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The most dangerous mountaintops across the world are also the backdrops for some of the most incredible landscapes humans have ever seen. And most people won’t get to see them -- at least not in person. Only a small group of courageous, adventure-seeking climbers will get to experience these sights, whether it takes free soloing up a granite cliff or free climbing across the face of a mountain.

What’s the difference between free soloing and free climbing, you might ask? Here’s a run-down of five popular types of climbing:

  • Aid climbing: Uses ropes, ladders, and other protective aids to help climbers move upwards
  • Roped climbing (free climbing): Uses ropes to keep climbers safe but not to assist them
  • Free soloing: Climbing a rock without any kind of aid or protection
  • Ice climbing: Uses crampons, ice picks, or axes to climb up and down ice
  • Alpine climbing: Combines rock climbing and ice climbing — the best of both worlds!

Now that you’ve received an A+ in Climbing 101, read on to discover some of the world’s most dangerous (and sometimes fatal) climbs.

Free Solo Climb

Photo Cred: National Geographic

El Capitan (USA)

Seriously, you haven’t seen Free Solo yet? El Capitan’s sheer vertical granite cliff poses a threat (and an opportunity) for climbers everywhere. El Cap’s 3,000 foot vertical cliff is enough to scare anyone, and it usually takes four to five days to climb -- cliff-camping included. In 2017, Alex Honnold free soloed it in less than four hours.

K2 Dangerous Climb

Photo Cred: explorersweb.com/

K2 (Pakistan/China)

The second highest mountain in the world, K2 is also one of the most technically difficult. Steep rock faces paired with collapsing ice pillars on the mountain means climbers should always be aware of their (dangerous) surroundings. Rumor has it the mountain has a curse against women climbers.

Annapurna Nepal

Photo Cred: The Common Wanderer

Annapurna (Nepal)

Less than 200 people have ever attempted to climb the 10th highest mountain in the world, and even fewer have climbed it successfully. Annapurna has the highest fatality rate of any mountain in the world.

Siula Grande Peru

Photo Cred: mountain-forecast.com

Siula Grande (Peru)

In 1985, two climbers attempted an ascent of Siula Grande. Though they both made it to the summit, one climber fell and broke his leg on the way down. After losing sight of his partner, he survived another 100-foot fall and hobbled five miles back to camp...while existing solely on melted snow. So, yeah, it’s a dangerous one.

Mt. Eiger Switzerland

Photo Cred: Wikipedia

The Eiger (Switzerland)

What’s not appealing about a mountain whose North face is nicknamed “the Murder Wall”? Beware of the heavy rockfall on this peak in the Bernese Alps, which has killed more than 60 people since it was first summited.

Matterhorn

Photo Cred: Wikipedia

The Matterhorn (Switzerland/Italy)

Everyone’s favorite Disneyland coaster, but the real thing. This mountain is so popular with adventurous climbers that routes to the top get dangerously overcrowded during peak season. Avalanches and sudden storms add to the mountain’s dangers.

Mount Washington USA

Photo Cred: WMUR.com

Mt. Washington (USA)

Located on America’s east coast, Mt. Washington is (somewhat surprisingly) one of the most dangerous climbs in the world. Though it’s not the steepest climb to the summit, hurricane-force winds and icy storms can form in a matter of minutes, so watch out!

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