Valandre Blog

The 14 peaks over 8000 meters

Only 14 peaks in the world raise up over 8000m into what today is known as “the dead zone”. All are situated in the Himalaya range spread over countries like: Nepal, India, Pakistan and Tibet.


The beginning

The first expedition to set foot on a 8000m peak was achieved by a French expedition in June 3th 1950, when the guide Louis Lachenal from Annecy together with Maurice Herzog from Lyon, set foot on the summit of Annapurna. As a first time ever achievement, Lachenal and Herzog climbed the dangerous peak of 8091m without the use of supplemental oxygen. A big French success, as just the logistic problems transporting the gear and equipment from France to Nepal in 1950, was a major and expensive obstacle, to what you can add climbing up into unknown conditions. Maurice Herzog was the first to reach the summit, followed closely by Louis Lachenal, though reaching the summit, and especially without the use of supplemental oxygen, they were forced to pay the price:  Herzog’s decision to opt for lighter boots, and the loss of his gloves near the summit allowed frostbite to set in quickly, resulting in extensive amputations on both hands and both feet.

Maurice Herzog Annapurna Maurice Herzog

What makes the French expedition to Annapurna special is not only the fact that it was the first 8000+ meter peak climbed, it was also the first that was scouted and climbed entirely in one climbing season, a feat not easily repeated, especially in the golden era of mountaineering.

Since Annapurna in 1950, Climbers have learned from the experiences made, and what was in the beginning heavy National expeditions, are now light international “low budget” expeditions. At the end of 2011, only 24 people have climbed all 14 8000, and the latest to join “the club” is Japanese climber Hirotaka Takeushi, who summited his last 8000m peak: Dhaulagiri May 26th at 05:30PM local time.

Alpinism is often infused with the fundamental question of puritanism. In this spirit, climbs being made without the use of supplemental oxygen, nor porters and hence in alpine style, are regarded as the ultimate human engagement confronted with a 8000. And in this game, there are only a small club left of 13 climbers in the world, having completed this achievement.



North-east Ridge of Everest...


Other names: Sagamartha, Chomolangma or Qomolangma
Altitude: 8848 m
Location: Tibet / Nepal
First ascent: May 29, 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay
Expedition: Great Britain


Difficulty : Mostly a non-technical climb regardless on which of the two normal routes you choose. On the south you have to deal with a dangerous ice fall and The Hillary Step, a short section of rock, on the north side there are some short technical passages. On both routes (permanent) fixed ropes are placed at the tricky sections. The altitude is main obstacle. Nowadays also crowding is mentioned as a factor of difficulty.


A shot of K2 from the classic...


Other names: Mount Godwin-Austen or Chogori or Dapsang
Altitude: 8611 m
Location: China / Pakistan
First ascent: July 31, 1954 by Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli
Expedition: Italian
Possibly the world’s most difficult mountain to climb.


Difficulty: Possibly the most difficult peak on earth. It’s high, there’s a high risk for avalanches, the weather is often bad and there are no easy route to the peak’s summit. The technical difficulty is high. A ridge on the north side offers a little lower difficulty, but suffers from extended problems with unsheltered exposure.


The Southeast face of...


Other names: Kanchanfanga
Altitude: 8586 m
Location: India / Nepal
First ascent: May 25, 1955 by George Band and Joe Brown
Expedition: Great Britain


Difficulty: It’s one of the largest of the peaks on the list and the way to its summit is long. This fact and the many short, but technical sections place Kangchenjunga firmly in the higher end of the list. The altitude is also a factor which solidify this.


the famous south face of Lhotse


Altitude: 8516 m
Location: Tibet / Nepal
First ascent: May 18, 1956 by Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger
Expedition: Switzerland


Difficulty: The normal route starts with a dangerous icefall. Crowding, due to sharing route with Everest can be a problem. The altitude and exposure on the final parts are contributing to the peak’s reputation of being one in the middle of the list in terms of difficulty.


close-up on Makalu as seen from Mera Peak


Other names: Makalufeng
Altitude: 8463 m
Location: Tibet / Nepal
First ascent: May 15, 1955 by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy
Expedition: French


Difficulty: One of the more technical peaks and is amongst those considered hard climbs. Steep passages, both on rock and snow, exposure and avalanche danger makes this peak a tough target.

06-Cho Oyu

Cho Oyu from ABC

Cho Oyu

Altitude: 8201 m
Location: Tibet / Nepal
First ascent: October 19, 1954 by Joseph Joechler, Pasang Dawa Lama and Herbert Tichy
Expedition: Austrian


Difficulty: Technically speaking the easiest of the 14. No technical climbing, but large snowfields and long distances. Many climbers has don’t reach the true summit, as it’s located some distance from where you enter the summit plateau and is only marginally higher than the fore summit.


Dhaulagiri summit in the...


Other names: Aulagiri
Altitude: 8167 m
Location: Nepal
First ascent: May 19, 1960 by Kurt Diemberger, Peter Diener, Nawang Dorje, Nima Dorje, Ernst Forrer and Albin Schelbert
Expedition: Switzerland


Difficulty: Considered to be a hard peak to climb by the pioneers in the area, but it’s nowadays considered as one on the lower half of the list. The normal route on the peak have some short technical sections and some avalanche danger, but overall it’s a quite straight forward climb.


Sunset behind Manaslu


Other names: Kutang
Altitude: 8163 m
Location: Nepal
First ascent: May 9, 1956 by Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu
Expedition: Japanese


Difficulty: On the lower half of the peak’s normal route, avalanche danger is usually a main problem. Higher on the peak, the climb is mostly non-technical and easy. Manaslu has one of the higher death rates and is considered a dangerous peak.

09-Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat Rupal face (seen...

Nanga Parbat

Other names: Diamir
Altitude: 8126 m
Location: Pakistan
First ascent: July 3, 1953 by Hermann Buhl
Expedition: Austria/Germany


Difficulty: Nanga Parbat’s normal route is not extremely technical, but it’s long and exposed. The mountain is infamous for bad weather and the route offers many tricky sections. It’s considered as one of the harder peaks.


The south face from ABC. July...


Other names: Morshiadi
Altitude: 8091 m
Location: Nepal
First ascent: June 3, 1950 by Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal
Expedition: French


Difficulty: Considered the most dangerous of the 14. The north and its original route is not that technical, but extremely avalanche prone. The south is of high technical difficulty and also holds lots of objective danger.


11-Gasherbrum I

Two massive and complicated...

Gasherbrum I

Other names: Hidden Peak or K5
Altitude: 8068 m
Location: China / Pakistan
First ascent: July 5, 1958 by Andrew Kauffman and Peter Schoening
Expedition: U.S.


Difficulty: When the icefall and some easy ground have been covered, the climb gets more difficult. Steep mixed climbing and some objective danger makes Gasherbrum I a peak which belongs to the part of the list where you find the more difficult mountains.

12-Broad Peak

A clear cold morning on the...

Broad Peak

Other names: Falchen Kangri or K3
Altitude: 8047 m
Location: China / Pakistan
First ascent: June 9, 1957 by Hermann Buhl, Kurt Diemberger, Marcus Schmuck and Fritz Wintersteller
Expedition: Austrian


Difficulty: Considered a straight forward climb. The constant, but quite low angled steepness to the summit ridge can hold avalanche danger, but apart from that no technical surprises. Some rocky sections around the false summits and exposure offers the final test before reaching the true summit.

13-Gasherbrum II

The avalanche has...

Gasherbrum II

Other names: K4
Altitude: 8035 m
Location: China / Pakistan
First ascent: July 9, 1956 by Josef Larch, Fritz Moravec, Hans Willenpart
Expedition: Austrian


Difficulty: Some years back G II was mentioned as one of the easiest 8000m peaks, usually together with Xixa and Cho Oyu. After the “Banana Ridge’s” collapse the climb has become more difficult. The main obstacles are the huge icefall, crevasses, some steep climbing on snow and the exposure on the final part.


Xixa seen from the plains of...


Other names: Gosainthan or Xixabangma
Altitude: 8027 m
Location: Tibet
First ascent: May 2, 1964 by ten climbers led by Hsu Ching
Expedition: China


Difficulty: Considered as one of the easiest and it is a non-technical climb, to the fore summit, that is. The final part to the true summit is an airy and sometimes dangerous walk on a knife edge ridge and therefore a majority of climbers only reach the fore summit. The rest of the climb is easy, but sometimes avalanche prone. Xixabangma is many times erroneously spelled Shisha Pangma. The latter way of spelling is a survivor from the time when the non-Chinese speaking world still called Beijing for “Peking”.