The 8 000-ers exposed

2013-04-02 14:53

If mountains had special councils, bodies constructed to oversee and arrange the affairs of these rock gargantuan, there would be 14 seats in the highest order, and they would be occupied by the 8 000-ers. 

Named after their common trait, being that each towers more than 8 000 metres above sea level, these fourteen massive mountains are all located in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges in Asia. Their majestic beauty and the deadly challenge they present have been drawing avid adventurers for centuries. 

Join us as we meet each of the members in ascending order.

14. Shishapangma, Tibet

The ‘baby' of the bunch goes by the name of Shishapangma, can be found in Tibet and stands 8027 metres above Sea Level. It's one of the easier high peaks to reach, and even has vehicle access to base camp. The first ascent of Shishapangma was in 1964 by a Chinese expedition, led by Hsu Jing. Ten climbers summited the peak on May 2. In 1999 expert American mountaineer Alex Lowe was killed in an avalanche while on an expedition to be the first Americans to ski down an 8 000-meter peak.

13. Gasherbrum II, Pakistan-China border

(Wikimedia Commons)

At 8 035 metres Gasherbrum II is the 13th highest mountain on earth and the third highest peak of the Gasherbrum massif, located in the Karakoram range of the Himalayas. It is also known as K4 and is located on the border of Gilgit-Baltistan province, Pakistan and Xinjiang, China. Interestingly, Gasherbrum isn't visible from any inhabited place, but is often chosen as the first 8 000-meter peak to be climbed by prospective high-altitude mountaineers. 

12. Broad Peak, Pakistan-China border

(Wikimedia Commons)

In 12th position we have Broad Peak, also known as K3. Also located in the Gasherbrum massif, the mountain has an elevation of 8 051 meters and was named for its 1,5km-long summit, obviously rather broad as summits go. Broad Peak made headlines earlier this month when two climbers who had attempted the first ascent of the winter season, went missing and were later declared dead, closing their four-man expedition in tragedy. 

11. Gasherbrum I, Pakistan-China border

(Wikimedia Commons)

So, there was a Gasherbrum II, which means there must be a Gasherbrum I, right? Well, there is and at 8 080 metres, it's the 11th highest mountain in the world. Because of its extreme remoteness, it is also known as the Hidden Peak and was designated K5 (the fifth peak of the Karakoram range) by T.G. Montgomerie in 1856 when he first spotted the peaks of the Karakoram from more than 200 km away. The first recorded expedition to the peak took place in 1934. Last year, four climbers went missing when they tried to take a new route and were never found. Experts suspect that they were blown off the mountain by strong winds. 

10. Annapurna I, Nepal


Annapurna is a 55km-long section of the Himalayas in north-central Nepal. Among its fourteen peaks, Annapurna I is the highest and stands 8 091-metres tall, making it the 10th largest peak in the world. Annapurna I was the first 8,000-metre peak to be climbed. This happened in 1950 and remained the highest summit attained on earth for three years, until the first successful ascent of Everest. Interestingly, it is also widely accepted to be the most dangerous of the 8000-ers to ascend, with its fatality rate of 40%.

9. Nanga Parbat, Pakistan


Forming the western-most anchor of the Himalayas, is the 8 126-metre Nanga Parbat (meaning ‘naked mountain' in Urdu). The mountain is characterized by an immense, dramatic peak rising far above its surrounds, making it a notoriously difficult climb. Numerous mountaineering deaths in the mid and early 20th century lent it the nickname "killer mountain." Interestingly, Nanga Prabat was one of the first 8 000-er ascents to be attempted when Albert F. Mummery led an expedition to the peak in 1895. They only reached the 7 000-mark. 

8. Manaslu, Nepal


Nepal's Manaslu is the eight tallest mountain in the world and stands 8 156 metres above sea level. Manaslu was first climbed on May 9, 1956 by Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu, members of a Japanese expedition. It is said that "just as the British consider Everest their mountain, Manaslu has always been a Japanese mountain".

7. Dhaulagiri I, Nepal


The Dhaulagiri mountain range in Nepal extends 120 km, and is home to the seventh tallest peak on earth, going by the name of, you guessed it, Dhaulagiri I. It stands 8 167 metres tall and was first climbed on May 13, 1960 by a Swiss/Austrian/Nepali expedition. Dhaulagiri's south face is considered by mountaineers to be close to impossible to climb and no one has ever topped the mountain from that side. 

6. Cho Oyu, Tibet-Nepal border


Meaning "Turquoise goddess" in Tibetan, Cho Oyu is sixth among the 8 000-ers. She stands 8,201 metres tall and can be found on the Tibet-Nepal border, about 20km west of Everest. The ascent of Cho Oyu was first attempted in 1952, but the first successful attempt only took place two years later. Cho Oyu was the fifth 8000 metre peak to be climbed, after Annapurna in June 1950, Mount Everest in May 1953, Nanga Parbat in July 1953 and K2 in July 1954.

5. Makalu, Nepal-China border

Standing 8 481 metres tall, Makalu, on the border of Nepal and China is the fifth highest mountain on the planet. Makalu is an isolated peak whose shape is a four-sided pyramid and it has been climbed successfully 206 times. 

4. Lhotse, Tibet-Nepal border

(Wikimedia Commons)

Also located on the border between Tibet and Nepal, Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain on Earth, rising 8 516 metres above sea level. While Lhotse is most famous for its proximity to Everest, and the fact that climbers ascending the standard route on that peak spend some time on its northwest face, it is a dramatic peak in its own right with a tremendous south face. It was first climbed in 1956 and as of December 2008, 371 climbers have summitted Lhotse and 20 have died.

3. Kangchenjunga, India


With an elevation of 8 586 metres, Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. The range is called Five Treasures of Snow after its five high peaks, and has always been worshiped by the people of Darjeeling and Sikkim. Kangchenjunga was first climbed on 25 May 1955. The British expedition stopped short of the summit, keeping their promise to the Maharaja of Sikkim that the top of the mountain would remain inviolate. All climbers that have reached the summit have followed this tradition.

2. K2, Pakistan-China border

(Wikimedia Commons)

K2 is the second highest mountain on earth and stands 8 611 metres above sea level. It is known as the Savage Mountain in mountaineering circles, because of its notoriously difficult ascent. It has the second highest fatality rate among the 8 000-ers, with only Annapurna I beating it. In the summer of 2012 K2 saw the largest crowd standing its summit-a total of 28 in a single day, bringing the total for the year to 30.

1. Mount Everest, China-Nepal border


And now, the godfather of the mountain council - the honourable Mount Everest. Measuring 8 848 metres above sea level, it is the tallest mountain in the world and the ultimate challenge for mountaineers. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind. It was famously summited for the first time on 29 May 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali sherpa climber from Darjeeling, India. Since then, it has been attempted by thousands of climbers from all corners of the world. A 2012 count revealed that there have been more than 220 recorded fatalities, most of which took place before 1990.

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