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The Highest Peak in the World

No, It’s Not Mount Everest

No, It’s Not Mount Everest

There are some thirty-six mountain peaks in the Andes alone whose altitude is greater than Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo. Yet, Chimborazo is demonstrably the highest peak in the world. It all depends on how you measure it.

If the earth were perfectly round, there is no question that Mount Everest takes the prize. But the earth, far from being perfectly round, is an oblate ellipsoid.  Around the equator, there is a bulge that is significant enough that—if you measure altitude from the center of the earth rather than sea level—Chimborazo is taller.

According to Ken Jennings of Condé-Nast Traveler:

This bulge isn’t huge—a deviation of about one part in 300 from a perfect sphere—but it’s enough to mess with cartography. Chimborazo tops out at 20,702 feet, almost two miles lower than Everest. But that’s only compared to sea level. If we take the equatorial bulge into account—in other words, if we measure what peak is farthest from the center of the Earth—Chimborazo sticks more than 7,000 feet farther into space than any of the Himalayas do, since they’re located thousands of miles north of the Equator. So, to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, “what I told you was true—from a certain point of view.”

So if you climbed to the top of Chimborazo, you would be standing a mile and a half farther into space than the poor souls who brave the Himalayan peaks.

No, I have to plans to climb any mountain peaks. I will stand and stare in silent awe from the base of the peak, which is visible from the port of Guayaquil, ninety miles to the west.