Highest Mountain in the World 2024

The world’s highest mountains are among the most spectacular aspects of nature. Once terrible and dangerous obstacles, the planet's great peaks are now as celebrated as they are tall. But when the question arises over which of the world’s mountains stands the tallest, the answer may be a bit more complicated than one would initially think.

Mount Everest is widely regarded as the world’s tallest mountain. With an elevation of 29,029 feet above sea level, Everest stands nearly 800 feet higher than the second place K2 (28,251). Although Everest is higher, K2 is considered the far more difficult climb. Nicknamed the “Savage Mountain”, K2 is one of the deadliest mountains in the world. Almost 20% of those who attempt to climb the world’s second highest peak fall victim to its cruel topography.

Avid mountain climbers revere the region surrounding these two behemoths for its bounty of “eight-thousanders”, mountains whose peaks exceed 8000 meters (26,247 feet) in elevation. All fourteen eight-thousanders are located in the Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges.

In fact, all of the world’s 32 highest mountains are located in these ranges, which were formed by the collision between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. If the Hindu Kush range is included, all 108 of the world’s tallest mountains are located along this tectonic subduction. Sometimes, these three separate ranges are grouped under one name, the Great Himalayas, which continue to grow at a rate of about 2.4 inches per year. At that rate, Mount Everest will be 30,000 feet high around the year 6875.

The world’s tallest mountains by elevation in feet:

  • Mount Everest (29,029) Himalaya
  • K2 (28,251) Karakoram
  • Kangchenjunga (28,169) Himalaya
  • Lhotse (27,940) Himalaya
  • Makalu (27,838) Himalaya
  • Cho Oyu (26,864) Himalaya
  • Dhaulagiri I (26,795) Himalaya
  • Manaslu (26,781) Himalaya
  • Nanga Parbat (26,660) Himalaya
  • Annapurna I (26,545) Himalaya

Honorable Mention: Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the world’s tallest mountain when measured from base to peak. Although Mauna Kea’s elevation (13,803) doesn’t even place it in the top 500, the Hawaiian volcano measures a staggering 33,500 feet from its base beneath the ocean to its peak, dwarfing Everest by nearly 4,500 feet.

Honorable Mention & Snubbed Contender: Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador has an elevation of (just) 20,565 feet above sea level. However, this mountain has an excellent case for the highest in the world. How? It is a misconception that the Earth is in the shape of a sphere; it is actually an oblate spheroid. Imagine taking an orange and squeezing it at its navels causing its center to bulge. This is essentially what is happening at the Earth’s poles, which generates what is known as an “Equatorial Bulge”. Due to Earth’s gravity, sea level at the Equator is about 13 miles further from the Earth’s core than sea level at the poles. Because of its proximity to the Equator, Mount Chimborazo is the furthest point (3,967.1 miles) from the Earth’s core, even further than Mount Everest (3,965.8 miles). If both peaks were measured from sea level in Mumbai, India, Mount Chimborazo would be a greater elevational ascent than Mount Everest. Therefore, Mount Chimborazo could easily be considered the world’s highest mountain as it is the closest peak to the moon, edging out Everest by about 1.3 miles.

The case of Mount Chimborazo is an example of how measuring peaks from sea level is a somewhat flawed system that doesn’t pay some of the hardest working tectonic hotspots their due diligence. Perhaps a more optimal method of measuring the height of mountains would be to do so based on their “prominence”. Prominence measures the height of a peak relative to the other peaks on its shared landmass. A mountain’s prominence is equal to the difference between its elevation, and the lowest point on the shortest path to its “parent peak”. A peak’s parent peak is the closest peak on a shared landmass that is of a higher elevation.

The Himalayas, outside of Everest, have relatively low prominence, because Everest acts as a parent to all of them, and the elevation of the entire region is relatively high. Alternatively, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina is the tallest peak in all of the Americas and so it receives prominence for its entire elevation of 22,837 feet. Essentially, if a given peak shares a landmass with no peak higher than it, then the given peak has no parent and it’s prominence is equal to its elevation.

Observe the following list of mountains ranked by their prominence in feet with their parent peaks noted:

  • Everest (29,029) Himalaya - Parent: none
  • Aconcagua (22,837) Andes - Parent: none
  • Denali (20,157) Alaska - Parent: Aconcagua
  • Kilimanjaro (19,307) Eastern Rift - Parent: Everest
  • Pico Cristóbal Colón (18,074) Sierra Nevada - Parent: Aconcagua
  • Logan (17,224) Saint Elias - Parent: Denali
  • Pico de Orizaba (16,148) Trans-Mexican - Parent: Logan
  • Vinson Massif (16,050) Sentinel (Antarctica) - Parent: none
  • Puncak Jaya (16,023) Sudirman (Indonesia) - Parent: none
  • Elbrus (15,554) Caucasus - Parent: Everest