The Himalayan Mountain Range is home to the world's tallest and most dramatic peaks, from the summit of Mount Everest to the lesser known mountains. Stretching across Asia from Bhutan to Tajikistan, the Himalayas separate the Indian subcontinent from Eurasia, their tectonic plates having pressed together for 50 million years.
The ten highest mountains in the world are located in the Himalayas, and whether you're a seasoned mountaineer seeking to reach the summit of one of these challenging peaks, or an adventurer looking for your next exotic destination, the Himalayas are a bucket list must-see.
Annapurna, located in north-central Nepal, is actually an entire Himalayan massif (a group of mountains) comprising of approximately thirty peaks. Its highest, however, is Annapurna I at 8,091 meters. While just barely making the Eight-Thousander category, Annapurna I is no easy hill walk. Its steep slopes and poor conditions make it one of the most difficult to climb.
It was the first Eight-Thousander to be summited in 1950, but later mountaineers found the mountain to be notoriously dangerous. Historically, Annapurna has the highest fatality rate at 32%, but since the 1990s, its death rate has steadily declined as Kangchenjunga surpassed it as the most deadly.
9 Nanga Parbat
The westernmost of all the Eight-Thousanders is Nanga Parbat, sitting in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. It stands at a dizzying 8,126 meters, earning it the local name Diamer, or "huge mountain."
While the view from Fairy Meadows at the mountain's base paints a serene picture, Nanga Parbat is regarded as an extremely difficult and dangerous climb. Earning itself the nickname "Killer Mountain" as a result of the deaths that occurred there in the 20th century, Nanga Parbat is somewhat safer now with modern equipment, but only the most serious climbers should attempt it.
Manaslu, also located completely within Nepal, can be found in the central part of the country, close to the Tibetan border. Its 8,163-metre summit is accessible via the North-East Face, and its terrain is somewhat similar to that of Everest.
In an impressive feat for Japanese mountaineers, Manaslu was first climbed by Toshio Imanishi and Nepalese Sherpa Gyalzen Norbu in 1956. An ascent of Manaslu is on the bucket list of any advanced Japanese climber, and it's a source of pride for those who complete it.
Like Kangchenjunga, it was thought that Dhaulagiri was the world's tallest mountain. In the early 19th century, Dhaulagiri took the top spot in the record book, perhaps because its massif extends an incredible 120 kilometers across Nepal. Alas, it is now officially known as the seventh highest mountain at 8,167 meters.
Dhaulagiri is, however, the highest mountain located entirely in Nepal. It's one of the less popular Eight-Thousanders due to its more remote location than others, but its summit is no less rewarding, and its long ridges offer many approaches of varying difficulty.
6 Cho Oyu
Cho Oyu is a relatively moderate climb compared to other Eight-Thousanders. It stands at 8,201 meters, only a few hundred less than the more extreme Makalu. It's a great ascent for mountaineers who are beginning their journey in the Himalayan giants. It sits in Tibet, just across the border from Nepal.
Due to Cho Oyu's accessibility and somewhat level rock faces, many climbers attempt it. It's safer to accommodate a large number of climbers, and tour companies often run guided climbs, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Climbers should still be fit and competent enough to climb the 8,000-plus meter mountain.
The sharp, 8,485-metre peak of Makalu is viewed by many as one of the most dangerous. Rising up isolated against the sky in a neat pyramid, Makalu is just a short 20-kilometer jaunt southeast of Everest. At the base of the mountain lies the Barun Valley, a rich environment of geological features, flora, fauna, and native tribes.
Its exposed peak can prove fatal to even the most agile of climbers, having deep snowdrifts and narrow edges that can sometimes prove impassable. Climbing the summit requires an intense knowledge of rock and ice climbing.
Of course, the mountains neighboring Everest are expected to match its might, and Lhotse lives up to the reputation. It's even part of the Everest massif, connecting to the famous mountain by the South Col, or pass.
Its 8,516 meters makes it only about 300 meters short of Everest, and summiting Lhotse can often be combined with an Everest climb. The three neighboring peaks Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse are known as the "Triple Crown," one of the greatest accomplishments in mountaineering.
South of Everest, forming part of the India-Nepal border is the world's third highest mountain, Kangchenjunga. It was thought to be the world's highest mountain for decades, but it was announced in 1852 that Everest was, in fact, bigger.
At 8,586 meters, Kangchenjunga may not be the tallest, but it is one of the most difficult to ascend. The mountain has had a death rate as high as 22% due to strong avalanches and poor conditions. The first climbers of Kangchenjunga stopped just below the summit, keeping a promise to local Chogyal rulers that the peak of the mountain would remain untouched.
At a height of 8,611 meters above sea level, K2 isn't much smaller than Everest, but it receives a fraction of the attention. Although widely admired in the mountaineering community, it remains largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.
K2 is located on the border of China and Pakistan, in the Karakoram Range of the western Himalayas. Due to the treacherous conditions on the Chinese side of the mountain, it's usually climbed from the Pakistan side. K2 has earned the nickname "Savage Mountain" for its extreme climbing conditions, and no one has ever climbed the summit in winter -though one brave Polish man has skied down the mountain.
It's no big secret that Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, at an elevation of 8,848 meters above sea level. Straddling the border between Nepal and the autonomous region of Tibet, Everest has two base camps climbers can ascend from, the North and South Base Camps, in Tibet and Nepal, respectively.
Every climber dreams of conquering Everest, but only the most confident, experienced hikers should. The summit can be extremely dangerous, having claimed the lives of hundreds of climbers over the years. If you plan on attempting the ascent, make sure you arrive prepared.