The Tibetans call the highest mountain of the world Chomolungma, Mother-goddess of the Earth. At 8848m/29,029ft, Mount Everest is the highest of fourteen 8000-meter peaks in the Himalayas. It has been named after Sir George Everest, the British surveyor and geographer and Surveyor-General of India.
On May 29th 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to summit the world's tallest mountain. On May 27th 1999 Helga Hengge reached the summit via the North East Ridge in Tibet and became the first German woman to do so successfully. Twenty years prior, in 1979, Hannelore Schmatz had reached the summit via the South Col Route in Nepal and tragically died of exhaustion while descending.
An expedition to climb Mount Everest takes about two months. Critical for all climbers is the acclimatization, meaning getting the body used to the thin air. With increasing altitude the barometric pressure sinks and at an altitude of 5000 meters the body can take in only half the amount of oxygen as compared to sea level, while above 7500 meters it is only one-third. At 8000 meters the so-called death-zone starts, a zone on the mountain where the body degenerates rapidly and very quickly loses its strength.
The ascent on the North East Ridge Route starts in the Rongbuk Valley in Tibet. At the end of the Rongbuk Glacier base camp is set up at an altitude of 5200 meters. The ascent to advanced base camp to an altitude of 6400 meters is a 24-kilometer walk and leads through the Eastern Rongbuk Valley to the foot of the North Col Wall. From there four high camps are set up on the mountain, Camp 1 at 7000 meters on the North Col, Camp 2 at the end of a long traverse at 7600 meters, Camp 3 in the rocks at 7950 meters and Camp 4 at a height of 8300 meters in the North Face. The critical point of the North East Ridge route is the famous Second Step. It is located at about 8600 meters, a steep rock wall of about 20 meters in height that has to be climbed to reach the ridge. From there the North East Ridge Route follows an easy path along the top of the Kangshung Face (the East Face of the mountain) along uneven rock and snow fields which convolutes into a steeper snow field under the summit pyramid. The summit is not bigger than two kitchen tables pushed together, but the view is as grand as the whole world.