The World’s 10 Most DANGEROUS Guided Climbs
Everest, K2, Denali, The Eiger…you’ve probably heard of.
How about Pumori, Khan Tengri, Ama Dablam and Nevado Huascarán?
Climbing is physically and mentally strenuous, but there are climbs out there that could challenge the skills and determination of the most seasoned climber, even with the help and guidance of experienced guides.
It is not just the difficulty of the ascent and descent itself; other factors, such as the logistics, the versatile weather conditions, and other dangers, create a demanding climb, no matter your experience and stamina.
Check out our list of the most dangerous guided climbs around the globe, starting with the one closest to home…
The Eiger – Switzerland
The Eiger summit is not very high, but that does not mean it’s easy to conquer – not in the least.
Rising as high as 3,967 metres in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, it is considered the most emblematic sight of Swiss mountaineering.
Once, even the idea of a climb through the north face of the mountain was deemed to be suicidal, mainly because of its intimidating 1,800-meter high gain vertical, which had claimed numerous lives by the turn of the 20th century.
The advances made in the mountaineering equipment made the climb a bit easier, but no less tricky.
If you decide to try it, make it during the spring or autumn, when temperatures are much lower and rock falls are less frequent.
Expect a reasonable level of fear on your first view of the of north slope. Needless to say, you will need top-quality gear and seasoned guides to help you up reach the summit.
Pumori – China
Pumori in the Himalayas, right on the border between Nepal and Tibet, is mount Everest’s ‘Daughter’; since that is what the name translates to from Sherpa. Its height is roughly 7,165 metres.
Despite the challenging ascent, Pumori is popular among climbers who wish to get a taste of a high Himalayan peak but are not yet ready for the mighty Everest.
Pumori, however, has its own hidden perils. Avalanches pose a serious threat, and the quest for new and safer routes only ceased a couple of decades ago, when a new route was pioneered in the south slopes of the mountain.
Still, among the many routes available, one is considered the most suitable for beginners: the South East Ridge, which is known as the least demanding.
Bear in mind that the same ascent route turns into a killer during the period following the Tibetan monsoons, which end in mid-September. During this time, massive layers of ice detach and slide down from the shoulder of the southeast ridge.
Another difficulty is the sheer time required to reach the summit. Most guided climbs last around 40 days, which is, mentally if not physically, very demanding.
Khan Tengri – Kazakhstan
Khan Tengri (‘King Heaven’ in one of the local dialects), located up in the Tian Shan mountains, marks the point where China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan meet, towering above the waters of the lake Issyk Kul.
With a height of a little less than 7,000 metres, Khan Tengri is actually the second-highest summit in the Tian Shan range, but stands out as Earth’s most northern 7,000-metre peak.
Being so far to the north, Kahn Tengri’s climbing season is considerably shorter, and the air is thinner, making breathing more difficult and exhaustion onset faster.
Equally challenging are the often-changing weather conditions in the area and the elevated risk of avalanche and ice falls – hence its inclusion in our list.
Still, its magnificent views and unusual pyramidal shape captivates climbers from all over the world, who simply cannot resist the unique challenge.
Ama Dablam – Nepal
Ama Dablam in the Himalayas has two main peaks, one rising to 6,812 metres, and a shorter one to the west, around 700 metres lower.
It took its strange name, meaning a ‘Mother’s necklace’, after reminding to locals of a mother wearing a traditional necklace.
Despite being conquered for the first time about fifty years ago, Ama Dablam is not as popular as other nearby summits, mainly because of its more demanding routes.
It is preferred by climbers who wish to sharpen their skills and gain experience for even more challenging climbs in the future.
Any ascend to the mountain must be tried long before or after the monsoon period, which lasts from June to mid-September. There are several routes, with the Southwest Ridge being the easiest.
The ascent is roughly divided into three stages, taking climbers through several camps all along the ridge before reaching the most challenging part, the Dablam – the hanging glacier itself. This route usually protects the climbers from ice breaking off the glacier, but there are cases, as in 2006, when avalanches do pose a serious risk.
Anyone wishing to try the ascend must first acquire a climbing permit and a liaison officer from the local authorities.
Ismoil Somoni Peak – Tajikistan
Ismoil Somoni Peak, the highest summit in Tajikistan, reaches almost 7,500 metres and has a very interesting (almost laughable) history of constant renaming.
This peak, aside from on-route hazards, poses tremendous logistical difficulties. Ismoil Somoni Peak has one of the lowest successful climb rates per season in the world.
The number would be even lower if it weren’t for a camp pitched half a kilometre below the peak.
Taking more than 20 days to complete, the climb demands excellent physical condition and great luck, since avalanches is a constant and grave danger.
Another psychologically demanding characteristic of the ascend is the ice overhanging the climbers’ head in several points along the route.
Mount Everest – Nepal & China
Mount Everest needs no introduction.
Mount Everest is definitely not for everyone and any attempt trying to ascend it, even with all the latest gear and seasoned guides, remains a very tough venture, both physically and mentally.
Weather conditions are very unpredictable most of the year, avalanches are a constant threat, the great height takes its toll on your breathing and stamina.
The vast number of climbers trying to get to the top in the narrow time-span when elements are a bit friendlier (usually in late May) seldom makes things easier.
Most climbers require high-end equipment, including sophisticated crampons, cold-weather gear and bottled oxygen. Accurate weather prediction is of the utmost importance since mistakes in weather forecast have claimed many lives in the past.
Another challenge is to familiarise with local customs, since locals do not take offences lightly.
Still, Mount Everest is the greatest climb a mountaineer can ever attempt, and reaching the top brings indescribable feelings and emotions. If you take climbing seriously, and your budget allows it, Everest is the ultimate summit.
K2 – Pakistan & China
Nicknames the ‘Savage Mountain’, K2 is, according to many professional mountaineers, the most challenging climb in the world. This is mainly due to the statistics showing the second-highest fatality rate among the summits over 8,000 metres.
There is one fatality for every four successful summits.
Being the least accessible mountain in the world, guided climbs to the K2 are possible only for climbers who have twice successfully concluded an 8,000-meter ascent – with Everest rumoured to be one of them!
An ascent during the winter is entirely out of the question, with July and August being the best months for an attempt.
Routes to the top from the Pakistani side are considered easier, but they too are steep and rather exposed and pose several other serious challenges, like the lack of oxygen (just a third of the what is available at sea level) and the frequent violent (and lengthy) storms.
K2 is probably the crowning jewel in one’s climbing career, and guided climbs are surprisingly cheaper than most of those to other mountains in our list.
K2 attracted the eyes of the world only recently (July 22nd 2018) when the fearless ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel managed for the first time ever to descend K2 on skis. It took him around four days to reach the top, but only seven hours to ski down through its steep slopes, with a vertical drop of 3,600 metres!
Check out the video from his spectacular descent:
Denali – Alaska
Denali, one of the 7 Summits and officially known until 2015 as Mount McKinley, is the highest peak in North America, reaching 6,190 metres, making it the third most prominent and isolated peak on Earth.
It was not until the mid-20th that the safest and much easier route to the top was discovered.
In the case of Denalu however, ‘easier’ does not mean anything resembling easy!
The freezing temperatures, which even in May can get as low as 40 degrees Celsius, mainly because of its proximity to the North Pole, persistent adverse elements and sharp slopes make the 19-day ascent very challenging, both physically and psychologically.
Nevado Huascarán – Peru
Huascarán holds sway over the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca range in the Andes, and its southern summit (6,768 metres) is the highest in the Earth’s Tropics, as well as the fourth highest in the Western Hemisphere. Its northern summit, the Huascarán Norte rises to 6,654 metres.
Both summits stand out for their very small gravitational force – the lowest around the globe, which makes the elements in the area more unpredictable than the rest of the Cordillera Blanca.
The climb itself usually starts from the Musho village to the west, goes through a high camp in La Garganta (the neck between the two summits), and then up to either of the two summits.
The route itself is not so challenging, but large crevasses often block parts of it, making the use of professional rope and ice equipment, as well as the help of a guide, absolutely necessary.
The summits’ height and equatorial latitudes make things easier for climbers who lack high-altitude climbing experience, but it would be a gross mistake to underestimate the inherent difficulties of the ascent, which usually requires around nine days.
Nevado Yerupajá – Peru
Nevado Yerupajá stands proudly in the central part of Peru, rising high above sea-level at around 6,617 metres.
Being the highest summit in the area and second highest in the country, Nevado Yerupajá is called by locals ‘El Carnicero’ (The Butcher). Possibly due to its peak shape which resembles the sharp edge of a knife, but also to honour the considerable number of climbers who have perished while trying to conquer its peak.
Modern equipment and the knowledge handed down by generations of climbers have made the climb much safer now, but still not one to be taken lightly.
Yerupaja, ranks among the most challenging climbs around the 6,500 barrier, with rock formations constantly encumbering the way up and ice setting slippery traps to ascenders.
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