There are well over a million mountains on earth. Some reports state the actual number of mountains to be 1,187,049. Of this number, one has stood out for its sheer height and has been recognized as the largest and tallest mountain in the world.
But is Mountain Everest really the largest mountain in the world? Well, the answer to that question depends on what you mean by “largest”. There are three major ways we can consider mountains’ heights: Altitude/Elevation, Prominence, and Height below sea level. In this article, we’ll consider all three perspectives and discover if Everest really is the largest mountain in the world.
What is the Mountain with the Highest Elevation?
Mount Everest has an altitude or elevation of 29,032 feet or 8,849 meters. This makes it the mountain with the highest elevation point on earth as well as the tallest mountain from sea level.
How Did Scientists Measure Mountain Everest?
Measuring Mountain Everest was more difficult than a lot of people realize- tape rules and rulers would obviously be of no use. These days, satellites and other technology make it easy to measure such large things. But these were not available back then, so how did they do it?
According to James MacDonald, a research scientist who holds a BS in Environmental Biology from Columbia, as well as a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University, it took hundreds of years for scientists to learn how to calculate the height of a large mountain. To quote from his article, How to Measure a Mountain:
“To measure Everest, Waugh’s surveyors used a method called triangulation. Observers examined the peak from several points. Knowing the distance from the points to the mountain, they were then able to measure the angle from Everest’s peak to their observation points.”
What is the Tallest Mountain from Base to Peak?
Mauna Kea measures 33,500 feet or 10,210 meters from peak to base. This makes it the tallest mountain from peak to base.
Why isn’t Mauna Kea the Largest Mountain in the World?
Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano located in Hawaii is the tallest mountain from base to peak. However, it is not the tallest mountain in the world for a very simple reason. Most of Mount Kea is mostly hidden beneath water. Above sea level, the mountain is only 13,802 feet or 4,205 meters. This is less than half of Mount Everest’s height (which is fully above water.)
Hence, Mauna Kea is the tallest ocean from base to peak but it isn’t nearly as large as Mount Everest above sea level. If you were to stand atop Mauna Kea, you would only be about 13,802 feet up in the air.
What Mountain Has the Highest Prominence?
Mountain Everest has a prominence of 29,032 feet or 8,849 meters. This makes it the mountain with the highest prominence.
What is the Difference Between the Prominence and Elevation of Mountains?
Contrary to popular misconception, these two terms are not the same. The prominence of a mountain refers to its height in comparison to its surroundings or its contour line. The contour line of a mountain is the point of joint or equal height. The elevation of a mountain refers to its height or peak above sea level.
The Matterhorn is a good example of prominence. The actual height or elevation of the summit is 14,692 feet. However, to get to the summit of the Matterhorn, you’d only have to climb 3,419 feet of prominence. This is because the summit is surrounded by tall Alp mountains.
Mount Everest’s Prominence
Mountain Everest peak is equal to its prominence because there is no higher peak on the Eurasian-African landmass.
What is the Largest Mountain in The World?
Without a doubt, Mountain Everest deserves the title of the largest mountain in the world. It is the mountain with the highest elevation, prominence, and general height above sea level.
Where is Mount Everest Located?
Mountain Everest is located in the Himalaya Mountain range. More specifically, it is located between the Tibet-Nepal border.
Fun Facts about Mount Everest
Here are some amazing facts about Mountain Everest:
- Most people don’t climb down: After successfully climbing Everest (and other mountains), most climbers don’t return the way they came. Instead, it is standard practice to rappel off or lower oneself using a fixed anchor. In any case, it is much easier to get down than to climb up, understandably.
- A 60-day climbing budget: You will need 60 days to climb mount Everest minus preparations! It takes an average of 40 days to climb Everest. It takes another 19 days to trek to and from Mount Everest’s Base Camp, where the official climbing begins.
- The first official climbers of Mount Everest were Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay from Nepal. This was recorded on May 29, 1953. However, some murmurs dispute this claim. This is because George Mallory and Andrew Irvine attempted to climb in 1924. However, the climbers were last seen on the 8th of July and never again. Who knows if they made it up but not down? In any case, Tenzing and Norgay were the first climbers that survived and made it down.
- It’s expensive: Climbing Mount Everest can cost anywhere from $28,000 up to $85,000.
- Everest is old: Mountain Everest is approximated to be over 60 million years old. According to Roger Bilham, a researcher and professor of Geology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Everest “was formed by a rapid movement of India northward toward the continent of EuroAsia.”
- Everest is still growing: Amazingly, Everest is still growing. It grows approximately 1.7 inches each year. This is because of the continuous shift of tectonic plates that result in the Himalayas being pushed upwards.
- It’s pronounced ‘Eve-rest’: The mountain was named after Sir George Everest. His name was pronounced “Eve-rest” and so should the mountain’s.
- Over 10,000 attempts: There have been over 10,000 attempts to climb Mount Everest and over 300 deaths. More eerily, most of the bodies of the people who died are still on the mountain!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Vixit/Shutterstock.com
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