You Gotta Know These Mountains
- Mount Everest (China and Nepal) The border between Nepal and China straddles the summit of the Himalayan peak Mount Everest, which, at a height of over 29,000 feet, is the tallest mountain in the world. The Khumbu Icefall and the cliff-like Three Steps are hazards faced by potential climbers of Everest, a feat first accomplished by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Local “Sherpas” act as guides for mountaineers in the area, though they walked out of the job over dangerous working conditions in 2014 after sixteen Sherpas were killed in an avalanche.
- K2 (Pakistan and China) Qogir, Ketu, and Mount Godwin-Austen are other names for K2, which gains its most common name from its distinction of being the second-tallest mountain in the world. The “K” in K2 stands for Karakoram, the mountain range in Pakistan and China in which the peak is found. The House’s Chimney and the Black Pyramid are features of K2, which also possesses a different second-place record: behind the Annapurna Massif, it boasts the next-highest fatality rate among attempted climbers of any mountains above 8,000 meters.
- Denali, also known as Mount McKinley (United States) The highest mountain in North America, Denali (formerly and often called Mount McKinley) is located in south-central Alaska. It is the highlight of Denali National Park. The West Buttress route is considered the best path to ascend Denali. Frederick Cook, a man notorious for having faked the discovery of the North Pole, is now believed to have also faked his ascent of the mountain in 1906 as well, leaving a climbing party seven years later with the honor.
- Mount Mitchell (United States) The Black Mountain subrange of the Appalachians is the location of Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak in the United States found east of the Mississippi. This mountain, found in North Carolina, was the subject of a debate over its altitude between its namesake and Thomas Clingman, leading Elisha Mitchell to attempt another ascent in which he fell to his death.
- The Matterhorn (Switzerland and Italy) Edward Compton and John Ruskin are among the artists inspired by the Matterhorn, which is renowned for its almost perfectly pyramidal shape. The mountain is located on the border between Switzerland and Italy, near the Swiss town of Zermatt. The 1865 ascent by Edward Whymper, which claimed the lives of four mountaineers, was the celebrated first climb of the summit.
- Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira are the three summits of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the tallest peak in Africa. It is notable for also being the tallest mountain that is not part of a mountain range, having been formed by a now-extinct volcano. A corpse of a leopard is found on the top the mountain in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway that uses the mountain as the backdrop for the memories, and ultimately the death, of a writer suffering from gangrene.
- Mount Kenya (Kenya) The second tallest mountain in Africa is Mount Kenya, which shares its name with the country in which it is located. British geographer and political theorist Halford Mackinder led the group that was the first to ascend the peak, which bypassed the Darwin Glacier and proceeded up the Diamond Glacier. Like Kilimanjaro, it was formed by a now-dormant volcano, and, like Kilimanjaro, part of its notoriety rests on a book. Facing Mount Kenya, an anthropological study of the Kikuyu by Jomo Kenyatta, was one of the first such texts by an African ethnographer to gain fame.
- Mount Kosciuszko (Australia) The name of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the Polish commander who fought in the American Revolutionary War, was appended to the tallest mountain in Australia by European explorers in the 19th Century. When it was discovered that Mount Townsend was actually taller, the names were switched so that Kosciuszko would remain the highest peak on the continent. The peak’s name in Aboriginal languages, such as Jagungal or Tackingal, translates to “table-top mountain.”
- Mount Fuji (Japan) Yamanaka and Kawaguchi are two lakes found along the slopes of Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan. Found only about an hour’s drive from Tokyo, the peak has significance in the Shinto religion, being sacred to the goddess Sengen-Sama. The mountain was also depicted in the series of prints Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, drawn by Hokusai.
- Mount Aconcagua (Argentina) The subduction of the Nazca Plate formed Mount Aconcagua, the highest point in the Southern Hemisphere. Found near the city of Mendoza in Argentina, the peak straddles the Polish Glacier, which provides a popular route for climbers looking to ascend to the summit.
This article was contributed by NAQT editor Kurtis Droge.