Nepal measures the height of Everest again, challenging the number of 170 years

Nepalese scientists are trying to re-measure the summit of Mount Everest, challenging the 8,848 m figure recorded by Indian observers since 1850.

When Khim Lau Gautam climbed to the top of Mount Everest at 3 a.m. on May 22, everything looked dark, gloomy, with bone-chilling winds.

Gautam was carrying unusual luggage – an all-terrain radar and extremely modern satellite navigation equipment. Unlike normal climbers, he and his team stayed at the top of the mountain for nearly two hours so they could carry out measurements and observations.

Gautam suffered a severe frostbite, and his colleague nearly died from lack of oxygen during the descent.

However, they have accomplished a great task: identifying important data to support the determination of the true height of Mount Everest.

The approximate and widely accepted figure for the height of Mount Everest is 8,848m, but this is data measured in the 1950s. Some scientists believe that the world’s tallest peak may have been collected. after a major earthquake rocked Nepal in 2015.

Up to now, for the first time, Nepal has sent its experts equipped with the most advanced technologies to conduct parameter measurements of the mountain peak. According to experts, within 2 years, 1.3 million USD has been spent on this work.

Geologist Roger Bilham, of the University of Colorado, thinks that the southern edge of Mount Everest “belongs to Nepalese territory, but over the past 170 years, (only) foreign scientists have attempted to measure the site’s elevation. This”.

According to him, the current “inland” project has the opportunity to measure ” the most accurate altitude ever” .

Nepal measures the height of Everest again, challenging the number of 170 years
Nepal is re-measuring the height of Mount Everest with the most modern equipment. (Photo: AFP).

Around the beginning of next year, achievement may come, from a modest office located on the ground floor of a government building in Kathmandu. Susheel Dangol, manager of the Geological Survey Center, has just installed a digital security system for his agency to protect data about Mount Everest.

He smiled brightly and shared : “Everyone is curious about this project” . During the interview with reporters, his phone rang with a call from a senior official at the Ministry of Land to inquire about the progress of the work. Dangol has prepared “instant” answers for those who ask about the final measurement: “At the moment, I cannot answer”.

Dangol, 38, manages a team of 80 people who have had to climb mountains, drive cars and even fly helicopters across Nepal to collect the data needed for up-to-date measurement data.

Along the way, they faced a real challenge: shipping a 0,000 Canadian gravimeter, which can measure gravity at any point — along rivers. winding roads in the Himalayas at 300 different locations.

The question of the height of Mount Everest is closely related to modern history. This peak in Nepal is known as Sagarmatha and in Tibet it is called Chomolungma .

The search for an English name for the mountain peak began when it was declared the world’s highest peak by observers in India in 1850. (The summit was named by George Everest, the survey leader. in India, but actually he wasn’t too excited about naming the peak after himself).

Dangol’s team handled their mission by two main methods. The first is the classic way of measuring the height of Mount Everest using trigonometry. These calculations create both basic measurements of the height of Mount Everest, and are similar to those made in the 1950s by Indian researchers, using the same standards. determined.

Researcher Christopher Pearson from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and a consultant to the Nepal government, thinks that technique will become redundant. The breakthrough in the research effort will focus on the latter method, which relies heavily on a combination of observations of satellite navigation data and a complex model of sea level.

Gautam is an expert with 15 years of experience working for the survey center. The 35-year-old has climbed Everest once before in 2011. This time, his team of four had to carry nearly 40 kilograms of equipment needed for the climb. They planned their journey to the top of the mountain in the middle of the night to make sure the study wasn’t interrupted by other climbers.

While climbing groups often limit their time at the roof of the world while descending through the “Death zone,” Gautam says he and his team “didn’t have that honor.”

They had to stay at the top of the mountain for an hour and 45 minutes, monitoring instruments with global positioning systems and cross-terrain radar that could tell the difference between the actual rock top and the snow cover.

Wearing bulky gloves against the extreme cold, Gautam and his team struggled even to turn the tiny buttons on their devices. So the team decided to remove the specialized gloves and work with fleece gloves instead. As a result, in the weeks that followed, Gautam had almost lost feeling in his fingers.

The extreme cold has also taken a toll on his feet: he lost the tip of his left toe to frostbite and now can only wear light sandals, unable to wear shoes.

During the descent, all of the expedition’s food and water were gone, and at this point Gautam’s comrade had almost lost all oxygen. Fortunately, the leader was able to borrow a reserve water bottle from a Sherpa aboriginal walking in the mountains and save the life of his comrade.

“Even though the data they bring back has almost no physical weight, their value and preciousness carry a tremendous weight,” says Gautam.

Although the satellite data from the Everest expedition cannot be exhaustive, they do provide data on ” ellipsoid elevation” – the height of the mountain’s peak above the hypothetical spherical surface of the Earth. This is not the exact height of the peak above sea level.

Nepal measures the height of Everest again, challenging the number of 170 years
Nepalese geological surveyor Khim Lal Gautam (right) at the summit of Mount Everest early on May 22. To his left is a satellite instrument to measure the roof of the world. (Photo: Washington Post).

Determining the exact position above sea level of Mount Everest became a key question. Dangol said creating a sea level model that required a gravimeter to 297 locations across Nepal was a job that “required us to be extremely careful and move slowly”.

At each measurement point, the instrument must be calibrated prior to parameter processing in 2 sessions, each lasting 3 minutes.

According to Dangol, the collected data will be completed in the next month. Next is the processing process: 6 people working in a room equipped with high-speed computers and specialized software, for 3 to 4 months, checking and re-checking the parameters.

Dangol also shared that “This will be a closed process” , even he cannot know the outcome.

Survey expert Pearson from New Zealand assessed that Nepal’s efforts : “It was really extraordinary, amazing, everything seemed to go smoothly and they had all the information needed to measure it. measure the height of the mountain”.

Dangol is looking forward to next year, when Nepal publishes their study of the true heights of Mount Everest – both rocky and snowy – accurate to the centimeter.

Dangol confidently said: “This will be a memorable thesis defense.”

Even the loss of his toe did not diminish Gautam’s pride in his work. “We are very happy to have completed this difficult task, I am always ready to contribute to my country,” he said.