Its summit is the highest point on Earth, 5 ½ miles above sea level. For thousands of years, the mountain has been a sacred place for those who live in its shadow. The rest of the world, however, wasn’t really aware of the mountain until about 180 years ago. Ever since that time, this peak has fascinated climbers, scientists, and adventurers. Many have tried to climb it. Some have succeeded, but many more have failed. Some have died trying.
Mount Everest is a place of great beauty, adventure, and danger. If you ever want to climb it, here are a few things to think about.
Since the first British adventurers came to Nepal, a group of native people known as Sherpas has worked with climbers as guides and partners. They are famous for their strength, climbing skill, and honesty. Sherpas are born and raised in the mountains, so they are accustomed to the altitude and can work well high on the mountain.
Home Away from Home
Mount Everest’s cold, high winds, and heavy snowfall make the climb possible only during a few weeks in the late spring and summer. During those times, as many as several hundred climbers, guides, doctors, Sherpas, cooks, and others live in base camp, a tent city at the foot of the mountain. Waiting here for your chance to climb the mountain helps your body to acclimate, or get used to the lack of oxygen in the air.
Up and Down
At 29,000 feet, there is only one third as much oxygen as at sea level. In fact, if someone at sea level were suddenly transported to the top of Everest, he or she would die in a few minutes from the lack of oxygen. To prepare for the extremely thin air, you must make several round trips from base camp to higher and higher points on the mountain, sometimes spending the night before starting back down. Staying for increased periods of time high on the mountain helps keep you from getting altitude sickness on summit day.
When you stand on top of Mount Everest, you are the highest thing on Earth. For most people, reaching this point is the reward of years of hard work and planning. You can’t stay long, though. Your body needs oxygen, which means getting back to a lower altitude quickly. Because you’re so exhausted, the descent is one of the most dangerous parts of the climb, so you’ll have to be very careful on the way down.
Excerpted from: Jenkins, S. (2002). The top of the world: Climbing Mount Everest. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Top Maturity Words: sherpas, increased, accustomed, adventurers, native, succeeded, descent, transported