The pinnacle of every mountain range, of every shifting tectonic plate that sends terra firma into the sky, Mt Everest is the highest point in the world, the holy mountain that oversees the entire globe. Couched within the safe confines of the Himalaya mountain range, it dwarfs the border of Nepal and China without even trying, achieving world renown without the vaguest idea of its meaning.
Though the exact measurement of the summit is the cause of some debate, the official height of Mt Everest is listed at 29,028 feet, which is 777 feet higher than the nearby K2, also a member of the Himalayas. Its reputation as one of the most difficult climbs in the world is well-deserved. There are basically only two paths to the top, testing even the most experienced of climbers; reaching the summit means you go down in the history books as one of the few intrepid voyagers with superhuman ability to withstand the cold, the thin air, and the physical challenges presented by the mountain. Though the easier route towards the top is found on the Nepalese side, the Chinese border is almost as popular with climbers. Few actually even attempt the ascent to the the top, though there are plenty of smaller and more manageable trails up certain sections of Mt Everest that continue to confound mountaineers of all skill levels.
The height of Mt Everest is imposing and almost impossible to comprehend just by peering at photographs. The actual sight of the mountain does nothing if not impress upon the viewer just how amazing it is than anyone has ever succeeded in climbing Mount Everest. Around 2,000 climbers have done so at the time of this writing, the majority of which have done so in the past ten years. But that doesn't mean it's getting any easier—hundreds have died seeking the topmost height of Mt Everest, and there are certainly no shortage of graves found on the mountain, not to mention anecdotes and stories of climbers who set off towards the summit, never to return.
Exhaustion is the main reason most of the mountain's climbers have been forced to turn back, but on May 29, 1953 the first pair of mountaineers set foot on the summit of Mount Everest. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the top, beginning their adventures miles below on the Nepalese side. The first to escape what is called the "death zone" (the region found above 24,000 feet), Hillary put his name in the record books as the first known explorer to step foot on the summit of Mount Everest.
It is difficult, but not inconceivable, for most travelers to even attempt an assault on the mountain. For years, few climbers tried, but now, for the right price (approximately $70,000) one can join an expedition with little to no experience whatsoever. This adventure, however, is extremely dangerous. For every five climbers that leave their mark on Mt Everest, one climber dies. The inclusion of less than seasoned mountaineers who feel that climbing Mount Everest is a fine idea is the subject of great debate in the climbing community.
This doesn't mean that Everest is not an attractive tourist destination. The Everest base camp, found near the Rongphu monastery in the outskirts of Tibet, is still visited by thousands of tourists a year, for whom stepping foot on the great mountain is victory enough.