|The last rays of sunlight on Mount Everest on 5 May 2007|
Geologists have subdivided the rocks comprising Mount Everest into three units called "formations". Each formation is separated from the other by low-angle faults, called “detachments”, along which they have been thrust over each other. From the summit of Mount Everest to its base these rock units are the Qomolangma Formation, the North Col Formation, and the Rongbuk Formation.
From its summit to the top of the Yellow Band, about 8,600 m (28,000 ft) above sea level, the top of Mount Everest consists of the Qomolangma Formation, which has also been designated as either the Everest Formation or Jolmo Lungama Formation. It consists of grayish to dark gray or white, parallel laminated and bedded, Ordovician limestone inter layered with subordinate beds of recrystallized dolomite with argillaceous laminae and siltstone. Gansser first reported finding microscopic fragments of crinoids in this limestone. Later petrographic analysis of samples of the limestone from near the summit revealed them to be composed of carbonate pellets and finely fragmented remains of trilobites, crinoids, and ostracods. Other samples were so badly sheared and recrystallized that their original constituents could not be determined. A thick, white-weathering thrombolite bed that is 60 m (200 ft) thick comprises the foot of the "Third Step," and base of the summit pyramid of Everest. This bed, which crops out starting about 70 m (300 ft) below the summit of Mount Everest, consists of sediments trapped, bound, and cemented by the biofilms of microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria, in shallow marine waters. The Qomolangma Formation is broken up by several high-angle faults that terminate at the low angle thrust fault, the Qomolangma Detachment. This detachment separates it from the underlying Yellow Band. The lower five metres of the Qomolangma Formation overlying this detachment are very highly deformed.
The bulk of Mount Everest, between 7,000 and 8,600 m (23,000 and 28,200 ft), consists of the North Col Formation, of which the Yellow Band forms its upper part between 8,200 to 8,600 m (26,900 to 28,200 ft). The Yellow Band consists of intercalated beds of Middle Cambrian diopside-epidote-bearing marble, which weathers a distinctive yellowish brown, and muscovite-biotite phyllite and semischist. Petrographic analysis of marble collected from about 8,300 m (27,200 ft) found it to consist as much as five percent of the ghosts of recrystallized crinoid ossicles. The upper five metres of the Yellow Band lying adjacent to the Qomolangma Detachment is badly deformed. A 5–40 cm (2–16 in) thick fault breccia separates it from the overlying Qomolangma Formation.
The remainder of the North Col Formation, exposed between 7,000 to 8,200 m (23,000 to 26,900 ft) on Mount Everest, consists of interlayered and deformed schist, phyllite, and minor marble. Between 7,600 and 8,200 m (24,900 and 26,900 ft), the North Col Formation consists chiefly of biotite-quartz phyllite and chlorite-biotite phyllite intercalated with minor amounts of biotite-sericite-quartz schist. Between 7,000 and 7,600 m (23,000 and 24,900 ft), the lower part of the North Col Formation consists of biotite-quartz schist intercalated with epidote-quartz schist, biotite-calcite-quartz schist, and thin layers of quartzose marble. These metamorphic rocks appear to be the result of the metamorphism of Middle to Early Cambrian deep sea flysch composed of interbedded, mudstone, shale, clayey sandstone, calcareous sandstone, graywacke, and sandy limestone. The base of the North Col Formation is a regional thrust fault called the "Lhotse detachment".
Below 7,000 m (23,000 ft), the Rongbuk Formation underlies the North Col Formation and forms the base of Mount Everest. It consists of sillminite-K-feldspar grade schist and gneiss intruded by numerous sills and dikes of leucogranite ranging in thickness from 1 cm to 1,500 m (0.4 in to 4,900 ft).
Euophrys omnisuperstes, a minute black jumping spider, has been found at elevations as high as 6,700 metres (22,000 ft), possibly making it the highest confirmed non-microscopic permanent resident on Earth. It lurks in crevices and may feed on frozen insects that have been blown there by the wind. It should be noted that there is a high likelihood of microscopic life at even higher altitudes. Birds, such as the Bar-headed Goose, have been seen flying at the higher altitudes of the mountain, while others, such as the Chough, have been spotted as high as the South Col (7,920 m) scavenging on food, or even corpses, left by prior climbing expeditions.
|Euophrys omnisuperstes, a minute black jumping spider|