When asked why he wanted to climb the tallest mountain in the world, explorer George Mallory famously replied, “Because it’s there.”For most of us, standing on the roof of the world is a daydream – or a nightmare – that will never happen. However, you don’t need to be an aspiring mountaineer to appreciate the natural beauty of a massive, steep and snow-covered peak. While most people know Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, few know all the top tallest mountains.
Known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and Chomolungma in Tibet, the western world knows the tallest mountain as Everest. Named after Edmund Hillary – the first confirmed climber to reach the peak in 1953, the mountain used to be called simply Peak XV. Accompanied by a local Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, it took the two men a total of seven weeks to summit. The 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) mountain has claimed over 297 lives as people struggle to reach the top. Due to the freezing temperatures, Everest’s top is permanently capped in snow and ice which has proven fatal for some climbers. Most climbers struggle with the low temperatures and the low oxygen levels as they climb. Usually, people take oxygen tanks to help them breathe, but in 1978 Reinhold Messner was the first climber to reach the peak without an oxygen tank.
The second highest mountain is K2 which is also occasionally known as Mount Godwin Austen who was an explorer who traveled in this area. The name K2 relates to the notation mark a surveyor gave the mountain when the first maps of the area were drawn. Possibly due to the extreme remoteness of the location, K2 does not have a confirmed local or native name. Measured at 8,611 meters above sea level (28,251 feet) the mountain straddles the border between Pakistan and China. Considered by climbers a more challenging assent than Mount Everest, K2 is a dangerous peak. Approximately one person losses their life on K2 for every four who successfully reach the summit.
At 8,586 meters (28,169 feet) Kangchenjunga is the world’s third highest mountain but is not as famous as the first and second highest. However, before modern surveying methods allowed map makers to measure the height of mountains accurately, Kangchenjunga was thought to be the tallest in the world. It wasn’t until 1852 that Kangchenjunga was relabeled as the third highest. The mountain is situated on the border between Nepal and India and can be climbed from either side. The first climbers were Joe Brown and George Band who ascended in 1955. They did not actually stand on the peak of the mountain as they promised the local people they would not, to show respect for their belief that this mountain is sacred. This tradition continues today, meaning that technically the summit of Kangchenjunga has never been climbed.
Lhoste is the fourth highest mountain at 8,516 meters (27,940 feet). Situated in the Himalayas, Lhoste is part of the Mahalangur range and is connected to Mount Everest. The literal translation of the mountain’s name is “south peak” in the local Tibetan dialect because as viewed from Tibet Lhoste is towards the south of Everest. The middle peak of Lhoste remained unconquered for many years and was the tallest unclimbed mountain for decades. It wasn’t until 2001 that a Russian team led by Eugeny Vinogradsky first reached the summit
Also found in the Mahalangur range of the Himalayas Makalu is 8,485 meters (27,838 feet) high. The mountain sits between the borders of China, Nepal, and Tibet. Like many of the tallest mountains, Makalu was first climbed in the 1950s. A French team led by Jean Franco reached the summit in 1955, and they established the standard route which climbers follow to this day.
Cho Oyu means “Turquoise Goddess” in the local Tibetan language. Measured at 8,188 meters (26,864 feet) the sixth highest mountain is part of the Himalayan Mahalangur range. Cho Oyu sits close to an ancient trading route that connects Sherpa communities. Because of this easier access, Cho Oyu is considered to be the most accessible mountain out of the ten highest to climb. First summited in 1954 by an Austrian expedition, Cho Oyu was the highest peak climbed without using oxygen tanks until Everest was climbed without oxygen in 1978.
At 8,167 meters (26,795 feet) Dhaulagiri I is the seventh tallest mountain in the world and the highest inside the border of one country. The local Nepalese people named the mountain which means “dazzling white mountain” in their language. In 1960 the first successful team reached the summit. The Austrian and Swiss climbers were led by Max Eiselin.
Manaslu is 8,163 meters (26,781 feet) above sea level and the eighth highest mountain in the world. The mountain is in Nepal in the Mansiri Himal range of the Himalayas. In the local Sanskrit language, Manaslu means “soul” reflecting the sacred respect the Nepalese have for this mountain. The first team that reached the top was part of a Japanese expedition. Climbers Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu stood on the summit on the 9th of May 1956. The unique location of Manaslu has created a relatively sheltered valley and mountain ecosystem, home to many endangered animals including the elusive Snow Leopard.
The ninth highest mountain is Nanga Parbat at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet) tall. Found in the western Himalayas Nanga Parbat is within the borders of Pakistan. Because it is close to Tibet, some people call the mountain by its Tibetan name Deo Mir which translates to “huge mountain.” A common nickname for Naga Parbat is the “Killer Mountain” due to a large number of deaths from those attempting to scale this peak. Although the 85 fatalities are lower than the 297 on Everest, the mountain is still considered a precarious climb. The nickname came from the 31 deaths on the mountain before the summit was first reached in 1953 by the solo Austrian climber Hermann Buhl. The failed 1934 expedition was the worst climbing disaster at the time when ten people lost their lives. However, today the ill-fated attempt is more famous as it was fully funded by Hitler’s Nazi party.
Annapurna I is the highest of the Annapurna Massif range in the Nepalese Himalayas. At 8,091 meters (26,545 feet) Annapurna I is the tenth tallest mountain on earth and one of fourteen more than 8,000 meters above sea level. It was the first of these tall mountains to be climbed. However, with a fatality rate of 32 percent among those who try to reach the summit, Annapurna I is also the most dangerous of all mountains over 8,000 meters high.