Trivia Teaser: Will the Real Highest Mountain Please Stand Up

Question: The highest mountain peak on Earth, in reality, is:
A) Mauna Kea
B) Mount Chimborazo
C) Mount Everest
D) Mount McKinley
Answer: It depends upon how you define height. By the most commonly applied reference of height with respect to mean sea level, the highest point on earth is Mount Everest, which towers 29,035 feet above mean sea level, and is situated at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau on the border between Nepal and Tibet. However, it does have a bit of a head start over all the other big pointy rocks on this planet, because its base is already about 17,500 feet above sea level. (That’s the height of the first base camp for the South Col route, on Khumbu Glacier.) So Mount Everest, when considered as separate from the earth beneath it, is really only about 11,500 feet tall. Mauna Kea, on the big island of Hawaii, is the world’s tallest mountain when you measure its height from its base well below the ocean. While its height above sea level is about 13,795 feet, if Mauna Kea’s height is measured from its base, which begins about 18,000 feet below sea level, it exceeds even Mount Everest as the world’s highest mountain, coming in at about 31,800 feet. Mount McKinley in Alaska is North America’s highest peak and when you consider its height as measured from its non-submarine base, its 20,320-foot summit rises almost 18,000 vertical feet above the local terrain. Chimborazo is located in the Andes, in Ecuador. It is a long-dormant volcano, the summit of which is 20,600 feet. However, this summit constitutes the furthest point from the center of the Earth because of the high elevation, the location of the mountain at the equator and the oblateness of the Earth. If you can substantiate your claim with these kinds of disclaimers, then any answer counts. Otherwise, you’re stuck with choice C.