Mountaineers and climbers have a tendency to strive for the highest point possible and the summits over 8000 meters are therefore naturally the most sought after peaks on the planet.
In the early days a huge prestige factor, individual as well as national, was an issue. The race for the highest summits on earth even got governments involved and national pride came at play. Some of the mountains were off limits due to political reasons and others were very hard to reach because of logisitical issues, bad mapping and the fact they were located in unhospitable mountain areas. In the beginning the peaks almost had a mythical status and some even regarded the summits impossible to reach.
Looking at the equipment used and the inadequate knowledge about the altitude's impact on the human body some extraordinary achievements were done.
A real breakthrough came in 1950 when the French expedition summited Annapurna. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal were the first humans ever to set a foot on a summit over 8000 meters. This triumph spurred others even harder to reach more of the elusive summits. In 1953 Terzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made it to the highest of all peaks, Everest and in the following years one by one of the 14 were climbed. The last unclimbed summit, Xixabangma were summited in 1964.
In the early days most expeditions were carried out in "siege style", i.e. large ventures with hundreds, sometimes even thousands of porters and many climbers which put the mountain on siege. Many times they were carried out in an almost military fashion with strict hierarchial structure, with pre-choosen climbers for the summit bid and help climbers which only purpose was to set up the route.
The very low oxygen levels on the peaks created two alternative standpoints about how to climb them sucessfully.
In 1920 Mallory argued:
"that the climber does best to rely on his natural abilities, which warn him whether he is overstepping the bounds of his strength. With artificial aids, he exposes himself to the possibility of sudden collapse if the apparatus fails."
Most other thought the use of artificial aid in terms of bottled oxygen was of necessaty. All the first successful climbs were done in this way and it became the norm. In 1975 Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler shook the traditional mountaineering world by climbing Gasherbrum I without using bottled oxygen and three years later they continued with a successful ascent of Everest in the same fashion. This astonished the world, especially the Sherpa community, which thought no one could outperform them on altitude.
Today the debate about using or not using bottled oxygen still rages on. Some think it's cheating, some argues it's a must considering the safety.
In 1953, Herman Buhl did what most climbers thought impossible; he made it to the summit of Nanga Parbat solo. It's still uncommon with solo ascents of the 8000 meter peaks, but there have been some successful climbs. Nowadays it's a bit debatable how many of these "soloes" are true ones, as there are lots of fixed ropes and other climbers on the peaks. A true solo climb of Everest was made by Messner in 1980, when he completely alone on the whole mountain made it to the summit.
Nowadays it's becoming more and more common to have the highest peaks on earth on the climbing list. Commercial expedition organizers offers package prices and basically anyone who's got the cash can try it out. This has lead to crowded peaks and a lot of casualties.
Is this page too brief?Many books have been written about the 8000 meter peaks and this page could be made kilometers long. I think all the Summitpost pages about the 14 peaks are of good quality and therefore I've choosen to make a portal; an introduction to each peak.
Note: I will add more info now and then. Tons can be added, but I'm not sure how much I should add, as checking out respective peak's main page will give you a lot of additional info.
The Highest Peaks on Earth
All the 14 summits!
There is a very small group of elite mountaineers which have reached all the 14 peaks summits. A star (*) after the climber's name indicates he climbed all the summits without bottled oxygen.
|1. Reinhold Messner*||Italy||Lhotse||1986|
|2. Jerzy Kukuczka||Poland||Xixabangma||1987|
|3. Erhard Loretan*||Switzerland||Kangchenjunga||1995|
|4. Carlos Carsolio||Mexico||Manaslu||1996|
|5. Krzysztof Wielicki||Poland||Nanga Parbat||1996|
|6. Juanito Oiarzabal*****||Spain||Annapurna||1999|
|7. Sergio Martini||Italy||Lhotse||2000|
|8. Park Young-seok||South Korea||K2||2001|
|9. Um Hong-gil||South Korea||Xixabangma||2001|
|10. Alberto Inurrategi*||Spain||Annapurna||2002|
|11. Han Wang-yong||South Korea||Broad Peak||2003|
|12. Alan Hinkes* and ***||UK||Kangchenjunga||2005|
|13. Edmund Viesturs*||USA||Annapurna||2005|
|14. Silvio "Gnaro" Mondinelli*||Italy||Broad Peak||2007|
|15. Ivan Vallejo*||Ecuador||Dhaulagiri||2008|
|16. Denis Urubko*||Kazakhstan||Cho Oyu||2009|
|17. Ralf Dujmovits**||Germany||Lhotse||2009|
|18. Veikka Gustafsson*||Finland||Gasherbrum I||2009|
|19. Andrew Lock||Australia||Xixabangma||2009|
|20. Joao Garcia*||Portugal||Annapurna||2010|
|21. Piotr Pustelnik*||Poland||Annapurna||2010|
|22. Oh Eun-sun (f)****||South Korea||Annapurna||2010|
|23. Edurne Pasaban (f)||Spain||Xixabangma||2010|
|24. Abele Blanc*||Italy||Annapurna||2011|
|26. Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner*||Austira||K2||2011|
|27. Vassili Pivtsov||Kazakhstan||K2||2011|
|28. Maksut Zhumayev*||Kazakhstan||K2||2011|
|29. Kim Jae-soo||South Korea||Annapurna||2011|
** Ralf Dujmovits has climbed all the 14 peaks, but according to himself, he doesn't count Everest as it was climbed with O2.
*** Cho Oyu disputed.
**** Kangchenjunga disputed.
8000ers.com has a good list of the persons who have summited more than 10 of the peaks.
***** By 1999, Oirzabal climbed all 8000ers, but at that time Everest was climbed with bottled O2. He then repeated Everest, this time without O2, in 2001. Anyway, even by counting 2001 as finishing date instead of 1999, he remains the third man after Messner and Loretan to have climbed all 14 without artificial O2
A list of about the women which have climbed more than 4 8000m peaks.
First winter ascentsEverest - 17 February 1980, Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki(PL)
Manaslu - 14 January 1984, Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski(PL)
Dhaulagiri - 21 January 1985, Jerzy Kukuczka and Andrzej Czok(PL)
Cho Oyu - 12 February 1985, Maciej Berbeka and Maciej Pawlikowski (repeated three days later by Andrzej Heinrich and Jerzy Kukuczka)(PL)
Kangchenjunga - 11 January 1986, Jerry Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki(PL)
Annapurna I - 3 February 1987, Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer(PL)
Lhotse - 31 December 1988, Krzysztof Wielicki(PL)
Shisha Pangma - 14 January 2005, Simone Moro (IT) and Piotr Morawsky (PL)
Makalu - 9 February 2009, Denis Urubko( KAZ) and Simone Moro (IT).
Gasherbrum II - 02 February 2011 Simone Moro (IT), Denis Urubko (KAZ), Cory Richards (CAN).
Gasherbrum I - 08 March 2012 Adam Bielecki (PL) and Janusz Golab (PL).
K2 - none
Nanga Parbat - none
Broad Peak - none
Everest - 8,848m, Central Himalaya, China/Nepal.
First ascent: 1953; E. Hillary, T. Norgay
The highest point on planet earth.
Mostly a non-technical climb regardless on which of the two normal routes you choose. On the south you have to deal with a dangerous ice fall and The Hillary Step, a short section of rock, on the north side there are some short technical passages. On both routes (permanent) fixed ropes are placed at the tricky sections. The altitude is main obstacle. Nowadays also crowding is mentioned as a factor of difficulty.
K2 - 8,611m, Baltoro, Northern Karakoram, China/Pakistan
First ascent:1954; A. Compagnoni, L. Lacedelli.
Possibly the world's most difficult mountain to climb.
Possibly the most difficult peak on earth. It’s high, there’s a high risk for avalanches, the weather is often bad and there are no easy route to the peak’s summit. The technical difficulty is high. A ridge on the north side offers a little lower difficulty, but suffers from extended problems with unsheltered exposure.
Kangchenjunga - 8,586m, South-East Himalaya, India/Nepal
First ascent:1955; G. Band, J. Brown.
It’s one of the largest of the peaks on the list and the way to its summit is long. This fact and the many short, but technical sections place Kangchenjunga firmly in the higher end of the list. The altitude is also a factor which solidify this.
Lhotse - 8,516m, Central Himalaya, China/Nepal
First ascent:1956; F. Luchsinger, E. Reiss.
The normal route starts with a dangerous icefall. Crowding, due to sharing route with Everest can be a problem. The altitude and exposure on the final parts are contributing to the peak’s reputation of being one in the middle of the list in terms of difficulty.
Makalu - 8,485m, Central Himalaya, China/Nepal
First ascent:1955; J. Couzy, L. Terray.
One of the more technical peaks and is amongst those considered hard climbs. Steep passages, both on rock and snow, exposure and avalanche danger makes this peak a tough target.
Cho Oyu - 8,188m, Central Himalaya, China/Nepal
First ascent:1954; S. Joechler, H. Tichy, P. Dawa Lama.
Arguably the easiest of the 8000 meter peaks.
Technically speaking the easiest of the 14. No technical climbing, but large snowfields and long distances. Many climbers has don’t reach the true summit, as it’s located some distance from where you enter the summit plateau and is only marginally higher than the fore summit.
Dhaulagiri - 8,167m, Dhaulagiri Himal(Himalaya), Nepal
First ascent:1960; K. Diemberger, P. Diener, M. Dorji, E. Forrer, N. Dorji, A. Schelbert
Considered to be a hard peak to climb by the pioneers in the area, but it’s nowadays considered as one on the lower half of the list. The normal route on the peak have some short technical sections and some avalanche danger, but overall it’s a quite straight forward climb.
Manaslu - 8,163m, Central SW Himalaya, Nepal
First ascent:1956; T. Imanishi, G. Norbu
On the lower half of the peak’s normal route, avalanche danger is usually a main problem. Higher on the peak, the climb is mostly non-technical and easy. Manaslu has one of the higher death rates and is considered a dangerous peak.
Nanga Parbat - 8,125m, Far West Himalaya, Pakistan
First ascent:1953; H. Buhl.
The first solo ascent of an 8000 meter peak.
Nanga Parbat’s normal route is not extremely technical, but it’s long and exposed. The mountain is infamous for bad weather and the route offers many tricky sections. It’s considered as one of the harder peaks.
Annapurna - 8,091m, Annapurna Himal (Himalaya), Nepal
First ascent:1950; M. Herzog, L. Lachenal.
The first 8000 meter peak to be climbed.
Considered the most dangerous of the 14. The north and its original route is not that technical, but extremely avalanche prone. The south is of high technical difficulty and also holds lots of objective danger.
Gasherbrum I - 8,080m, Baltoro, Northern Karakoram, China/Pakistan
First ascent:1958; A. Kaufman, P. Schoening
When the icefall and some easy ground have been covered, the climb gets more difficult. Steep mixed climbing and some objective danger makes Gasherbrum I a peak which belongs to the part of the list where you find the more difficult mountains.
Broad Peak - 8,051m, Baltoro, Northern Karakoram, China/Pakistan
First ascent:1957; H. Buhl, K. Diemberger, M. Schmuck, F. Winterstellar.
Considered a straight forward climb. The constant, but quite low angled steepness to the summit ridge can hold avalanche danger, but apart from that no technical surprises. Some rocky sections around the false summits and exposure offers the final test before reaching the true summit.
Gasherbrum II - 8,034m, Baltoro, Northern Karakoram, China/Pakistan
First ascent:1956; S. Larch, F. Moravec, H. Willenpart
Some years back G II was mentioned as one of the easiest 8000m peaks, usually together with Xixa and Cho Oyu. After the "Banana Ridge’s" collapse the climb has become more difficult. The main obstacles are the huge icefall, crevasses, some steep climbing on snow and the exposure on the final part.
Xixabangma Feng - 8,027m, Northern Central Himalaya, China
First ascent:1964; Chang Chun-yen, Wang Fu-zhou, Chen San, Cheng Tien-liang, Wu Tsung-yue, Sodnam Doji, Migmar Trashi, Doji, Yonten.
The last of the 8000 meter peaks to be summited.
Considered as one of the easiest and it is a non-technical climb, to the fore summit, that is. The final part to the true summit is an airy and sometimes dangerous walk on a knife edge ridge and therefore a majority of climbers only reach the fore summit. The rest of the climb is easy, but sometimes avalanche prone.
Xixabangma is many times erroneously spelled Shisha Pangma. The latter way of spelling is a survivor from the time when the non-Chinese speaking world still called Beijing for "Peking".
Recommended reading - links8000ers.com A site dedicated to the 14 peaks.
Planet Fear's article about climbing the 8000 meter peaks: Part 1.
Planet Fear's article about climbing the 8000 meter peaks: Part 2.
Recommended reading - booksPersonal Accounts
My Vertical World Jerzy Kukuczka's book about climbing the peaks. One of my absolute favorite mountaineering books.
All fourteen 8000ers Reinhold Messner's book about climbing all the peaks.
Himalayan Quest: Ed Viesturs on the 8,000-Meter Giants Very nice photos in this one.
No shortcuts to the top Another book by Viesters about the climbs.
Informative books on the subject
Richard Sale's classic about the 8000 meter peaks.
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