The sport of mountain climbing was born in 1760, when a young Genevese scientist, Horace-Benedict de Saussure, offered prize money for the first person to reach the summit of Mount Blanc, Europe’s tallest peak. But long before that time humans have been climbing mountains for the challenge it poses. Or “because it’s there” as English mountaineer George Mallory famously replied when he was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. A few months later he disappeared on the way to the summit.
Some of the mountains on this list still provide a great challenge for the professional mountaineer. Others can be visited more easily by foot or cableway. But all of them can be appreciated from a safe distance providing magnificent vistas and spectacular scenery.
Note: Volcanic mountains can be found in a separate list.
With a summit height at 4,095 meters (13,435 ft), Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Borneo. The mountain is known worldwide for its tremendous botanical and biological species biodiversity. Over 600 species of ferns, 326 species of birds, and 100 mammalian species have been identified at Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding. The main peak of the mountain can be climbed easily by a person with a good physical condition, and requires no mountaineering equipment although climbers must be accompanied by guides at all times.
The Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa, rising to 3,482 metres (11,420 ft) in height. The name is derived from the dutch and means “dragons mountain”. The Amphitheatre is one of the geographical features of the Northern Drakensberg, and is widely regarded as one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth. The Amphitheatre is over 5 kilometers (3 miles) in length and has precipitous cliffs rising approximately 1200 meters (4000 ft) along its entire length.
Mount Huang is a mountain range in eastern China also known as Huangshan (“Yellow Mountain”). The area is well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks and views of the clouds from above. Mount Huang is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, as well as modern photography. The tallest peak in the Huangshan mountain range is the Lotus Peak at 1,864 meters (6,115 ft). In ancient times almost 60,000 stone steps were carved into the side of the mountain. Today there are also cable cars that tourists can use to ride directly from the base to one of the summits.
Aoraki Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, reaching a height of 3,754 metres (12,316 ft). Aoraki means “Cloud Piercer” in the Ngai Tahu dialect of the Maori language. The mountain lies in a national park of the same name which contains 27 other mountains which peak at over 3000 meters. A popular tourist destination, it is also a favorite destination for mountain climbers. It is is a challenging ascent, with frequent storms and very steep snow and ice climbing to reach the peak. The mountain was first climbed successfully in 1894 by three New Zealanders who reached the summit via the north ridge.
Monte Fitz Roy is a 3,375 meter (11,073 ft) high mountain on the border between Argentina and Chile. Despite its average height the mountain has a reputation of being extremely difficult to climb because the sheer granite faces present long stretches of arduous technical climbing. In addition, the weather in the area is exceptionally severe and treacherous. The mountain also attracts many tourists and photographers thanks to its otherworldly shape. It was first climbed in 1952 by French alpinists Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone.
Located in Tibet, Mount Kailash is considered as a sacred place in five religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Ayyavazhi and the Bön faith. In Hinduism, it is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. It is believed that moving around Mount Kailash on foot will bring good fortune. Because of these beliefs the mountain is considered off limits to climbers and there have been no recorded attempts to climb the 6,638 meter (21,778 ft) high Mount Kailash. It is the most significant peak in the world that has not seen any known climbing attempts.
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains and one North America’s most visited parks. Banff’s mountains exhibit several different shapes that have been influenced by the composition of rock deposits, layers, and their structure. The 3,618 meter (11,870 ft) high Mount Assiniboine has been shaped by glacial erosion that has left a sharp peak. It has been unofficially named the “Matterhorn” of North America. The mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks near the crystal clear Moraine Lake are also known for providing scenic vistas.
With a peak elevation of 8,611 meters (28,251 ft), K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth, after Mount Everest. The mountain is part of the Karakoram range, located on the border between China and Pakistan. K2 is also known as the Savage Mountain due to the difficulty of ascent and one of the highest fatality rate for those who climb it. K2 is notable for its local relief as well as its total height. It stands over 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) above much of the glacial valley bottoms at its base. More extraordinary is the fact that it is a consistently steep pyramid, dropping quickly in almost all directions. An Italian expedition succeeded in ascending to the summit of K2 on July 31, 1954.
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It’s main feature is a level plateau approximately 3 kilometers (2 mi) from side to side, surrounded by steep cliffs. The highest point on Table Mountain is 1,086 meters (3,563 ft) above sea level. There is a cableway that takes passengers to the top of the mountain with views overlooking Cape Town, Table Bay and Robben Island to the north, and the Atlantic seaboard to the west and south. António de Saldanha was the first European to land in Table Bay. He climbed the mighty mountain in 1503 and named it ‘Table Mountain’.
The Matterhorn is a famous mountain and an iconic emblem of the Swiss Alps. The mountain derives its name from the German words Matte, meaning meadow, and Horn, which means peak. With its 4,478 metres (14,692 ft) high summit, lying on the border between Switzerland and Italy, it is one of the highest peaks in the Alps. It is also one of the deadliest peaks in the Alps. From the first time it was climbed in 1865 to 1995, 500 alpinists have died on it. The Matterhorn’s faces are steep, and only small patches of snow and ice cling to them while regular avalanches send the snow down to accumulate on the glaciers at the base of each face.
At 8,848 meters (29,029 ft), Mount Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. It is located on the border between Nepal and Tibet. The highest mountain in the world attracts climbers of all levels, from well experienced mountaineers to novice climbers willing to pay substantial sums to professional mountain guides to complete a successful climb. Although other eight-thousanders such as K2 are much more difficult to climb, Mount Everest still has many inherent dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind. People who die during the climb are typically left behind and it is not uncommon to find corpses near the standard climbing routes. On May 29, 1953, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and New Zealander Edmund Percival Hillary were the first to climb to the summit of Everest.