Nepal initially turned down an offer from China too, but eventually agreed to make it a joint project. Earlier this year, when mountaineering season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, China sent a survey team with global satellite receivers to Mount Everest summit to measure its north face.
Nepal had measured the south side the year before. Nepalese climbers had to work with Indian survey data when it came to the exact sea level as the country is landlocked. From there, they climbed the snow-capped ridges of Everest in May 2019 using the global navigation satellite receiver and an antenna. They stood at the highest point in the world for almost two hours to collect satellite data.
According to Khim Lal Gautam, the surveyor who led the Nepalese survey expedition team, this was the first time a surveyor had collected satellite data. Before, he said, sherpas or mountain guides had done it.
“We made it possible,” said Mr Gautam.
Although it looks unchangeable, even Mount Everest shifts with time and tectonics. After a devastating earthquake in 2015, it was widely speculated that several Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest, had shrunk. The new double measurements suggest the opposite.
Scientists say Everest is getting bigger. As the Indian plate slides under the Eurasian plate, it lifts the Himalayas. However, earthquakes can reduce the height of the peaks.
Even without these variables, people fixed Mount Everest at different heights. In the 19th century, when Nepal was under British rule, Sir George Everest, the former surveyor general of the British-India Survey Office, and his team measured the summit at 8,840.07 meters, or 29,002.85 feet. Since then, India, China, the United States, Italy and Denmark have made their own measurements.
Nepal rejected them all – and also avoided the colonial mountain’s name for a long time. During the joint briefing on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi referred to the mountain as “Qomolangma”, its Tibetan name. The Nepalese Foreign Minister Gyawali called it “Sagarmatha”, his Nepalese name.
Bhadra Sharma reported from Kathmandu and Emily Schmall from New Delhi.