10 Most Difficult Mountains to Climb In the World

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What is the hardest mountain to climb? Is it the tallest, the steepest, the one with the slipperiest rock walls or the fewest handholds? The one with the harshest weather? There are a lot of different factors that go into determining the difficulty of a climb. To a large degree, difficulty is a subjective measurement. But we can still come up with a list of challenging climbs based on a combination of these factors as well as the reports of climbers who have actually tackled these giants.

10. Annapurna

Flickr / Andrew Miller

Flickr / Andrew Miller

This mountain is not as well known as Mount Everest, but it is a very tough mountain to take on in the Himalayas. It wasn’t even climbed successfully until 1950, which by itself is a pretty strong indicator of its challenge level. It was the highest mountain ever climbed until Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay took on Everest three years later. The first team to climb up Annapurna had to find their way up as they went, and it took another two decades for another team to climb the peak.

9. Mount Khuiten

Flickr / martin_vmorris

Flickr / martin_vmorris

Head to Mongolia for another challenge in the form of Mount Khuiten. You’ll find this mountain at the intersection of Mongolia, China, and Russia. It may not be the highest mountain in the world (4,374 meters), but it is located pretty far from anywhere. It’s quite a hike to get there in the first place, and there isn’t much in the way of help if you get into trouble. Because it is so remote and inaccessible, it poses unique challenges for climbers.

8. The Matterhorn

Flickr / David100

Flickr / David100

This mountain in the Alps can be a very easy climb or a very hard one; it all depends on the route you choose to take to the top of the 4,478 meter peak. Novice routes can check out routes like the Horni Ridge or Lion. For a tough climb though, try one of the challenging routes such as Furggen Ridges or the North Face. Weather here can be treacherous, even during the summer. That’s why even novice climbers need to have a pretty solid grasp on what they are doing. Even the easier trails can lead to difficulties if the weather turns harsh.

7. Mount McKinley

Flickr / jdegenhardt

Flickr / jdegenhardt

This Alaskan peak rises 6,194 meters above sea level. From the base of the mountain to the summit, the elevation change is almost as great—5,490 meters. This is considered the steepest, most sudden change in elevation anywhere on the planet, making Mount McKinley an extremely challenging climb for anyone. As with the Matterhorn, severe weather conditions make this mountain even more dangerous.

6. Fizroy and Cerro Torre

Flickr / Hartmut Ulrich

Flickr / Hartmut Ulrich

These two peaks are right next to each other in the southern Andes, and both offer very challenging climbs owing to their extremely vertical cliff faces. Add to that some more unpredictable and intense weather, and you have yourself a very tough climb to either summit.

5. Mount Blanc

Flickr / Tony Hadnutt

Flickr / Tony Hadnutt

It’s hard to say whether this is the most difficult mountain to climb, but it is arguably the most dangerous one. The routes are tricky, the altitude is high, and rock slides are common. As a result, people die on this mountain every year. According to Wikipedia, around a dozen rescue missions are performed every weekend during the busy August climbing season.

4. Kanchenjunga

Flickr / Kannan Kartha

Flickr / Kannan Kartha

This mountain on the border of India and Nepal rises to an astounding 8,586 meters. The first recorded climb to the summit was in 1955. Charles Evans stopped just short of the very peak out of respect for local religious beliefs. The first part of the climb is relatively straightforward, but the last part involves a sheer climb which is almost vertical for more than 1,000 feet. Add to that the altitude, and you have a recipe for extreme challenge.

3. Nanga Parbat

Flickr / Guilhem Vellut

Flickr / Guilhem Vellut

Nanga Parbat is located in Northern Pakistan, and rises to 8,125 meters. It is the ninth tallest mountain the world, and is widely considered one of the most dangerous peaks as well. At least 31 deaths were recorded before the mountain was first climbed successfully in 1953 by Herman Buhl.

2. Mount Everest

Flickr / watchsmart

Flickr / watchsmart

No discussion about challenging mountains would be complete without a mention of Everest. At 8,849 meters, Mount Everest is the tallest and most famous mountain on the planet. It is one of the most challenging for precisely this reason. The altitude imposes all kinds of challenges as far as health is concerned, and the extreme cold is just as dangerous. The difficulties associated with climbing Everest became widely known after Jon Krakauer published his 1997 account Into Thin Air. The bestseller detailed an ill-fated Everest expedition which led to the author and several other climbers being stranded while eight others were killed.

1. K2

Flickr / Stuart Orford

Flickr / Stuart Orford

K2, also called Chogori, is the second tallest mountain on the planet, rising to 8,611 meters. It is arguably the hardest mountain to climb, even though Everest is taller. Thousands of people have managed to ascend Everest successfully, but only several hundred climbers have ever made it up K2. K2 is very inaccessible, and even driving there to reach it is dangerous. Following the drive, there is an eight-day hike, and only then does the ascent begin. Treacherous weather and rockslides are quite normal, and the remoteness of the location means there is not going to be much in the way of backup help or supplies should something go wrong.

Since difficulty is a subjective quality to gauge, many climbers debate which of these mountains is the toughest to ascend, but each of them undeniably poses extreme challenges. If you ever make it to the top of one of these mountains and back alive, consider yourself extremely accomplished—and possibly very lucky as well. Many of the factors which impact these climbs are unpredictable and uncontrollable. Climbing any one of these peaks is a test not only of courage, but also of luck as well as the ability to adapt to sudden change.

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41 Comments

  1. auddiedeluna

    auddiedeluna

    December 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    it’s so realy hard to climb in k2 beacuse is so realy high and have a many sliding rocks from the top i don’t like to go there in the highest mountain in the world

  2. savan paik

    savan paik

    May 29, 2016 at 7:24 am

    it is very fruitfull for nepal because almost all higest mountains are in nepal.

  3. Terry

    Terry

    April 9, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    I am not a mountain climber but someone who is fascinated with the subject, especially after seeing the movie Everest. I have been pondering one particular question for those of you that do some type of climbing. Here is the question, which would you consider the most difficult, climbing any of the world highest mountains or climbing El Capitan in Yosemite national park “Free Style?” I am curious to hear a reply from any on this question.

  4. deadlock

    deadlock

    March 16, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Such lists will always be subjective because it depends on the metric we use to evaluate the difficulty. Even an “easy” mountain can be made difficult by choosing a difficult route so I assume we’re talking about the difficulty of the easiest / most common route. Even then, the route itself might not be technically “difficult” but there are other factors such as avalanches or weather that are unpredictable or beyond control. Basically, you can have an “easy” climb if the weather is good or you can die trying. Statistically it makes the mountain harder to climb but not for individual people who happened to climb it.

  5. Tum

    Tum

    March 4, 2016 at 6:32 am

    your all like a bunch of kids. Climbing is about passion and what drives you. There’s no such thing as “best” or “hardest” besides its usually the weather that kills people not the mountain

    • superhiker

      superhiker

      May 23, 2016 at 1:17 am

      Dbag… What do you know? I climbed K2 in a thong with a bag of beef jerky and a pack of smokes…

      • RangerRick

        RangerRick

        June 22, 2016 at 1:01 am

        Oh yeah well I scaled the Matterhorn in a pair of Chuck Taylor’s and 6 sno-cones.

      • I B DRUNK

        I B DRUNK

        August 17, 2017 at 10:33 am

        Well I climbed K2 buck naked with a pair of flip flops on in the winter time.

  6. ScottM

    ScottM

    January 12, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    This article should really be called “10 Famous Mountains everyone has heard of that are pretty challenging to climb”. I suppose it may be more interesting to the masses this way, but it’s hard to imagine the list being more inaccurate. Of all the peaks on this list only K2 should even be mentioned in the discussion of 10 most Difficult. I could possibly understand Fitz Roy/Cerro Torre due to the somewhat unique extreme steepness of their granite walls and the extremely bad weather, but probably would still get bumped by some of the towers in Karakoram like Trango. The rest have no business here, some obviously like Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, others, while difficult like Annapurna (if danger was criteria it goes way up due to extreme avalanche risk), Nanga Parbat and Everest, more arguably. Certainly they are challenging, and have near impossible routes on them, but if we are talking most difficult to summit, implying difficulty of easiest route to top, there are many other mountains such as Biantha Brakk (strong candidate for #1), pretty much all the Latoks, Gasherbrum IV, Meru, Masherbrum, Jannu, and others that the conversation should be centered on.

    • JacksonHole

      JacksonHole

      June 7, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      Ask Viesturs what he thinks is the most difficult climb he’s done to date.. Annapurna is what he says unequivocally.. I’m pretty sure he has more subjective experience than you.

  7. komal

    komal

    January 8, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I think k2 ,nangaparbat in pakistan
    and arpunna in Nepal most dangerous mountain to climb
    nangaparbat and k2 can’t climb in winter season

  8. Stephanie

    Stephanie

    December 24, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Unareallpled accuracy, unequivocal clarity, and undeniable importance!

  9. Sasha

    Sasha

    December 16, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    If you are going to write an article on mountain climbing, please learn the difference between “tallest” and “highest” first! Everest is the highest mountain on earth, not the tallest – that’s Mauna Kea

    • Paul

      Paul

      December 24, 2016 at 10:02 am

      I’m always surprised at this assertion. From where is that measurement taken? From the centre of the earth? Then Kilimanjaro in Tanzania would probably be the tallest.

  10. Rick

    Rick

    December 13, 2015 at 8:43 am

    When it comes to the highest mortality rate is Meli peak is not snow! She is still a virgin peak, has launched several human climbing failed! The mortality rate is 100%. he is located about 10 kilometers between the middle part of the Hengduan Mountains of Nu River and the Lancang River in Northeast Yunnan province Deqin County, the main peak of Vago card, up to 6740 meters above sea level, for the protection of God Tibetan Buddhism Ning Mapai – Gaya guba!
    The 1902 British expedition, the first Denmeri peak Kawagebo failure
    The 1987 8-9 month, Japan more mountains, due to continuous avalanche give up. Climbing route: Ming Yong glacier route; climbing height: 5100 M
    The United States in 1988, kilinc mountaineering team, climbing routes: Mingyong Glacier route, climbing height: 4350 meters
    – from September 1989 to November, in the Meili Xue Shan on the joint reconnaissance team, climbing routes: Yubeng direction, climbing height: 5500 meters
    November 1990 – 91 January, Sino Japanese joint Meili Xue Shan mountaineering team (second, January 1, 1991 – 3 day Meili Xue Shan climb) falling snow, the Chinese team of 6 people, the Japanese team of 11 people in the camp 5100 meters standby. January 3rd evening at 22:30 C3 camp and base camp last call. Lost contact in the morning of January 4th, the 17 players missing. Climbing routes: Yubeng direction, climbing height: 6470 meters (December 28th)
    – January 6, 1991 – 20 day, Meili Xue Shan search team, Chinese Mountaineering Association in January 9th 4 people arrived at camp, Tibet Mountaineering Association in January 16th 6 people arrived at camp, the Japanese rescue team arrived at the camp in January 20th because of the snow is too deep, frequent avalanches, January 21st to terminate the search decamped, climb height: 5300 meters C2 camp
    April 1991 – 156 in Meili Xue Shan on Sept. 6, joint search team (Japan, 12 people, 5 Chinese people), due to continuous snowfall, frequent avalanches, forced to terminate the search. Climbing routes: Yubeng direction, climbing height: 4500 meters
    The October 1996 December, in the Meili Xue Shan on the joint expedition (third, December 2nd, the Japanese side climb) forecast 4-6, Meili Xue Shan has heavy snowfall in Central Meteorological Station and Yunnan Meteorological Observatory also confirmed this prediction in order to avoid recurrence of the tragedy of 91 years, the troops were forced to withdraw, December 8th decampment. Climbing routes: Yubeng direction, climbing height: 5300 meters
    So far, the past 15 years, the Chinese Communist Party has 9 times to climb Meili Xue Shan. Among them: the Sino Japanese joint climb 4 times, Japan alone to climb 1 times, the U.S. team climbed 4 times. Since 1996, the state banned not allowed to climb Meili Xue Shan.
    Gongga mountain is the king of Shushan! Gongga mountain peak elevation of 7556 meters. As a technology of high altitude mountain, far more than the difficulty of Mount Everest!
    In 1932, American Terris Moore and Richard Burdsall first ascent of Mount Gongga.
    1957 in June 13th, the Chinese National Federation of trade unions (the predecessor of the Chinese mountaineering team) six players to climb Gongga mountain success, but there are four players killed.
    In 1982, the Japanese team in the Gongga peak 50 meters away from the peak of the peak of meters, but in the 19 days after the success of the success of the rescued and miraculously survived.
    In 1982, D. Coffield and D. Kelley American team to climb to the top of the peak.
    In 1983, the Swiss team of three people climb to the top, but one in the withdrawal due to avalanche victims.
    In 1984, German Heinz Zembsch, Gerhard Schmatz, Hans Engl the success of the summit.
    In 1998, the South Korean team along the dangerous northeast ridge first ascent of Mount Gongga, but there is a human sacrifice, several times before the summit was completed by the Northwest ridge.
    In 1999, Japanese summit is successful, this is the first time people along the northern ridge over the northwest ridge slope to climb Gongga mountain, is also the first time in the spring of Gongga mountain climbing success.
    In 2002, the French Antoine and Laurent along the western slope of the northwest ridge line of traditional summit.
    Gongga mountain is internationally renowned mountain climbing and exploration of the holy land, but the large scale of Gongga mountain is the most difficult to conquer the mountain, the summit is far more difficult than Mount Qomolangma. According to statistics, so far, only 24 successful ascent, but 37 people were killed in the climb and climb, including 14 Japanese. Mountain climbing mortality was far more than 30% of Mount Everest’s 14% and K2 61%, after Meili!

  11. J Palmer

    J Palmer

    December 12, 2015 at 3:03 am

    2 down..8 to go -_-

    • BAKER MAYWEATHER

      BAKER MAYWEATHER

      August 17, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Well I climbed to the top of my stairs in my house and descended back down to the living room. Top that! I’m a real mountaineer!

  12. Jay

    Jay

    November 23, 2015 at 4:31 am

    Statistically speaking Annapurna is the deadliest mountain with a 40% mortality rate. Even in recent years it still holds around a 20% mortality rate

    Kanchenjunga has around a 22% mortality rate

    K2 has some competition

  13. ida

    ida

    November 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    I think Gongga is the hardest mount,24 peoples finish climb and 37 peoples died in Gongga.

    • Rick

      Rick

      December 13, 2015 at 8:37 am

      Top1: Meili Snow Mountain 100% mortality rate

      Top2: Gongga 61% mortality rate (only 24 successful ascent, but 37 people were killed in the climb and climb)

      ???

  14. Bishnu Joshi

    Bishnu Joshi

    September 21, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Mount everest,kunchenjunga and annapurna are located in Nepal.I’m proud of my country

  15. Vv

    Vv

    August 29, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Recently they did a documentary on menu central peak. It’s said that the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru, the most technically complicated and dangerous peak in the Himalayas, one that has never been scaled to completion.

    • Cole

      Cole

      September 21, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Actually, Meru was summited in 2011 by Conrad Anker and two other men- there is a full documentary on their trip(s) called “Meru”

  16. dexter

    dexter

    August 17, 2015 at 10:21 am

    I dont think either one of these mountains was tough for me as i hv climbed each one of them not just once but twice ……nd that in just one day each….

    • Kazi

      Kazi

      October 15, 2015 at 9:15 am

      and you have counted to infinity, Chuck Norris!

  17. Truth

    Truth

    July 27, 2015 at 3:17 am

    According to most experts Everest is the tallest but not as tough and shouldnt be on no2 toughest. It should be probably 5th or 6th toughest to climb. K2 is a killer beast and slightly shorter but 10x tougher to climb.

    • WHAT a VIEW

      WHAT a VIEW

      September 8, 2015 at 11:42 pm

      No doubt Everest isnt hard at all to climb just hard to climatize

  18. old summit

    old summit

    March 30, 2015 at 5:13 am

    K2 is the most difficult mountain to climb in the world because of its mortality rate of every four people that try to climb k2 1 will die and that is based on the best climbers in the world. all though the rate would be higher because only few people try to climb this mountain because the rest of us know that we would die just getting there or 400 feet from base camp. On another note Everest should not even be on he list there are plenty of worse mountains to climb like devils thumb.

    • P1

      P1

      May 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Annapurna has a far higher fatality rate.

  19. deepan

    deepan

    March 18, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Anapurna and K2 are most difficult climbs.

  20. Jewani

    Jewani

    March 13, 2015 at 7:34 am

    My vote is for k2, nanga parbat and then Everest.

  21. longrod von hugedong

    longrod von hugedong

    December 14, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Who the hell wrote this list? I’ll give that they got the mountains on this list pretty much correct, but the order they are placed in is wholly screwed up. Nanga Parbat rated easier than Everest? Are you shitting me?

    Here’s how I see it: most alpinists consider the south face of Annapurna to be the most difficult of all climbs; furthermore, Annapurna has the highest fatality rate of any 8000m peak (of which there are 5 on this list). On the other hand, K2 and Nanga Parbat are quite nearly as dangerous but neither has been climbed in winter. I think all three of those are equally viable choices for “most difficult mountains to climb”. After that I would have a hard time choosing between Kangchenjunga (due to sheer height) and Cerro Torre (the windiest place on Earth; Jon Krakauer himself called it the toughest mountain in the world). Which brings up another issue with this list- why is Cerro Torre bunched with Fitz Roy? They are two completely different entities, with Cerro Torre being a much gnarlier technical climb . After this would have to be Denali, then the Matterhorn, then Blanc, then Everest, then Khuiten (which I know nothing about). This article is clearly pandering to the status quo amongst laypeople that because Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth it must be one of the most difficult as well. Although the height brings various difficulties not seen on many of these mountains, the fact remains that it is technically unchallenging and that you can pay a guiding service to have a Sherpa practically carry you up the side of Everest- you can BUY your way to the summit of that burned out mountain. The rest of the 8000ers, especially K2, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, and Annapurna, suffer few fools in such ways that Everest does.

    Other mountains that could easily be subbed into this top 10: Ama Dablam, Vinson, Muztagh Tower, Puncak Mandala, Mt. St. Elias, etc…

    I hate to be so derisive and condescending in my discourse about things that people are paid to write and have expertise on, but this list is outrageously comical for anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of mountaineering…

    • avadakedavra105

      avadakedavra105

      January 26, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      I agree with you. But I think thar K2 is still the worlds most dangerous mountain…

      • Pavel

        Pavel

        May 3, 2015 at 4:47 pm

        It doesn’t really matter what you think. Being “dangerous” isn’t a subjective term. Fatalities on Annapurna are around 40%. For K2 it’s less than 20%.

        • Wewmon

          Wewmon

          May 30, 2015 at 1:13 pm

          Well, there are reasons why K2 only has 20%, its because only very few people, had the balls to climb that freaking beast mountain

          • Dude

            Dude

            October 11, 2015 at 12:01 pm

            Something tells me you don’t know how percentages work….

    • Annady

      Annady

      June 11, 2015 at 12:13 am

      You are spot on, “Iongrod”!!
      Absurd list order “Curiosity Aroused”. Don’t write such a list, unless you’re climbing these mountains.. Sitting on your arse, reading about the topic of mountaineering DOES NOT suffice! Eejits..

    • javier garcia

      javier garcia

      August 17, 2015 at 5:15 am

      I have to agree with you , friend of mine climbed the Everest but failed to climbed the Nanga Parbat there is one thing that people may not know about the Nanga Parbat (it is the nineth highest peak) but it is the highest mountain above the surrounding terrain in the world besides it´s terrible weather conditions

      • javier garcia

        javier garcia

        August 17, 2015 at 5:54 am

        OH Oh and I forgot he failed to climb the Nanga Parbat two years before he summit the Everest : He was a 48 years old extremely exhausted physically and mentally person he said when he tried to climb the Nanga Parbat and failed

    • S Cleereman

      S Cleereman

      October 13, 2015 at 2:17 am

      Enjoyed reading your honest opinion. I’ve often wondered if they’ll put an escalator on Everest. Lol.
      So, you can’t “buy” your way up the hard mountains because they’re too technical and guides don’t want to worry about extra baggage, as it’s just too hard to summit yourself, much less worry about a touristy type scenario?

    • Rogier

      Rogier

      December 13, 2015 at 8:44 am

      Agree with you! Article is rubbish and would have been okay if it was called “some gnarly peaks”. Also there is a big difference in peaks and routes!

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