China Does Something It Hasn't Done on Everest in 60 Years

It's the only team to scale it, but the goal wasn't glory
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2020 11:50 AM CDT
A Single Team Manages to Scale Everest in Pandemic
In this photo, members of a Chinese surveying team head for the summit of Mount Everest, also known locally as Mount Qomolangma, on Wednesday.   (Tashi Tsering/Xinhua via AP)

A single team of climbers has thus far managed to summit Everest amid the coronavirus pandemic—but they weren't doing it for the glory of the feat. The BBC reports the team was made up of Chinese surveyors tasked with measuring the peak using the country's BeiDou navigation satellite system, which is akin to America's GPS. Though the spring climbing season was closed due to the virus, the AP reports a 53-member team from China's Ministry of Natural Resources has been doing scientific work on the mountain since March. Bad weather had prevented eight members of that team from summiting until Wednesday. The South China Morning Post reports they spent a record 2.5 hours at the summit, where they erected a survey marker and global navigation satellite system receiver.

It marks the first time since 1960 that only Chinese climbers have made it to the summit in a given year. China was doing so as part of a joint effort with Nepal. Everest sits along the border between the two, which use different figures for Everest's height: China gives it as 29,017 feet (excluding the snowcap); Nepal includes the snow cap, and uses 29,029 feet. And those measurements were taken well before 2015, when an earthquake on the mountain potentially reduced the snowcap. Two years later, Nepal set out to remeasure Everest, and a rep for the country's survey department says only "final touching" of the data remains; China expects it will have its data processed within three months. Last fall the countries announced they'd reveal the height of Everest together; how the pandemic will affect that is unclear. (More Mount Everest stories.)

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