November 11, 1999

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Latest Dispatch

November 11, 1999

Bradford Washburn, the esteemed mountain photographer-explorer who directed the Millennium Expedition, presented the results to the American Alpine Club on November 11, 1999. This final dispatch is an excerpt from his speech.

We now know much more about the configuration of our Earth, as well as Everest’s all-important geoid, than we did 40 years ago. This year’s new data for the altitude and position of Everest are based on very precise observations made simultaneously, atop Everest’s summit and at its 26,000-foot [7,930-meter] South Col.

This remarkable and final fieldwork was executed by expert guides Pete Athans and Bill Crouse on May 5, 1999 during the period 10:13 a.m. to 11:09 a.m., Nepal Standard Time—for a total of 56 minutes.

Accompanying them to the top were five Sherpas who carried our precious Trimble GPS equipment and a vitally important extra supply of oxygen. Constantly at my right hand during all of this planning and fieldwork was the science manager of our team, Charles Corfield of Palo Alto, California.

With the assistance of a marvelous array of guides and Sherpas, along with the financial backing of Boston’s Museum of Science, the National Geographic Society, Trimble Navigation, and numerous generous donors, we have now made really significant progress on this new subject—and we are now prepared to give you an extremely accurate, up-to-the-minute new altitude for Mount Everest.

It is 8,850 meters (29,035 feet). This altitude shows no measurable change during the last four years, but Everest’s horizontal position seems to be moving steadily and slightly northeastward.

But remember that even these figures are subject to change—by a lot and at any moment—as they are directly dependent upon the behavior of the great thrust-fault system that is shoving India under Nepal and China to create the Himalaya. A nice new earthquake might upset all of this information dramatically.

In closing, I must also remind you that at this moment, six months later, Mount Everest may already be a trifle higher, as well as slightly northeast of the position that it occupied early in May!

As I approach my 90th birthday next spring, it’s really exciting to still be actively involved in what’s going on in the highest Himalaya—working with an array of the world’s most competent surveyors and an equally superb field-team of world-class guides and Sherpas at the cutting edge of the twilight of my life!!

Learn more from our press release.

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