How does the altitude of Mount Everest affect the boiling point of water?

How does the altitude of Mount Everest affect the boiling point of water?

Understanding How Altitude and Temperature Interact on Mount Everest

Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth, reaching an altitude of 29,029 feet or 8,848 meters, presents a captivating paradox where water’s boiling point decreases as we ascend. But how is the height of Mount Everest altering water’s boiling point? It all comes down to understanding the simple but valuable principles of physics and its relationship with atmospheric pressure and temperature.

The Madness behind Mount Everest’s Physics

The effects of altitude on water’s boiling point relate directly to atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure is the force exerted by the weight of the air in the Earth’s atmosphere. At sea level, this pressure is standard and equates to 1 atmosphere, which influences the boiling point of water to be 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit).

But how is this situation different on Mount Everest? The atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing altitude because the atmosphere’s weight decreases. This reduction in atmospheric pressure directly affects the boiling point of water. Consequently, the higher you go – the lower the boiling point of water becomes, with the boiling point decreasing approximately 0.5 degrees Celsius for every 500 meters gained in height. Therefore, on the summit of Mount Everest, the boiling point of water is only about 71 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Temperature-Altitude Complex

Understanding this temperature-altitude complex involves grasping the concept of vapor pressure. When water is heated, its molecules gain more energy, resulting in increased movement causing some to escape as vapor, creating vapor pressure. This vapor pressure increases with the water temperature until it equals the pressure exerted by the surrounding atmosphere at the boiling point, resulting in the phenomenon of boiling.

Thus, at the summit of Mount Everest, where atmospheric pressure is significantly lower due to the elevation, the water will boil with much less heat than at sea level. This is because the water needs less kinetic energy to generate the vapor pressure necessary to exceed the surrounding atmospheric pressure, enabling the water to change from liquid to gas.

The Influence on Mountaineering

This peculiarity, uniquely observable in lofty realms, profoundly influences high altitude mountaineering and cooking. At a reduced boiling point, foods and drinks do not receive the same amount of heat as they would at sea level, requiring prolonged cooking times and creating potential risk scenarios ranging from foodborne illnesses to decreased nutritional intake or dehydration.


Indeed, the relationship between altitude and temperature on Mount Everest unveils an intriguing aspect of high-altitude physics and its practical implications for mountaineers and high-altitude dwellers. Therefore, understanding these principles can make a significant difference in preparing oneself physically and mentally for the challenge of climbing Mount Everest.


1. Why does the boiling point of water decrease with height?

As the altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure decreases because the weight of the atmosphere above is less. This comparably lower pressure allows water to boil at a lower temperature, as less kinetic energy is necessary for the liquid to turn into vapor.

2. What is the boiling point of water on top of Mount Everest?

At the summit of Mount Everest, the boiling point of water is significantly lower than at sea level, roughly 71 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit).

3. How does altitude affect cooking?

Because of the reduced path boiling point at high altitudes, food and drinks do not get as much heat as they would at a lower altitude, requiring longer cooking times and possibly leading to foodborne diseases or decreased nutritional intake.

4. Does the lowered boiling point affect climbers on Mount Everest?

Yes, the decreased boiling point of water has considerable implications for climbers. It takes notably longer to cook food or melt snow for drinking water, and food will not be as hot when prepared, which could lead to potential health issues.

5. Is the boiling point of water only affected by altitude?

No, while altitude is a dominant factor, the boiling point of water is also influenced by other factors such as the presence of solutes and impurities.