There are no safe and easy mountains to climb. Every mountain expedition is risky and dangerous. Make one wrong step or turn, and it’s all over. Unstable weather, technical obstacles, and treacherous terrain can kill even the most skilled.
Still, some mountains have a reputation for killing more climbers than others. Let’s see what the most dangerous mountains to climb are and find out what makes them so deadly.
Here are the world’s 5 most impossible mountain faces to climb:
K2 – Chinese/Pakistan Border
K2 is the second tallest peak on earth, is a climber’s dream, or worst nightmare.
Located on the border of China and Pakistan, K2 is more forbidding and much more difficult than Everest thanks to the technical difficulty of circumventing its glaciers, seracs — which are huge ice pillars — and generally frozen surface.
Because of the ice and complex geology of the mountain, parts of it are prone to collapse and movement at all times, meaning that climbers need to be especially poised and alert to ensure they don’t end up getting caught in the movement.
To make matters worse, weather at K2 tends to be unpredictable and violent — as if there needed to be another obstacle.
K2 is far more deadly than Everest, killing one out of every four climbers who reach the mountain’s 28,251-foot peak. Only Annapurna is more deadly. Part of the risk is the mountain’s extreme remoteness.
In fact, K2 is so removed from civilization that local people never even gave the mountain a name.
Nanga Parbat – Pakistan
Nanga Parbat, one of the so-called “eight thousanders,” because of it’s 8,000-meter-plus summit, also has a couple of telling nicknames: “the Killer Mountain” and “the Man Eater.”
Nanga Parbat is an incredibly steep and treacherous mountain, craggy with ice and rocks, and one of its three faces, known as the Rupal Face, is colloquially thought to be the highest mountain face in the world.
Watching the video, you can see the dangers of climbing even the most seemingly harmless parts of the mountain; if you slip or lose your footing, or the ground underneath you moves, it can send you sliding toward either against unwelcoming surfaces of the mountain or down one of the massive rock faces.
Thanks to the incredibly steep dropoffs, any fall would most likely be fatal. No one has ever climbed Nanga Parbat in winter.
The Eiger North Face – Switzerland
The north face of the Eiger, in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, has entered mountain-climbing lore as one of the most difficult climbs in the world. And unlike Nanga Parbat and K2, you don’t need to fly all the way to Pakistan to get there.
The north face is correctly referred to as Nordwand, or North Wall, but because of its treachery it has been rechristened Mordwand — Murder, or Murderous, Wall.
Climbing the face requires enormous amounts of strength and technical skill, since its incredible steepness means that any climber who is swept off the wall – whether by wind or the frequent avalanches and other phenomena that affect the mountain – will almost certainly perish.
Even though the Eiger doesn’t quite match up to the most difficult peaks of the Himalayas, the unpredictability of the Mordwand maintains its reputation of extreme treachery.
The Eiger has managed to capture climbers’ imaginations since long before – and long after – it was first ascended in 1938. It has inspired movies and books. “North Face,” a 2008 film, dramatized the story of a strong first ascent bid that never made it.
Not to mention “The Eiger Sanction,” a campy 1975 thriller featuring Clint Eastwood.
Of course, there is the classic account of the peak’s first ascent by Heinrich Harrer, “The White Spider,” named for a notorious section high on the wall.
Today, the Eiger is one of speed climbing’s most hallowed challenges.
Mt. Vinson – Antarctica
In case a mountain peak on one of the world’s more accessible six continents doesn’t interest you, there’s Mt. Vinson, the highest summit in Antarctica.
Unlike the other mountains on this list, Vinson isn’t a particularly challenging climb in and of itself: the extreme difficulty here comes from the fact that it’s located in the Antarctica, and comes with the extreme cold and aggressive weather that you might expect from the frozen continent.
The whole mountain is covered in ice and snow, and temperatures tend to remain around -20 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, when the sun remains out for 24 hours a day.
Vinson is part of the Seven Summits, aka the tallest peaks on each continent, and as such has received a high amount of attention and dedication from climbers.
Denali (Mt. McKinley) – Alaska
Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley and located in Alaska, is the tallest peak in North America. With a success rate of only just over 50%, the mountain is renowned for its difficulty, and it has taken the lives of around 100 climbers.
Part of the problem is the incredibly cold weather: unlike the peaks of the Himalayas and Africa, Denali is located very far north of the Equator, meaning that even in July you can see temperatures as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit, with windchills below -50 degrees Fahrenheit.
One thermometer that was found on the mountain had recorded a temperature of -100 degrees Fahrenheit.
But despite these difficulties, the mountain still sees regular and dedicated attempts; as part of the Seven Summits, it is a point of pride for climbers to conquer, and it’s also part of Denali National Park, one of the most beautiful on the continent.
Cerro Torre – Argentina and Chile
For many alpinists, Patagonia is what climbing is all about: remote peaks, top-notch granite and punishing weather. Cerro Torre, a spire reaching toward the skies in a disputed region between Chile and Argentina, represents that severe ideal perfectly.
Cerro Torre was the stone embodiment of a shift in climbing ideals from size to difficulty after most of the world’s highest mountains had been scaled. This granite dagger, at about a third of Everest’s height, was not climbed until 1974, more than two decades after Everest.
Cerro Torre resisted an ascent for millennia before it was finally topped. The spire even won when Italian mountaineer, Cesare Maestri, lugged a 200-pound air compressor up its Southeast Ridge in 1970, drilling 400 bolts into its hard rock. Even then, he made it 150 feet shy of the summit. This year, as Outside Online reports, two young climbers chopped out those bolts.
Cerro Torre and the towers nearby are known for the notorious ice formations — called mushrooms — that sit atop them, which have repelled many climbers from points heartbreakingly close to the summit.
Simply put, Annapurna is a graveyard in the north-central part of Nepal. For every three climbers who attempt to conquer its peak and descend safely, one will die. The fatality ratio of this Himalayan giant is the highest when compared to other mountains over 8,000 meters.
Annapurna has a reputation for being difficult to climb from a technical point of view. Even the most experienced climbers have trouble surviving the treacherous ground. Unstable ice walls and hanging glaciers cover Annapurna from all sides.
Apart from hard work, resilience, and stamina, the journey also requires a pinch of good luck. Yes, plain old good luck. Annapurna is very fickle and avalanche-prone. In 2014, unexpected avalanches and extreme snowstorms killed 43 people and injured 150, while another 50 people went missing.
To date, Annapurna has killed a total of 53 climbers. For every 100 safe returns, there are 34 deaths. That chilling number is the main reason this mountain is known as one of the most dangerous mountains to climb. Ironically, Annapurna was the first eight-thousander to be conquered way back in 1950.
Kangchenjunga, Nepal and India
Kangchenjunga is the world’s third highest mountain, and it lies between Nepal and India. It is also the second least climbed mountain of all the eight-thousanders. This mountain is so dangerous, unreachable and unclimbable that mountaineers have decided that it’s best to avoid it.
There are many reasons this beast is on the list of the most dangerous mountains to climb. First, it’s extremely remote and requires about 15 days of trekking just to get to the base. Additionally, there is no “easy path” to the peak. Climbers have to pave their own way through the deadly area. Significant threats lurk at every turn because of ice, snow, and glaciers. Also, it’s hard to find sponsors and guides. Those who have completed the journey do not want to test their luck again. Plus, Kangchenjunga is a logistical nightmare.
As an added downside, Kangchenjunga is not as famous as Mount Everest, for example. So, those who embark on this dangerous journey will not get much recognition from the media.
From a climber’s point of view, it’s just not worth the hassle.
Matterhorn, Switzerland and Italy
Matterhorn sits on the border between Italy and Switzerland and is 4,478 meters (14,692 ft) high. People from all corners of the world can recognize this steep pyramid-shaped beauty of the Alps. Because of its popularity, it attracts both veteran and novice climbers.
Still, don’t let its popularity and magnificence fool you. Matterhorn is one of the most dangerous mountains to climb — and perhaps even the deadliest. Its popularity has lured many gullible souls to their deaths.
More than 500 people have lost their lives since the first successful ascent in 1865. Seven summiteers tried to conquer Matterhorn that year. Only three of them came back alive.
Overcrowded routes are one of the main reasons behind Matterhorn’s deadly reputation. Each year, about 3,000 climbers reach the summit, and on average, five of them die. Falling rotten rocks and sudden avalanches are responsible for most of the deaths.
Baintha Brakk, Pakistan
Baintha Brakk would be the definite winner of the MVP title (most vicious player) in the category of the most dangerous mountains to climb. This staggering mountain stands at 7,285 meters (23,901 ft) and is located in Pakistan.
So far, professional mountaineers have conquered this perilous craggy mountain only three times. The gap between the first and the second ascent was 24 years. Nowadays, tourists are hesitant to visit Pakistan to climb its most dangerous mountain.
Baintha Brakk is also known as “The Ogre” — the legendary man-like monster that eats ordinary humans. No wonder it is one of the world’s hardest peaks to climb. The “easiest” path is through ice and show — and that’s without taking into consideration the mountain’s rocky and steep nature.
Altitude sickness is another major reason to avoid taunting this “man-eating monster.”
As a result, only the bravest daredevils see it as a conquerable target. Amateurs have no business being close to or around Baintha Brakk.
Mount Everest, Nepal and Tibet
Mount Everest peaks on the list of the most dangerous mountains to climb. Each year, more than a thousand climbers risk their lives for the thrill of standing “on top of the world.”
But conquering the highest mountain on Earth is no easy task. Climbers encounter many challenging impediments, such as avalanches, cracking ice, and powerful winds.
Extreme altitude sickness is, by far, the most common killer. Mount Everest reaches a height of 8,848 meters (29,029 ft), and the so-called “death zone” begins at around 8,000 meters. To put that into perspective, airliners cruise at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 m).
It is not uncommon for climbers to discover dead bodies during expeditions. Rescuers have a hard time carrying out rescue missions safely and successfully. Logistical and technical obstacles are too complex to overcome. So, the bodies of unfortunate climbers are just left on the mountain.
Fitz Roy, Chile and Argentina
Fitz Roy sits between Chile and Argentina and reaches a height of 3,405 meters (11,171 ft) above sea level. It is not among the highest mountains in the world. But, it is surely on the list of the most dangerous mountains to climb.
This otherworldly looking mountain is a technical and logistical nightmare for climbers. It is also a mentally challenging endeavor. It will put to the test even the most experienced climbers.
Its steep sides and horrendous weather conditions are the main reasons it sees only one ascent per year. Sudden changes in the weather are rather common. Heavy rainfall or snow can occur at any time of the day without any warning signs.
Isolation and remoteness of the mountain also add to Fitz Roy’s perilous nature. In case of an emergency, climbers have to fend for themselves. There are no large cities nearby, just small villages. Thus, Fitz Roy’s beauty makes it very popular among photographers, but not among climbers.
Mont Blanc, Italy and France
Mont Blanc is the tallest and deadliest mountain in Europe, killing around 100 climbers each year. Oddly enough, Mont Blanc is not the toughest to climb from a technical point of view.
Many mountain guiding companies describe the journey to the summit as a mere “long walk,” as opposed to a difficult climb that requires ice axes to get to the top. As a result, inexperienced climbers assume that they can complete the journey safely. In reality, many perish on Mont Blanc’s slopes.
Novice climbers tend to ignore the dangers of warm weather avalanches, altitude illnesses, and narrow rocky paths. What’s more, climbers run the risk of being struck and killed. Falling rocks and blocks of ice, which are known to tumble from moving glaciers, are quite common. There is also the danger of falling into deep glacier cracks.
No matter the route, these are the risks every climber will encounter on that mere “long walk” to the summit.
A “dazzling beauty,” no doubt, Dhaulagiri in Nepal is the seventh highest mountain in the world. It measures 8,167 meters (26,795 ft). But, there is nothing dazzling about its summit-to-fatality ratio. Dhaulagiri holds the title as one of the hardest-to-climb mountains with a fatality rate of about 16%.
The easiest path to the summit is via the northeast ridge. To this day, no one has successfully conquered the mountain via the south face.
Dhaulagiri is not particularly accessible. Its remote location has made it one of the lesser climbed eight-thousanders. In addition, the weather conditions on Dhaulagiri are ferocious. Avalanches, gushing winds, and altitude-related illnesses are common.
Still, that is not enough risk to discourage climbers. The death toll on this “dazzling beauty” is higher than on other Himalayan mountains.