.’
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