A team of climbers is on its way to summit Mount Everest this week to measure whether it has grown or shrunk.
Movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates* can change the height of the summit, while measurements that take into account snow and ice can vary, even day to day.
A large earthquake is thought to have changed the mountain’s shape and height in 2015.
The current Chinese government-backed team of surveyors will have the mountain to themselves as it remains closed to paying climbers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
They will summit exactly one year since the May 22, 2019 photo was taken that shocked the world, showing a dangerous human traffic jam at the top of the mountain.
Bad weather initially forced the Chinese team to return to base camp, but they have since climbed back up to a higher camp ready to summit when the weather is right, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.
As long as the weather holds, the team expects to reach the summit on Friday morning, Xinhua quoted Chinese government official Wang Yongfeng, as saying.
Everest straddles* the border of China and Nepal and both countries cancelled spring climbing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading among expedition teams that typically live for weeks in tightly packed camps at high altitudes with little access to emergency medical help.
China’s network of Beidou satellites, which is similar to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), is being used to survey the mountain’s current height and natural resources.
Information on snow depth, weather and wind speed is also being measured to monitor the melting of glaciers and other impacts of climate change.
China has also taken advantage of the lack of climbers to collect rubbish from Everest and other popular climbing peaks.
Last year, too many climbers formed long lines at the summit and some died from lack of oxygen. A total of 876 people climbed the peak in 2019, according to the Himalayan Database.
The absence of climbers this year has caused major hardship among Sherpa guides in Nepal, who have virtually* no source of income apart from foreign tourists visiting national parks and high-altitude trekking routes.
Everest is on a major fault line between two tectonic plates. India is on one plate, which pushes against another that carries Europe and Asia. The pushing means there are frequent earthquakes. The Himalayas have been created by this pushing over millions of years.
One widely accepted height of Everest is 8848m above sea level, recorded in 1954 by an Indian team.
A 1999 US measurement using GPS added 2m to the official height but this measurement is not widely accepted.
China and Nepal can’t agree on how high the summit is.
China has made six major surveys of the mountain locally known as Qomolangma, registering its height at 8848.13m in 1975 (with the snow cap) and 8844.43m in 2005 (without the snow cap).
Nepal believes the summit to be higher than the Chinese measurements. It sent a team in 2019 to measure the height with and without snow. The results haven’t yet been released.
- tectonic plates: big moving pieces thought to make up the surface of the Earth, rather than a solid single layer
- straddles: on both sides of
- virtually: near enough to, almost
- What happened one year ago at the summit?
- Why are paying climbers not climbing this year?
- What mountain range is Mount Everest in?
- What four countries are mentioned as having measured Everest?
- Name two reasons for different height measurements of Everest?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Explain in your own words
Using a diagram and your own words, explain how a mountain is able to grow and shrink. The article gives some detail about tectonic plates and fault lines but you may need to do some further research to help you explain how these cause a mountain to grow or shrink. If you use kiddle.com as a search engine it should give you some information sites that are easier to read.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science
Positives and Negatives
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused both China and Nepal to cancel climbers trying to reach the summit over the spring season. This has had some positive and negative consequences for both the local communities and the environment itself. Make a list of POSITIVE and NEGATIVE consequences of having no climbers that are found in the article and then see if you can think of other positive and negative consequences. Aim to get five consequences in each column.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking
I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).
How many nouns can you find in the article?
Can you sort them into places, names and time?
Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you climb Everest if you could?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.