Mountains are defined as an elevated portion of the earth’s crust that rises abruptly from the surrounding level and attains a high altitude relative to the adjacent elevation. Mountains occupy about 26.5% of the global land surface and support more than 50% of the world’s population. It has been estimated that approximately one-third of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in the mountainous ecosystems and more than 80% of the earth’s fresh water is stored in the mountain glaciers. Several studies have revealed that there are approximately 108 high mountains on the planet that reach an elevation of more than 7,200m. A majority of the world’s tallest summits are situated on the edges of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates in the countries of Nepal, India, China, and Pakistan and are part of the Himalayan and Karakoram Mountain Ranges. The 10 highest mountains in the world have been discussed below.
- Mount Everest – 8,848.86m
- Mount K2 – 8,611m
- Mount Kangchenjunga – 8,598m
- Mount Lhotse – 8,516m
- Mount Makalu – 8,485m
- Mount Cho Oyu – 8,188m
- Mount Dhaulagiri I – 8,167m
- Mount Manaslu – 8,163m
- Mount Nanga Parbat – 8,126m
- Mount Annapurna I – 8,091m
1. Mount Everest – 8,848.86m
Mount Everest which rises to an elevation of 8,848.86m is the world’s most well-known and highest mountain. It is also the most prominent peak among the Seven Summits of the World. Mount Everest is located in the Mahalangur Himal subrange of the Himalayas on the boundary between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The mountain is referred to as “Chomolungma” by the native people in Tibet, while it is referred to as “Zhumulangma Feng” in Chinese. The local Nepali people and the Government of Nepal refer to the mountain as “Sagarmatha”.
Several glaciers like the Kangshung Glacier, the Khumbu Glacier, the Pumori Glacier, and the Rongbuk Glaciers (East, Central, and West) are located on the slopes of Mount Everest. Many rivers including the Lobujya River, Rong River, and Kama River originate from these glaciers. Being the world’s highest mountain peak, Mount Everest attracts numerous tourists and climbers from all over the world and it has been recorded that more than 5,000 people attempt to summit the mountain every year. However, the ascent of this mountain is considered to be extremely difficult, and only experienced mountain climbers can ascend this highest summit. On May 29, 1953, the New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and the local Nepali Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men to have successfully ascended the summit of Mount Everest. As of 2017, more than 7,600 people have reached the summit of Mount Everest and about 300 people have died in their attempts.
2. Mount K2 – 8,611m
Mount K2 also known as Mount Godwin-Austen or Chhogori, rises to an elevation of 8,611m and is the world’s second-highest mountain after Mount Everest. The mountain forms a part of the Karakoram Mountain Range that is situated partly in the Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County in western Xinjiang, China, and partly in the Baltistan region of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Mount K2 is nicknamed the “Savage Mountain” and is regarded by mountaineers as one of the most dangerous mountains in the world for climbing. As per records, about one person dies on the mountain for every four persons who reach the summit. On July 31, 1954, the Italian mountaineers Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni became the first men to have successfully ascended the summit of Mount K2.
3. Mount Kangchenjunga – 8,598m
Mount Kangchenjunga which rises to an elevation of 8,598m is the world’s third-highest mountain and the highest mountain in India. It is situated in the Kangchenjunga Himal section of the Himalayan Mountain Range, along the boundary between India and Nepal. Three of Kangchenjunga’s five principal peaks are located on the boundary between the Indian State of Sikkim and the eastern part of Nepal, whereas the other two peaks are located in Nepal’s Taplejung District. The mountain has been revered as “sacred” by the people of Sikkim and the Darjeeling district of West Bengal since ancient times. Many protected areas like the Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim, Neora Valley National Park in Darjeeling, Kangchenjunga Conservation Area in Nepal, etc have been established to protect and preserve the unique Kangchenjunga ecosystem. On May 25, 1955, the two English mountaineers Joe Brown and George Band became the first climbers to successfully climb Mount Kangchenjunga.
4. Mount Lhotse – 8,516m
Mount Lhotse rises to an elevation of 8,516m and is the world’s fourth-highest mountain. It is situated in the Mahalangur Himal section of the Himalayan Mountain Range, along the boundary between the Khumbu region of Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Mount Lhotse forms a part of the Everest massif and is connected to Mount Everest via the sharp-edged South Col. Besides the main summit, Mount Lhotse also comprises of the smaller peaks of Lhotse Middle and Lhotse Sar which rises to elevations of 8,414m and 8,383m respectively. On May 18, 1956, the Swiss mountaineers Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger became the first climbers to successfully climb the main summit of Lhotse.
5. Mount Makalu – 8,485m
Mount Makalu rises to an elevation of 8,485m and is the world’s fifth highest mountain. It is situated in the Mahalangur Himal section of the Himalayan Mountain Range, along the boundary between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Makalu is most well-known for its pyramid-shaped peak and also contains two notable subsidiary peaks including Kangchungtse or Makalu II at 7,678m and Chomo Lonzo at 7,804m. On May 15, 1955, the French climbers Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy became the first climbers to successfully climb Mount Makalu.
6. Mount Cho Oyu – 8,188m
Mount Cho Oyu rises to an elevation of 8,188m and is the world’s sixth-highest mountain. The mountain forms the westernmost major peak of the Khumbu sub-section in the Mahalangur Himal section of the Himalayan Mountain Range. Mount Cho Oyu is located near the boundary between Nepal and China, about 20km to the west of Mount Everest. Mount Cho Oyu is considered the “easiest” eight-thousander peak to be climbed. On October 19, 1954, the Austrian climbers Herbert Tichy, Joseph Jöchler, and the local Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama became the first climbers to successfully climb Mount Cho Oyu. The first winter ascent of Mount Cho Oyu was made by the Polish mountaineers Maciej Berbeka and Maciej Pawlikowski on February 12, 1985.
7. Mount Dhaulagiri I – 8,167m
Mount Dhaulagiri I which rises to an elevation of 8,167m is the world’s seventh-highest mountain and the highest mountain situated entirely within the boundaries of the country Nepal. The Dhaulagiri massif is bounded by the Myagdi Khola River in the southeast and by the tributaries of the Bheri River in the southwest. The Kali Gandaki Gorge of the Kali Gandaki River separates the Dhaulagiri Mountain in the west from the Annapurna Mountain in the east. On May 13, 1960, a team of Swiss and Austrian mountaineers including Kurt Diemberger, Albin Schelbert, Peter Diener, Ernst Forrer, and two Sherpas Nawang Dorje and Nyima Dorje became the first climbers to climb Mount Dhaulagiri I.
8. Mount Manaslu – 8,163m
Mount Manaslu rises to an elevation of 8,163m and is the world’s eighth highest mountain. The mountain is situated in the Mansiri Himal subrange of the Nepalese Himalayas in the Gorkha District of Nepal. The name “Manaslu” has been derived from the Sanskrit word “Manasa” which means “soul” or “intellect” and refers to the “mountain of the spirit”. As of 2008, Mount Manaslu has been climbed about 297 times and about 53 people have died in their attempts. On May 9, 1956, a Japanese expedition team led by Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu became the first climbers to climb Mount Manaslu.
9. Mount Nanga Parbat – 8,126m
Locally referred to as Diamer, Mount Nanga Parbat which rises to an elevation of 8,126m is the world’s ninth-highest mountain. The mountain is located in the Diamer District of the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Mount Nanga Parbat is situated just to the south of the Indus River and forms the westernmost peak of the massive Himalayan Mountain Range. On July 3, 1953, the Austrian mountaineer Hermann Buhl became the first climber to climb Mount Nanga Parbat.
10. Mount Annapurna I – 8,091m
Mount Annapurna I which rises to an elevation of 8,091m is the world’s tenth highest mountain. The Annapurna massif forms a part of the Himalayan Mountain Range and is located in the north-central portion of Nepal. There are several high peaks in the Annapurna massif, among which the Annapurna I Main is the highest. Like most of the other high prominent mountains, Mount Annapurna I is also extremely difficult to climb and it has the highest fatality to summit ratio than any other eight-thousanders on earth. Nevertheless, on June 3, 1950, the French mountaineers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Annapurna I.
As seen in the above discussion, most of the world’s highest mountains form a part of the Himalayan and the Karakoram Mountain ranges. The natural beauty of these mountains as well as the unique biodiversity that is found in the mountainous ecosystems attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world and helps to support the tourism industry. However, in recent decades, higher temperatures due to global warming and anthropogenic climate change have greatly affected these mountains.