10 Most Extreme Cliffs to Climb
Take on the challenge with these high adventure climbing destinations!
Climbing is the ultimate thrill for the senses: combining stunning panoramas, stinging cold, brutal fatigue, and the emotional rush of staring death in the face daily for months on end. It’s no wonder that summiting one of the world’s great peaks always marks among the most important moments in every experienced climber’s life. Some of the most challenging of those great peaks are below.
1. Mount Hua (Shaanxi, China)
Even though Mount Hua is so dangerous that an average of two people die on it per week, the crowds keep coming. The crowds are so thick that the mountain’s local administration only lets a limited number of people onto its trail at a time. Nonetheless, the stream of death-defying climbers and hikers is so constant that refreshments are available throughout the mountain in order to serve the constant crowd.
2. El Capitan (California, United States)
El Capitan is defined by one feature: Sheer, relentless vertical rock face. climbers challenge themselves to conquer its intimidating surface through faster speed, lighter packs, less gear, and ultimately more exposure to the raw, terrifying prospect of complete helplessness in the face of gravity.
3. Mount Roraima (Venezuela)
Since long before recorded history, Mount Roraima has been considered the home of powerful spirits and forces. For those who hike it, they face spiritual and psychological dangers beyond just the physical challenges. To honor those powerful spirits, visitors may not take many modern conveniences with them and are forbidden from carrying more than just 15 kilos of gear on their journey. It is a place to truly feel alone with the forces of nature, both of this world and the next.
4. Eiger (Grindelwald, Switzerland)
The terrors on the north face of the deadly Eiger are not just legendary—the awful danger has even been gruesomely captured on film. 4,000 meters tall, the Eiger is a relentless series of challenges, the last of which is the north face’s treacherous ice field below the summit. In the early fall of 2000, the BBC captured two British climbers falling 2,000 feet from that ice field to their deaths live on film. Anyone who challenges the Eiger today can’t help but think about such a horrifying tale of the tape.
5. Mount Everest (Solukhumbu District, Nepal)
Mount Everest is the defining metaphor for physical combat with nature. But there is more to conquering Chomolunga, as the local sherpas call it, than just planning, preparing, and climbing. Ascending to the literal top of the world is a mental and emotional challenge like few others: from gasping amid the absence of breathable air near the summit to living in constant fear of sudden, murderous snowstorms which form without notice, Everest will always be a world apart from every other mountain climb.
6. Matterhorn (Valais, Switzerland)
The Matterhorn is home to the world’s original “race to the top.” In 1865, two talented climbing teams literally raced one another up its famous rock face in hopes of becoming the first to scale Europe’s most iconic peak. Yet the Matterhorn did not give up its glory cheaply when nearly all of the climbers on the winning team fell tragically to their deaths on the way down.
7. Mount Thor (Nunavut, Canada)
Mount Thor takes the title for most remote and terrifying frozen precipice. It is the tallest vertical rock face on earth, so daunting that it remained unconquered until 1965, after man had already walked on the moon. Located near the Arctic Circle in northern Canada, its distance and freezing temperatures only seem to make it more of a draw today to the most adventurous climbers.
8. Denali (Alaska, United States)
Denali’s vast scale can be best described by the simple, powerful name that the ancient tribes of Alaska called it: “The Great One.” Though not as tall as other famous peaks around the world, Denali has unique challenges built into its extreme Alaskan rock face: its own fast-moving weather systems, a 45-degree ascent, and a long history of deadly snowstorms and avalanches which strike without notice.
9. Vinson Massif (Antartica)
Certainly the most remote place on earth to seek danger on the side of a cliff is Antarctica, where the 4,892 meter Vinson Massif stood for centuries as the last of the 7 great peaks to defy climbers. Finally summited in 1966, its intense cold and near-unimaginable remoteness threatens climbers with nightmares of crippling frostbite and weeks of travel to the nearest medical care.
10. Cerro Torre (Patagonia, Argentina)
Cerro Torre is the ultimate portrait of an unclimbable mountain brought to life. It is 3,127 meters of sheer, vertical hand-over-hand climbing. For centuries, it was thought unconquerable, until it was finally summited in 1974. Yet, to the surprise of many, the 90 degree drop is not even its greatest challenge: climbers are forced to endure some of the most brutal winds of the Andes, day in and day out for the entire two months of the climb.
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