In a major breakthrough, Nepali and Chinese officials have reached a consensus on announcing the official height of Everest, which straddles the two countries.
The consensus not only paves the way for the two to announce the “new height” of the highest mountain in the world but also brings to an end a 15-year-old disagreement on whether to recognize the “snow height” or the “rock height” of the mountain as its official height.
“Both the governments have completed measurement of the height of Everest,” Padma Aryal, Minister for Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, told the Post.
Though officials are tight-lipped about the “new height”, both sides have completed their data analysis and shared their findings with each other. “Both have arrived at similar figures after analysing their respective data. More importantly, both sides have agreed to accept the height of Everest by incorporating the thickness of its snow cover,” said Aryal.
According to the Department of Survey, the height of Everest has been measured by different Indian, American and European surveyors on different dates in the past. The idea of remeasurement surfaced again as there were indications that the 2015 Earthquake may have altered the mountain’s height.
While Nepal started measuring the height of the mountain in 2017, China did so last year after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal. During the visit, both sides had agreed to jointly announce the height of the mountain.
Nepal’s survey department has spent $1.3 million in this endeavor, working with six international firms.
In 2005, a Chinese expedition to the mountain to re-measure its height reported the figure to be 8,844.43m (29,017.16 ft). Chinese authorities said they only measured the height of the land below the snow cover as the snow covers change all the time.
But Nepali authorities had disagreed. The globally-accepted height of Everest is 8,848 meters (29,928 ft). “We rejected the rock height of Mt Everest after China downsized the mountain by almost four meters,” Toyanath Baral, who was director-general at the Department of Survey in 2005, told the Post.
“Now the Chinese have also agreed to this. But it is not clear whether the rock height of Everest will also be announced or not,” a senior official involved in the measurement process told the Post.
“Earlier we had planned to announce the height by inviting renowned geologists, scientists and acclaimed climbers in Kathmandu as Everest grabs global attention. But now due to the pandemic, the announcement will be made separately in Kathmandu and Beijing,” an official said.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy also said the joint announcement is expected soon. “We will jointly announce the snow height soon,” he said, “The two sides are in close communication regarding the specific arrangement.”