This astronaut photograph highlights the northern approach to Mount Everest from Tibet (China). Known as the northeast ridge route, climbers travel along the East Rongbuk Glacier (image lower left) to camp at the base of Changtse mountain. From this point at approximately 6,100 meters (20,000 feet) above sea level (asl), climbers ascend the North Col—a sharp-edged pass carved by glaciers, at image center—to reach a series of progressively higher camps along the North Face of Everest. Climbers make their final push to the summit (just off the top edge of the image) from Camp VI at 8,230 meters (27,000 feet) altitude.
Located within the Himalaya mountain chain, Everest (or Sagarmatha in Nepali) is the Earth’s highest mountain, with its summit at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) above sea level. Khumbutse mountain, visible at the lower right, has a summit elevation of 6,640 meters (21,785 feet) asl. While the near-nadir viewing angle—almost looking straight down from the International Space Station—tends to flatten the topography, astronauts have also taken images that highlight the rugged nature of the area.
On May 20, 2009, former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski became the first human to travel into space and to summit Everest.
Climbing to the summit of Everest requires much advance planning, conditioning, and situational awareness on the part of mountaineers to avoid potentially fatal consequences. As of 2010, there have been over 200 reported deaths. The numerous expeditions to reach the summit of Everest have produced significant trash and spent oxygen bottles at the various camps, leading the Nepalese government to impose rules requiring climbers to return with their gear and rubbish. Several “cleanup” expeditions have removed tons of material, including the remains of several climbers.