For some people, mountains hold an irresistible charm. Mountain climbing, or mountaineering, is becoming a popular sport all over the world. Mountains leave us with a sense of wonder and give us a sense of how small we are on the planet. Mountain climbing can give you a feeling of triumph when reaching the summit, no matter if you are on a simple day hike or tackling one of the mammoth peaks of the Himalayas like Everest or Annapurna. George Mallory described the lure of the mountains best when he was asked why he wanted to climb Everest. His response was simply, “Because it’s there.”
Every continent in the world has amazing mountains to climb. Some of the most well known include the great Mount Elbrus in Europe. There is the well known Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. A couple of the more extreme mountain climbing challenges include the Aconcagua in South America, and the Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Other important mountain ranges include the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, and the Cascades including Mount Rainier. Mountaineers flock to these mountains in droves to test their skills and endurance. Others flock to the Himalayas to test their abilities at high altitudes. Here are the top five mountains in the world to climb:
Known as Chomolungma, Mother Goddess of the Earth, the summit of Mount Everest is the highest point on the globe at 29,035 feet. Because of its elevation, most climbers use bottled oxygen. The air is so thin that no human can survive in it for very long. Hundreds of climbers flock to the mountain each year to attempt the summit. Mount Everest stands on the border between Nepal and Tibet, so climbers can choose which route they want to climb. High-altitude mountains like Everest must be climbed in stages so that the body can acclimatize without acute problems related to the altitude.
Mount Everest, known for a while as Peak XV before given an official name, nobody had managed to reach the summit until the 1950s. Famous British climber George Mallory attempted to climb the mountain twice without any success in the early 1920s. On his third attempt in 1924, George Mallory and his then climbing partner Andrew Irvine disappeared high on the slopes of Everest and they were never heard from again. Then, in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay set the record for the first men to reach the summit. Americans Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld conquered Everest’s West Ridge in 1963. Other climbers have attempted the summit with success, but Everest still has its share of disasters. In 1996, eight people died when a massive blizzard engulfed the mountain.
K2 is the second highest mountain in the world at 28, 251 feet. It is located in the Karakorum Range between China and Pakistan, and the mountain has claimed more lives than Everest, making it arguably the most dangerous mountain the world. Only a handful of climbers have made the summit and it is difficult for even experienced mountaineers. It is nicknamed the Savage Mountain because of its propensity for avalanches, falling rocks, and brutal storms. The mountain’s most famous route is called the Abruzzi Spur, and K2 is located in one of the remotest regions of the world, being difficult to access, and the nearest city is Islamabad over two hundred miles away.
K2 was first climbed by an Italian expedition in 1954 via the Abruzzi Spur. The first two men to reach the summit were Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni. Before that, several expeditions tried but failed, including an American expedition in 1953. This expedition included famous climber Pete Schoening whose miracle belay saved the lives of five of his teammates. Another American team tried again in 1978 led by the first American to climb Everest, Jim Wickwire. The team succeeded in placing two men on the summit. The mountain has claimed its victims as well. In 2008, eleven climbers died after a large piece of ice came loose from the upper slopes.
Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, is the highest point in North America at 20,230 feet. The mountain, located in Alaska, is infamous for its unstable weather and quickly incoming storms. Mount McKinley is surrounded by glaciers and icefalls, being the major attraction of Denali National Park. The mountain has been biggest elevation gain the world and is extremely dangerous to climb with its glaciers, avalanches, and unpredictable weather. Mount McKinley was first climbed in 1903 by James Wickersham. In 1951, Bradford Washburn pioneered the West Buttress, the most popular route on the mountain. It takes two to four weeks to reach the top, and about fifty-eight percent of climbers do so. The mountain has claimed about one hundred lives in its history.
There are six peaks in the Annapurna Range, the tallest being Annapurna I. Despite its lethality, Annapurna was the first mountain above 8,000 meters (or 26,247 feet) to be climbed, even before Everest. A French expedition placed two men on the summit, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal in 1950. A British expedition led by Chris Bonington led to the summit of Dougal Haston and Don Whillans on the south face of the mountain.
The first team to climb it from the U.S. was a team of women. The mountain has the highest fatality rate among all the mountains in the world above 8,000 meters and has claimed the lives of famous mountaineers like Anatoli Boukreev and Christian Kuntner.
While the Matterhorn does not have the reputation of Mount Everest or Denali, reaching its summit is still a worthwhile prize. The Matterhorn is located in the Alps on the border between Italy and Switzerland, and it is one of the most popular mountains in the world to climb. Rising to a height of 14, 692 feet, the Matterhorn caters to both beginner and experienced climbers with its variety of routes.
It was one of the last mountains in the Alps to be climbed in 1865 during the golden age of alpinism. An English expedition put seven men on the summit including Edward Whymper and Charles Hudson. On the decent, four of them died. Other famous ascents include those from Walter Bonatti and Lucy Walker, the first woman to summit.