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32 Most Asked Mountaineering Questions

The Mountaineering FAQ

Always imagined yourself as a bucking new explorer, frosty-faced, wrapped in fur and taking natures punches straight to the face? Excellent. Mountains are the place the be, in that case, as they are almost guaranteed to give the senses a good kicking. But climbing mountains is a very broad topic, and it’s quite the trick to know exactly where to start, especially as a beginner and pick your next Earth Lump to conquer. So, In the spirit of making things easier, we’ve created a list of the most frequently asked mountaineering questions, and a short concise answers. We’ll continue to add more and more, so if there is a question you need an answer to, please get in touch!

What’s the biggest difference between 8000m peaks and other climbs?

Put simply, Altitude. At 8000m the human body really doesn’t get enough oxygen to survive. So any time you climb a mountain at this height you’re really doing so on borrowed time. Hypothetically, if you were to be picked up and dropped at the top of everest with no acclimatisation, you’d survive for a few minutes before passing out and then dying.

How many 8000m peaks are there?

There are 14 8000m peaks, they are:

  1. Everest at 8848m (29,029ft)
  2. K2 at 8614m (28,261ft)
  3. Kangchenjunga at 8586m (28,169ft)
  4. Lhotse at 8516m (27,940ft)
  5. Makalu at 8485m (27,838ft)
  6. Cho Oyo at 8188m (26,864ft)
  7. Dhaulagiri I at 8167m (26,795ft)
  8. Manaslu at 8163m (26,781ft)
  9. Nanga Parbat at 8125m (26,657ft)
  10. Annapurna I at 8091m (26,545ft)
  11. Gasherbrum I at 8080m (26,510ft)
  12. Broad Peak at 8051m (26,414ft)
  13. Gasherbrum II at 8035m (26,362ft)
  14. Shishapangma at 8027m (26,335ft)

What are the 14 peaks?

The 14 peaks are the only 14 mountains with >8000m summits on Earth. There is also the 14 peaks challenge, which consists of 14 900m peaks in Wales, not to be confused!

Which is the easiest 8000m peak?

Cho Oyo is regarded as the easiest 8000m peak. This is because there are fewer random risks to deal with, such as a lower avalanche and ice fall risks and lower technical difficulty. However this shouldn’t be confused with an ‘easy mountain’, any 8000m peak is by no means easy, and Cho Oyo is the 6th highest mountain in the world.

What is the hardest mountain to climb in the world?

The hardest mountain to climb in the world is Mount Annapurna, followed closely by K2. Annapurna has a whopping c.40% fatality rate and takes 40-50 days to summit.

Why is Annapurna so deadly?

Mount Annapurna is so deadly because of t’s extreme technical difficulty and climate volatility. Storms and avalanches are a constant and violent threat, making particularly the south face of Annapurna the hardest climb on Earth.

Was Mount Everest under water?

Mount Everest is made up of rock that was once up to 20,000 feet under the Tethys Sea (gasp). But, this sea existed 400 million years ago. If this is the case then Everest itself would not have been under the sea, as the Mountain would have formed as the Earths tectonic plates pushed together, causing the Earths crust to push up and out to form the mountain. Kind of like squeezing a zit. So, yes the spot where Everest currently is was underwater a long time ago, but Everest itself was not.

What is the 7 peaks challenge or the 7 summits?

The 7 peaks challenge is the attempt to summit all of the highest peaks on each continent, 7 mountains total. As this includes Mount Everest, there are only approximately 416 people who have completed it. There are 2 lists of highest continents, the Bass list and the Messner list, the latter includes Mont Blanc, making 8 mountains of which only 30% of these people have completed it, approximately. The highest peaks on each continent are:

  1. Everest (8,848m) Asia
  2. Aconcagua (6,961m) South America
  3. Denali (6,194m) North America
  4. Kilimanjaro (5,895m) Africa
  5. Elbrus (5,642m) Europe
  6. Mount Vinson (4892m) Antarctica
  7. Puncak Jaya (4,884m) Indonesia
  8. Mont Blanc (4,810m) Europe
  9. Kosciuszko (2,228m) Australia

Which of the 7 summits is the easiest?

Mount Kosciuszko is the lowest and by far the easiest of the seven peaks (this is why Messner doesn’t include it in his list, and includes Mont Blanc instead). At just 2,228m and mostly dirt trails, it’s only challenge is that it can get a bit cold when the weather turns.

Which is harder Kilimanjaro or Mont Blanc?

Climbing Mont Blanc is much, much harder than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, despite it being over 1000m lower. The effort required to reach the summit of Mont Blanc on accent day is approximately the same as that required to run a marathon.

What is the rank of Kilimanjaro in the world?

Mount Kilimanjaro ranks 4th of the 7 summits by height. However, in world rankings, it is much, much lower. There are at least 110 peaks higher than Kilimanjaro worldwide.

Which is the easiest mountain to climb?

There are so many easy mountains of equal difficulty that this is hard to answer. Mount Kosciusko is the lowest and by far the easiest of the seven peaks, for example, but as it’s located in Australia it might be better to attempt a similar or lower height mountain closer to your home. Ben Nevis is England’s highest peak and is only 1345m, and can be summited in 3-5 hours comfortably, with no technical ability required at all.

Do you need oxygen to climb Kilimanjaro?

In short, no. Most trekking companies will bring supplemental oxygen as a precaution, however using it can actually be more dangerous than not! Exposure to altitude can bring about altitude sickness (Pulmonary or Cerebral Edema- water in the brain and lungs respectively), and the side effects are headaches, nausea, shortness of breath. If you use oxygen after you’ve already developed the condition, and continue climbing, the illness may get worse but without you noticing. This could be quite dangerous, and descending the mountain should happen immediately, rather than masking the symptoms with supplemental oxygen, as oxygen alone cannot cure the illness.

This being said, the fatality rate on Kilimanjaro is very low, so oxygen is not something to be overly concerned with, trust your guides. On other mountains, oxygen is standard.

Can a beginner climb Kilimanjaro?

In short, yes. You don’t require any technical climbing skills to summit Kilimanjaro, however you do need to be in good physical health ideally. You can’t neglect the fact it is 5,895m high, so the altitude alone makes the summit accent very demanding physically, and you’ll be trekking for at least 4-9 days for 6-8 hours each day. Check out our Beginners Kit List guide.

Has anyone died climbing Kilimanjaro?

Yes, approximately 6-7 climbers die on Kilimanjaro per year, and around a similar number of porters/guides. The caused of death is mostly altitude sickness. However, almost 35,000 people attempt to summit Kilimanjaro each year, so as a percentage the fatality rate is quite low, especially compared with other mountains of similar height.

Is there a phone signal on Kilimanjaro?

Yes, there is a phone signal on Kilimanjaro, almost all the way to the summit. In fact, there are few places on Earth where there is no signal at all these days.

What is the best month to climb Kilimanjaro?

In general climb in the warmest driest months. It’s easier to say which months are the worst, April, May and November. Most other months will be ideal.

How cold is it on the top of Kilimanjaro?

Due to it’s high altitude, Kilimanjaro makes it’s own weather. Nighttime temperatures on the peak range between -7 and -29C, so it can be really cold. You should always be prepared for all ranges of weather. See our beginners guide here.

Can helicopters fly over Mount Everest?

The highest altitude reached by a helicopter was 40,814ft (12,442m), so in terms of altitude the answer is yes. However, this is not a willy-nilly feat, pilots can’t just hop in the chopper and go for a joy ride over Everest. So, in general, it is very, very, very unlikely you’ll be able to see, hire, or be rescued by a Helicopter from the Summit of Everest. Helicopter rescues do happen on Everest, but usually from a lower altitude.

How much do sherpas get paid?

The simple answer is, not enough. An elite sherpa in Nepal might earn $4000-5000 in two months, less than your average supermarket team leader in the UK. However, this is considerably above the median wage in Nepal.

Which side of Everest is more dangerous?

The Northside is cheaper but has a much higher death rate and lower success rate than the Southside. The Northside is extremely technically difficult, meaning if you encounter any problems, getting back down to top camp a very difficult thing to do.

What is harder, Everest base camp or Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro is considered harder than Everest base camp. There are three observable differences that make it so:

  1. Summit day on Kilimanjaro is harder than anything on the Everest Base Camp trail
  2. You go to altitude much quicker on Kilimanjaro. Everest base camp is a gradual 12-13 days trekking, but even though the days are longer, there is more up and down than on Kilimanjaro
  3. The success rate for Kilimanjaro is about 65%, which Everest Base Camp is up to 90%

Can you see Mount Everest from Kathmandu?

Normally, no. Unfortunately due to air pollution the Himalayas haven’t been seen clearly from Kathmandu for years. However, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the air became clear enough to see the mountains for the first time in decades.

How long can you stay at the top of Mount Everest?

Not very long, minutes really. At such an extreme altitude, your body is literally dying with every minute you stay. There is a long list of things that start to go wrong, so you want to get up and down as quickly as possible. In recent years, the peak and danger zone on Everest has become so crowded that getting in and out of the danger zone can take much longer than you’d expect, often with queues forming, and exposing climbers to risks for prolonged periods of time.

What is the death zone altitude?

Anything about 8000m is considered the Death Zone. Here the air density is so much lower than on the ground, that your body gets just 34% of the amount of oxygen it normally does.

What is the safest route up Mount Everest?

The Southside has fewer deaths and a higher success rate than the Northside. However ‘safest’ shouldn’t be confused with ‘safe’ as both routes have their own perils and should be approached with the respect and preparation they deserve.

Will my contact lenses freeze at 8000m?

Climbers regularly wear contact lenses and summit 8000m peaks, and as long as you’re wearing goggles to protect your eyes from icy winds, your eyes should keep the contact lenses warm enough for them to not freeze. However, climbers always take a back up pair of glasses.

How long should you train for Everest Base Camp?

You should start training daily from about 8-12 week out from your trek. The focus of training should include endurance and improving cardiovascular fitness. Naturally, this means daily hikes, long ones, ideally carrying a mid-weight pack. Try to work up to a point where you can hike 5-6 hours straight with minimal rest periods. If you’re already in decent condition, then adapt your training intensity, but you can never be ‘too fit’. Being fitter will only enable you to enjoy the trek more. If you’re a heavy person, then you should focus on trying to shed some pounds, and the process of training will yield twice better results, making you fitter and lighter.

Why is Denali so hard to climb?

Denali is the highest peak in North America, and is respected as a difficult mountain to climb. This is because of the factors involved, as with other mountains you will need to be physically fit, and technically skilled. You will need to deal with high altitude, extreme weather, plus experience pulling loaded sleds. Technical skills include rope skills, avalanche training and ice axe/crampons experience, as well as winter camping.

How fit do you need to be to climb Kilimanjaro?

You need to be modestly fit to climb Kilimanjaro. You should be able to hike continuously with a mid-weight pack for 5-6 a day for 8 days, uphill. To test if you’re ready, load up your pack with around 10kg, and go on a long walk- at the end of the walk, ask yourself if you’d fancy doing that again another 7 times, this will give you an idea of how fit you need to get.

In general, you should have reasonable cardiovascular fitness (able to run 5km in a decent time for example), and be able to tolerate being tired and endure long period of exercise. There is no ‘set expectation’ to be allowed to climb Kilimanjaro, but there is no such thing as ‘too fit’, and there definitely is a thing as too unfit, so to be safe you should start training if you’re concerned, at least 8-12 weeks out from the climb.

Does the snow on mount Everest ever melt?

No, the snow on Everest never melts completely. At least not yet, but Global Warming may change that in the coming years…

Can a normal person climb Mount Everest?

Normal people can climb Everest but only with years of experience and multiple climbs at lower altitudes. So the answer really is no, a ‘normal person’ (someone that just wakes up one day and want to climb it) cannot climb Mount Everest. This doesn’t mean that everyone who has climbed Everest successfully is some kind of genetic freak, but that they all have had at least an adequate degree of training and experience. To hammer home this point, if you were picked up and dropped at the top of Everest today with no acclimatisation, you’d die within a couple of minutes.

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