When the average person talks about the hardest mountain to climb, they immediately think of Mt. Everest. But being the tallest mountain in the world doesn’t automatically make it the hardest. In fact, as far as technical climbing goes, Mt. Everest is a relatively easy ascent.
While these peaks may look pretty in postcards, some of the mountains on this list will make Everest’s 4.4% fatality rate look like a stroll in the park. Here are the 10 hardest mountains to climb in the world:
1. AnnapurnaSince the first ascent of Annapurna in 1950, 53 people have died trying to reach the summit. In total, only 130 people have ever reached the summit of Annapurna. Technically, the name Annapurna refers to a series of peaks in the Himalayas, but when people refer to Annapurna, they’re almost always referring to its highest peak.
While Annapurna’s highest peak stands at 8,091 meters, making it only the 10th highest mountain in the world – based on fatality statistics, it is perhaps the most difficult mountain to climb in the world. It has the highest fatality rate of any of the famed 8,000 meter summits.
With improved safety standards in modern climbing, the fatality rate stands at around 19.7% since 1990 – but that’s still 1 in 5 climbers who never make it home.
2. Nanga ParbatIn Urdu, Nanga Parbat means “Naked Mountain”. It is the 9th highest mountain on earth.
Many consider it the hardest climb in the world because of the south face, which at 15,000 ft is the highest mountain face in the world. Mountaineers refer to it as the “Man Eater”. Before Austrian climber Herman Buhl conquered it in 1953, Nanga Parbat took 31 lives from climbers who had previously attempted it.
3. K2Also known as Mt. Godwin Austin, K2 is the 2nd highest peak in the world. However, it is also one of the most dangerous. Since 1990, the mortality rate on K2 has been similar to Annapurna at around 19.7%.
While similar in height, K2 is a much more technically difficult climb than Everest because of the dangerous obstacles posed by ice pillars, seracs, and glaciers. The frozen composition of the mountain often poses threats to climbers in terms of sudden collapse and movement. The weather on K2 also tends to be extremely unpredictable, making the summit and descent all the more dangerous.
4. KangchenjungaWhile death rates on most of the world’s most dangerous mountains have decreased over time as safety and mountaineering technique have improved, Kangchenjunga appears to be an exception.
Death rates have remained high, climbing to 22% in some recent years. This is a reflection of the danger posed by the unpredictable weather, ice, and avalanches.
5. Baintha BrakkBaintha Brakk – also known as The Ogre – is a 23,901 ft high mountain in the Karakoram mountain range. It was first climbed in 1977, but the climb is so difficult and the mountain so inaccessible that the 2nd ascent of The Ogre only took place in 2001. During those 24 years, around 20 expeditions attempted the climb but failed.
The combination of a steep, craggy granite tower and high altitude mean that only the world’s highest level mountaineers have any chance of making it to the peak.
6. The EigerLocated in the famed Bernese Alps in Switzerland, the north face of the Eiger has been christened the “Mordwand”, or “Murder Wall”. Climbing the north face requires an extreme level of technical skill and endurance. Climbers are also faced with the constant danger of rock and ice falls.
7. Vinson MassifMt. Vinson is the highest mountain on the Earth’s most forbidden continent – Antarctica. It stands 16,052 ft tall, and is located just 750 miles from the South Pole. It was first climbed in 1966.
In recent years, the availability of professionally guided ascents have made Mt. Vinson Massif much more assessible to climbers. However, the extreme cold and unpreditable weather of Antarctica – even in the summer – still make climbing Mt. Vinson a dangerous endeavor.
8. The MatterhornThis icon of the Swiss alps is also one of its most dangerous peaks. In addition to the technical difficulty of its steep faces, climbers are under constant threat from potential avalanches and rockfalls. To make things worse, the notoriety of the Matterhorn have meant major overcrowding on the climbing routes in recent years, adding to the danger.
9. Fitz RoyThe strikingly beautiful Mt. Fitz Roy is located in Pantagonia, a small region on the border between Chile and Argentina. Fitz Roy is unusual on this list because of its relatively low height – its summit stands at just 11,020 feet – only slightly more than a third the height of Mt. Everest.
But what Mt. Fitz Roy lacks in height, it makes up for in technical difficulty. Its sheer granite faces presents a challenge to even the most skilled climbers. To make things even more dangerous, it is extremely isolated and located in an area with exceptionally treacherous weather. While on certain days, as many as a 100 people might reach the summit of Everest, Fitz Roy might only see a single successful climb each year.
10. McKinleyMt. McKinley, also known as Denali, is the tallest mountain in North America. Although it only stands at 20,320 feet, its location far North in Alaska adds to the treacherous climb. The success rate for those attempting to climb Denali is around 50%, with over 100 climbers having died trying to reach the top.