Click here for an explanation of spire measure and reduced spire measure
||S, RS, Ht in meters
||Blue: US; Purple: Canada; all others are in Asia
||Links are to Wikipedia pages
||Saint Elias, Mount
||Ganesh III (Salasungo)
||Plus some contenders:
||Baintha Brakk (The Ogre)
INDIVIDUAL PEAK NOTES:
- The World Top 50 list is still in preparation. However this part of it should be fairly stable; I would
be surprised to discover a new Top 25 peak.
The current RSM cutoff for the World Top 50 is around 1050m.
- Note that all but two peaks on the Top 25 list are in Asia, and the other two are
in Alaska. (Note Logan, next door in the Yukon, among the contenders.)
This makes clear that Alaska/Yukon peaks are truly world-class. (The current best peak not in
Asia or Alaska/Yukon is Fitz Roy [Cerro Chalten], in Patagonia,
at a provisional rank of #34, with 1160m spire measure.)
- You may wonder what happened to Mount Everest. As it turns out,
Everest does not do well by RSM, as it is barely beaten by its (lower but steeper) neighbor
Lhotse (appearing here among the contenders).
Lhotse, in turn, is reduced somewhat by Makalu, which is the winner
for the Mahalangur Himal in terms of spire measure. Everest's SM=1407, RSM=697.
- Hence, pure height is (as usual) no guarantee of a good spire measure. However note that seven of the
14 8000m peaks appear on this Top 12 list; they are big peaks by spire measure as well as by height.
- Nanga Parbat: The Southeast ("Rupal") face of Nanga Parbat is well-known as
"the largest mountain face in the world." While this kind of statement is hard to make
precise, it is a large part of the reason that Nanga Parbat is the World #1 by spire measure.
On the north side, Nanga Parbat drops, less steeply, to the Indus River, at an elevation of
only 1000m, making for tremendous vertical relief.
- Dhaulagiri too has an immense South Face (recently climbed, though not to the summit, in
a spectacular solo by Tomaz Humar). It also sits over very low terrain to the south and east,
in particular the Kali Gandaki valley, one of the world's great mountain gorges.
- Rakaposhi sits inside a bend of the Hunza River, another great mountain gorge. It is the most famous
peak of the Western Karakoram.
- Manaslu, one of the lesser-known 8000m peaks, sits, like Dhaulagiri, near a lot of low terrain.
It drops steeply down on the east and west to low valleys, making it a truly massive peak.
- Namcha Barwa is the eastern anchor of the Himalaya. It sits inside the "Great Bend" of the Tsangpo/Brahmaputra
river, which flows from Tibet into India. Like many of the other peaks on this list, the combination of
great height, reasonable steepness, and a very low "base" gives this peak its world-class spire measure.
- K2 needs little introduction, as it is probably one of the two most famous peaks on this list. Despite being
well inside the core of the Karakoram, away from low terrain, K2 makes this list due to its steep, pointy shape
and great absolute elevation. K2 is almost one of the perfect cones used to normalize spire measure: it is
basically a 3000m, 45 degree cone, and hence gets a spire measure around 1500m.
- Nanda Devi is the highest point in India (excluding Sikkim) and is another high, steep peak which sits
near low terrain. Climbing Nanda Devi has been off limits for a quarter century, to preserve the
surrounding Nanda Devi Sanctuary, which was threatened with ecological disaster in the 1970's.
- Machhapuchhare is the lowest Himalayan peak on this list. It makes the list because it is
a tremendously steep rocky peak, rising from a very low base on the south flank of the Annapurna massif.
Machhapuchhare is the "fishtail" peak one often sees in posters of the Himalaya. It is quite sacred to the
local population, and in fact it is off-limits to climbers. This is the first peak on the list
with a significant reduction, in this case by nearby Dhaulagiri.
- Makalu is one of the giants of the Mahalangur Himal, which also includes Everest, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu.
Of those four 8000m peaks, it has the highest spire measure, since it has a couple of very steep faces, and sits
closer to lower terrain. It is also probably the hardest to climb of those four peaks.
- Mount Saint Elias is the best peak, by spire measure, outside of the Himalaya/Karakoram. It is fairly well-known
as "the world's highest tidewater peak." It rises to almost 5500m in 10km from Icy Bay, in the bight of the
Gulf of Alaska. It forms the corner of the Alaska/Yukon border, where the Alaskan panhandle joins the
main part of the state. While it is lower than either Denali or Logan, it is pointier and has a lower base,
so it just edges out Denali, while Logan comes in at SM=1276m, RSM=1199m.
- Shisparé Sar is probably the least well-known of the Top 12. It sits across
the Hunza River valley from Rakaposhi, and is the eastern anchor of the Batura Range, the westernmost section
of the Karakoram. Like Rakaposhi, it gets its spire measure by rising quickly from the very low Hunza River
gorge. Being fairly close to Rakaposhi, it gets a significant reduction from that peak.
- Denali (Mt. McKinley) is one of the best-known peaks on this list, as the North American high point, and the
number 3 peak by prominence in the world. It is famous for rising from low terrain (under 1000m), and its
South Face is relatively steep. It would have a somewhat higher spire measure if it were pointier; instead
it has two separate summits, separated by some distance. Hence the spire measure of the south (main) summit
cannot take full advantage of the huge Wickersham Wall which forms the north side of the mountain.
- Ganesh III is the winner in the Ganesh Himal in terms of spire measure. The Ganesh Himal lies to the
east of Manaslu. Ganesh is the Hindu god of wisdom, usually depicted with the head of an elephant. Ganesh III
beats its somewhat higher neighbors by being closer to the valley, and a little pointier.
- Kangchenjunga South is the best point in the Kangchenjunga massif in terms of spire measure (Kangchenjunga
Main gets a spire measure of 1409m). Kangchenjunga is the third highest peak in the world, and
is one of the more difficult 8000m peaks.
- Masherbrum is a steep, striking peak which rises south of the Baltoro glacier, on the way in to K2.
- Annapurna I is the highest peak in the Annapurna massif. Like Dhaulagiri, it rises quickly from very
low terrain to the south, giving it a very high pure spire measure. However it is just across the valley from
Dhaulagiri, so in terms of reduced spire measure, it is not as independent as its neighboring peak
Machhapuchhare, which takes the RSM prize in the Annapurna Himal. Annapurna I was the first 8000m peak
to be climbed, in 1950, but it tends to be a dangerous peak, with many objective hazards on the
- Haramosh rises dramatically above the Indus river valley on the southern edge of the western Karakoram. It does
not have the fame of its neighbor Rakaposhi or of the 8000m peaks, but it is a huge mountain.
- Gyala Peri faces Namcha Barwa across the gorge of the Tsangpo river. It is the only other 7000m peak
in the extreme east of the Himalaya, and it gets a high spire measure for the same reasons Namcha Barwa does.
Note that it is substantially reduced by its neighbor.
- Gongga Shan (Minya Konka) is a wonderful peak for many reasons. It is the easternmost 7000m peak in
Asia, and it rises steeply from the dramatic low gorges of Sichuan. Its profile is a classic snow
pyramid. Perhaps most intriguing is the story of its ascent in 1932 by a small team of four Americans,
which was a stunning achievement for the time, done in fine style. The story is told in the book
"Men Against the Clouds."
- Langtang Lirung is the high point of the Langtang Himal, southwest of Shisha Pangma. It rises dramatically
from the low nearby valleys.
- Gauri Shankar is one of the most famous and sacred peaks of Nepal. It was also the scene of
one of the hardest first ascents done in the Himalaya, in 1979.
- Kongur Shan is one of the few high 7000m peaks outside of the Himalaya and Karakoram. It is the western
anchor of the long Kunlun Shan chain which forms the north edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
- Chamar is one of the least well-known peaks on this list. It is the high point of the Sringi Himal,
between Manaslu and the Ganesh Himal. It has tremendous drops to the valleys in three directions,
but it has seen little climbing activity.
- Annapurna II is the eastern anchor of the Annapurna Himal, and towers over its nearby valleys much as
Annapurna I does. It is one of the highest independent 7000m peaks. Note that it is reduced quite
significantly by the presence of many other great nearby peaks, Manaslu, Machhapuchhare, and Annapurna I.
- Tirich Mir is the high point of the Hindu Kush Range of Pakistan/Afghanistan. It is a bold, steep
massif, but its footings are a bit higher than the Nepalese peaks and some of the western Karakoram peaks
appearing higher on this list.
- Baintha Brakk has been suggested as the single hardest peak in the world. It is a daunting rock spire,
deep in the heart of the Karakoram. It has seen only two ascents, despite many attempts. It attains its
high spire measure by virtue of its tremendous steepness, despite a fairly high base.
- Kunyang Chhish is one of the highest peaks of the western Karakoram. It has a multitude of classic
climbing lines, all of them difficult, some not yet completed.
- Lhotse is Everest's south outlier. However, in terms of spire measure, it is Lhotse which (barely)
takes the crown for the Everest/Lhotse massif. This is due to Lhotse's famous, immense South Face,
which for many years was one of the great unclimbed walls of the world.
- Mount Logan is famous as the highest peak in Canada. In terms of spire measure, it is greatly helped
by its steep 4200m south face, broken by a few features such as the famous Hummingbird and Warbler ridges.
However, it is hurt by its broad plateau stretching kilometers to the north of the main summit. Logan
is not "spirelike" in shape at all, so it attains its world-class spire measure in spite of its shape,
not because of it.
Back to main spire measure page
Back to lists page
Copyright 2006 by David Metzler