Formed millions of years ago at the collision of tectonic plates, mountains are the sky-kissing titans of our world. Their size and natural beauty inspire fear and wonder in the hearts of aspiring alpinists. Yet, some rocky giants make even the most seasoned mountaineer tremble. So, put on your crampons and clip in your carabiner as we explore the tallest mountains on Earth.
What is the Highest Mountain in the World?
That depends on where you’re measuring from! The tallest mountain in the world above sea level is Mount Everest, located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. In total, it measures a colossal 8849m. Considering 2500m is the usual height for high altitude illness (HAI) , we can see why climbing Mt. Everest requires years of mountaineering experience and training. Not to mention a very strong resolve!
The actual crown for the tallest mountain in the world goes to the lesser-known Hawaiian mountain, Mauna Kea. In its entirety, it measures a staggering 10,205m with roughly 6000m below sea level. Mauna Kea is also an inactive volcano, with its last eruption happening some 4500 years ago. Scientists assure us that it’s perfectly safe to visit today!
What are the Seven Summits?
We now know that, above sea level, Everest is the highest peak in the world, and many experienced climbers make it their life's mission to conquer it. However, six other mountains often make it onto a motivated hiker's bucket list. These seven summits make up the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, and they are as follows:
Aconcagua, South America
Aconcagua measures 6960m and is the tallest mountain outside of Asia. Situated at the heart of the Andes in Argentina, Aconcagua has multiple base camps. It’s popular amongst seasoned climbers testing their endurance, because it does not necessarily require any technical skills, like navigating glaciers. For beginners intent on embarking on the Seven Summits, experts recommend trying Kilimanjaro or Elbrus first.
Denali, North America
Denali measures 6914m and is considered an incredibly treacherous trek amongst climbers. Those wishing to climb this mountain need specialist glacier and team rope travel skills. Additionally, the weather on Denali can be extremely unstable so it is recommended to travel during North America’s summer months to decrease the chance of freak weather. Denali is home to lots of wildlife, including plenty of Dall sheep which can be spotted at very high altitudes, their cloven hooves give them extraordinary balance!
Despite its impressive size, Kilimanjaro is popular among beginner climbers as no specialist skills are required, plus, the Tanzania weather is usually consistent. That being said, experts still recommend a vigorous training routine before attempting this climb because, at 5895m, Kilimanjaro is no small feat! This mountain is a popular charity hike destination with National Army Cadet Ambassador, Jordan Wylie, completing the trek barefoot!
Mount Elbrus is located in Russia and measures 5642m. It’s snowy and icy terrain makes Elbrus a challenging endeavour, especially with the added weight of heavy boots and crampons. It is recommended to attempt this climb in Russia's summer months to avoid an unforgiving and potentially deadly winter. To add to the mountain's mystique, climbers may spot evidence of its volcanic history, apparent as sulphurous gases emanate from its eastern slopes.
Vinson Massif, Antarctica
Due to its isolation and late discovery, Vinson Massif was first summited in 1966, over ten years after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest. This climb must only be attempted during Antarctica's summer months, which occur between December and January. Standing at 4892m, Vinson Massif requires extensive experience in both mountaineering and enduring the coldest climates. Despite being the second smallest of the Seven Summits, Vinson Massif is often one of the last climbs people do before attempting Everest.
Carstensz Pyramid, Oceania
Carstensz Pyramid, also known as Puncak Jaya, can be found on the island of Papua New Guinea and stands 4884m tall. Reaching base camp will involve a trek through remote and exotic jungles, a stark contrast to the snowy contours of the mountain peaks.
Ben Nevis - An Honourable Mention
While climbing the Seven Summits may seem far-fetched to the inexperienced climber, some alpine treks are much more achievable! In Britain, we have our very own mountains that are popular tourist destinations. The biggest mountain in the world may be in Nepal, but we have its itsy-bitsy cousin right here in the UK!
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain, standing at 1345m. Summiting this mountain will take roughly 6-9 hours and reaching its peak will reward you with panoramic views of the Scottish Highlands. Experts recommend wrapping up in waterproof and windproof clothing and bringing along plenty of high-energy snacks like dried fruit and biscuits before attempting this trek.
If you’ve got a mountaineer's spirit, take a look at our hiking essentials checklist and start preparing for your first climb! Want to get involved in exciting and challenging activities? Search for your nearest detachment for your first adventure on the way to Everest!
Image Credit: Image by Simon from Pixabay