Mount Everest is Earth’s highest mountain located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. Its most common Tibetan name, Chomolungma, means “Goddess Mother of the World” or “Goddess of the Valley.” The Sanskrit name Sagarmatha means literally “Ocean Mother.”
Its identity as the highest point on the Earth’s surface was not recognized, however, until 1852, when the governmental Survey of India established that fact. The current official height of 8,848 m (29,029 ft) as recognized by Nepal and China was established by a 1955 Indian survey and subsequently confirmed by a Chinese survey in 1975.
In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Tragedy Society upon a recommendation by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India. struck on the descent from the North col when seven porters were killed in an avalanche.
The 1924 expedition resulted in the greatest mystery on Everest to this day: George Mallory and Andrew Irvine made a final summit attempt on June 8 but never returned, sparking debate as to whether 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.
Mount Everest has two main climbing routes, the southeast ridge from Nepal and the north ridge from Tibet. Today, the southeast ridge route, which is technically easier, is more frequently used.
In 1952, members of a Swiss expedition led by Edouard Wyss-Dunant were able to reach a height of about 28,199 feet (8,595 meters) on the southeast ridge, setting a new climbing altitude record. Everest is composed of multiple layers of rock folded back on them (nappes).
Rock on the lower elevations of the mountain consists of metamorphic schists and gneisses, topped by igneous granites. Higher up are found sedimentary rocks of marine origin (remnants of the ancient floor of the Tethys Sea that closed after the collision of the two plates).
Notable is the Yellow Band, a limestone formation that is prominently visible just below the summit pyramid. Everest is shaped like a three-sided pyramid. The three generally flat planes constituting the sides are called faces, and the line by which two faces join is known as a ridge.
The North Face rises above Tibet and is bounded by the North Ridge (which meets the Northeast Ridge) and the West Ridge; key features of this side of the mountain include the Great and Hornbein couloirs (steep gullies) and the North Col at the start of the North Ridge.
The average temperature of Everest is always hostile to living things. The warmest average daytime temperature (in July) is only about −2 °F (−19 °C) on the summit; in January, the coldest month, summit temperatures average −33 °F (−36 °C) and can drop as low as −76 °F (−60 °C).
Storms can come up suddenly, and temperatures can plummet unexpectedly. On May 8, 2008, the Olympic Torch for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was taken to the peak and lit there by a group of Chinese mountaineers, the first time for the Olympic torch to be lit on the top of the world.