Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (2024)

Just because Mt. Everest is the world's highest peak, that doesn't mean it's the most difficult to climb, according to three professional mountaineers.

In fact, one expert even described Everest as a "fun" and "playful" climb compared to other peaks she's summited around the world.

Mountaineers generally agree that the highest peaks on each of the seven continents — aka the Seven Summits, which include Everest, Denali, and Kilimanjaro — are easier to climb than the second highest peaks on each continent: the Seven Second Summits.

The three mountaineers shared why Everest isn't the hardest and which peaks they found most challenging in their years of climbing.

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Climbing the Seven Second Summits

Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (1)

Don't let the name fool you — when it comes to difficulty, there's nothing secondary about the Seven Second Summits.

Only two people have successfully climbed all seven. Jenn Drummond, a retired businesswoman and mom of seven turned professional mountaineer, is one of them.

In 2023, she became the first woman to accomplish this climbing feat and said each one came with its own harrowing challenges.

Part of what makes these peaks so difficult is that they're more remote and not as commercialized as the seven highest summits, which makes getting to them its own challenge, Drummond told Business Insider.

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Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (2)

Mt. Everest attracts hundreds of climbers each year, and is surrounded by a booming tourism industry. The spring 2023 climbing season alone generated $5.08 million in revenue for the Nepal government, the Kathmandu Post reported. That revenue helps fund people who mark trails, set up ropes, and establish camps before mountaineers even arrive at base camp.

"If I'm climbing Everest, I don't have to make decisions — if I go left or right. I just follow a rope that somebody else has set for me," she said, adding that it all makes Mt. Everest a "fun" and "playful" climb compared to the Seven Second Summits.

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"When I'm climbing Mt. Logan, or I'm doing Mt. Tyree, there's no set route," Drummond said. That added mental labor significantly increases both exertion and risk. Plus, "if something goes wrong, it's only you guys there to fix it," she said.

Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (3)

And for the most part, they're more technically difficult to climb. Unlike the seven highest summits, some of the Seven Second Summits involve skiing and rock climbing in addition to hiking. "You're training for a variety of different skill sets," Drummond said.

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Out of all the Seven Second summits, Mt. Logan was the hardest for Drummond. It's remote, there's no trail to follow, and mountaineers do most of the climb on skis, she said. She and her team had to chart their own route, constantly test the ground to make sure the snow wouldn't give way underfoot, and build igloos around their tents to help them withstand the strong, cold winds.

K2: The Savage Mountain

Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (4)

If you ask Garrett Madison what the hardest mountain he's climbed is, his answer won't be Mt. Everest, either.

This world-class mountaineer has summited Mt. Everest 14 times, in addition to other massive peaks like K2, Denali, and Mt. Everest's smaller but formidable neighbors, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Nuptse.

K2 is the hardest mountain he's ever climbed, he said, and other mountaineers agree that although it's secondary to Mt. Everest in height, it's much more challenging.

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Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (5)

"The major differences are that K2 is steeper, it's got more objective danger — rock fall, ice fall, crevasses — and the weather is more unpredictable," Alan Arnette, a Mount Everest summiter and climbing coach who writes an Everest blog, told BI.

But just because Mt. Everest is easier than K2, that doesn't mean that anyone can hike up the world's highest mountain on a whim, Arnette said.

Climbing Mt. Everest is still risky

Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (6)

In 2023, a record-breaking 18 climbers died attempting to summit Mt. Everest. Even with a pre-set route, established camps, and highly skilled Sherpas to guide you, summiting this mountain is still incredibly dangerous.

As a Mt. Everest summit coach, Arnette requires that his clients already have experience climbing at least 23,000 foot tall mountains, camping in harsh winter conditions, and have some basic mountaineering knowledge before he agrees to work with them. And even someone with that level of experience might need a year of training to get ready to summit, he said.

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Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (7)

But professional mountaineers like Arnette, Drummond, and Madison go searching for even greater challenges, paving the way for others who aspire to reach the same heights. For Drummond, becoming the first woman to climb the Seven Second Summits was deeply meaningful.

"It just shows how far society has come for women to be in these places," she said.

Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers (2024)

FAQs

Forget Mt. Everest — it's not even close to the most difficult mountains to climb, according to mountaineers? ›

Just because Mt. Everest is the world's tallest peak, that doesn't mean it's the most difficult to climb, according to three professional mountaineers. In fact, one expert even described Everest as a "fun" and "playful" climb compared to other peaks she's summited around the world.

Is Everest the most difficult mountain to climb? ›

The hardest mountain to climb is often considered to be K2, the world's second-highest peak, due to its extreme weather conditions, technical climbing challenges, and high fatality rate.

How many climbers have died on Everest? ›

But the journey is grueling. More than 300 people are known to have died on Everest, and an estimated 200 of their bodies remain there because they were too hard to retrieve.

How many bodies are on Mount Everest? ›

No one knows for sure just how many corpses remain on Mount Everest, but a 2015 study by the BBC placed the estimate at more than 200. The highest concentration of bodies lie between Camp IV at 26,600 feet and the summit.

What are the difficulties of climbing Mount Everest? ›

The climb to Mt. Everest is not as easy as it looks. The high altitude of the region causes the oxygen levels to decrease, making it harder for breathing. Technical skills like using fixed ropes, ice axes, and crampons are required for this journey.

Why is it so hard to climb Everest? ›

Due to its extreme altitude, unpredictable weather, and treacherous terrain, only a fewer people have successfully reached the summit of Mt. Everest. The journey to the summit requires 6-8 hours of walking every day for over 2 weeks, in addition to 10-12 hours of climbing and camping.

How much does it cost to climb Everest? ›

As with many things in life, the answer to this question is not so simple. However, climbers can expect to spend anywhere between $33,000 (USD) and $200,000 depending on the type of expedition, what is included in the price, and the level of luxury expected.

What is the deadliest mountain in the world? ›

According to Guinness World Records, Annapurna I is the deadliest mountain in the world. This might surprise you. Many people would assume the world's deadliest mountain is K2 or Everest. K2 certainly has a long history of death and destruction and Everest gets a lot of footfall for an 8000m peak.

Who is Sleeping Beauty on Everest? ›

American climber Francys Arsentiev aka "Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest" was said so after passing away while on an expedition there in 1998. As she pushes herself to the limit to fulfill her dream of climbing the highest peak in the world, her story is one of tragedy and inspiration.

What is the oldest body on Mount Everest? ›

George Mallory

Is it possible to find bodies on Everest? ›

Since the early 1920s, more than 330 climbers have died on Mount Everest. 200 bodies remain on the mountain, the most famous one being “Green Boots”. These maps provide some surprising insights into Everest's morbid geography.

How long does it take to climb Mount Everest? ›

On average, climbers spend about two months on the mountain, with the final push to the summit typically taking place in late May or early June when the weather is most favorable. The actual ascent from the highest camp to the summit can take 9 to 18 hours, depending on the climber's speed and stamina.

How much garbage is on Mount Everest? ›

Ang Babu Sherpa, who led the team of Sherpas, said there could be as much as 40-50 tons (88,000-110,000 pounds) of garbage still at South Col, the last camp before climbers make their attempt on the summit.

Why can't you climb Everest all year? ›

Everest is engulfed by the jet stream for a major part of the year, making climbing near impossible due to high winds and extreme sub zero temperatures.

What is the biggest cause of deaths on Mount Everest? ›

The most common causes of death on Mount Everest are acute mountain sickness, falls, avalanches, exhaustion, crevasses, exposure, and hypothermia.

Why is it not safe to climb Mount Everest? ›

Climbers who ascend higher than 26,000 feet on Mount Everest enter the "death zone." In this area, oxygen is so limited that the body's cells start to die, and judgment becomes impaired. Climbers may also experience heart attack, stroke, or severe altitude sickness.

Which is harder to climb, Denali or Everest? ›

Due to its extreme altitude, the answer is. simply Everest... but Denali is a close second. Denali. is the most physical of all the Seven and there are no.

Which is harder Kilimanjaro or Everest? ›

Most people agree that Kilimanjaro is harder than Everest Base Camp. While there are aspects of the Everest Base Camp trek that are harder than Kilimanjaro, the general feeling is that Kilimanjaro is the harder of the two treks. The main reason for this is summit night – it's a biggie.

How long does it take to climb Everest? ›

Some climbers have achieved extraordinary feats, such as climbing Everest without supplemental oxygen. We all must be wondering how many days does it takes to climb Mt Everest. The time required to climb Everest varies, but typically, it takes around two months (60-65 days) to complete the ascent.

How hard is it to breathe on Mount Everest? ›

At the top of Mount Everest there is only ⅓ of the oxygen available as there is at sea level. For people who go on vacation to high altitude ski resorts, it takes a while (usually at least 3 days) for their bodies to get used to the height.

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