What are the tallest mountains all around the world?
It is almost a universally known fact that Mount Everest, at over 29 thousand feet, is the tallest mountain in the world. It is a peak with supreme fame and notoriety, and its “king of the mountain” distinction has lured plenty of potential climbers to its base – attracted by the perceived glory of scaling Everest. As of 2008, about 2,700 individuals have tried to ascend the forbidding mountain.
Yet Everest is one of many extraordinarily tall mountains in Asia’s Himalayas. In fact, Everest does not really stand out in comparison to the Central Asian mountains that surround it. To illustrate, I’ll normalize the top ten Himalayan and Karakoram peak heights against each other, calling Everest’s “1” and then having the other mountains be fractions of “1”:
As you can see, even the smallest mountain of these ten is over 90 percent as large as Everest. It’s not Everest itself – but it’s not too far off, either.
In this article, I will try to shed some light on mountains around the world that might not get as much publicity or attention as Everest. I will begin with Everest – it would be foolish not to – but the goal is to spotlight each continent’s own “hometown Everest”. Let’s start with Everest itself, which occupies Asia’s top spot.
ASIA – Mount Everest
Everest is, as I know you’re well aware, Earth’s highest mountain. It’s 8,848 metres (29,029 feet), and it is a member of the Himalaya mountain range.
It was formally identified as the tallest mountain in the world in the 1850s by a joint team of British and Indian surveyors. The same joint team decided to name the mountain “Everest”, after George Everest, the then-previous British Surveyor General of India. “Everest” is only the English name for the peak, however; other countries have their own names. The Tibetan name for Everest is Chomolungma / Qomolangma (“Saint Mother”) And the Chinese call it Shengmu Feng (“Holy Mother”).
As stated above, 2,700 individuals have tried to climb Mount Everest, and in total, they have made over 4,000 attempts. The first to reach the top was the duo of New Zealand’s Edmund Hillary and Nepal’s Tenzing Norgay, who got there on May 29th, 1953.
SOUTH AMERICA – Cerra Aconcagua
Cerra Aconcagua, a member of the Andes mountains and Argentina’s Mendoza province, is South America’s largest mountain. It is 6,962 meters (22,841 feet).
In the beginning of 1897, a British expedition conducted the first recorded ascent of Aconcagua. The first to reach the summit was Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen.
Aconcagua is an indigenous name that has two potential origins. It could be derived from a pairing of Quechua words – “Ackon Cahuak”, or “Stone Sentinel”. Or, it could be derived from a Mapuche expression – “Aconca-Hue”, or “Comes from the other side”.
NORTH AMERICA – Mount McKinley (Denali)
Mount McKinley, also known as Denali (which means “The Great One” in a North American indigenous language), is a mountain in the American state of Alaska. North America’s tallest mountain, it is about 6,194 meters (20,320 feet).
It was formally named in early 1897 after then-American Presidential candidate William McKinley, who had then just been nominated as the Republican Party front-runner. There has been controversy over whether the mountain should be formally named Mount McKinley or Denali. In particular, Alaskans prefer to use Denali.
The first ascent of Mount McKinley was completed on June 7th, 1913 by an exploring team led by Brit Hudson Stuck. Walter Harper, a native Alaskan, was the first to actually touch the summit.
AFRICA – Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro, which is both a mountain and an inactive volcano, lies in the northeastern portion of the African country of Tanzania. The tallest mountain in Africa, it is 5,895 meters (19,341 feet).
There is no precise translation available for “Kilimanjaro”. Some believe that it is a combination of two words, each from a different African language. In Swahili, “Kilima” means “mountain”; in Kichagga, “njaro” means “white”. This has led to a nickname for Kilimanjaro – the “White Mountain”.
The first ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro was completed in 1889 by German professor Hans Meyer, who had made two previous unsuccessful attempts at the ascent. On the morning of October 6th, 1889, Meyer and his team reached the summit.
EUROPE – Mount Elbrus
Like Kilimanjaro, Elbrus is both a mountain and an inactive volcano. It is also Europe’s largest mountain. It lies in Russia on the Caucasus mountain range, and is 5,642 meters (18,510 feet).
Its name is a complex derivation of one particular Persian myth about a like-named mountain: the Hara Berezaiti.
In 1874, Russian climber Killar Hashirov became the first person to climb the taller of Elbrus’ two peaks.
ANTARCTICA – Vinson Massif
Vinson Massif, a member of Antarctica’s Ellsworth Mountains, is Antarctica’s highest mountain. It is 4,892 metres (16,050 feet).
In 1959, it was first measured to be 5,140 metres (16,864 feet). Twenty years later, the Soviets established a more accurate measurement of 4,897 metres (16,066 feet), which has since been refined to the current height. Vinson Massif is named for Carl Vinson, an American congressman who significantly funded research in Antarctica.
At the end of 1966, a joint team of American explorers – one section from New York City, and the other from Seattle, Washington – made the first ascent up Vinson Massif.
AUSTRALIA – Mount Kosciuszko
Mount Kosciuszko, which lies in the Australian state of New South Wales and is a member of Australia’s Snowy Mountains, is Australia’s highest mountain. It is 2,228 metres (7,310 feet).
Mount Kosciuszko was first climbed in 1840 by Polish explorer Count Edmund Strzelecki. Strzelecki believed that the mountain peak looked similar to an existing Polish commemorative landmark – the Kosciuszko Mound. Thus, Strzelecki named the mountain after Polish leader Tadeusz Kosciusko.
And that concludes my overview of what mountaineers call the “Seven Summits”. Here’s a final comparison of the continental champs’ heights:
Cerra Acongagua (South America)
McKinley (North America)
Vinson Massif (Antarctica)
Mount Kosciuszko (Australia)
Yes, mount Everest is the tallest, with around 8848 meters (depending on how much snow there is).
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