The 10 Highest Mountains in the World

January 15, 2024

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Three climbers trek up a snow-covered mountain, which is surrounded by clouds

Each year, thousands of climbers risk their lives trying to reach the summit of the highest mountains in the world. For many, the challenge far outweighs the danger as they push their minds and bodies to the limit.

An estimated 108 mountains on Earth have elevations of over 7,000 meters above sea level. Of this, only 14 are over 8,000 meters above sea level. These so-called ‘eight-thousanders’ are found in the Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia.

We’re going to look at the highest mountains in the world, which are based on elevation from sea level. This differs from the world’s ‘tallest’ mountains, which are bigger when measured from base to peak. For example, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest mountain, measuring 10,210 meters (33,500 feet) from base to peak. When measuring its peak from sea level, however, Mauna Kea is dwarfed by Mount Everest at just 4,205 meters (3,802 feet).

Let’s take a look at the top ten highest mountains in the world!

1. Mount Everest

A picture of Mount Everest's peak, emerging out from snow and clouds, against a blue sky.
Golden Mount Everest’s peak, which stands 8,848m/29,029ft above sea level
Height: 8,848 m | 29,029 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: Nepal, China

In 1923, the New York Times asked English mountaineer George Mallory why he wanted to climb Mountain Everest. He simply replied, “Because it’s there”. 100 years later, hundreds of people still annually risk their lives in an attempt to reach the great summit and conquer Everest.

Indigenous communities have lived in the valleys of the Himalayan mountains for thousands of years. Perhaps the most famous ethnic group is the Sherpas, who often guide climbers up Mount Everest. The Sherpas have invaluable knowledge of the mountains, which they pass on to eager mountaineers. They are also accustomed to low oxygen levels because they live at high altitudes year-round.

A New Zealand climber called Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide called Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach Everest’s summit in 1953. The men were part of a British expedition led by Sir John Hunt.

Avalanches are common on the mountain and one of the greatest risks to climbers. Frostbite and lack of oxygen have also caused over 300 Everest mountaineers to lose their lives in the last 100 years.

Did you know?

Climbers enter the ‘Death Zone’ when they reach over 8,000 meters (26,246.72 feet). Temperatures and atmospheric pressure dip to dangerously low levels, which can lead to frostbite, loss of consciousness and potentially death. The majority of deaths occur in this region.

2. K2

A picture of the K2 mountain, which is white with snow and a bright blue sky behind. Clouds surround the mountain and a valley of dark grey rocks frames the mountain
K2 mountain at the end of a valley, standing at 8,611meters tall
Height: 8,611 m | 28,251 ft
Mountain range: Karakoram
Country: Pakistan, China

If its nickname ‘Savage Mountain’ is anything to go by, you get an idea of how dangerous the K2 mountain is. The world’s second-highest mountain is on the border of Pakistan and China in the Karakoram mountain range. A British team called the mountain ‘K2’ because it was the second mountain in the Karakoram to be measured.

The mortality rate for K2 climbers is staggering: at one point, one in four died while attempting to summit. In comparison, Mount Everest’s death rate is one in 100 people. K2 has very few flat sections, which means climbers have little respite during their ascent. The huge mountain is also prone to avalanches and rock falls, while the weather is extremely treacherous and unpredictable.

Ardito Desio, an Italian mountaineer, was the first person to reach K2’s summit in 1954. Since then over 700 people have summited. On 22 July 2022, 145 summited K2 — the most that had ever climbed K2 in a single day. Various improvements, such as fixed ropes, improved oxygen supplies, and increased Sherpa support, have helped increase the number of people who reach the peak.

Did you know?

The British magician and occultist Aleister Crowley was the first Westerner to attempt to summit K2 in 1902. He only reached 6,100 meters (20,000 feet) before turning back as he was afflicted with influenza, malaria, and snow blindness.

3. Kangchenjunga

A photo of Kangchenjunga mountain in the distance, behind a village of red-roofed houses and a forest of trees
Kangchenjunga mountain rising up in the distance underneath a cover of white clouds
Height: 8,586 m | 28,169 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: Nepal, India

Kangchenjunga, meaning ‘the five treasures of the high snow’, is the third highest mountain in the world. It’s named after the mountain’s five highest peaks, two of which are in Nepal and three in India.

In 1955, Joe Brown and George Band, both part of a British expedition, were the first people to summit Kangchenjunga. There are four routes that climbers can take as they ascend the mountain. Three routes are in Nepal, and the fourth is in northeastern Sikkim in India. The latter has only been successfully used three times. However, the Indian government closed this route in 2000 after banning expeditions to Kangchenjunga.

Due to its remote location in Nepal and restricted access in Sikkim, Kangchenjunga doesn’t see large numbers of climbers.

Did you know?

There have been legends surrounding Kangchenjunga in Sikkim and in Nepal for generations. It’s believed that a yeti-type creature called Dzö-nga (Kangchenjunga Demon) lives on the mountain.

4. Lhotse

A picture of the top of the Lhotse mountain, showing snow-covered slopes against a pale blue sky
Lhotse mountain peak
Height: 8,516 m | 27,940 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: China, Nepal

The fourth-highest mountain in the world lies just south of Mount Everest. Lhotse is joined to Everest by the South Col, a 7,600-meter (25,000 feet) high ridge. Due to its close proximity, Lhotse is sometimes mistaken for Mount Everest’s south peak.

Lhotse’s main peak was summited in 1956 by the Swiss team of Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger. Lhotse Middle, a subsidiary peak, was the world’s highest unclaimed point for a long time. It wasn’t summited until 2001 by a Russian expedition.

Over 900 people have climbed Lhotse’s main peak. The South Face was first climbed in 1984 and is considered difficult due to its wall of ice and rock. However, the mountain’s Northeastern Face is yet to be climbed.

Did you know?

Lhotse’s name means ‘South Peak’ in the Tibetan language.

5. Makālu

The Makālu mountain, partially hidden beneath low-hanging fluffy white clouds. The bottom of the image shows a green valley
Makālu mountain, partially hidden behind low-hanging clouds
Height: 8,485 m | 27,838 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: Nepal, China

Located on the Nepalese-Tibetan border, Makālu stands only 23 kilometers (14 miles) from Mount Everest. The first ascent of Makālu in 1955 happened just two years after Everest was first conquered. Jean Couzy and Lionel Terray (part of a French expedition) were the first to reach Makālu’s summit.

Makālu has a double peak and is shaped like a four-sided pyramid. The subsidiary peak is just north of the main peak and is connected by the 7,804 meet (25,604 ft) high saddle called Chomolonzo.

Only five of the first sixteen expeditions managed to reach the summit of Makālu. To this day, the mountain remains one of the most unfrequented routes for trekkers in Nepal. Its remoteness, steep pitches, and knife-edged ridges are just a few reasons that deter mountaineers.

Did you know?

After Couzy and Terray summited for the first time on 15 May 1955, three more people summited the following day, and a further four reached the summit on the 17th. This was unusual as most other mountain expeditions at the time only saw one or two members summit.

6. Cho Oyu

Snow-covered Cho Oyu mountain, rising up above the rocky valley in the foreground
Snow-covered Cho Oyu mountain
Height: 8,188 m | 26,864 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: China, Nepal

Cho Oyu, which means ‘Turquoise Goddess’ in Tibetan, is often considered the ‘easiest’ to climb of the 14 eight-thousander mountains. The routes feature short snow slopes that require limited ice and rock scrambling and offer plenty of rest stops.

The mountain has a mortality rate of just 1%, largely thanks to how ‘easy’ it is to ascend. After Everest, Cho Oyu is the second-most climbed of the 14 eight-thousander mountains. Many people with little mountaineering experience have climbed Cho Oyu, although it still requires high fitness.

Austrians Herbert Tichy and Joseph Jöchler and a Sherpa called Pasang Dawa Lama were the first to summit Cho Oyu successfully. The trip occurred in 1954 and was the fifth 8,000-meter peak to be conquered.

Did you know?

In recent years, Cho Oyu has become popular with ski mountaineers and snowboarders.

7. Dhaulagiri I

A climber uses walking sticks to help them trek up the steep snow-covered slope of the Dhaulagiri I mountain
A climber ascending Dhaulagiri I mountain
Height: 8,167 m | 26,795 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: Nepal

Between 1808 and 1838, Dhaulagiri I was believed to be the highest mountain in the world. It was replaced by Kangchenjunga in 1838 and eventually Mount Everest in 1858. By today’s estimations, however, it ranks in seventh place. The Kali Gandaki River, the world’s deepest gorge, runs between Dhaulagiri I and the nearby Annapurna I mountain.

The first successful ascent occurred in 1960 by Kurt Diemberger, Peter Diener, Ernst Forrer, Albin Schelbert, Nyima Dorje Sherpa, Nawang Dorje Sherpa as part of a Swiss-Austrian expedition.

Dhaulagiri I forms part of the Dhaulagiri mountain massif, of which the Dhaulagiri II and Dhaulagiri IV mountains also exceed 7,620 meters (25,000 feet).

Did you know?

Before the first successful ascent in 1960, six other expeditions had failed to reach the summit. A US team claimed to summit in 1949, but this wasn’t confirmed by The Himalayan Database.

8. Manaslu

The peaks of the Manaslu mountain, the right peak is lit in sunlight while the rest of the mountain and surrounding valley is in shadow
The Manaslu mountain, which stands at 8,163m above sea level
Height: 8,163 m | 26,781 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: Nepal

Manaslu is the eighth-highest mountain in the world. It was first summited by a Japanese team in 1956, but the peak wasn’t reached again until 1971 (by another Japanese team). The first American ascent was in 1997.

The mountain is part of the Manaslu Conservation Area in the Nepalese Himalayas, which was declared under the National Parks and Wild Life Conservation Act in 1998. Ecotourism is promoted in the area, as is sustainable practices by locals and visitors.

The spring and pre-monsoon seasons generally have the best weather and are, therefore, popular times for mountain expeditions. Manaslu is one of the most dangerous of the eight-thousander mountains, with a death rate of approximately 10%.

Did you know?

In 1954, a Japanese expedition was met with a mob of angry villagers when they tried to climb the mountain. The villagers from a local village called Sama believed a previous expedition had displeased their god, and he had punished their village with an avalanche and a smallpox epidemic.

9. Nanga Parbat

The snow-covered peak of the Nanga Parbat mountain, surrounded by clouds
Peak of the Nanga Parbat mountain
Height: 8,126 m | 26,660 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: Pakistan

The name ‘Nanga Parbat’ comes from the Sanskrit words meaning ‘naked mountain.’ However, in recent years, the mountain has also been given a more severe nickname: Killer Mountain. Approximately 85 people have died trying to reach the summit, even though fewer than 500 people have attempted the climb.

On its south side, Nanga Parbat has what is often called the highest mountain face in the world at over 5,000 meters (16,404 feet). Along with Mount Everest, the mountain is one of two peaks that ranks in both the top 20 highest mountains and the top 20 most prominent peaks lists. Prominence is a term that refers to the elevation of the mountain’s peak in comparison to the surrounding terrain.

The first successful ascent was recorded in 1953 by an Austrian climber, Hermann Buhl, who was part of a German-Austrian expedition. In the years prior, 31 people had already died trying to reach the summit before Buhl succeeded.

Did you know?

The first attempt to reach the summit was made by British Alpine climber Albert F. Mummery in 1895. However, Mummery sadly died following an avalanche. This was the first attempt in recorded history to reach the peak of any of the Himalayan eight-thousanders.

10. Annapurna I

A climber standing with their arms out, facing the Annapurna I mountain in the distance
View of the Annapurna I mountain, which has been named as the ‘deadliest mountain to climb in the world’
Height: 8,091 m | 26,545 ft
Mountain range: Himalayas 
Country: Nepal

The tenth-highest mountain in the world, Annapurna I, was the first eight-thousander peak to be successfully climbed. French mountaineers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal reached the summit on 3 June 1950. However, this wasn’t the highest climb ever, as mountaineers had reached greater heights trying to reach the summit of Mount Everest in the 1920s.

In 2018, the Guinness Book of World Records named Annapurna I the world’s deadliest mountain to climb. Of the 261 ascents that had occurred up to 2018, 69 people had died, which gave the mountain a death rate of one in three.

The unpredictable weather, frequent avalanches, and extremely steep routes are just some of the reasons why Annapurna I is so dangerous to climbers.

Did you know?

The mountain is named after the Hindu goddess of food and nourishment. Many of the streams flowing from the mountain provide water for agricultural land at lower elevations.

Overview: World’s highest mountains

RankMountainHeight (m)Height (ft)Mountain rangeCountry
1Mount Everest8,84829,029HimalayasNepal, China
2K28,61128,251KarakoramPakistan, China
3Kangchenjunga8,58628,169HimalayasNepal, India
4Lhotse8,51627,940HimalayasChina, Nepal
5Makālu8,48527,838HimalayasNepal, China
6Cho Oyu8,18826,864HimalayasChina, Nepal
7Dhaulagiri I8,16726,795HimalayasNepal
9Nanga Parbat8,12626,660HimalayasPakistan
10Annapurna I8,09126,545HimalayasNepal

The highest mountain on earth is Mount Everest, which measures 8,848 meters. Everest is located in the Himalayas, as are eight of the other mountains in this list. The tenth listed mountain is K2, which is in the Karakoram mountain range.

Many of these mountains were summited for the first time in the 1950s. The exception is Dhaulagiri I, which was first successfully climbed in 1960. Climbers face many challenges when climbing these eight-thousanders. Lack of oxygen, frostbite and avalanches have taken hundreds of mountaineers over the past century.

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