Nepal, China recognize two heights of Mount Everest

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal and China have agreed to recognize the snow and rock heights of Mount Everest, ending a long-standing debate about the height of the world’s tallest mountain, officials said Thursday.

Travelers enjoy the the view of Mount Everest at Syangboche in Nepal December 3, 2009. REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the mountain that straddles the Nepal-China border since it was first summitted by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in May 1953.

But its exact height has remained a matter of debate.

The official Everest snow height of 8,848 meters (29,028 feet) was measured by the Survey of India in 1954.

Chinese mountaineers and researchers climbed Mount Everest in May 2005 to determine its height afresh and concluded that the rock height of the peak was about 3.7 meters (11 feet) less than the estimates made in 1954, or the summit was 8,844.43 meters (29,017 feet), with a margin of error of about 0.21 meters.

Officials from China and Nepal who met this week said both heights were accurate.

“Both are correct heights. No measurement is absolute. This is a problem of scientific research,” said Raja Ram Chhatkuli, director general of Nepal’s survey department, and a delegate.

Eight of the world’s 14 tallest peaks including Mount Everest are in Nepal or on its borders with China and India.

In 1999, an expedition by the National Geographic Society and Boston’s Museum of Science used satellite-based technology to measure the height of the snow covered peak, and determined the mountain stood 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) high.

They said they were unsure about the height of the rock peak.

Nepal has stuck to the snow height determined in 1954.

Some recent climbers say the mountain’s glaciers are shrinking and portions of the trail leading to the summit are losing snow and turning rocky due to climate change.

Editing by Rina Chandran and Jerry Norton