From Everest to Annapurna, and all the peaks in between, these are the highest mountains in the world
The highest mountain in the world is Mount Everest. It’s common knowledge, it’s mainstream, it’s not much of a secret. How many people though do you think know what the world’s sixth highest mountain is? Or, for that matter, what the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth highest mountains in the world are. Exactly. That’s the sort of trivia only real mountaineering hipsters have. Thankfully, and big shoutout to Google here for helping us in our hour of need, we can now all be mountaineering experts together.
1) Mount Everest
As we’ve already said, and as you already knew, Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. Its peak is an eye-watering 8,848 metres above sea level, making it well over eight times taller than the highest mountain in Wales (Snowdon, at 1,085 metres above sea level).
Everest is situated on the border between Nepal and the autonomous region of Tibet. Officially speaking, the first successful Everest climbers were Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. It is estimated that there is well over 200 dead bodies on Everest, all of them remarkably well-preserved because of the extremely cold temperatures.
Everest is part of the Seven Summits. The Seven Summits is a list made up of the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents. Climbing all seven of the Seven Summits is one of the ultimate achievements in the sport of mountaineering.
In recent years, a lot has been made of overcrowding and human traffic jams on Everest. One photo in particular, taken by mountain climber Nirmal Purja in 2019, illustrated just how bad the problem with overcrowding has become. The dangers of queueing in Everest’s scary sounding ‘Death Zone’ has been underlined by last year’s higher than average death count on the mountain. Off the back of this grim year for climbing, we asked a number of mountaineers for their opinions on how they think the Everest overcrowding problem can be fixed.
K2, also known officially as Mount Godwin-Austen or Chhogori, has a summit 8,611 metres above sea level. It is located on the border between China and Pakistan. The Chinese side of the mountain is widely considered to be the more difficult and hazardous side, so the summit is usually attempted from the Pakistan side.
Behind Annapurna, K2 has the second highest fatality rate of any mountain with a height over 8,000 metres. Approximately speaking, there’s one death for every four successful climbs; justifying its nickname as the “Savage Mountain.”
Ever wondered what it’s like to climb K2 without supplemental oxygen? This extraordinary human feat of endurance has been brilliantly captured in the documentary ‘Breathtaking: K2 – The World’s Most Dangerous Mountain’.
Kangchenjunga is a mountain that’s impossible to pronounce after a full crate of beers. It’s also, perhaps more importantly than that, the third highest mountain in the world. It sits on the border between Nepal and India, and has an elevation of 8,586 metres.
Located approximately 125 kilometres from Everest, Kangchenjunga is the second highest mountain in the Himalayas (with K2 sitting in the neighbouring Karakorum). Up until 1852, it was assumed to be the world’s highest mountain. However after some clever calculating, and presumably some recalculating to make sure, it was announced that Everest was in fact the highest mountain in the world with Kangchenjunga having to settle for third place.
There is a tradition when ascending Kangchenjunga to stop just short of the summit. This dates back to the first successful climb of the mountain by Joe Brown and George Brand in 1955. Brown and Brand, who were part of a British expedition, made a promise to regional monarchs know as the Chogyal that the mountain’s summit would remain pure. Every climber since then has followed the respectful example set by the first ascent.
Just missing out on a medal, and a spot on the podium, is Lhotse. Lhotse, elevation – 8,516 metres, is the fourth highest mountain in the world. It neighbours Mount Everest, and forms part of the Everest massif. The summit of Lhotse is on the border between the Khumbu region of Nepal and Tibet. It was first climbed to in 1956 when a Swiss team made up of Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger did the business.
Interestingly, Lhotse Middle (a subsidary peak of Lhotse with an elevation of 8,410 metres) wasn’t summited until 2001. The Middle was the final eight thousand metre peak to be summited and, despite being lower than the main Lhotse summit, is widely considered to be the most difficult climb over eight thousand metres in the world. This is, in large part, because of the intimidating tower-like shape on its upper reaches.
2019 was a busy year for Himalayan ski descents. Not only did it feature the first ski descent of K2, it was also the year that gave us the first ski descent of Lhotse – made by American duo Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison.
With an elevation of 8,485m, Makalu is officially the fifth highest mountain in the world. Situated 19km southeast of Everest, on the border between Nepal and China, Makalu is notable for its summit’s iconic pyramid shape. Makalu was first summited in 1955 by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy, who made up part of a French expedition.
Because of the mountain’s isolated position, which leaves it exposed to the elements, and numerous knife-edge ridges and pant-filling steep sections, Makalu is viewed by many in the mountaineering community as one of the world’s most difficult climbs. The latter stages of the ascent, in particular, involve some extremely technical rock and ice climbing.
6) Cho Oyu
One mountain down the height list from Makalu, but at the opposite end of the difficulty spectrum, is Cho Oyu. While it’s anything but a casual walk in the park, its elevation is an intimidating 8,188 metres after all, Cho Oyu is seen by many to be the “easiest” of the plus-8,000m mountains to climb due to its accessibility and generally moderate slopes.
Cho Oyo, which means “Turquoise Goddess”, stands on the Chinese-Nepalese border. The first ascent was accomplished by Austrians Joseph Jöchler and Herbert Tichy, as well Pasang Dawa Lama from Nepal, in 1954.
With an elevation of 8,167 metres, Dhaulagiri is the seventh highest mountain in the world. It’s located in Nepal, and was first summited in 1960 by a combined Swiss/Austrian/Nepalese effort.
In 1808, Dhaulagiri was marked down in the record books as the world’s highest mountain of those yet surveyed. It was registered as the world’s highest mountain until Kangchenjunga took the top spot in 1838, after which Everest went officially to number one in 1858.
Coming in at number eight on the list of the all-time highest mountains is Manaslu. Manaslu can be found in the west-central part of Nepal, and has a summit that’s situated 8,163m above sea level.
The first successful ascent of Manaslu occurred in 1956, when Japanese climber Toshio Imanishi and Nepalese Sherpa Gyalzen Norbu made it to the summit. The mountain, the highest one in the Gorkha District, is a significant part of Japan’s mountaineering history.
In the same way that some Brits consider Everest to be their mountain, the Imanishi ascent and subsequent climbs by other Japanese adventurers has seen Japan claim Manaslu as their own.
9) Nanga Parbat
Nanga Parbat is the ninth highest mountain in the world. Its summit is 8,126 metres above sea level. The mountain is situated in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. It resides at the westernmost point of the Himalayas and is also the furthest west of all the world’s eight thousand metre peaks.
In 1953, Hermann Buhl, who was part of a German/Austrian expedition team, became the first man to ascend Nanga Parbat. Nanga Parbat is a notoriously dangerous hill to climb, and has been labelled the “Killer Mountain” by those who deal in nicknames and the like. Locally speaking, the mountain is known as Deo Mir. Translated literally, this means “Huge Mountain.”
One of the standout features of Nanga Parbat is the Rupal Face, which rises 4,600 metres from bottom to top. The Rupal Face, located on the mountain’s south side, is often referred to as the highest mountain face in the world.
Rounding off this list of the world’s top 10 highest mountains is Annapurna. Technically speaking Annapurna is actually a massif in the Himalayas, comprising of 30 mountains over 6,000 metres. For the purposes of this article though, rest assured that whenever we say “Annapurna” we’re in fact referring to the only mountain in the massif with an elevation above 8,000 metres (Annapurna I – 8,091m).
Historically speaking Annapurna, and the supporting peaks in the massif, are some of the world’s most difficult and dangerous mountains to climb. The fatality-to-summit ratio on Annapurna, for example, is a truly terrifying 32%. The mountain is located in north-central Nepal, and was first summited in 1950 by a French expedition led by Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal.