Mount Everest Grew Two Feet in Height, Say China and Nepal

Nepal also initially declined an offer from China but eventually agreed to make it a joint project. Earlier this year, with the mountaineering season canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, China sent a survey team up to Mount Everest’s summit with global satellite receivers to measure its northern side.

Nepal had measured the southern side the year before. Nepalese climbers had to work with Indian survey data when it came to precise sea level, since the country is landlocked. From there, they climbed Everest’s snowy ridges in May 2019 carrying the global navigation satellite receiver and an antenna. They stood on the world’s highest point for nearly two hours to capture satellite data.

According to Khim Lal Gautam, the survey officer who led Nepal’s measurement expedition team, it was the first time a surveyor had captured satellite data at that point. Previously, he said, Sherpas, or mountain guides, had done it.

“We made it possible,” Mr. Gautam said.

Though it looks immutable, even Mount Everest shifts with time and tectonics. In the aftermath of a devastating 2015 earthquake, it was widely speculated that several Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest, had shrunk. The new dual measurements suggest the opposite.

Scientists say Everest is getting taller. As the Indian plate slips under the Eurasian plate, it lifts up the Himalayas. But earthquakes can reduce peaks’ heights.

Even without those variables, people have pegged Mount Everest at different heights. In the 19th century, when Nepal was under British rule, Sir George Everest, the former surveyor general of the British-India Survey Office, and his team measured the peak at 8,840.07 meters, or 29,002.85 feet. Since then India, China, the United States, Italy and Denmark have put forth their own measurements.

Nepal has rejected them all — and it has long eschewed the mountain’s colonial-era name, too. During the joint briefing on Tuesday, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, referred to the mountain as “Qomolangma,” its Tibetan name. Nepal’s foreign minister, Mr. Gyawali, called it “Sagarmatha,” its Nepali name.

Bhadra Sharma reported from Kathmandu, and Emily Schmall from New Delhi.

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