Geology of Everest
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The Geology of Everest

On this page: Structural Geology of Himalayan Region | Stratigraphy of Everest | Geological Conclusions | Expedition Research

The geology of Everest is simple as described in literature. It is an enormous wedge of sediment that used to be at the bottom of the Tethys Sea. It has been subjected to low grade metamorphism and has been lifted at an enormous rate (10 cm a year compared to the Alps at 1cm a year) between two faults; one near the top of Everest, the other in the vicinity of Base Camp, both dipping north at low angles. The enormous height of Everest is due to the collision rate of India and Asia, which is the fastest of any continental collision.

Everest and the Himalayas are very young mountains.  Two tectonic plates are busy crashing into each other.  India (the first plate) was 500 km further south only 10 million years ago, a fantastically fast rate of movement in geological terms.  The stubborn Asian plate has not budged.  The Indian plate is sliding under the Asian plate causing crumpling, folding and, sometimes, fairly intact monolithic slices of rock (Everest) that just keep on shooting upwards.

Generalised Structural Geology of the Himalaya Region
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Simplified Stratigraphy of Everest

Everest is supposedly made up of limestones, marbles, shales, pelites and underlain by leuco granites, pegmatites and sillimanite gneisses.  Everest's faces and the Lhotse face are reported to be full of marine fossils.

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Conclusions from Report on the Geology of the Mount Everest Region

A study by Dr Toran Sharma & Mr Upendra Bhakta Pradhanang entitled "Report on the Geology of the Mount Everest Region" ( Page 13) concluded as follows:

"1. The Khumbu valley is made up of the Higher-Himalayan and Tethys Himalayan morph-tectonic belts of the Himalayas.

2. The rock sequences of the Khumbu valley represent a tectonically simple, undisturbed and normal Higher Himalayan and Tethys Himalayan succession, the latter succeed broadly transitionally the former.

3. The Higher Himalayan successions are extremely migmatised. The  unmigmatised part of the rocks indicated that the sequence was originally a sedimentary one.

4. The metamorphism of the Higher Himalaya was of Barrovian type and it is normal, dying out structurally upwards in the Tethys Himalayan succession.

5. Nuptse granite is an intrusive granite sill intruded in the Tertiary period. It is not involved into any major tectonisation.

6. Regionally, folds of Himalayan trend and folds of transeverse orientation have been developed in the Khumbu region.

7. Minor structural  study has shown at least four generation of compressional orogenic folds in the region. Two of the fold episodes orient at perpendicular disposition to the Himalayan trend.

8. World's highest peak Mt Everest lies on the back of the thrusted Higher-Himalayan sequence and it is structurally and tectonically simple."

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Kangshung face, Carlos Buhler near the summit
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Expedition Research

René intends to study the geology of Everest by doing a traverse from Base Camp through Camps 1 to 4, as high as possible on the South East ridge of Everest.  This project is being done in conjunction with the University of the Witwatersrand.  The study, if completed or even feasible, will be published around 2008.

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Page updated: 02/08/2015