Short Wave: How Tall Is Mount Everest? Hint: It's Changing

For three years, Roxanne Vogel trained, single-mindedly, with one number in mind: 29,029 feet.

She slept in a special tent, outside her home in California, that simulated high altitude. She summited dozens of peaks, on nearly every continent. And finally, last year, Vogel climbed up to 29,029 feet in the Himalayan mountains – the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.

“That’s the closest to heaven, or the closest to outer space, that I will ever get on this Earth,” Vogel, 35, told NPR. “It’s kind of life-changing, when you’re up there.”

(And Roxanne didn’t just climb Everest; she set a speed record doing it. In May 2019, she traveled round-trip from her California home, to Everest’s peak and back, in just 14 days.)

But that number — 29,029 feet, from sea level to summit – to which Vogel dedicated so many years of training, may not be the actual height of Everest – or at least not for long. Because the mountain is changing.

Scientists say Everest is getting taller, over time, because of plate tectonics. As the Indian plate slips under the Eurasian plate, it uplifts the Himalayas. But earthquakes can reduce their height in an instant. After a 7.8-magnitude quake in 2015 killed thousands, including climbers on Everest, scientists suspect the mountain got shorter.

So China and Nepal, on whose borders Everest stands, decided it’s time to re-measure Everest.


Short Wave Podcast

It’s science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.

Science Topics
Technology Topics
GPS & Satellites
Middle School, High School
7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade, Adults

What are you looking for?


Short Wave (NPR)

Website URL

Type of Resource


Assigned Categories