Newcomers’ Guide: What are the 14×8,000’ers?

8000ers
The Karakorum's 8,000'ers, as seen from a satellite. Photo: NASA

An introduction to climbing the highest mountains in the world: the 8,000-metre peaks of Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet.

New to ExplorersWeb? Heard of Everest but aren’t familiar with the so-called 14×8000’ers that we refer to so often? Here’s what we mean.

There are 14 mountains in the world higher than 8,000 metres (26,246 feet) above sea level. Ten are located in the Himalaya and four of them in the neighboring Karakorum.

Everest is the tallest, at 8,849m, according to the latest measurements. It lies right on the border between Nepal and Tibet. The legendary Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first summited the mountain, called Chomolungma in Tibet, in 1953.

Everest was not the first of these 14 giants to be conquered, as they used to put it in those days. Three years earlier, a French team led by Maurice Herzog reached the top of Annapurna, also in Nepal.

Big national teams summited all the remaining 8,000m peaks in the 1950s, except for two holdouts, Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma. A Swiss team climbed Dhaulagiri in 1960. Chinese climbers summited Shishapangma — the “shortest” 8,000m peak of them all, at just 8,027m. It is also the only one located completely in Tibet. You can read more about these first 8,000m ascents at 8000ers.com.

The 14 8,000’ers and their locations. Photo: caingram.info

Locations

The 14 peaks all lie within just three countries, Nepal, China (Tibet), and Pakistan. Several of them sit astride two countries, such as Nepal and China or Nepal and India. The locations are:

Nepal and China: Everest (8,849m), Lhotse (8,516m), Makalu (8,485m) and Cho Oyu (8,188m).

Nepal and India: Kangchenjunga (8,586m).

Nepal: Dhaulagiri (8,167m), Manaslu (8,163m), and Annapurna (8,091m).

Pakistan and China (Karakorum): K2 (8,611m), Broad Peak (8,051), Gasherbrum I (8,080m), and Gasherbrum II (8,034m). All of them are on the border with China.

Pakistan (Himalaya): Nanga Parbat (8,125m).

China: Shishapangma (8,027m).

O2 or No-O2

Each of these gigantic mountains has different climbing routes, including some which have never been climbed. Most expeditions, however, tend to follow the easiest or safest route, which is typically the one taken by the mountain’s first successful summiters.

On the classic routes, technical difficulties and exposure to objective dangers such as avalanches vary, but the main challenge on all of them is their extreme altitude. Therefore, the greatest style points have gone to those who climbed without supplemental oxygen. All lists of ascents include this important detail, with O2 or no-O2.

The 14×8,000’ers List

While Everest is the highest point on earth, and adventurers around the world dream of summiting it, some high-altitude climbers want to stand atop all 14 of the 8,000’ers. Some decades ago, this 14×8,000’er quest took a lifetime. Reinhold Messner was the first to complete them all, in 1986. Remarkably, this legendary climber from South Tyrol did all 14 without bottled oxygen.

As for women, Edurne Pasaban was the first to complete the 14. Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner was the first to climb them all without supplementary O2.

The 14×8,000’ers club used to be an elite group of the best high-altitude mountaineers in the world. In recent years, the number of climbers who have summited them all has grown exponentially. The massive use of oxygen and helicopters permit a larger number of climbers to consider such a goal and to complete the list much more quickly.

Unfortunately for the spirit of adventure, the climbs without bottled oxygen, or which follow technically difficult routes or pursue an independent style that does not depend on large Sherpa crews laying security ropes almost from Base Camp to summit happen less and less. Still, only 43 people have completed the challenge so far. Eberhard Jurgalski’s 8000ers.com has a detailed list until 2014. And Wikipedia includes the more recent entries to the club.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Joe
Joe
7 months ago

Hello Angela, the peaks listed as Pakistan (Karakorum) also share a border with China, and should perhaps be listed as such.

+1
wes
wes
7 months ago

and lately the question of “did they reach the true summit” has come up alot. But this is for newcomers so you will have to save that for a later session ; )

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John Lilly
John Lilly
4 months ago

Why are some of the peaks in the image colored green and some are colored red? Thanks.

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