Despite their beauty and majesty, danger lurks on their narrow ridges. Even the most skillful and experienced mountain climbers can fall victim to their deceiving invitations. Kingdoms of snow, stone and gusting winds, hundreds of human sacrifices stand to testify to their utter lack of mercy. Paved with dangers and fatal traps, these cold-blooded criminals are set on punishing anyone who dares disregard the rules of the game. The taller and more difficult to access, the deadlier these stone giants become. What’s interesting is that all who dare venture on their summits know exactly what’s in store for them. They are well aware they may not ever return home, that the mountain might become their frozen tombs. And yet they willingly take a leap of faith straight into the mouths of these icy man-eaters.
10. Charro Chalten
Killer Mountains – Fitz Roy, Patagonia (Photo by Mariano Mantel)
Mainly known as Fitz Roy to Western climbers, Charro Chalten (11,072 feet) at the border between Chile and Argentina was climbed for the first time back in 1952 by French daredevils Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone. Its height might not seem impressive, but Fitz Roy can prove deadly even for the most experienced climbers. The danger lies in its vertical granite cliffs making every part of the climb a thrilling adventure that might become the climber’s last. Plus, weather conditions can change in less than 5 minutes. Fitz Roy seems specialized in killing photographers, who end up falling from its icy ridges, their bodies never to be recovered. Just to get an idea of how unwelcoming Fitz Roy really is, Everest is successfully ascended by an average 50 persons each year. Fitz Roy is successfully ascended by one person a year at the most, and that’s only if the weather is flawless.
At the border between India and Nepal, Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world after Everest and K2. In Nepali, Kangchenjunga (28,169 feet) means the Five Treasures of Snow. It boasts more than just one peak, as it is, in fact, a mountain range that includes five separate summits, each over 27,723 feet tall. Until 1852, everyone thought it was the world’s highest mountain. Despite the progress made in technology and safety gear, the fatality rate increased to 22% over the past years, claiming over 50 lives in the past century. This is a mere reflection of the result of global warming, as avalanches are more frequent, and severe blizzards arise out of the blue. As if Mother Nature wasn’t hostile enough, Kangchenjunga has recently become a military operations ground for guerrilla troops and Indian and Nepali authorities.
The Hindus chose quite an interesting name for this 26,545 feet mountain, as Annapurna is the Goddess of Crops. Unfortunately, the world’s 10th highest mountain holds a record when it comes to the human lives claimed. Many consider it the world’s deadliest mountain, as the fatality rate reaches 41% of all ascents. First dangers are on the access roads, which are completely destroyed, posing a permanent risk of driving the car into the abyss before even beginning the actual expedition. Since 1950, when it was first ascended, Annapurna has only been climbed by 130 daredevils. A total of 53 climbers paid with their lives for daring to dream too big.
Nicknamed the Wild Mountain, K2 at the border between Pakistan and China is the world’s second tallest mountain. But it does not come in second in terms of dangers, difficulties, and its death toll. K2 (28,251 feet) and Annapurna compete in difficulty. However, all climbers agree that, when it comes to technical challenges, K2 is the absolute winner. Even the easiest route still involves crossing a huge high-altitude glacier, filled with treacherous crevasses that swallow people alive. It also earned a sad reputation as a women killer. Out of the six women who managed to reach its summit over the years, only one returned alive. At least 77 climbers lost their lives on K2. Most of the bodies have never been recovered. The deadliest incident occurred in 1986 when 13 lost their lives during a snow storm.
6. Nanga Parbat
In Urdu, Nanga Parbat means Naked Mountain, named so after its rocky ridges lacking any vegetation. It is also called Diamir, which means The King Mountain, a name that fits it like a glove. But in mountain climbers’ slang, it received a rather macabre nickname due to its notoriety: The Killer. Nanga Parbat (26,657 feet) in Pakistan has all the ingredients that can lead to a tragic death in its kingdom. Death lurks at every corner in hideous forms: pulmonary edema, fatal frostbites, hypothermia, physical exhaustion, altitude sickness, avalanches, and snow storms. In 1930, a German expedition paid the ultimate price for their boldness: 31 members of the team lost their lives. Since Austrian climber Herman Buhl finally reached the summit in 1953, out of the 261 climbers who climbed Nanga Parbat, 61 never returned home.
Mount McKinley (20,320 feet), or Denali as the Athabasca Indian tribes call it, is not only the highest in North America but also a noteworthy collector of human lives. It holds numerous records. One of them is that its base is largest than that of the Everest. What’s truly distinctive is that its northern latitude makes the air extremely rarefied, more rarefied than at 26,000 feet on a mountain in the Ecuador. But the climber’s worst enemy here is the freezing cold. Temperatures drop to -75 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, and during windchills, the temperature felt by the body reaches -117 degrees. This determines an ascent success rate of only 50%. Denali demands its share of human sacrifices each year. It has claimed a total of 120 souls over the past century, out of which 44 found their permanent tomb on its ridges.
4. Mount Washington
It might seem too small to pose any considerable threat, but that’s exactly where the danger lurks in. The likes of Mount Washington wager on their deceiving looks to draw tourists into their traps. Its ridges might look modest and accessible, but the weather can change drastically in minutes. Mount Washington (6,288 feet) in New Hampshire may not be very tall, but there are many areas with permanent snow and ice. These icy slopes and extreme weather conditions claimed 135 souls since 1849. During winter, temperatures drop to -45 degrees Fahrenheit. When you add some wind to that, they can go below -100 degrees. And that’s not all. Get ready to be blown away. In 1934, Mt. Washington’s summit saw the highest wind speed ever recorded in America, and the world for that matter until recently, blowing at 231 mph. That’s enough to demolish a brick wall.
For the majority of us, the Roof of the World is but a childhood dream. For mountain climbers, it is the ultimate goal. At the border between Nepal and China, rising 29,029 feet above sea level, the Everest is the world’s highest mountain, and it maintains the same leading position when it comes to difficult ascents, traps, and human lives it claimed. Chomolungma was first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. From that moment on, the Roof of the World demanded over 250 human sacrifices. The worst accident occurred in 1996, when 8 climbers lost their lives during a snow storm. The harshest conditions begin once entering the so-called Death Zone, somewhere over the altitude of 26,000 feet, when the oxygen in the air is simply not sufficient. Those who aim to reach the summit without an oxygen tank only have a few hours at their disposal to make the climb and return to the base camp. Some do not make it. It is a macabre ground, a cemetery of corpses frozen for eternity just under the summit of the Roof of the World. Around 120 bodies are still trapped on the mountain.
2. Mount Fuji
Dominating Japan’s capital like and old wise man for millenniums, Mount Fuji‘s distinctive volcanic figure has always sparked the imagination of poets and artists in the Land of the Rising Sun. Covered in mystery and legend, the seemingly peaceful and quiet mountain can be very deceiving. When it comes to tourists, it is ruthless and spares no one who dares defy its powers. Each year between the months of October and April, dozens of tourists who ignore the authorities’ warnings fall into its traps, digging their own grave on its peaks. Mount Fuji (12,388 feet) is famous for its sunrise, considered one of the loveliest in the world thanks to the unique shades the sun casts on its ridges. Many tourists try to climb the mountain at night in the hope of capturing the perfect dawn from as high as possible. Up to 100 bodies are found each year on the mountain, mainly in the Aokigahara forest at its foothills, one of the creepiest places on Earth, where many strange deaths and suicides have been reported.
The Germans may call it Matterhorn and the Italians Cervino, but we are talking about the same deadly mountain rising haughtily over the border between Switzerland and Italy. Acclaimed as the deadliest mountain in the Alps, Matterhorn (14,691 ft) is perhaps the most recognizable summit, with its stately silhouette that can make any postcard perfect, rising up like a white triangular chimney piercing the skies. But Matterhorn, the very symbol of the Alps, is, in fact, a cold-blooded killer. It punished almost every attempt to climb its ridges. Since 1865, when the first successful expedition reached the summit, Matterhorn claimed over 500 human lives. It seems that the main reason for this macabre death toll is the mountain’s fame, attracting tourists that are not always well-prepared and up for the challenge, who dare compare the Alps with a Disneyland ride. Among the many dangers that lurk here, the most treacherous are the unpredictable avalanches and sudden rockfalls, accompanied by severe wind gusts. Climbers are often the sad target of huge rocks dislocated by the teams above, throwing them into the void in a split second.