Over the history of mountaineering there has been many unbelievable and groundbreaking ascents on the world's most difficult mountains. This page is dedicated to these great mountains and the men whom conquered the impossible in climbing them upon there own terms, and there own routes.
K2 8616m 28,267ft
The first ascent of K2 was in 1954 on the Abruzzi spur by Italian team members A Compagnoni and L Lacedelli. They used oxygen but ran out shortly before the summit. One member of the team, M Puchoz died of pneumonia at camp 2.
The first ascent of the Magic line on the south west pillar was done in 1986 by two Polish and a Czech climber: W Wroz who was lost in the descent, P Piasecki and P Bozik summited. This may be K2's most dangerous route. Reinhold Messner was the first to envision this route, and was going to be the first to attempt the line, but decided the route was too difficult for porters and climbed the Abruzzi spur without bottled oxygen instead.
The West ridge was completed in 1981 by Japanese climber E Ohtani and Pakistani climber N Sabir.
The Polish route on the south face was done in 1986 by famous climber J Kukuczka and T Piotrowski with extremely dangerous serac fall and tough high altitude climbing.
On the east face, the north east ridge was done by J Wickwire, L Reichardt, J Roskelly and R Ridgeway in 1978.
Aconcagua 6962m 22,840ft
There is speculation that the first ascent was done by the Incas, but the first reported ascent was by a British expedition in 1896, and Swiss guide M Zurbiggen summited alone on Jan 14 1897 on the normal route.
One of the classic mountaineering objectives in the world, the Polish glacier route was opened in 1934 by Polish climbers S Daszyinski, K Narkivicz-Joko, S Osiecki, and W Ostrowski.
The Polish Glacier Direct, which tackles the steeper right hand side of the polish glacier, was first done by O Bravo, T Bellomio , and D Liebich 1961.
The French route was a groundbreaking route. It was first climbed in 1954 by a French team, and this route pioneered many others up the south face, like the Messner Variation that straightens out the French route as well as providing a better finish in ideal conditions. Obviously, It was put up by Reinhold Messner, climbed in 1974.
The South East ridge route that follows the crest and eventually joins the East Glacier route was solved by R Rocker, O Horak, and D Sause in 1966. Loose rock and 5.9 climbing were reported.
In 1978, the Argentine team of J Jasson, E Porcellana, and G Vieiro took on the East Glacier. The route took 5 days and joined the SE Ridge route at the crux.
Mount Robson 3954m 12,972ft
The first attempt to climb Mount Robson was in 1907 by the Coleman brothers and G Kinney, and they were unsuccessful. The team would come back in 1908 to fail again, and in 1909, Kinney and D Phillips supposedly reached the summit via a route on the North West flank, making them the would-be first ascent party. But in 1913 the ascent was discredited by Ausie-American-Canadian team of C Kain, A MacCarthy, and W Foster who climbed the North East face are the true first ascenders.
The so-called "Normal route" of Mount Robson was put up back in 1924 by a Canadian team consisting of C Kain, M Pollard, T Moffat, and M Geddes. This South-south-west ridge offers a very direct line to the top. The Ralph Forester hut is along this line at 8200ft.
R Perla and T Spencer pulled off one of the biggest alpine routes in the Canadian rockies when the team summited Robson on the North west ridge. The Route, also called the Emperor ridge, is a great climb.
The Wishbone Arete was done first by H Firestone, D Claunch and M Sherrick in 1958. Much like the Emperor ridge, the snow gargoyles on the ridgeline to the summit are the usual crux.
The impressive Kain face on the North east is a classic route. First done in 1913 as Robson's maiden summit by the Canadian team led by Kain.
There are many other routes on the mountain that are great lines but are rarely climbed due to loose rock, such as the North-east Arete or Fuhrer route.
The Eiger 3970m 13,041ft
The Eiger may be the most famous mountain in the history of alpinism. The north face is the only major wall without a glacier in front of it in the alps. It is said that the birth of alpinism took place at Mont Blanc, but many say the Eiger is the home to extreme-alpine climbing, with its infamous north west half of the face called "the Eigerwand".
The first ascent of the Eiger was in 1858, when C Barrington,C Almer and P Bohren climbed the South west flank and west ridge.
The Mittellegi ridge was done in 1921 by Y Maki, F Amatter, F Steuri, and S Brawand.
The modern climbing history of the Eiger was in many people's opinion started
in 1932, when H Lauper and his Swiss team opened and completed the famous "Lauper Route" on the eastern side or the Eigerwand.
After the Lauper route was put up, the new challenge of the Eigerwand was to put up a line up the deadly middle section. Between 1935-1937 many good, strong climbers attempted and died trying to climb the steep sections on the Eigerwand. From these series of events, many names were given to the spots on the face itself. The three icefields, death bivouac, and the spider were some of these features on the faces and routes.
A monumental feat was accomplished in 1938, when the team of Heckmair, Harrer, Vorg, and Kasparek climbed the Eigerwand face, establishing their names and their route in alpine climbing history. This breakthrough in climbing was the inspiration of many future climbers.
The Austrian route on the North east pillar was done in 1968 by Reinhold and Gunther Messner, T Hiebeler and F Maschka. This route is said to be safer than the Lauper route, and has just about the same amount of climbing as the 1938 Heckmair route.
Nanga Parbat 8125m 26,700ft
"Naked Mountain" stands in the westernmost end of the Himalayan chain in beautiful isolation. Its southern face, the Rupal face, is the single greatest face in the world, rising 14,800+ft up from the valley floor. The Diamir face was the scene of Nanga Parbat's first attempt.
A F Mummery made the very first attempt on Nanga Parbat in 1895. It was the first attempt on any 8000 meter peak. He climbed alpine style on the Diamir flank with his Gurkha porter named Raghobir Thapa. The two climbed the now named Mummery rib, and were lost attempting to cross a col to the Rakhiot glacier.
In a extraordinary climb, Hermann Buhl became the first person to summit Nanga Parbat solo, and became the second person in history to summit a 8000 meter peak. His route, done in 1953, known as the Rakhiot or Buhl route, is a long and arduous climb with incredible amounts of objective dangers, avalanches, and multiple camps that climbs from Fairy Meadow to the giant North east ridge passing Moor's head and going beneath the silver peaks and over North peak. Since its first ascent it has seen only one other ascent in over 50 years.
If there is a normal route, It would be the Kinshofer route that was climbed in 1962 by S Low, A Mannhardt, and T Kinshofer. This line starts with a very difficult snow couloir, and continues with mixed climbing and ice field crossings.
On the Diamir face, Reinhold Messner put up a mind-blowing line that is a very dangerous climb to the right of the Mummery rib through a area of the face that is constantly swept by avalanches. Done in 1978 and never repeated, this is another masterpiece by Messner, done in solo fashion. A earthquake reportedly forced Messner to take a alternate route for descent.
The Polish spur route, done in 1985 by the great Jerry Kukuczka and his polish team climbed the right hand side of the Rupal buttress. This great line is very dangerous with avalanche hazards and is unrepeated.
Aside from the controversial outcome and history of Reinhold and Gunther Messner's climb of the Rupal flank, it still is a amazing feat. The line travel's directly up the center of the Rupal face and up through the Merkl gully. Vertical height gain is 14,800ft.
Cerro Torre 3128m 10,263ft
The "scream in stone" of the patagonian icecap is undoubtedly the most beautiful, imposing, and hardest climb in the area, and in mine and many climber's opinion, Cerro Torre is the most technically difficult mountain in the world. Known for its fierce weather and blank walls, Cerro Torre is a rarely climbed mountain and is highly coveted.
In 1958 two Italian teams attempted the mountain. B Detassis, a leader of one of the expeditions, observed the East side after approaching up the Terro valley, declared the mountain impossible. W Bonatti and C Mauri led climbers up the West side and climbed for over 30 days until they abandoned the attempt after reaching the Col of hope.
C Maestri and T Egger made a attempt on Cerro Torre in 1959. The Italian and Austrian team set out on a alpine style climb of the North face. Maestri was found half-buried in the snow of the glacier and said that the team summited, but Egger was killed in the process of descending. This ascent is heavily disputed and controversial.
Cerro Torre and her first ascent is a very tricky subject, due to the fact that her summit is a very scary and almost impossible Ice mushroom that can only be climbed in absolutely perfect conditions, and still is very sketchy to climb. It is unknown which was the first team to not only summit the face proper as well as the 40 foot Ice mushroom.
The first ascent of Cerro Torre was done by C Maestri in another controversial ascent. In 1970 he climbed high on the South East ridge in winter time only to run out of supplies 350 meters short of the summit and retreated. He would return in the summer to put up the Compressor route on the South East ridge. Maesrti took a air compressor high up on the mountain and installed many pitons with the compressor. To this day the compressor still lies high on a ledge on the mountain. He also refused to climb the Ice mushroom.
There are seven other routes on Cerro Torre: The East face devil's direttissima route (EX) was done in 1986, the North face (EX) done in 1981, the South face (EX+) done in 1988, Infinito stud was finished in 1995 and has a EX+ rating, "What's love got to do with it" is a very impressive route on the South side done in 1994 with a EX+ rating, the South west ridge is rated ED+ and considered the easiest line up Cerro Torre, first done in 1974. And last but not least, the West face, rated ED+ done in 1994. Most of these seven routes all are close to 4300ft in vertical climbing, in variable conditions from bare rock to rime ice 12-40 inches thick.
Special Thanks and Notes
A special thanks to William Marler, E Wire, Marco979, Chandra, Christan Walter and Snapdragon for the awesome pictures they shared for this article.
This page is a ongoing piece of work that I am compiling when I have the time. I would like to include 15 of the world's greatest mountains in this article once it is done. But the slow going of gathering and interpreting information has led me to open this page early, just to get it out there. So please enjoy this page and look for updates in the near future.