re-sized Nangar Parbat

The World’s Toughest and Most Challenging Mountains to Climb – the Himalayas

Well, not so long ago we did an article on the world’s most extreme waves, so I thought, “what the hell…” – and decided to do some research on the world’s most extreme mountains to climb. I am bound to leave out some and be corrected by you guys out there on others – all comments and feedback will be anticipated with interest! I have intentionally left out Mount Everest so no bleating about that please!

These legendary mountains have attracted adventurers over the centuries. But extreme weather, perilous crevasses and even mystical spirits can turn expeditions into fatal endeavors.

I have split this article into 3: The Himalayas, The South America’s and Europe. So here goes with the first one…

Well, George, we’ve knocked the bastard off”
How the laconic Sir Edmund Hillary reported his ascent of Everest to a team mate

K2 – Located on the border between Pakistan and Xinjiang, China. 8,611m (28,251ft).

K2, also known as Godwin Austin, is considered the world’s toughest mountain to climb, it is also the world’s second highest peak. It is familiarly called “The Savage Mountain” and is arguably the hardest climb in the world. The first ascent was in 1954. It’s routes are steeper and more difficult than those to the top of Everest, and the surrounding weather is significantly colder and less predictable than on Everest. Reaching the top of K2 is the equivalent of an Olympic gold in mountaineering!


It was first summitted in 1954 by Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni – 2 Italians. Since then there have been 189 summits compared with approximately 1,400 on Everest (these are 2004 dates and I cannot find anything more up-to-date, even from wisegeek). 49 climbers have died on K2, 22 whilst descending from the summit. In terms of accidents that happen on the descent, it is the most deadly mountain in the world. The statistics for female climbers are particularly dramatic. Some even say K2 is cursed for women. 5 women have reached the top, but out of those 5 – 3 died on the descent and, just as a matter of interest, the other 2 have since died on other 8,000m peaks. In spite of these dangers the mountain continues to lure climbers from around the world. It is the ultimate extreme challenge. In scaling Everest you are a great climber – but in scaling K2 you are a “true climber to other climbers .

Kanchenjunga, India/Nepal. 8,586m (28,169ft)

In 1955 a British expedition under Charles Evans climbed the mountain, but in deference to local religious beliefs the party stopped a few yards short of the summit. Most successful summit parties since then have followed this tradition. Kanchenjunga has 5 summits: Kanchenjunga Main, Kangchenjunga West (Yalung Kang), Kangchenjunga Central (Middle), Kangchenjunga South and Kangbachen. There are no direct routes to any of the summits. Ascending as far as the ice terraces is a relatively normal climb, but the final ascent is an almost vertical pyramid of over a thousand feet, which, at that altitude, is quite a challenge.

Though not successfully climbed until 1955, it was first attempted in 1905, but the four members of that international party were killed in an avalanche. The threat of avalanches and mudslides is omnipresent in the area, which receives very heavy precipitation throughout much of the year. Over the years, Kanchenjunga has claimed its fair share of lives and was only finally conquered by a woman, Ginette Harrison, in 1998. Until then Kangchenjunga had been the only eight-thousander that had not seen a female ascent.

Nanga Parbat, Northern Pakistan. 8,125m (26,658ft)

Nanga Parbat is the world’s ninth highest peak and is considered to be the most dangerous mountain to climb. Known affectionately as the Man Eater or The Killer Mountain, this craggy monster, located in Kashmir, is an enormous ridge of rock and ice. Its southern side features the tallest mountain face on the planet, rising 4,500m (15,000 ft). above its base. Reinhold Messner, a living legend in moutaineering from Italy, says that “everyone who has ever stood at the foot of this face up above the ‘Tap Alpe’, studied it or flown over it, could not help be have been amazed by its sheer size; it has become known as the highest rock and ice wall in the world.”

Nanga Parbat in Northern Pakistan is the world's ninth highest peak

Nangar Parbat

A lot of mountaineers have perished on the mountain since 1895. Nanga Parbat claimed 31 lives before it was conquered by Austrian Herman Buhl in 1953. It has always been associated with tragedies and tribulations. Even in recent years it has claimed a heavy toll of mountaineers who were in search of adventure and thrill.

Pomiu, Sichuan Province, China. 5,413m (17,759ft)

Pomiu is a knife edged rock peak in southwestern China. It is part of the Four Girls (Siguniang) Mountains, a beautiful Nature Reserve with many sharp rock peaks, lakes and marshes which had been shaped by ancient glaciers. The highest peak in the region is Four Girls Mountain itself, reaching up to 6250m. . In 1984, Allen Steck and another mountaineer of the AAC member made the first ascent of Pomiu, and in 1985, Keith Brown, an AAC member, made the second ascent with a new route. Mr. Qiu Xiang and Liu Xinan made the ascent of the south west ridge in August 30, 2005. The mountain is very difficult to climb although the region is hoping that with the increase of tourism this might change in the future – not the difficulty of the climb obviously but the amount of moutaineers attempting it!

This beautiful photograph was taken by Kenzo Okawa. If you want to see more of his stunning work I suggest you go to his site at Pomiu.

Lhotse, Nepal/Tibet. 8,516m

Lhotse is the world’s fourth largest moutain on earth and is connected to Everest via its south col, a vertical ridge that never drops below 8,000m. It is best known for its proximity to Everest and for the fact that climbers ascending the standard route on that peak spend some time on its northwest face. It is often seen as a minor eight-thousander. However, Lhotse is a dramatic peak in its own right, due to its tremendous south face. This rises 3.2 km in only 2.25 km of horizontal distance, making it the steepest face of this size in the world. Lhotse has three summits: Lhotse Main 8516m, Lhotse Shar 8383m and Lhotse Middle or East 8413m. Lhotse Main was first climbed in 1956 by Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger who were part of a Swiss expedition. Lhotse Shar was first climbed on December 5, 1979 by Sepp Mayerl and Rolf Walter by taking the SE-ridge. It was not until 2001 that Lhotse Middle was conquered by the Russian Expedition.

The south face has been the scene of many failed attempts, some notable fatalities, and very few ascents (one of them, by Tomo Česen, is unverified). As of October 2003, 243 climbers have summitted Lhotse and 11 have died.

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23 Responses to “The World’s Toughest and Most Challenging Mountains to Climb – the Himalayas”

  1. Hard tough difficult Question
    2011 | 2 December at 05:43 #

    I’m going to have two lists. First list I’m going to cheat a bit maybe
    and you will see why.

    List #10 in now particular order

    Kangchenjunga South Summit
    Lhotse Middle
    Lhotse Shar
    Nanga Parbat

    I say I cheated because some would object including Lhotse Middle
    and Lhotse Shar as separate independent mountain. Similar to
    Kangchenjunga South Summit which I think many people don’t consider
    an independent mountain.

    Also some might object to Everest and frankly I was thinking maybe
    Gasherbrum IV, Jannu, Ogre & Latok I-III might be a better pick. The
    thing to realize about Everest is that its success rate is over inflated because a much much higher % of those that climb on Everest
    use Oxygen and traditional expedition Style climbing with a lot of
    support. Just think how much lower the success rate would be if Everest was climbed in a style similar to the peaks. Also many people forget that there are some very tough routes on Everest
    like specifically the Southwest & East faces which are rarely climbed

    OK so for list #2 in which I don’t including mountains in which others see them as a extension of some other mountain.

    In no particular order

    Nanga Parbat
    Gasherbrum IV

    really tough decision between Ogre & Latok I(and even Latok II & III)
    but probably give a slight edge to Ogre because I think its probably
    a tad bit tougher all around from all side of the peak compared to Latok I but just barely(but the north side of Latok I is probably as
    tough as anything on Ogre)

    Other honorable mentions besides latok I-III
    Namche Barwa
    bhagirathi III
    Nanda Devi
    Thalay Sagar
    Kunyang Kish
    Uli Biaho
    Nameless Tower
    Great Trango Tower
    Shipton Spire
    Cerro Kishtwar
    Cerro Torre
    Mount McKinnley
    Mount St Elias
    Mount Logan
    Mount Foraker
    Mount Hunnington
    Mount Hunter
    Moose’s Tooth
    Mount Thor

    I think a more interesting question would be what are the toughest
    Mountain faces and ridges

    • dave anthony
      2013 | 15 December at 02:07 #

      doesn’t the matterhorn make the list? it’s death rate ranks high

      • lolajones
        2014 | 24 January at 11:47 #

        Thanks Dave, I’ll do an article on it. Inspiration and suggestions are always gratefully received!

    • Michael Ellis
      2014 | 11 August at 21:22 #

      This list is very poorly done. What about Fitz Roy Cerro Torre or any opf the towers in Paine. What about Siula Grande the list goes on Cholaste. I have climbed for 30 years and who ever wrote this knows nothing about the difficulty of climbs.

  2. ss
    2012 | 20 February at 13:34 #

    what about baintha brakk in karakoram, i m sure that fits in somewhere….

  3. Nanga Parbat climb
    2012 | 6 April at 00:18 #

    I plan to climb nanga parbat as it is considered the most challenging and dangerous mountain to climb un aidedits not named killer mountain for nothing.

    • lolajones
      2012 | 8 April at 08:58 #

      Please let us know all about it. And best of luck!

    • germanicus
      2016 | 29 April at 18:40 #

      So you’re going to climb Nanga Parbat because you consider it the hardest 8000 meter peak? The rest are not really up to your resume? Nobodies ever going to take you up that until you actually climb another first

  4. 1Greensix
    2012 | 23 September at 22:00 #

    The Wright Brothers made mountain climbing pointless. If you want the view, hire a pilot and fly. Stay warm, get a 360 view, sleep at home that night. If you want to freeze your ass off, go to a Packer game in early January. You think climbing Everest is difficult, try and get a two seats at a Green Bay home game.

    • lolajones
      2012 | 25 September at 18:05 #

      Another way to look at ‘extreme’ !!!

    • You are an idiot
      2017 | 10 March at 01:55 #

      Dude you have no idea what is mountain climbing .don’t comment where you don’t belong . you are an idiot

  5. mike
    2013 | 28 May at 00:11 #

    Annapurna has the highest death rate

    • lolajones
      2013 | 28 May at 07:02 #

      Indeed it has Mike, but K2 has a particularly bad descent record. We have done a post on Annapurna too.

  6. arnab basak
    2013 | 29 August at 19:07 #

    What about the Great Trango Tower…????

    • lolajones
      2013 | 30 August at 13:23 #

      Thanks for the hint… I’ll follow it up soon

  7. Mustafa
    2013 | 15 October at 21:11 #

    “The statistics for female climbers are particularly dramatic. Some even say K2 is cursed for women. 5 women have reached the top, but out of those 5 – 3 died on the descent and, just as a matter of interest, the other 2 have since died on other 8,000m peaks.”

    I see this is old post – since then there are at least two women who are 14 eight-thousanders and are alive: Edurne Pasaban and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner.

    • Hurle-vent
      2014 | 18 April at 19:54 #

      Cecilie Skog reached the summit of K2 in 2008 and is still alive for what I know…

  8. McBain
    2017 | 1 April at 04:17 #

    Alright here goes. This is the list and I’ll explain.
    10.)Cerro Torre/Cerro Grande(Patagonia)
    9.) Matterhorn/Eiger(Alps)
    8.)Mt. Blanc(Alps)
    7.)Nanga Parbat(Himalaya)
    5.)The Ogre(Karakorum)

    I’ve roped some peaks together due to proximity and the limitations of a list of ten. Mt Blanc is not that technically difficult but it’s staggering death toll is hard to ignore. Same with the Eiger and Matterhorn. Their difficult but not insurmountable. K2 and Annapurna are a 1A/1B kind of situation. K2 is the hardest and most difficult climb in the world although that is debatable. Annapurna however is the most dangerous mountain in the world hands down. Climb from the north and it’s a suicidal March across the catchment basin where if you move to slow you’re likely to be swept away to hell by an avalanche. And the south face is virtually vertical and almost unclimbable. Also Lhotse south face is considered one of the hardest climbs in the world. Pushed back messenger and killed Kukuczka!


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