The mountains are calling your name! More than 500 people try to climb Mount Everest every year. This is just a fraction of the people who go to the Himalayas and the tallest mountains in the world.
But very few people manage to make it to the top. Roughly 1% of climbers die every year, and storms can kill several people at once. Before you put on your climbing shoes, you need to learn about the world’s tallest mountains.
What are the world’s tallest mountains? Where are they located, and what routes can you take up them? How can you stay safe while climbing the mountains?
Answer these questions and you can conquer the world’s peaks in no time. Here is your guide to the five tallest mountains in the world.
1. Mount Everest
At 29,032 feet, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. The mountain lies on the border between China and Nepal, and you can take a route up the mountain from either country.
You should not climb the world’s tallest mountain until you can get experience climbing other mountains. The tallest mountain in the US is Denali, which is 20,322 feet tall. Climbing Denali will help you learn about altitude sickness and scaling rocks while keeping you in shape.
You can also try climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, which is 19,341 feet above sea level. The base camp at Kilimanjaro is higher than the camp at Everest, so you can practice acclimating and living at a high base camp.
The route from Nepal is called the “standard route.” It is the least difficult route on the mountain, yet you may still encounter obstacles like altitude sickness and avalanches. You should go with a tour group and take supplemental oxygen.
The route from China involves crossing several glaciers and going up the Three Steps. These are rock formations that are 28,000 feet above sea level. Many experienced climbers have struggled with them, and some of them have died, so you should have experience with rock climbing if you want to take this route.
There are also other less common routes you can go up the mountain. Some tour guides will help you on these routes, but you still must be in good physical shape. Try to climb Everest during May, which is when the jet stream shifts northward and there are fewer winds on the mountain.
The summit of K2 is at 28,251 feet above sea level. Though it is 800 feet shorter than Everest, most climbers consider it to be more difficult.
It lies on the China-Pakistan border in an area with very bad weather. Storms can last for several days, making it impossible to climb during those times. All of the routes up the mountain are very steep, so many amateurs fail to reach the summit.
The most popular route is the Abruzzi Spur. The route goes through snow and ice fields and rock ribs before ending at the Bottleneck. The Bottleneck is a narrow gully surrounded by columns of ice that can fall over at any moment.
There are other routes, but they are rarely if ever climbed. The eastern face of the mountain has never been climbed successfully due to the extreme dangers, so you should stay away from it.
Kangchenjunga is 28,169 feet tall. It lies on the border between India and Nepal, but the Indian government prevents climbers from accessing it from its side.
Three routes run up the mountain on the Nepalese side. The southeast ridge route is the most popular route, yet it still involves vertical climbing. You must spend several days acclimatizing at camps on the mountain, and you must be able to walk for a few hours straight every day.
The summit of the mountain is a sacred space for the Sikkimese, who live in the area around the mountain. You can respect their beliefs by limiting your time at the summit and not littering.
Lhotse is 27,940 feet tall. It connects to Everest through the South Col, which is a gap in the rocks that lies between the two mountains. After climbing Lhotse, you can cross the South Col and try to reach the summit of Everest.
However, the summit of Lhotse is difficult to reach. Some routes cut across the Lhotse Face, which is a vertical wall of ice that is nearly 3,700 feet tall. You must use ropes to pull yourself up, and you can slip down the ice.
The South Face is steeper than the Lhotse Face, and it is rarely been climbed successfully. The Northeastern or Kangshung Face has never been climbed because the rock faces are near-vertical and avalanches rush across the face. Make sure you do your research and pick a route far away from the South and Northeastern Faces.
Makalu is 27,766 feet tall. It is just 12 miles away from Everest, but it is an isolated peak with no cols that attach to other mountains.
The Southeast and Northwest Ridge routes are the two most popular routes, yet each requires several hours of walking a day. Most people take weeks to climb the mountain, taking time to get acclimated and avoid avalanches.
Makalu lies within the Makalu-Barun National Park and Conversation Area. Rare species of plants and animals live in the area, so you must keep your trash to a minimum. You should also stay on pre-designated hiking and walking routes.
The World’s Tallest Mountains
You can scale the tallest mountains once you know everything about them. Everest is the world’s highest peak, and many tour groups specialize in bringing people up. But you must be in great shape and you should have experience with scaling other mountains.
K2 and Kangchenjunga may be more difficult than Everest. Pick a route that others have gone up and keep the weather in mind. Take your time when scaling Lhotse and Makalu and avoid steep rock faces.
To stay safe, you need to familiarize yourself with mountaineering. Read more mountaineering guides by following our coverage.