Traffic Jam on Mount Everest

Traffic Jam on the Mount Everest

Buddhi Narayan Shrestha

There were 39 expeditions on the mountain at the same time, amounting to more than 600 people during May 2012. It was the first time that Everest was crowded. Last week of May, four climbers died on their way down from the summit amid a traffic jam of more than 200 people scrambling to conquer the world’s highest peak as the weather worsened.

During the third week of May the weather prospects were bad, the jams of people were appalling and therefore also led to hours of waiting around which led to hypothermia and exhaustion. Many climbers were dehydrated. it was because of the fact that everyone was fixated on making it to the summit by 19 May or they faced the prospect of missing their chance for 2012 season.

People nowadays treat the mountain as if it was a piece of sporting apparatus, but not a force of nature. It really makes soul touching. To avoid the traffic jam, Nepalese government should introduce stricter regulations to control both the flow of tourists and to filter out those not physically fit enough to do the climb. However, Nepal government has little choice to ask tougher questions of would-be climbers in future. If the number of climbers fall down, the royalty goes down. So the Nepal government seems that it is not willingness to make it strict to the Everest expeditioners.

More than 3,500 people have climber Everest since Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach its 8,850 meter summit in 1953. At least 225 climbers have died attempting it, about half of them in the past 20 years.

Many people may wonder how Everest (Sagarmatha) could be of Nepal if Nepal-China borderline runs over the peak. On top of that there is the curiosity of which country should claim the rights to the peak or on which country the peak is located. The shortest and the easiest answer is that the peak or the highest portion lies on the Nepalese side and Everest belongs to Nepal. But for those who want to go deeper, the explanation is that the peak of Everest is formed by three slopes coming from three different sides. In other words, from the peak of Everest the slopes go down towards three different directions as the sloping roofs of a house. Of them one slope runs down on the west; the second slope moves down towards northeast; and the third slope goes towards the south. The western ridge is long and steeply slanted. The northeastern slope appears to be very steep as a cliff, and the southern slope is less steep, bears considerably gentle decline and a little more comfortable than the other two. The western and southern ridges act as the international borderline between Nepal and China. The northeastern slope lies completely on the Chinese side. And the northern face of the ridge is more dangerously steep than the western and southern ones. In comparison to the others, the southern side located towards Nepal is less steep for climbing.

The most important matter about the peak of Everest is that there is about 2 meter by 2.3 meter of sloping terraced portion on the southern side of the demarcating line of water-parting ridge. And that piece of sloping terraced area with the highest portion lies on the Nepalese side. But the Chinese side from the borderline is almost vertical, and anyone conquering Mount Everest from the northern or Chinese face cannot set foot on the peak without stepping on that sloping terraced area of the Nepalese frontier and no one can remain standing on the water-parting ridge of the borderline. As that sloping terraced area of the world’s highest portion is located on the Nepalese side of the borderline, so Everest is said to lay in Nepalese territory.  As the watershed principle was adopted while demarcating the borderline, the highest part joining the slope remained on the Nepalese side. That sloping terrace with the highest peak cannot accommodate more than seven or eight conquerors at a time, and if more climbers reach the peak at the same time, they will have to wait for their turns to step on that highest part, since there in no sufficient place for a considerably large group. The successful summiteers must get a little bit down to provide the turn to those who are waiting to step on to the highest part of the mountain. In 1988, when the joint friendship expedition team of China-Japan-Nepal placed 12 climbers from both the southern and northern sides at the same time, some had stepped on that highest portion, while others had waited a little bit down, and then those on the peak had got down to make room for others. It was also the same case with the 38 and 54 summiteers on 10 May 1993 and 16 May 2002 respectively. In short, it is because of the fact that the highest peak with the sloping terraced portion lied on the Nepalese side during demarcation and China gave up its claim to Everest.

It is ridicules that there are controversies time and often on the height of the Everest. Some countries or organizations measure the mountain and they say that Everest has gained its height. In other times, some countries make propaganda that the mountain has been lowered. In such a situation, Chen Bangzhu, Director General of the Chinese State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping told to pressmen on 15 October 2005 that ‘The elevation of Mount Everest’s summit is 8844.43 metres, with a precision of 10.21 m so the world’s highest mountain is 3.57 m lower than previously thought.’

On the contrary and most recently, preliminary results of a survey and measurement being jointly undertaken by the National Space Institute (DTU) of Denmark and the Department of Survey (DoS) of Nepal, obtained the new height of Mt Everest to be approximately 8,848.9 metres in World Height System, which is 90 cm higher than the current official value of Nepal. The margin of error is about 10 cm. The final results of the survey, are yet to be calculated. In connection to height determination, the geoid of Nepal was measured through an airborne gravity survey in December 2010. The Himalayas are the most rugged gravity field on the planet, and one of the goals of the 2010 airborne survey, which was done at a height of about 35,000 feet, was to find a revised height of Mt Everest, said researchers from DTU and DoS. The Nepal government had entered into an agreement with DTU in 2009. All these statements are in its position. But scientists think Everest is growing taller by about 4 mm every year due to uplift caused by the Indian tectonic plate pushing northward into Asia.

If we look at the history of the measurement of the height of the Everest, there are variations measured by various institutions in different periods. Followings are the different measurements made by various institutions.




Height in meter




±3 mPeak was named as XV
1907 India SIR BURRAD, Survey of India*


1922 India DE GRAFF-HUNTER, Survey of India*


1954 India B.L GULATEE, Survey of India*


1975 China WANG WANGCHUK, Chinese Survey Team*


± 0.35 m
1987 Italy PROF. A. DESIO, Milan University*


1993 Italy PROF. A. DESIO, Milan University*


1999 USA WASHBURN, National Geographic Society*


±2 m
2005 China Y. CHEN , Chen Bangzhu, State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping**


Rock Height ±0.21 m
2011 Denmark RENE FORSBERG, National Space Institute (DTU) ***


Preliminary results ±0.10 m





The Nepal government should try to measure the height of the world’s highest mountain on its own, using latest technology. Because Mount Everest belongs to Nepal and it is the heritage and wealth of Nepal. Nepal must determine and declare the latest height of the Everest. Exact height of the Everest should be fixed and determined by Nepal in a scientific manner to be accepted by all the countries of the world. It is the sovereign right and responsibility of Nepal.  United Nations or some international organizations may help for funding and support new technologies to measure as precisely and accurately as possible. In other sense, it could be said that Nepal and China should measure and determine jointly the precise height of the tallest mountain of the world, also to settle the new height of China. The height controversy should be settled once for all.

2 Responses

  1. During the climbing season, occasionally there will be traffic jam specially en-route from South Col to Hillary Step and also the Summit.


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