Some days you might be so happy that you feel like you’re standing on top of the world. Would you believe that some people have literally stood on top of the world? It’s true!

Those who have climbed all the way to the summit of Mount Everest — the highest mountain on Earth — can say they’ve gone as high as they can on this planet. And how high have they gone? A whopping 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) — about 5.5 miles! — above sea level, to be exact.

Mount Everest wasn’t always the highest point on Earth, though. About 60 million years ago, two of Earth’s tectonic plates — the Indian and Asian plates — collided and started pushing huge mounds of rock into the sky. The result was the Himalayan mountain range with Mount Everest as its highest peak. Today, Mount Everest is still growing at the rate of about one quarter-inch per year!

Even though Mount Everest has been around a long time, it’s only been explored over the past couple hundred years. In 1841, Sir George Everest led a British survey team that first identified Mount Everest and called it Peak 15. It was later renamed Mount Everest in honor of Sir George Everest.

The summit, or highest point, of Mount Everest sits at an elevation that many airplanes usually fly at, and it’s higher than birds fly. The summit actually marks the border between Nepal to the south and Tibet to the north. People in Nepal call Mount Everest “Sagarmatha,” which means “Goddess of the Sky.” People in Tibet call it “Chomolungma,” which means “Mother Goddess of the Universe.”

The summit of Mount Everest juts into the jet stream, a powerful wind current high up in the Earth’s atmosphere. This means that the top of Mount Everest can experience wind speeds of over 200 miles per hour and temperatures as low as -80° F.

Such weather conditions would make it nearly impossible to stand on Mount Everest’s summit. Twice each year, though (in May and November), the jet stream moves just far enough north to allow climbers to try to reach the top while the winds are calm and temperatures are warmer. Climbers call these periods “summit windows.”

Climbing to the top of Mount Everest is no easy task, though. The first people ever to reach the summit were Sir Edmund Hilary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay from Nepal. They reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

Since then, thousands of people have reached the summit. Unfortunately, many climbers have died while making the attempt. Because of its high altitude, it takes approximately two months to make the climb, because the human body must have plenty of time to adjust to the lack of oxygen at high altitudes.

Climbers also face a multitude of other obstacles. In addition to extremely cold weather, climbers face rough terrain. As well as carrying things like tents, sleeping bags and food items, climbers must use special climbing gear. This includes special spikes — called crampons — on their boots, ice axes, nylon ropes, ladders and oxygen tanks to make their trek to the top.

Fortunately, climbers get a lot of help from the people in Nepal who live near Mount Everest. These people — called Sherpas — serve as climbing guides and help carry supplies between base camps along the climbing routes.


42 Join the Discussion

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    • Thanks so much for “seasoning” our day with this GREAT comment, Kiara and Mrs. Underwood’s 3rd Grade Class! We can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about! :-)

  1. Wonderopolis could you please do a wonder on how, if you subtract a positive number minus a negative number, you get a positive number. For example 3–2=5. Or could you do a wonder on how, if you multiply a negative number times a negative number you get a positive number. For example -3x-3=9. Thank you, Wonderopolis for taking in my consideration for a wonder of the day.

    • Thanks so much for trying to guess what tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day® will be about, Justin! We appreciate you hanging out with us in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  2. Dear wonderopolis,

    I was wondering if you could make a wonder talking about why we have years, dates, and months. Also the wonder I just read is really fascinating! I LOVE IT!

  3. I think it would be about salt and pepper..salt makes you thirsty if you eat too much of it, plus it goes well with pepper! :)

    • We think that’s a REALLY good guess, Jayde! We’ll all have to visit Wonderopolis again tomorrow to see if you were right! :-)

  4. My name is Jack in Mrs. Bradis’ seventh bell. I didn’t know who the names of the first people to make it to the summit were. I think tomorrow is salt. Salt dries your mouth and goes with pepper.

    • Hi, Jack! WOW! You’re lucky to have Ms. Brasdis for a teacher this year…she’s WONDERful! She is a great Wonder Friend who inspires her students, friends and family to WONDER about the world around them!

      Salt seems to be a popular guess for what tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day® will be about! We hope everyone is right…we’d really like to learn more about salt, too! :-)

  5. I learned that it is really tough to climb Mount Everest because of blistering wind, cold temperatures, and the lack of oxygen.

    • Thanks for sharing some of the cool facts you learned by exploring today’s Wonder, Brandon! Say “hello” to Ms. Brasdis for us, will you? She ROCKS! :-)

  6. Our class knew that Mr. Everest was the tallest mountain, but we did not know where it was located. We were amazed to learn that Mt. Everest grows 1/4 inch each year! We wonder if Mt. Everest has ever had a major avalanche!

    • There sure was a MOUNTAIN of cool new facts to learn inside this Wonder of the Day®, wasn’t there, Mrs. McKee’s Class? That is a great question you guys asked about the major avalanche! We’ll all have to do a bit more WONDERing about that one! :-)

    • Hello, Paige! It’s so nice to get another great comment from you today! We’re glad you stopped by to explore this Wonder and to take a guess at what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about! :-)

  7. I love your wonder on where is the highest mountain. I love the pictures of the crampons, ice axes, nylon rope, the ladders and the oxygen tanks.

    • Thanks for sharing what you liked about this Wonder of the Day®, Natasha! We appreciate your comment! We thought it was awesome to learn about all that special climbing gear, too! :-)

  8. Hi, this is Samia from Mrs. Caplin’s class. In this wonder, I learned that the highest mountain is Mount Everest. I also think it’s really neat that Mount Everest wasn’t always the highest point on Earth, though. About 60 million years ago, two of Earth’s tectonic plates, the Indian and Asian plates, collided and started pushing huge mounds of rock into the sky. I think that’s really interesting. I was wondering when people climb Mount Everest how long does it take? Have any kids ever climbed Mount Everest? I don’t think I could climb about 5.5 miles.
    Anyways this was a really cool wonder!

  9. I watched this in school a few days ago. I know a mountain higher than Mt.Everest!!! I forget the name of it, though. But, if most of it wasn’t under water, it would be the highest mountain today!!!

    • That’s really cool, Sara! When you remember what the name of the mountain is, please let us know…we LOVE learning new things, too, especially from our Wonder Friends!

  10. Hello Wonderopolis. I really liked this topic and made me interested in this topic. I learned 2 new words in this story. The words were tectonic and crampon. I learned that Mt. Everest is 29,029 ft. which is about 5.5 miles. Temperatures reach -80 degrees F on the mountain. I still am thinking about who owns Mt. Everest? I think that 3 or 4 countries own it, but I wonder about it.

    Thank you Wonderopolis for the amazing topic. It helped me imagine.

    • Your comment made us super happy today, Team Unger #3! We love hearing that Wonderopolis helped you IMAGINE! Thanks for sharing what you learned by exploring this Wonder. Let’s both do some extra WONDERing about which country owns Mt. Everest, OK?

    • We liked learning about Mt. Everest, too, Natasha! Thank you so much for being a great Wonder Friend and hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  11. We thought the video was very interesting! We were surprised that Mt. Everest wasn’t the tallest mountain. We were also shocked to learn that there is actually SNOW in Hawaii!

    • HOORAY, thanks for WONDERing with us today, Mrs. Dee’s Class! Can you imagine going snow skiing in Hawaii? We bet it’s fun to live in a warm place but you can enjoy winter sports, too! We will have to bring our sunscreen with us everywhere we go when we travel to Hawaii! :)

    • Hello, Jillian From Mrs.Dillehays 3rd Grade class! We currently do not have a WONDER about this topic. We encourage our WONDER friends to submit ideas for future WONDERS – “what are you WONDERing?“. Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

    • Welcome, saul delgado! We are glad you found this WONDER interesting. We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where is the highest mountain?
  • How tall is Mount Everest?
  • What challenges do climbers face on Mount Everest?

Wonder Gallery

Mount Everest_shutterstock_64047058Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to trek to the top of the world? Check out these fantastic resources that will give you a taste of what it’s like to climb to the summit of Mount Everest.

Watch a wide variety of interesting videos about the experience of climbing Mount Everest. You can also see hundreds of breathtaking pictures in National Geographic’s Everest photo galleries.

If you enjoy geography, check out this cool interactive map of the north side of Mount Everest. And if you think you’ve learned a lot about Mount Everest in today’s Wonder, put your knowledge to the test with this fun Mount Everest quiz!


Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ You Can Climb Any Mountain lesson, children will think about the skills and qualities required to be a good mountain climber and learn about blind climber Erik Weihenmayer and his experiences climbing the highest peak on every continent, especially Mount Everest.


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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day goes great with pepper, but it might make you thirsty!

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