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article imageChina and Nepal settle on long-time Everest height controversy

By Igor I. Solar     Apr 8, 2010 in Politics
Kathmandu - The two neighboring countries have agreed to disagree on the true height of the planet’s highest peak. Both rock and snow height have been recognized as correct.
Nepalese officials and a 13-member Chinese delegation met this week in Kathmandu to discuss issues related to border mapping, conduct a field inspection of the 1,414-km long Nepal-China border and update data in order to adjust the changes in maps by applying latest technology. A discussion on the true height of the tallest peak on Earth they share was also on the agenda.
Nepal and China signed a border treaty in 1961 which included conducting periodic inspections of the border every ten years. These inspections and the signature of the respective border protocols took place in 1961, 1979 and 1988. Following a more that 20 year hiatus both countries representatives are expected to sign the fourth protocol this time. The new protocol will likely include a clause agreeing that there is a difference in the height of Mount Everest given by the measurement of either the rock peak or the snow peak.
Nepalese delegate Raja Ram Chhatkuli, director general of Nepal's survey department said: “Both are correct heights. No measurement is absolute. This is a problem of scientific research".
Thus, the official measurements stand at 8,848 meters for the snow height and at 8844.43 (±0.21 m) for the rocky summit. The former was measured by the “Great Trigonometric Survey of India” in 1954 and the latter by Chinese mountaineers and researchers that climbed Mount Everest in May 2005.
However, the China-Nepal agreement ignores that a third estimate made in 1999 by an expedition of the National Geographic Society and the Boston's Museum of Science measured the height of the snow covered peak using satellite-based technology (GPS) and determined that the rocky top of the mountain stood at 8,850 meters with additional 1 meter of ice-snow on top of it.
Although China and Tibet had agreed on the rock-snow height of the mountain, they continue their differences in the naming of Mount Everest. Both countries are against the name given to the mountain in the western world. Nepal officially calls their side of the mountain Sagarmāthā and China insists that Everest should be referred to by its Tibetan name: Chomolangma.
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