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.
Astronaut photograph ISS026-E-15208 was acquired on January 6, 2011, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 26 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.