Mount Everest is renowned all over the globe for being the tallest mountain there is! Many people dream of one day seeing this gigantic elevation in person, and perhaps even climbing its formidable slopes and summiting its awe-inspiring peak.
International Everest Day is a chance to celebrate this amazing natural wonder and the intrepid adventurers who have braved the climb.
History of International Everest Day
Located at the border between Nepal and China in the Himalayas, Everest is a mountain that has accumulated many names over the years. Its Nepali name, Sagarmāthā, translates as ‘the Head in the Great Blue Sky’, the Tibetan word Qomolangma means ‘Holy Mother’, while the English name comes from the British Surveyor General of India, Sir George Everest.
Attempts to climb Mount Everest began in the 1920s, with various expeditions led by the British. While several climbers made it close to the summit, it wasn’t until 1953 during the ninth expedition that this ultimate feat was finally accomplished by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.
The adventurous pair, Norgay a Nepali-Indian Sherpa and Hillary a New Zealander, summitted Everest at 11:30am on 29 May, becoming the first people to ever set foot on this world-famous mountaintop. While there is a possibility that two other climbers, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, reached the peak back in 1924, the duo disappeared after they departed for the final leg of their journey and it is unknown if they managed to achieve their mission, with Mallory’s body discovered in 1999. Norgay and Hillary are therefore the first mountaineers to officially summit Mount Everest.
Since 1953, thousands of others have gone on to climb the mountain, with more and more visitors each year, some as young as 13 and others up to the impressive age of 80! And Everest isn’t just a mountaineering site but also a hot spot for winter sports, used for skiing, snowboarding, paragliding and even BASE jumping.
When Hillary passed away in 2008, Nepal founded International Everest Day in his honor and chose the date of Hillary and Norgay’s summit as the day to mark the occasion. While various events and memorials are observed in the region, this day has gone on to be celebrated all over the world.
And of course it’s not just in honor of the climbers, but also the magnificent mountain itself. Everest is particularly special in Nepalese and Sherpa culture, held to be a sacred spot. Sherpas treat Chomolungma (meaning ‘Mother of the World’) with the greatest of respects and make offerings to the mountain as part of a puja ceremony before attempting climbs. They have also been instrumental in environmental protection efforts, cleaning up waste that litters the mountainside to ensure its beauty is preserved for the future.
At a height of almost 8,850 meters (over 29,000 foot), Everest is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from sea level. And those intrepid explorers hoping to scale its summit have a myriad of challenges awaiting them…
Given its altitude, one of the main barriers to overcome is the low oxygen levels, with air pressure at the peak a third of what it is at sea level. Climbers need time to adjust and usually carry supplemental oxygen above 8,000 meters, else they risk altitude sickness and even death. In recent years the popularity of Everest has posed an added threat, with large queues near the summit meaning that climbers have to deal with the lack of oxygen for increasingly longer periods.
Another difficulty is the icy weather, which can lead to frostbite if mountaineers expose their bodies to the cold for too long. Other dangers include the treacherous conditions on the mountain, particularly the crevasses and ravines in the Khumbu Icefall, and the ever-present risk of strong winds, blizzards and avalanches.
Sadly, more than 300 climbers have lost their lives on the mountain. Eight people died in 1996 after getting caught out in a blizzard, and 2014 and 2015 saw back-to-back tragedies resulting from avalanches.
In order to mitigate the toughness of the challenge, people tend to climb during a very short period of just over a week between the summer and winter – this allows them to avoid the harsh winter weather while also steering clear of the monsoon season. Increasingly climbers are using experienced guides to help them on their journey, although it can be a pricey business, with some services costing up to $200,000!
How to celebrate Mount Everest Day
If you’re lucky enough to live near a mountain (or a big hill!), then you could conquer your own local “Everest” to celebrate the occasion. Make sure the climb is suited to your abilities and fitness level (you can usually find this information online or at the welcome center), wear appropriate gear and don’t forget to bring a drink and some snacks to help power you upwards. Reaching the top and enjoying the view are both incredibly satisfying experiences.
If you’re serious about climbing Everest itself, then perhaps now is the time to start your adventure! It’s best (and certainly safest) to be an experienced mountaineer when scaling the world’s tallest summit, so start slow and take your time building up to this pinnacle achievement. But if you’re already very familiar with this outdoor activity, then you could always start planning your trip to Everest now!
Given the majesty and mystery that surrounds the mountain, it’s no wonder that it features in a whole host of documentaries, TV series and films, so why not check some of these out to mark the day? Everest: Death Zone depicts the heroic attempt of a group of Sherpas to clean up debris in the death zone (the area above 8,000 meters where conditions are especially tough), while the movie Everest details the events of the 1996 disaster in which eight people unfortunately lost their lives due to a blizzard. Sherpa follows the Nepalese mountaineer Phurba Tashi and the 2014 avalanche that sadly killed 16 Sherpas, while Ultimate Survival: Everest is a six-part series focusing on various climbers’ attempts to scale the mountain.
Whichever way you celebrate, be sure to spread the word to your friends, family, colleagues and social media following so that you can all mark this mountainous day together!