What are the Top 20 Tallest Mountains?

what are the top 20 tallest mountains

The tallest peaks on Earth have long captured the imagination of the world’s most elite climbers. While there are lofty peaks scattered across the globe, the 20 tallest mountains on Earth are all located within the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges of South Central Asia.

These peaks have long and storied histories, both in terms of their significance to local communities and to climbers. Here’s some background information on each of the 20 tallest mountains on Earth.

The top 20 tallest mountains in the world:

1. Mount Everest (29,029′)

  • Also Known As: Sagarmatha/Chomolungma/Qomolangma
  • Location: Mahalangur Himalaya – Nepal/China
  • First Ascent: Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary – 1953

The highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest stands a staggering 29,029′ (8,848m) above sea level along the border of Nepal and China. Everest was first surveyed as a part of the British Great Trigonometric Survey in the 1800s, though it wasn’t identified by surveyors as the tallest peak until 1847.

Almost a decade later, Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India named the peak Everest after his predecessor, Sir George Everest. However, there are a number of other names for the mountain in Tibetan, Chinese, and Nepali.

As the tallest peak on Earth, Everest attracted a lot of attention from the leading mountaineers of the early 1900s. Perhaps the most famous early expeditions to the mountain were those of George Mallory, the British climber who famously disappeared on Everest’s Northeast Ridge alongside Sandy Irvine in 1924.

Despite many subsequent expeditions, the mountain wasn’t successfully summitted until the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition found the now-standard route up the South Col. Interestingly, news of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary’s first ascent of the peak reached London on the same day as Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

These days, Everest remains a goal of mountaineers around the world, who flock to the mountain’s slopes in droves during the boreal spring. After the 1953 first ascent, the other most important expeditions to the mountain include the 1963 American Mountain Everest Expedition, which was the first to climb the West Ridge, and Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler’s 1978 ascent without supplemental oxygen.

Everest is also well known for a 1996 disaster (chronicled in John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air), which saw 15 people die during a single storm. Other notable tragedies on Everest include a 2014 avalanche that killed 16 Sherpa as well as the death of famed mountaineer Ueli Steck in a 2017 mountaineering accident.

2. K2 (28,251′)

  • Also Known As: Mount Godwin Austen/Chhogori
  • Location: Baltoro Karakoram – Pakistan/China (also claimed by India)
  • First Ascent: Achille Compagnoli and Lino Lacedelli – 1954

Located in a disputed section of the Karakorum Range, K2 is the second-highest mountain in the world. Despite the fact that it’s significantly shorter than Everest, K2 is generally regarded as a much more challenging climb. The mountain is often referred to as the “Savage Mountain” as it is one of the deadliest in the world. Indeed, on average, one person dies on K2 for every four people that reach the mountain’s summit.

The most famous early expedition to K2 was led by Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of Abruzzi in 1909, which climbed to a height of 20,510′ (6,250m) on what’s now known as the Abruzzi Ridge. The 1939 American Karakoram Expedition, led by famed mountaineer, Fritz Wiessner, nearly summitted K2 but ended in disaster when multiple climbers disappeared on the mountain.

The 1953 American Expedition, lead by Charles Houston, also failed to summit but is well known for surviving for 10 days in a storm at 25,590′(7,800m), a story that’s told in the book, K2: The Savage Mountain. K2 finally saw its first ascent in 1954, but still is not frequently climbed.

The mountain was the cause of yet another disaster when 11 climbers died in 2008 from an avalanche near the summit. To this day, K2 is the only 8,000-meter peak that has never been climbed in winter.

3. Kangchenjunga (28,169′)

  • Location: Kangchenjunga Himalaya – Nepal/India
  • First Ascent: Joe Brown and George Band – 1955

The third-highest peak in the world, Kangchenjunga is located along the border of Nepal and Sikkim, India. Interestingly, until 1852, Kangchenjunga was thought to be the highest peak in the world, but this was disproven by British surveyors in 1849.

Despite its lofty status as the third highest peak in the world, Kangchenjunga doesn’t see as much climbing activity as other Himalayan peaks, perhaps because it is located far from the more popular climbing routes in Nepal’s Solu-Khumbu region in the more remote eastern part of the country.

Kangchenjunga saw its first ascent in 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band, who followed the route scouted by Aleister Crowley in 1905. However, the climbers did not step on the summit itself, because of a promise they made to the Chogyal (former monarchs of Sikkim) that they would leave the mountain intact.

All subsequent climbers that have successfully climbed Kangchenjunga have respected this tradition and have chosen to stop just short of the summit.

4. Lhotse (27,940′)

  • Location: Mahalangur Himalaya – Nepal/China
  • First Ascent: Fritz Luchsinger and Ernst Reiss – 1956

Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain in the world and is part of the greater Everest Massif. The mountain is connected to Everest via the South Col and is located on the border of Nepal and China.

Norman Dyhrenfurth’s 1955 International Himalayan Expedition was one of the first to make an attempt on Lhotse instead of Everest. The expedition was also the first Everest-area expedition with American climbers, which included the famed Fred Beckey.

One year later, a Swiss team made the first ascent of Lhotse’s main summit, though the mountain’s middle peak was the highest unclimbed named point on Earth until 2001. Even though it is very close to Everest, Lhotse is infrequently climbed in comparison to its taller neighbor.

5. Makalu (27,838′)

  • Location: Mahalangur Himalaya – Nepal/China
  • First Ascent: Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy – 1955

Although it’s located within the mountainous Mahalangur Himalaya, Makalu is an isolated peak that’s located 12 miles (19km) southeast of Everest. Because of its relative remoteness, the first climbing attempt on Makalu wasn’t until the 1954 California Himalayan Expedition, which turned back at 23,300′ (7,100m).

Famous French mountaineers Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy made the first ascent of Makalu in 1955. The mountain did not see a winter ascent until Simone Moro and Denis Urubko climbed Makalu in February 2009. Makalu is generally considered one of the more difficult 8,000-meter peaks and is not frequently climbed except by truly elite mountaineers.

6. Cho Oyu (26,864′)

  • Location: Mahalangur Himalaya – Nepal/China
  • First Ascent: Pasang Dawa Lama, Joseph Jöchler, Herbert Tichy – 1954

Cho Oyu is located in the Khumbu region of Nepal, along the China-Nepal border. Just west of Cho Oyu is Nangpa La, a famous glaciated pass that is a traditional trading route between Tibetans and the Sherpa of the Khumbu.

Cho Oyu was first attempted in 1952 by an expedition led by Eric Shipton as a warm-up for the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition, but they did not succeed. Two years later, an Austrian expedition was the first to reach the summit.

The mountain is generally considered to be the easiest 8,000-meter peak, so it’s fairly popular among less-experienced climbers. To this day, Cho Oyu is the second most climbed 8,000-meter peak, after Everest.

7. Dhaulagiri I (26,795′)

snow-capped dhalugiri with blue sky in background

  • Location: Dhaulagiri Himalaya – Nepal
  • First Ascent: Kurt Diemberger and team – 1960

Dhaulagiri I is the tallest mountain in the world that is wholly contained within one country. The mountain is located 21 mi (34km) east of Annapurna I and is separated from Annapurna by the Kali Gandaki River, whose gorge is thought to be one of the deepest in the world.

Interestingly, Maurice Herzog’s 1950 expedition initially set out to climb Dhaulagiri, but couldn’t find a feasible route so they switched their objective to Annapurna I. Dhaulagiri was first climbed by a Swiss/Austrian/Nepali team in 1960.

8. Manaslu (26,781′)

panorama of Manaslu

  • Also Known As: Kutan I
  • Location: Mansiri Himalaya – Nepal
  • First Ascent: Japanese Team – 1956

Manaslu is located some 40 miles (64km) east of Annapurna in a region that’s quite popular among trekkers. The mountain fascinated early Japanese climbers, who made multiple reconnaissance missions to the peak before successfully summitting in 1956. A Japanese expedition to Manaslu led by Kyoko Sato became the first women to climb an 8,000-meter peak in 1974.

9. Nanga Parbat (26,660′)

  • Also Known As: Diamer
  • Location: Nanga Parbat Himalaya – Pakistan (also claimed by India)
  • First Ascent: Hermann Buhl – 1953

Nanga Parbat is located along the western edge of the Himalaya and is known for its dramatic relief, thanks to its 15,118′ (4,608m) prominence. The mountain was first attempted in 1895 by Albert Mummery but wasn’t successfully climbed until Hermann Buhl’s incredible solo push to the summit in 1953. This climb was the only first ascent of an 8,000-meter peak that was done solo.

It was also done without supplemental oxygen.

Perhaps the most impressive ascent of Nanga Parbat was Steve House and Vince Anderson’s 2005 superlightweight climb of the mountain’s very difficult Rupal Face. Nanga Parbat was also the location of a high altitude helicopter rescue operation, which plucked Tomaž Humar off of a narrow ice ledge at 19,400′ (5,900m) and brought him to safety.

10. Annapurna I (26,545′)

Annapurna summit

  • Location: Annapurna Himalaya – Nepal
  • First Ascent: Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal – 1950

Annapurna is notable for being the first 8,000-meter peak to be climbed and the only one to be summited on its first ascent. The peak’s basecamp is a very popular trekking destination, but the mountain is one of the most dangerous to climb.

The 1950 French Annapurna Expedition team included some of the best climbers of the day, such as Lionel Terray and Gaston Rébuffat. The story of the climb is chronicled in Herzog’s Annapurna, which is a must-read for all mountain enthusiasts.

Arlene Blum’s 1978 American Women’s Himalayan Expedition became the first American team to climb Annapurna and the first women to reach the summit. Ueli Steck’s 2013 solo climb of Annapurna is considered one of the most impressive climbs in Himalayan mountaineering history.

11. Gasherbrum I (26,509′)

  • Also Known As: Hidden Peak/K5
  • Location: Baltoro Karakoram – Pakistan/China (also claimed by India)
  • First Ascent: American Expedition – 1958

Gasherbrum I is located in a very remote section of the Baltoro Karakorum and is therefore infrequently climbed. The peak saw its first ascent by an American team in 1958 and was subsequently climbed by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler in true alpine style, taking just 3 days to reach the summit from basecamp.

12. Broad Peak (26,414′)

  • Location: Baltoro Karakoram – Pakistan/China (also claimed by India)
  • First Ascent: Austrian Expedition – 1957

Broad Peak is located along the border of Pakistan and China within the Gasherbrum massif. Herman Buhl’s 1957 Austrian expedition made the first ascent of the peak without the aid of high-altitude porters or supplemental oxygen. In 2016, Antoine Girard became the first person to fly a paraglider above an 8,000-meter summit when he glided over Broad Peak.

13. Gasherbrum II – (26,362′)

  • Also Known As: K4
  • Location: Baltoro Karakoram – Pakistan/China (also claimed by India)
  • First Ascent: Fritz Moravec, Josef Larch, and Hans Willenpart

Gasherbrum II is situated in the Karakoram along the Pakistan/China border and is part of the Gasherbrum massif. It was visited in 1909 by the Duke of Abruzzi and famed mountain photographer Vittorio Sella but wasn’t climbed until an Austrian expedition reached the summit in 1956 via the Southwest Ridge.

The mountain didn’t see a winter ascent until Cory Richards, Denis Urubko, and Simone Moro climbed Gasherbrum II in February 2011.

14. Shishapangma (26,335′)

  • Also Known As: Gosainthān
  • Location: Jugal Himalaya – China
  • First Ascent: Chinese Expedition – 1964

Shishapangma is famous for being the last 8,000-meter peak to be climbed because of the difficulties that foreign travelers face when visiting the region. It saw its first ascent in 1964 by a Chinese expedition. Over 30 climbers have died on Shishapangma, including Alex Lowe and Dave Bridges who perished in an avalanche in 1999.

15. Gyachung Kang (26,089′)

  • Location: Mahalangur Himalaya – Nepal/China
  • First Ascent: Japanese Expedition – 1964

Gyachung Kang is the tallest mountain in the world that’s not an 8,000-meter peak. It is considered to be relatively obscure since it doesn’t cross the 8,000-meter threshold. Gyachung Kang was first climbed relatively late in Nepali mountaineering history, with its first ascent coming in 1964 at the hands of a Japanse expedition.

16. Annapurna II (26,040′)

  • Location: Annapurna Himalaya – Nepal
  • First Ascent: British/Indian/Nepali Expedition – 1960

Annapurna II is the easternmost mountain in the Annapurna Himalaya, though it is not part of the Annapurna massif. The mountain was first climbed in 1960 by a team led by J.O.M. Roberts but is not very popular among mountaineers.

17. Gasherbrum IV (26,024′)

  • Location: Baltoro Karakoram – Pakistan (also claimed by India)
  • First Ascent: Walter Bonatti and Carlo Mauri – 1958

Gasherbrum IV is part of a remote group of mountains near the Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram. Riccardo Cassin’s 1958 Italian expedition was the first to successfully summit the mountain when famed mountaineers Walter Bonatti and Carlo Mauri climbed the northeast ridge.

18. Himalchuli (25,896′)

  • Location: Mansiri Himalaya – Nepal
  • First Ascent: Hisashi Tanabe and Masahiro Harada – 1960

Himalchuli is notable for its substantial vertical relief as it rises some 22,965′ (7,000m) over the Marsyangdi River in just 17 miles (27km). The peak isn’t frequently visited but was first climbed by a Japanese team in 1960 who ascended the southwest ridge.

19. Distaghil Sar (25,866′)

  • Location: Hispar Karakoram – Pakistan (also claimed by India)
  • First Ascent: Günther Stärker and Diether Marchant – 1960

Distaghil Sar is located in the Karakoram and is notable for having a 1.9mi (3km) long ridge along its summit. The mountain was first climbed by an Austrian expedition in 1960, who chose a route up the southwest ridge.

20. Ngadi Chuli (25,823′)

  • Location: Mansiri Himalaya – Nepal
  • First Ascent: Contested: Hiroshi Watanabe and Lhakpa Tsering (1970) or Ryszard Gajewski and Maciej Pawlikowski (1979)

Ngadi Chuli is located in northern Nepal and is bordered by Manaslu to the north and Himalchuli to the south. The mountain has been climbed only one or two times, though the first ascent is a matter of debate.

Hiroshi Watanabe and Lhakpa Tsering died on their descent, so it’s unclear whether they summited. Ryszard Gajewski and Maciej Pawlikowski’s 1979 climb is considered the first verified ascent. Since 1982, there haven’t been any further expeditions to Ngadi Chuli.

FAQs

Here are our answers to some of your top questions about the Earth’s highest peaks:

Where Is The Tallest Mountain In North America?

The tallest mountain in North America is Denali, which stands at 20,308′ (6,190m) tall. Denali is part of the Alaska Range within the interior of the US state of Alaska. It is the third-most prominent peak on Earth, after Everest and Aconcagua.

What Is The Highest Mountain Range In The World?

The highest mountain range in the world is the Himalaya, which contains 14 of the 20 highest mountains. The Karakoram is the next highest range with 6 of the 20 tallest peaks.

Does Hawaii Have The Tallest Mountain In The World?

The tallest mountain on earth that exists completely above water is Mount Everest (29,029’/8,848m). But, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base under the ocean’s surface. Above sea level, Mauna Kea is 13,803′ (4,207m) tall, but when you include its underwater section, the mountain is 33,500′ (10,200m) high.

 

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