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Mount Everest

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It is nearly impossible to write a paper on a mountain such as this one and not include some information on the men who have attempted and succeeded to summit the highest of the 8000 meter peaks. After reading this report you will know how the mountain became to be known as Mount Everest, the people that inhabit the area, and some of the men who gave their lives in order to conquer what had never been beaten before.

The Himalaya are located on the border of India and Asia. The Himalaya, the highest mountain range in the world, are the result of tectonic action---the inconceivably powerful geological force that moves the continental landmasses against each other. The landmass of India is forced against the landmass of Asia, and the Himalayan ranges are pushed up in between. The process continues inexorably to this day, continually lifting the entire Himalayan range by several millimeters each year.

The story begins in 1802 with the beginning of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India. The survey was government department within British India's bureaucratic Leviathan. This was an exploration led by a British man named William Lambton, in an effort to map the continent of India. No scientific undertaking on such a massive scale had previously been attempted. In order to get exact measurements, Lambton used a method known as Triangulation. This means Ð''triangle-ing', or conceiving three mutually visible reference points, usually on prominent hills or landforms, as the corners of a triangle. Knowing the exact distance between two of these points, and then measuring at each point the angles made by their connecting sight-line with those to the third point, the distance and position of the third point can be established by trigonometry. Then one of the newly determined sides of this triangle becomes the base of a second triangle embracing a new reference whose position is determined in the same way. Another triangle is thus completed and one of its sides becomes the base for a third triangle, and so on. A web, or chain of triangles results; and Lambton's job was to extend this web of triangulation over all of India. William Lambton died in 1823 having never reached his goal, or the great Himalayas, and was followed by a man named George Everest.

Everest himself had never been to the mountain either. When he retired in 1843, the Arc, or "Great Arc" was the name of the route created during the survey process, was completed to it's grand Himalayan finale, all the way to Dehra Dun in the foothills north of Delhi. Arms of triangulation were being extended east and west along the Himalayan glacis. When Andrew Scott Waugh, Everest's successor, took over, he began the dulling task of charting the Himalayan range.

(Left: George Everest Right: The tribunal that settled the heights of the Himalayas: (left to right) T.G. Montgomerie, A.S. Waugh, J.T. Walker, and H.E.L. Thuillier)

At this point in time a mountain named Nanda Devi, 25,645 feet/7817 m, located in the western side of the Himalaya, was believed to be the highest mountain in the world. It would remain that way for 30 years because expeditions into the central Himalayas from Tibet and Nepal remained impossible due to the fact that their borders were closed to outsiders. In 1847, Waugh, while observing from a point near Darjeeling in the eastern Himalayas, calculated a new height for the great massif of Kangchenjunga. At 28,208 feet (8590 m) it far exceeded any peak yet measured, and Waugh duly recognized it as the world's highest mountain (in actuality, it is in fact the third highest mountain, but the modern accepted value for its height is 28,208 feet/8598 m).

Waugh did not publish his findings because from the same vantage point he could see a much more distant cluster of peaks, on the Nepal-Tibet border that might be higher still. Later in 1847, and again in 1849, the same group of peaks was sighted and angles were taken. Soon Waugh realized that their highest point was indeed higher than Kangchenjunga. Again Waugh did not publish any findings. He decided to redesignate all the main peaks with Roman numerals and have his chief "computer" go over all the calculations once more. Soon the group realized that "Peak XV", as it was renamed, was larger than any other peak known.

In 1856 Waugh went public with his findings. In a letter to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Waugh stated that at 29,002 feet (8840 m) "Peak XV" in the Nepalese Himalayas was "probably" the world's highest mountain. Also, in honor of his predecessor whose Great Arc had made the measurement possible, declared that this peak be henceforth known as "Mont Everest". Later the "Mont" became "Mount" and the height has since been revised several times. The latest value calculated with the Global Positioning System in 1999, is 29,035 feet/8850 m. Despite objections from some, the name Everest has stuck ever since.

The people that reside in the area around Mount Everest are know as Sherpas (sher means "east" and pa means "people" in the Tibetan language). They are essentially Tibetans in every way except politically. Prior to the arrival of outsiders in the early 1900s, they live a nomadic life. Sherpas would often travel hundreds of miles to other villages in order to pick up necessities for survival or trade among the people. Their religion is Buddhist and they follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

The environment that they live in is classified as artic or high-altitude climates. This means that 7 to 11 months of the year it is below freezing temperatures. It also is among the driest climates you can find. Even though snowfall here is abundant, the cold temperatures allow for little evaporation. During the monsoon months ( May, June, and July), the mountain shield the people from the high winds. The rain may reach the people but usually in the form of snow.

Since the arrival of outsiders (mostly climbers) some Sherpas have taken to guiding as way to support their families. Foreigners are will to pay good money for the services of a Sherpa who knows the mountains well. After all, climbers want to reach the top, so, why not have a guide that knows the best route or

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