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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Hope summiting 2020 at 29,032 feet


Last updated 12/11/2020 at 10:31am

In a time when American politics has been all about dueling realities, you’ll be happy — in a misery-loves-company kind of way — to know that it’s not just us.

Nepal and China have been arguing since 2005 about the actual height of Mount Everest, which sits on the border between Nepal and Tibet, which is an autonomous region of China (basically, China’s Canada).

Here’s the beef, the highest point of the of Mount Everest is the marker for the border between Nepal and Tibet, and for years the height of the summit, agreed to be highest peak in the world, has been 29,029 feet.

This is so far above the tree line, that it’s basically above the oxygen line, too, with only about a third of the oxygen found at sea level. The web page vmeverest09.com/oxygen-at-altitude has a whole thing on it — because oxygen is important. I only mention the oxygen thing because maybe the Chinese researchers were a little lightheaded when they got to the top.

When the Chinese team got back to the bottom of the mountain they declared to the world that the peak was only 29,015 feet high. Of course, my description of the event is an exaggeration because those researchers didn’t say that at the base of the mountain, they had to go home to get their calculators to do the math. Who would carry a calculator to the top of Mount Everest? Nevertheless, China announced to the world that the Nepalese people were exaggerating about the length of their trek.

It was an affront to the Nepalese who said that the new measurement couldn’t be official if they were not involved in the measuring process. I suspect it had something to do with calibrating the inseam measurement of the climbers who were stepping off the distance because, y’know, people with longer legs have a different stride than those with short legs.

Besides, said no one in Nepal, how can you trust people in a country where “Iron Crotch” kung fu is a real thing. A Reuters report posted Thursday said that as a branch of Tongbeiquan kung fu, “mastery of which is gained by taking hits to the body’s weakest points (such as head, throat, chest and back) while using qigong breathing techniques.” But the Iron Crotch masters, of which only five remain, specifically take those hits to the groin.

While it seems that a martial arts form centered around one’s willingness to get whacked in the crotch should die a natural death, the masters, in an effort to help get the numbers up, devised an apparatus that allows new practitioners to practice on their own without relying on having someone willing to kick or hit them in the you-know-whats.

Imagine, if you will a 6.5-foot long, 88-pound log with a steel end cap — adjustable to any groin height — attached to a stout swing set.

This has nothing to do with the height of Mount Everest, but do you want to trust these details to the people who spend their intellectual freetime devising personal battering rams for men who aspire to master the art of inducing their own infertility.

Let’s say you are fulfilling your lifelong quest of scaling Mount Everest, your oxygen tank just went dry, you are at the end of your strength and your wits, just staring at your GPS that reads 29,014 feet and you tell yourself, “One more step and I will have accomplished my life’s ambition. I can do this!”

By sheer force of will you make that step and … “What the — ?” You look up to see 14 feet of mountainside still stretching into the heavens above you … then pass out from lack of oxygen and slide back down to base camp. That’s like taking a low blow from a steel-plated battering ram.

So in 2015, after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal started the rumor that Everest had lost more height. The Nepalese launched an effort to get an accurate measurement. The Chinese sent researchers to join in, and in 2017 the cooperative crew set out to tackled the Mount Everest height debate.

A CNN report, updated Thursday, said they calibrated inseams by using “a combination of geodetic data received from three mechanisms: leveling instrument, gravity meter and GPS. The team placed a signal receiver at every station, and measured how much time it took for signals to travel between the receiver and satellites — then converted that measurement into height.”

Like a bright star on the end of a tumultuous 2020 these feuding countries, joined together in this mission to get their facts straight, have announced that Mount Everest is officially 29,032 feet tall, and they’re heading into 2021 with a win.

It’s not a funny ending, but I find it heartwarming, and it gives me hope for fact-disputing people everywhere.


Pack extra oxygen at [email protected] .


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