An autobiography of Sagarmatha’s height

dimanche 18 mars 2007
par  Consul Honoraire du Népal en France
popularité : 9%

The exact date of my birth is unknown to me, but people say that my emergence on the earth was pretty recent.

Sagarmatha (1)

It is believed that I am younger than all other Himalayas, mountains and hills of this world. Nowadays, the son is taller than the father, the younger brother taller than the elder, in short the young are taller in height than their elders are. Maybe that is the reason why I am the tallest mountain in the world. The Himalayas, which are around 2,400 kms in length and 150 - 400 kms in width, are also mentioned in the ancient religious texts and it is believed that Lord Shiva’s celestial abode is located somewhere on the Himalayas.

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Sagarmatha (2)

Even now a lot of people are curious about me and have made many historical, geographical, and scientific researches about me. Among the 25 summits in the world which are over 8,000 m, 5 fall in Pakistan, 1 falls in China, and 1 in Bhutan. The rest are all situated in Nepal and one-third of all Himalayan ranges also fall within Nepal’s boundaries. Among all the summits of Nepal, I am the most favored one. The reason for this is that if someone succeeds to reach me they will be forever remembered. If they find out something new about me they will achieve prominence, and their name will be written in the Hall of Glory .For all this, people even put their lives at risk and try to reach me. And since hundreds of years, mankind has competed amongst themselves to measure my height.

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Sagarmatha (3)

Although the task of measuring mountain summits had been going on for a long time, my first complete assessment along with that of my fellow friends was only done in 1850 from India. Due to their ignorance of my local name, I was named XV during this process and it was only after later evaluations that people were to know me as the tallest mountain in the world. For a long time afterwards, no one seemed to care about me.

Even the few who tried to measure me did not gain anything worthwhile. As soon as people tried to scale me the number of persons who wanted to know more about me grew fantastically. Isn’t it amazing ? So many people from different places have tried to estimate my height through so many methods but they are yet to be successful and the task of measurement still continues. I have no idea how many times and till when this saga will continue, and I think even the wise and all-knowing Lord Shiva residing on my crest does not know the answer to this.

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Sagarmatha (4)

The British, who infiltrated India in the name of the East India Company and established their rule out there, became increasingly attracted to the Himalayan ranges lying in the northern part of their colony and started to show their mounting interest in us. Maybe because of this, the British announced an official war on Nepal on November 1, 1824 which ended on March 4, 1826 and which resulted in the loss of 2341 square mile territory of Nepal as recorded in the " SUGAULI TREATY". It was only nature of the British to be fascinated by us, surrounded as they were by water on all sides. In the beginning they were not aware of my existence, as they believed I was hidden from their view. But, they did not spare my fellow friends and tried unsuccessfully to measure their height through the ’Horizontal Distance’ and ’Vertical Angle’ .In 1810, Col. Crawford came to Nepal and tried to measure the Himalayan summits through his own methods. He came to the conclusion that the height of the Himalayan summits varies according to the different hours of the day. He also gave a statement on this.

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Sagarmatha (5)

Likewise, in 1812, Captain Webb measured the height of Mt. Gongotri and Mt. Banderpunj as 25,000 ft. and 22,800 ft. respectively. But due to incorrect measurement of the sea level, a miscalculation of 4,000 ft. and 1,100 ft. took place. It was many years after 1767 (when the Survey of India was born) that in order to make the maps of India the ’Great Trigonometrical Survey of India base points’ was created. In 1823, Sir George Everest was appointed to measure all the Himalayan summits falling within the Indian sub-continent. He started his survey by creating triangulation lines to go through all the summits. In 1830, he was appointed the Survey General. Even after Everest left India in 1843, his project continued.

The EVEREST SPHEROID, which is a necessity when making maps of this area was also, invented by him. His work was carried on by his successor Sir Andrew Waugh, who wrote in a letter that the tallest Himalayan peaks had been seen somewhere in the northern region of Nepal and that it was hoped to prove a challenge to Geology (which was proved true later on). " Even though we were not allowed to enter Nepal, we tried to estimate the Himalayan ranges from South Bihar, which is only 160 kms away from the border, by climbing 20-30 ft. tall towers. In the early morning we calculated the horizontal distance and at around 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. the vertical angle was observed". In this way, the British, who were not allowed to enter Nepal and who could only barely distinguish our peaks had a tough time completing their survey. According to the surveyors, there was a difference of about 500 ft in all of our measurements.

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Sagarmatha (7)

This was due to the distance and the difference in the daily refraction. Because of this, Sir Waugh with the help of his main assistant Radha Nath Sinkhdar tried to improve the atmospheric refraction through various researches. Among the summits, which were measured in 1850, Nandadevi was declared the highest peak with the height of 25,650 ft., but later on Dhaulagiri won the coveted title with a height of 26,800 ft. Some years later, claims were made that Mt. Kanchunjunga, observed from Darjeeling, was the tallest among all. No one even imagined that I could be the tallest mountain in the world.

In reality, J.W. Armstrong had already measured me in 1847 and even named me "V". But he had not completed my evaluation. If he had done so, my height would have been 28,800 ft. Between 1849-1850, J.O.Nicholson tried to estimate me by using 24’’ Thodolite machines from a distance of 175- 190 kms, situated on six different places. He named me "H". But after reaching the main station my former name "XV" was used. In this way, a lot of measurements had been taken of me and my friends, but to complete a total evaluation would involve a lot of time and effort, and it was only natural to expect numerous discussions and debates. All the debates subsided with the release of Radhanath’s evaluation. In this evaluation, I was declared as the tallest peak in the world. After improving the refraction, he evaluated my height at 29,000 ft.

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Sagarmatha (6)

Finally, in 1852, my height was made public and as no one knew my local name, I was christened "MOUNT EVEREST" after the great geologist and surveyor George Everest.Thereafter, I became famous as Mt. Everest- the tallest mountain in the world. The people of Nepal called me SAGARMATHA (meaning the highest point of the earth or the body) and the people of the North gave me the name of KABBULANGMA. Pakistan’s Mt. K2 with a height of 28,225 ft was adjudged the second tallest and eastern Nepal’s Mt. Kanchenjunga with a height of 28,145 ft was declared as the third Highest Mountain of the world.

After the first survey to estimate my height, people got busy with the task of improving the atmospheric refraction ; although a lot of politics went on to measure my height no fruitful study was done. During 1880-83 and 1902, a survey was done from six different places of Darjeeling to measure the vertical angle, but nothing was gained from this project. In 1905, Sir Burrad started a survey to estimate the heights of a few Himalayan Summits. He measured the Vertical Angle from Dehradun by using new and improved refraction methods and fixed my height as 29,141 ft. Even on this a few shortcomings were found on the GEOID and VERTICAL DEFLECTION as necessary data had not been available on them. Since 1910, Hunter, a team advisor of ’Survey of India’, had started a detailed study and research on atmospheric refraction. In 1913, Hunter, the new Survey General, published an article describing a source through which atmospheric refraction could be improved. In 1928, he again published a table on atmospheric refraction improvement. Similarly, he had also done praise worthy work on ground surveys like creating methods like the H.S.V etc. Even Hunter did not leave the task of finding my new height alone. Keeping all the disadvantages and difficulties in mind, he fixed my height at 29,080 ft. Later on, geologist Bomford also acknowledged this. But people still debated on the absence of complete data on the Geoid and Deflection of Vertical. In other words, people never tired of debating on my height. In 1940, the British team, which came to Nepal in order to perform a survey on the ’Koshi Barrage Plan’ also, started a venture to measure my height. B.L.Gulatee, a director of the G & R branch of the Survey of India, played a vital role in this. In order to get a more accurate and clear Geoid and Deflection of Vertical, he performed a number of additional tasks such as atmospheric survey, level survey from nearby places such as - Diwanganj, Chatara, Mayam, Rauje, Namchhe Bazaar etc. and thus, completed a survey on me. In 1952-1953 an accurate Vertical Angle was calculated from 8 mountain peaks, which were at a distance of 47 kms to 76 kms from me and whose height ranged from 8,670 ft. to 14,760 ft.

According to this last evaluation my height was recorded at 29,028 ft. This included the depth of the snow that was covering me. Mr. Gulatee added in his presentation that all other surveys done on me previously were good and the height given to me was not exactly wrong, but that surveys done later were always better and more correct than the earlier ones. In this survey mistakes had been reduced, as the atmospheric refraction used had been more correct. Measurements had been taken from other tall peaks and from a closer range. Even the final evaluation had been done with a lot of care. Similarly, a more accurate Geoid and Deflection of Vertical had been used. Because of all these reasons, this important survey was released only in 1954. It had been only a few weeks back that the first human feet had tread on my head. Oh ! I got so engrossed telling you about the projects, which measured me from the north, that I completely forgot about all the southern expeditions. In 1949, Leonard Cleark made a claim that my neighbour Mt. Aanchimakbun was 193 m. taller than I was. America’s Washburn wanted to verify this claim, but due to China’s internal war he was unable to do so.

here was no way of reaching me through independent Tibet. In 1966, when China had already occupied Tibet, a Chinese team headed by Wang Wangchuk undertook the task of estimating my height as well as that of Mt. Aanchimakbun. My height was found out to be 8,848 m and they started to call me Chomolungma.
But the height of Mt. Aanchimakyun was estimated at 6,282m. only. Furthermore, a nearby Mt Aanchimakbun was recorded to be at 6,268m. The Chinese team deducted that these two mountains must be Sister Mountains and that Leonard Cleark had most probably measured the mountain measuring 6,268 m. i.e. Mt. Aanchimakbun. There were a lot of mistakes even in this measurement. Anyway, people’s curiosity just grew.

In 1955, a British expedition tried to scale me. But they relinquished their ascension when they were only 1,000m. away from my summit. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1960, a Chinese team successfully ascended me from my north face. Their desire to measure my height from the north continually increased. Accordingly, they thought up a very extensive plan. There were two teams involved in this survey- a research team and an expedition team.

They started their survey in 1973. The correct spit level from the Yellow Sea was brought to the nearest summit i.e. only 13.6 km away from me, by their National Level Bench Mark and for the other summits trigonometrical methods were used to assess the height. Similarly, for the Planemetric and from points which were at a distance of 600 km the survey was completed. When near me, they added up my height by going through me using third degree chains and traverse points. For this, they found out the horizontal distance and vertical angle from 13 km. Away and through the Electronic Distance Measurement method they. Thus, they made trigonometric survey, gravity survey from 20 points, atmospheric survey from 15 points were completed from camps constructed as high as 6,300 m. Control, second-degree triangulation chains were made.

To stay at this altitude just to measure the Deflection of Vertical was indeed very admirable. The survey done from summits as far as 8.5 km to 21.2 km was successful. Their ascension team which scaled me put up a flag made from a mixture of different metals, which stood on three 3.5 m. long legs, wrapped up in cords and painted in red, on my apex. In spite of strong winds and heavy snowfall, it remained intact for 3 years. This team also measured the 0.92 m level of snow on my crest. To find out how the angles and distance measurements are affected by atmospheric variation, they took the temperature arc of different places. The middle portion was measured with the help of a balloon.

Through this survey the accurate angles, geodes and quasi - geodes were discovered and the correct evaluation calculated. Finally, in 1975, my height was officially declared as 8,848.113+0.35m (29,029+1.1 ft). This height was accurate as every kind of improvement was implemented and the mistakes were countable. The main reason was impeccable work done by the survey team. Their brave and hard work really is praise worthy. The amazing thing is that this height and the height given to me in 1954 were one and the same. In 1987, after a long time, some interesting news about me came to light. In March of the same year, Prof. Wallerstein, an atmospheric scholar of the Washington University and a mountaineer himself, measured the height of MOUNT K2 and me with the help of satellites. His survey came to the result that Mt K2 was 11m taller than me. This news was also published in the 20-10- 1989 edition of ’The New York Times’ ; ’06-11-1989’ edition of ’THE Rising Nepal’ and also in the 2-11-1989 edition of ’TIME ’ magazine. As this survey had been done only once and on top of all with a weak battery, it was not taken as correct. For the refutation of this, Italy’s Prof. Ardite Desio, from the Milan University, started his own survey.

In August 1987, he proved Wallerstein’s statement wrong by using two GPS receivers which measured our individual heights from a distance of 1300 km. He fixed my height at 8,872m and Mt K2 ’s at 8,615m. Respectively, which proved that I was 256 m taller. In this way, it was proved that the earlier American Geological Survey had been correct in their assumption of calling me the taller one between us.

Eventhough, the people acknowledged me as the tallest mountain, they were still not sure about my exact height. The reasons for this doubt were : the surface’s geodetic points had not been joined and the local Geoid had not been calculated. Because of all these reasons and for various other scientific studies and researches, RONAST (Royal Nepal Science and Technology) and Italy’s National Research Council came to an agreement in September 1989 whereby they would study the Himalayan Ranges unitedly. A news item revealed that the Italian team would perform various experiments to prove Prof. Desio’s claim. Firstly, they built a triangular shaped house in Nobuchhe and fixed it up with all kinds of scientific instruments. RONAST disclosed that they would study the climate, geology, environment as well as the speed of increment in the Himalayan’s height. But on 22 April 1993, a very surprising news was published in ’The Kathmandu Post’ - a press release published in Geneva reported by Prof. A. Desio claiming that the height of Sagarmatha was shorter 2.06 m (88,846 m) than before and that this survey was done with the same GPS satellites using the latest technology and hence was devoid of mistakes present in the previous survey. The only thing that did not satisfy me was that the vertical deflection of some places had been calculated without the local Geoid.

The sea -level was also not taken from a nearby area, but from satellite survey. My height was calculated through a detailed and expansive process from the north, and until and unless nearby regulation points are not taken and all kinds of aerial data are not calculated, my correct height will never be assessed from the south side. Another thing is that the height of the Indian Ocean and the Yellow Sea should be added and compared with me from a near distance only then a correct assessment of my Height can be done from the south side.

In 27 th Kartik 2056 edition of "The Kantipur Daily", another surprising item was published. According to an article published by the associated press, Washington it was discovered that the height of Sagarmatha was actually 2 m more On hearing this, I did not whether to laugh or cry, as an article published in "The Kathmandu Post" had according to the GPS method, listed the height of Sagarmatha as 8,846m.Similarly, the news published in "The Kantipur Daily" had also been based on the GPS method. For the information of all my well wishers, I have listed below all the different measurements given to me over the years -"89-year old Bradford Washburn, the director of the Millineam expedition who were the last team to ascend Sagarmatha in this century, published this measurement in the National Geographic Society.

According to his Society’s Cartographer Ellen Carol,"This is the most correct and accurate measurement of the world’s highest point". But how can this be when the Daily Newspaper of Nepal reported ’ the Survey Department of Nepal is still unsure about Sagarmatha’s new height". If it wants to know my correct height than it has to calculate my height based on high resulution geoid.

It has been reported that even this new method based on the Earth satellites is not accurate and that there is usually a difference of 2m. According to the American scientist Prof.Roger Bilham, the accuracy and depth of the snow level as well as the geoid have not been mentioned in the latest publication on my height.


A.D. 1852 XV 29002 ft (8840.07 m)

A.D. 1907 SIR BURRAD 29144 ft (8883.36 m)

A.D. 1922 DE GRAFF-HUNTER 29080 ft (8863.85 m)

A.D. 1954 B.L GULATEE 29028 ft (8848.00 m)

A.D. 1975 CHINESE SURVEY TEAM 8848.13 ± 0.35 m

A.D. 1987 PROF. A. DESIO 8872 m

A.D. 1993 PROF. A. DESIO 8846 m

A.D. 1999 WASHBURN 8850 m

To dishonor me through foreigners who give different and contrasting heights to me is very unfair. It has become a necessity to make a law to forbid all random claims on my height. Until a through and detailed study is not completed, people have to consider my height as 8,848 m. keeping.

Lord Shiva, who resides on my head, as a witness I would like to ask from all those who want to study and research on me not to make any random judgements. The work of one team should always be cross-checked by another team ; nothing should be done without a legal permit ; and until there is no true fact people should not resort to false propaganda. The news of my height should not vary on a daily basis. The work of one country should not be baselessly refuted by another country, thus causing embarrassment to me. False stories should not be published. This is my pray to all of you, I think I can do nothing besides asking, can I ?


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  • An autobiography of Sagarmatha’s height