The world’s tallest mountains have long been a source of fascination and awe. For climbers, these natural wonders represent the ultimate challenge. For everyone else, they offer a glimpse into the Earth’s most extreme environments.
The tallest mountain on Earth from top to bottom is the volcano Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. At 33,474 feet (10,203 metres), it is over 4000 feet taller than the top entry of the ten highest mountains in the world. And yet it doesn’t even feature on this list. That’s because mountain elevations are traditionally calculated from sea level. That’s the basis of this list and Mauna Kea only ascends 13,796 feet (4,205 metres) above sea level.
So, what are the highest mountain peaks in the world? We’re finding out. But first, we’re starting with a look at where they can be found.
Highest Mountain Range In The World
The majority of the world’s tallest mountains are found in the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges. Indeed, that applies to all the mountains on the list below.
The highest mountain range in the world is the Himalayas. Formed around 55 million years ago, the Himalayas stretch across eight countries: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Aside from being home to some of the highest mountain peaks in the world, the Himalayas are also the location of the world’s deepest valleys, including K1200, which tops – or perhaps bottoms – the list at over 24,000 feet deep.
1. Mount Everest
Range: Himalayas | Height: 29,029 feet (8,848 metres)
Located in the Mahalangur Himalayas, the world’s tallest mountain reaches a height of 29,029 feet (8,848 metres) above sea level. In Nepalese it is known as Sagarmāthā, in Tibetan as Chomolungma and in Chinese pinyin as Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng. So iconic is the tallest mountain on Earth that its name has become synonymous with ambition and achievement. We speak, of course, of Mount Everest.
Originally labelled Peak XV, the adopted English language name refers to the one-time Surveyor General of India, George Everest. Everest himself protested the name on the basis that it was unpronounceable in Hindi.
The first successful expedition to the top of Everest was recorded in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. Intriguingly, there may have been a previous successful attempt in 1924, a mystery we explore in ‘What Happened to George Mallory and his Lost Expedition?’
Despite the risks, over 500 people attempt to summit Everest’s peak each spring. For some, it’s a test of their physical strength and endurance. For others, it’s a way to prove to themselves and others that they have what it takes to conquer the world’s highest mountain. And for some, it’s simply an opportunity to see the world from a unique perspective.
Whatever their motivation, climbers face treacherous conditions in attempting to summit the top spot on the ten highest mountains in the world. Altitude sickness, extreme cold, and high winds are just some of the factors that make it a dangerous undertaking. Nevertheless, around two-thirds of climbers succeed.
Range: Karakoram | Height: 28,251 feet (8,611 metres)
Merely 778 feet shorter than Everest, Mount K2 is the second of the top 10 highest mountains in the world, but also one of the deadliest.
Its steepness and dangerous weather conditions, coupled with the high number of deaths that have occurred on its slopes have earned it the nickname ‘Savage Mountain’. Indeed, NASA has put K2’s fatality rate at 29%,compared to Everest’s 4%. Despite this, K2 continues to attract climbers from all over the world who are looking for a challenge.
As for its succinct name, this dates back to the 19th century Great Trigonometrical Survey that catalogued some of the world’s great peaks. The ‘K’ stood for its home Karakoram range. And the 2? It was the second mountain the surveyors saw.
Range: Himalayas | Height: 28,169 feet (8,586 metres)
Located in the Himalayas between Nepal and India, Kangchenjunga is third on the list of tallest mountains in the world. Whilst referred to as one mountain, it actually has five peaks, as reflected in the translation of its name, the Five Treasures of Snow. Interestingly, the British climbers first to summit Kangchenjunga in 1955 stopped just short of the uppermost peak. Joe Brown and George Band did so in deference to the beliefs of the local Sikkam people, who considered Kangchenjunga holy.
Range: Himalayas | Height: 27,940 feet (8,516 metres)
Number four of the ten highest mountains in the world, Lhotse is pronounced ‘low-tsee’ and means south peak in the Tibetan tongue.
Those who dare not attempt to sound out its name can use one of its alternative monikers, E1. At 27,940 feet (8,516 metres) above sea level, it’s located on the border between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and is connected to Everest by a ridge.
Lhotse was first climbed in 1956 by a Swiss expedition led by Ernst Reiss. The first ascent of the south face was made in 1970 by a Polish expedition led by Andrzej Zawada.
Range: Himalayas | Height: 27,838 feet (8,485 metres)
Located in Nepal, just 12 miles southeast of Mount Everest, Makalu is 27,838 feet high (8,485 metres), making it next on the top 10 list of highest mountains in the world.
Makalu has a unique pyramid-shaped peak and is considered one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. It was first climbed in 1955 by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of France.
Since then, it has been climbed by many experienced mountaineers from all over the world. However, due to its remoteness and difficult terrain, Makalu is still considered one of the most challenging mountains to climb.
6. Cho Oyu
Range: Himalayas | Height: 26,864 feet (8,188 metres)
We’re back at the highest mountain range in the world for number six on this list of highest mountain peaks. Located in Nepal, Cho Oyu was first climbed in 1954 by Austrian mountaineer Herbert Tichy, along with Joseph Jochler and Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama.
Cho Oyu is sometimes referred to as the Turquoise Goddess, due to the colour of its glaciers. The mountain is popular with mountaineers and is often considered a good training ground for climbing Everest, thanks to its similar altitude and conditions. However, it should not be underestimated as it’s still a very difficult and dangerous mountain to climb.
It’s also a popular destination for ski mountaineering and has been the scene of some notable first descents, such as the first descent of the south face by Slovenian skier Tomaž Humar in 2000.
Range: Himalayas | Height: 26,795 feet (8,167 metres)
Located in the Nepalese Himalayas, Dhaulagiri is the seventh-highest mountain in the world at 26,795 feet (8,167 metres). Its name means ‘White Mountain’.
Like Everest and unlike most other mountains on this list, the peak of Dhaulagiri is made up of layers of limestone and dolomite rock that formed on the ocean floor.
Dhaulagiri was first climbed in 1960 by a Swiss/Austrian/Nepali expedition. Since then, it has become a popular destination for mountaineers from all over the world.
Range: Himalayas | Height: 26,781 feet (8,163 metres)
Manaslu is a 26,781 foot (8,163 metre) tall mountain in the Nepalese Himalayas. It’s the world’s eighth of all the highest mountain peaks in the world and is situated in a remote, uninhabited area. The name Manaslu means “mountain of the spirit” in Tibetan.
The summit of Manaslu was first reached in 1956 by a Japanese expedition, and has since been climbed by many others. It’s considered a difficult climb, due to the high altitude and the technical skills required. However, the rewards are great, as the views from the summit are some of the most breathtaking in the world.
9. Nanga Parbat
Range: Himalayas | Height: 26,660 feet (8,126 metres)
The most western of the Himalayan peaks, Nanga Parbat is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan and is the ninth-highest mountain in the world.
Whilst its name translates from Urdu as ‘naked mountain’ due to its snowless southern face, it has also been called the ‘killer mountain’ due to its high mortality rate.
First climbed in 1953 by Austrian climber Hermann Buhl, Nanga Parbat is an imposing mountain, and it’s one of the tallest and most challenging peaks in the world.
10. Annapurna I
Range: Himalayas | Height: 26,545 feet (8,091 metres)
The final entry on the list of top 10 highest mountains in the world is Annapurna I in the Nepalese Himalayas. The first summit of Annapurna on 3 June 1950 was also the first of any on this list and was achieved by French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal.
Despite this early success, Annapurna I is best known for the challenge it poses to climbers. Indeed, it’s possibly the most deadly of all the tallest mountains in the world, with its fatality rate estimated at 32 percent.
Top Ten List of the Tallest Mountains in the World
We’ve peaked. We’ve discovered the highest mountain range in the world and listed the highest mountain peaks in the world, based on their height above sea level. In case you need a reminder, here’s a list of the top ten in order:
- Mount Everest – 8,848 m
- K2 – 8,611 m
- Kangchenjunga – 8,586 m
- Lhotse – 8,516 m
- Makalu – 8,463 m
- Cho Oyu – 8,188 m
- Dhaulagiri I – 8,167 m
- Manaslu – 8,163 m
- Nanga Parbat – 8,126 m
- Annapurna I – 8,091 m