Researchers confirm Huascarán is actually 11 metres lower than previously assumed

S ince 1873, nine measurements of the south and north peaks of Huascarán have been made estimating all different heights. The first height of Peru´s tallest mountain was given by Hindle-Raimondi in 1873 and the last measurement was carried out by an expedition team of the National Institute of Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems (INAIGEM), in August of 2017. Hindle-Raimondi set the height of Huascarán´s South Peak at 6,721 metres above sea-level, according to the use of topographical triangulation.

Charles Reginald Enock (November 23, 1868, Edgbaston, Birmingham, England – April 7, 1970 in Midhurst, West Sussex, England) in 1904 calculated the south peak of Huascarán at 6,760 metres above sea-level. The General Society of Studies and Topographic Works (Société général d’études et de Travaux Topographiques) determined the height of Mount Huascarán in 1909 at the request of Mrs. F. Bullock-Workman. They set the height at 6,763 metres, three metres higher than Enock´s calculations. According to an estimated topographical unknown method, Steinmann believed that its height was actually 6,668 metres. McLaughlin in 1924 corrected Steinmann´s previous assumptions and calculated the Cumbre Sur of Huascarán at 6,614 metres above sea-level.

Scientists Philipp Borchers, Wilhelm Bernard, Erwin Hein, Hermann Hörlin, Hans Kinzl and Erwin Schneider and Peruvian porters Néstor Montes and Faustino Rojo were the first people to conquer the south peak of Huascarán on the 20th of July in 1932 and the German and Austrian Alpine Club expeditioners were part of a climbing and cartographic survey conducted in the years 1932, 1936, and 1939, resulting in the first topographical maps of the Cordillera Blanca.  This team set the height of Huascarán´s South Peak at 6,768 metres above sea-level. In 1964 an updated 1:25,000-scale topographical survey of Huascarán Norte by the Deutscher und Österreichischer Alpenverein, titled Nevada Huascarán, Cordillera Blanca, Perú, also set the summit at 6,768 metres.

The penultimate measurement was completed in 1972 by the Military Geographical Institute (IGM) calculating the height of Huascarán according to aerial photogrammetry at 6,746 metres. It would then take 45 long years for a new scientific measurement. The latter was executed by the INAIGEM expedition team who used a global navigation satellite equipment of the TOPCON GR5 brand. GPS differential technology provides greater accuracy to height measurements and was previously applied in 1992 on Mount Everest, in 1999 on Kilimanjaro, in 2001 on Aconcagua and in 2014 on K2.

To measure the height of Huascarán, a high precision satellite navigation equipment was used. Its use consists of the practice of a mobile receiver and a reference station on known coordinates. INAIGEM used the roof of the Cultural Center in Yungay as a geodesic reference point. The monographic description of this point was acquired to the National Geographical Institute and the distance from the town of Yungay to the southern summit of Huascarán is 16 km. The global navigation satellite TOPCON GR5 equipment calculated the elevation of the South Peak of Huascarán at 6,756.697 metres above sea-level, 11,303 metres lower compared to 1972.

Author: Glenn Fezvi
Sources: Nota Técnica 01 – Expedición Científica Huascarán – INAIGEM-2017 and James M. Wise; The highest point in Peru – A short history on the survey of Huascarán
Photo: INAIGEM – Topcon GR5 on Huascarán

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