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Roughly 3,000 people have attempted to climb the dangerous and challenging Mount Everest.
(David Paterson / Wild Country / Corbis)

How Tall Is Mount Everest?

It’s not easy measuring the world’s tallest mountain

By Laura Leigh Davidson | March 14 , 2012
<p>Nepal and China disagree about the actual height of Mount Everest. <br />(Jim McMahon)</p>

Nepal and China disagree about the actual height of Mount Everest.
(Jim McMahon)

Almost every school kid knows that the tallest mountain in the world is Mount Everest. But how tall is it? The answer might be different depending on where you go to school. Students in Nepal have one answer, and students in China have a different one.

The mountain sits on the border between those two countries. Both have measured the mountain, and each came up with a slightly different height.

Nepal says Mount Everest is 29,028 feet high, based on a survey done in 1954. But China measured the mountain in 2005 and came up with 29,017 feet—11 feet shorter—mainly because Chinese surveyors say the snowcap on the very top of the mountain should not be counted in the overall height.

Still other geographic organizations have Everest measurements that vary from those reported by Nepal and China. Using global-positioning technology, the United States conducted a study in 1999 that says Everest peaks at 29,035 feet. The U.S. National Geographic Society uses this number.

LET’S MAKE IT OFFICIAL

Officials in Nepal want to settle the disputed height of Everest once and for all. They are asking groups around the world to pitch in expertise and top-of-the-line instruments to get an official height.

“We need the support and involvement of internationally known scientists so the findings are acceptable to the global community,” says Krishna Raj B.C., the director of Nepal’s project to measure Mount Everest.

Nepal, which ranks among the world’s 10 poorest countries, does not have the money or the scientific expertise to carry out the work on its own.

Why does it matter if the world agrees on the official height of Mount Everest? Climbing Everest is considered one of the greatest feats of human endurance. Mountaineers want to be able to measure their achievement with accuracy. The precise number is also needed to track world records set by climbers on Everest.

Roughly 3,000 people have attempted to scale the world's highest peak, and more than 200 have died trying. Climbers who conquer the great mountain are often honored by their home countries.

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