Chinese Mountaineering Team Measuring Height of Everest

Everest Base Camp on the North Side seems to be more crowded this year than we previously thought. With the cancellation of the spring climbing season in Nepal, and the banning of foreign climbers in Tibet, we’ve been operating under the assumption that only a single team was on the mountain this year. But as it turns out, there is another large group of climbers there and their objective isn’t to just reach the summit, but get a measurement of its height as well.

Word of this survey team in Base Camp was officially announced yesterday, but apparently the squad has been there since late March. Dubbed the 1st Geodetic Surveying Brigade, the group’s mission falls under the purview of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the China Mountaineering Team. Their goal, not unlike the survey that took place in Nepal last year, is to get the most accurate measurement of the height of Everest that has ever been taken. We’re still waiting to learn the results of Nepal’s efforts, but from the sounds of things, the Chinese are taking this very seriously.

The 1st Geodetic Surveying Brigade is made up of 53 members, most of whom apparently don’t have much experience in mountaineering. They’ve spent the better part of the past month gaining climbing skills and acclimating to the higher altitude as they prepare for a summit push in early- to mid-May. Not all of them will go to the summit of course, but a select group will carry surveying gear to the top of Everest to get readings from that point. They’ll also be using BeiDou-3 Navigation Satellite System to take incredibly accurate readings as well.

2020 marks the 60th anniversary of the first Chinese ascent of the mountain and this will be the fifth major Chinese survey mission of the peak they call Qomolangma. In 1975, the height was determined to be 8848.13 meters (29,029 ft), while an advanced survey in 2005 remeasured the summit at an altitude of 8844.43 meters (29,017 feet). What we’ll get for an official height this time should prove interesting, as climate change and warming temperatures may have reduced the amount of snow and ice pack found on summit. If everything goes according to plan, we should learn more later this year.


Kraig Becker