Chinese Survey Team Summits Mt. Everest

Yesterday we received word that the rope fixing team on Mt. Everest completed its work, installing the lines to the summit of the mountain and putting six Sherpa climbers on top. Today, comes word of further success, this time by the survey team that has been sent to remeasure the height of the mountain. The group has been in Base Camp since March, but has finally gotten the opportunity to complete its mission, placing two surveyors, and eight guides on the summit at around 11:00 AM local time.

With both the North and South Sides of Everest closed down this spring due to the coronavirus, Everest has been extremely quiet to say the lest. Not long after China announced the closure of the Tibetan side of the peak, it backtracked slightly by allowing Chinese nationals to climb this season. That led to a team of about 25 alpinists, organized by an operator called Yarla Shampo, going to BC to attempt the world’s highest peak. When they arrived, they found a large squad of about 53 other people already in camp and waiting for them.

This other team was the surveyors—sent by the Chinese government—to remeasure the height of Everest. With such a quiet season underway, it seemed like a good time conduct such a project. For decades, the official height of Mt. Everest has stood at 8848 meters (29,029 ft). But over the years there have been some discrepancies and disagreements to whether or not that is the true, actual height. The goal is to take the most accurate measurements of the mountain ever, including a highly advanced GPS reading from the summit, to once and for all determine just how high up the summit actually is.

This season hasn’t just been about measuring the height of the mountain either. A few weeks back, mobile carrier China Mobile and tech-giant Huawei installed 5G cellular service on the mountain. This has allowed the teams to stay in contact like never before, including setting up a live-streaming 4K webcam. That same super-fast networking service allowed the surveyors to broadcast live from the summit this morning as well. That video can be found below.

A May 27 summit date is one of the latest in recent memory. Poor weather forced two other summit bids to be abandoned, and it seems likely that this will be the final summit window of the season. Thankfully, the surveyors managed to take advantage of the good conditions and reach the top. Tomorrow, the commercial team will attempt to follow suit. Hopefully they’ll get the chance to top out and get back down safely.

So far, there have been 16 successful summits of Everest this year. That’s down from more than 900 last season. Tomorrow’s summit push will likely result in another 20 or so summits, but after that the season will be over, closing the book on one of the strangest years in Everest history.


Kraig Becker