Hardest Mountains To Climb
Mountains are magnificent geologic features that never fail to inspire awe. Some of these summits are easy to conquer while others are more unforgiving. Whether it is a sheer vertical face or extreme weather conditions, these mountains continue to cause anxiety among would-be climbers. Many have tried but only a few managed to get to the top of these 10 toughest mountains in the world to climb. So prepare your winter boots and read on.
People call the Baintha Brakk the Ogre. It is a craggy and very steep mountain rising up some 23,901 feet into the Pakistani sky above the Karakoram mountain range. It boasts of being one of the planet’s most difficult peaks to climb. This granite tower features very steep and very rocky peaks. It requires the skill of a seasoned rock climber plus nerves of steel to make it to the top. This makes it one of the very few mountains in the world where extreme high-level mountaineers continue to aspire to climb.
Among the hundreds who dared conquer Baintha Brakk, there were only three groups of climbers who were successful in reaching the summit. Chris Bonington and Doug Scott got to the summit in 1977. The second ascent followed some 24 years later in 2001 by Thomas Huber, Iwan Wolf, and Urs Stocker. The third and last attempt to date occurred in 2012. Hayden Kennedy and Kyle Dempster achieved the feat. Since very few have ever reached the summit, Baintha Brakk remains one of the world’s toughest mountains to climb.
The world’s 10th highest peak is also the planet’s deadliest. Located in the Nepalese Himalayas, Annapurna stands some 26,545 feet into the cold sky of this region. While exact figures vary, the current estimate for fatality-to-summit ratio for Annapurna is between 32 and 40 percent. From 1990 to 2012, about 191 climbers attempted to reach Annapurna’s summit. From the figure, 61 perished, nine of them during the descent.
Baintha Brakk’s challenge is in its sheer steepness. This gives mountaineers plenty of time to think whether they have the guts to conquer it. The main issue with Annapurna is the weather. Snowstorms and avalanches are frequent in the mountain and its surrounding areas. There’s no preparing for a severe snowstorm in the Himalayas. For every three climbers who attempt to ascend the mountain, only two will reach the top and come back down alive. Climbing Annapurna doesn’t only entail coming face to face with unpredictable avalanches. It also involves one of the world’s most technical climbs via its south face. It is not unconquerable but it takes sheer skill to scale the face of this mountain.
Mount Godwin-Austen or K2 is not only the second highest peak in the world at 28,251 feet. It also happens to be the world’s second deadliest peaks following Annapurna. Located at the border between China and Pakistan, K2 remains one of the peaks that mountaineers dream of climbing. It’s no easy feat since only three out of four climbers who ascend its slopes will ever make it back alive.
You can climb Annapurna almost on a year-round basis. But the K2 is different. No one dares climb its face during the winter. Also, very few would attempt to reach the summit from its Chinese side. This often presents more hazards that can test one’s nerves and skill. It is no wonder then that the K2 is also called the Savage Mountain.
After Mt. Everest and K2, Kangchenjunga follows as the world’s highest peak at 28,169 feet. This mountain lies in the border of India and Nepal. It is also the world’s fourth deadliest, claiming an average of one life for every five climbers who attempt to reach the top. So far, only 187 mountaineers have ever seen the top of the world from the summit of the Kangchenjunga.
Legend has it that there lives in Kangchenjunga a mountain deity that locals call Dzo-nga. Hindus believe the Kangchenjunga Demon to be a type of Rakshasa. For the people of Nepal, they call it the Yeti. Whatever you wish to call this bipedal creature, it only adds to the mysticism that is already enveloping this fabled mountain.
Nanga Parbat may only be the world’s ninth highest peak, but it sure is the third deadliest after Annapurna and K2. Twenty-two out of 100 climbers perish either on the ascent or the descent in this 26,660-foot high mountain. This is why mountaineers and locals alike call the Nanga Parbat as the Man Eater or the Killer Mountain.
One of its most formidable features is the Rupal Face. This 15,091-foot high rock wall is so intimidating that even the world’s most renowned mountain climbers will have to think many times before they attempt to scale it. Thirty-one lives were lost before Hermann Buhl conquered the summit in July 1953. Many more would make the attempt, but only a handful would reach the top.
Located in Nepal, Dhaulagiri towers in the Himalayan mountain range at 26,795 feet. It has a fatality-to-summit ratio of 16.2 percent. In 1960, Kurt Diemberger and his team of five reached Dhaulagiri’s summit. What is remarkable about the 1960 ascent is that it remains the only successful ascent to the summit via the southern approach of the mountain. The south face is Dhaulagiri’s most intimidating feature, rising vertically to a height of 13,120 feet.
To this day, no one has ever climbed the Dhaulagiri via its south face. Legendary mountaineers like Reinhold Messner have made many attempts, but always came up short. From the time of its discovery to the present, Dhaulagiri has claimed the lives of at least 70 climbers.
North America’s highest peak, Denali or Mount McKinley, is also one of the toughest mountains in the world to climb. Its difficulty is not often related to sheer vertical faces like the others in this list. Its challenge is in the awful weather, the punishing temperatures, and the relative isolation of the mountain.
Standing some 20,310 feet punching through the bright Alaskan sky, Denali is the world’s third most isolated peak. This isolation makes it very challenging even veteran climbers. It is also located nearer the North Pole where the atmosphere is thinner than that in the equator. Add to this the height of Denali and you can see why it can pose a serious challenge to those who want to reach its top. The area is also prone to earthquakes, making avalanches real threats.
It may only be 13,015 feet high, but the Eiger deserves a slot in this list of the toughest mountains to climb. Located in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland, the Eiger features the Ogre. This is a 6,000-foot vertical face that is very prone to melting ice and rockfalls. A total of 64 climbers perished trying to reach the summit. Its north face is also called the Mordwand or Murder Wall, further strengthening its claim as one of the world’s most difficult peaks to climb.
Mountaineers call the upper face of the Eiger the White Spider. This section features snow-filled cracks on the face of the mountain that resemble the long legs of a giant spider. J.K. Rowling’s fictional Harry Potter Dark Wizard character Gellert Grindelwald may have come from one of the villages at the foot of the Eiger. This only strengthens the peak’s connection with destruction and death.
It would not be wise to exclude the world’s highest peak in this list of the toughest mountains to climb. It is true that more and more people are reaching Mount Everest’s summit now. But like the Annapurna, a climber’s real threat is not the ascent. It is the very unpredictable weather conditions that can hit the mountain in a blink of an eye.
The sheer altitude of Mount Everest at 29,029 feet means hypothermia and oxygen deprivation are key issues. This also means climbers have to prepare many years to reach its summit. The danger of avalanches is also very real. One can never prepare for these tsunami-like forces cascading down the slopes like a freight train. More than 300 people have lost their lives trying to scale Earth’s tallest peak.
This mountain may be a dwarf in this list of giants, but it sure deserves as one of the world’s toughest mountains to climb. Cerro Torre in the Patagonia only stands some 8,809 feet, but its summit remains one of the most technically-difficult in the world. Its summit is always blanketed in rime ice, making it very difficult to reach the top.
The peak is also steeped in controversy. The very first climbers to reach the top in 1959 did not present any proof of their ascent. The ascents in the 1970s used bolt ladders to scale the mountain. Climbers of the 21st century employed the fair means ascent. What is clear is that Cerro Torre poses some of the most challenging climbs in the world.
Conquering a mountain is no small feat. Attempting to conquer the world’s 10 toughest mountains to climb is a feat that very few of the world’s toughest and bravest climbers will dare to do.