YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
Think of the tallest hill you’ve ever climbed at your local park or maybe on a hiking or camping trip.
Being at the top felt pretty cool, right?
Can you imagine what it would be like to be at the top of a hill that took days to climb?
Today, we’re looking at the highest mountain on the planet.
That’s right! We’re talking about Mount Everest!
Mount Everest sits on the border of China and Nepal as part of the Mahalangur Himal region of the Himalayan mountain range.
The area is no stranger to huge mountains either!
Mount Everest is near three of the six highest peaks in the world.
Lhotse tops out at 8,516 meters (27,939 feet), Makalu is 8,463 meters (27,765 feet), and Cho Oyu is 8,201 meters (26,906 feet).
But Mount Everest is the king of the hills, with a peak of 8,848.9 meters (29,029 feet) above sea level.
That’s a crazy number to even think about!
To put it another way, a Boeing 777 jumbo jet is 76.7 meters (251.75 feet) long. You’d have to put just over 115 planes end to end to equal the height of Mount Everest!
Even animals don’t brave those heights often!
Snow leopards, Himalayan tahrs, and Himalayan yaks all call the mountain home, but rarely climb above 6,000 meters (19,685 feet.)
At the top of the mountain, oxygen concentrations are roughly 25% to 35% of what we experience at or around sea level.
This can make it very hard to keep your body’s oxygen levels stable. Even walking around way up there requires a significant physical effort.
The mountain is also prone to very harsh winds and sub-zero temperatures. Ice and snow cover the upper regions all year long.
Most living things could not survive a night at the top of Mount Everest.
But this harsh climate has also helped the mountain maintain its height.
Typically, glaciers and melting snow thaw and move down the mountain, slowly eroding the surface and carrying more of the mountain downhill.
But since Mount Everest rarely thaws, this never happens!
In fact, the mountain keeps getting taller!
Due to plate tectonics, the mountain continues to grow at a rate of around 40cm per century — an astonishing feat for a giant pile of rock, ice, and snow!
Despite being the highest peak on the planet, scientists believe that the Himalayas and Mount Everest are relatively young, forming around 65-million years ago.
The top of Mount Everest is made primarily of marine limestone and sandstone. However, as you head down the mountain, you’ll also find layers of marble, shale, pelite, granite, and gneiss.
Everest continues to draw visitors every year to brave its frigid peaks.
But it’s also a prime example of how nature can be both awe-inspiring and incredibly dangerous.
If you’re looking to explore Everest, we recommend starting with books or videos before venturing out!
Much of the rock which formed Mount Everest was once submerged under the Tethys Sea. This means that you can find the fossils of sea creatures from millions of years ago scattered throughout the upper reaches of the mountain.
The youngest person to climb Mount Everest — Jordan Romero, from the United States — was only 13 years old when he reached the summit!
Helicopters don’t work at the top of Mount Everest! Because the air is so thin, the spinning blades won’t lift the helicopter off the ground. While most commercial airplanes can fly over the mountain, they typically avoid the route due to increased turbulence risks.
While Mount Everest is the highest peak on Earth, it’s technically not the tallest mountain. That honour goes to Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. It’s also the world’s tallest volcano! Now dormant, Mauna Kea is 10,210 meters (33,500 feet) tall. However, nearly 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) of the volcano is underwater.
Explore the unique conditions that helped make Mount Everest so big, and what the future of the mountain looks like in this TED-Ed animation.
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