On top of the world in five continents

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am


Mount Everest

With its peak reaching 8,850 metres, Mount Everest is the world's tallest mountain.

The Tibetans call it Chomolungma, 'the Goddess Mother of the World'. They believe the Yeti or 'Abominable Snowman' lives on the top of the mountain.

Everest was unexplored until recently because mountaineers died or were forced to turn back by freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen and storms.

Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tensing Norkay of Nepal were the first to complete the journey in 1953. Photo: AFP


Mount Elbrus

Mount Elbrus stands on the frontier of Russia and Georgia at 5,633 metres tall, making it the highest point in Europe.

It is an extinct volcano that last erupted in 50AD. Today it has a permanent icecap whose 22 glaciers pour water into the Baksan, Kuban and Malka rivers.

Local myth says that this is where the Greek god Zeus chained Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind.

Prometheus was doomed to have his liver eaten by eagles every day, but was eventually rescued by the hero Hercules. Photo: Dean Conger/Corbis

The Americas:


Aconcagua is a snow-capped extinct volcano standing in the Andes of South America on the borders of Chile and Argentina.

With its peak at 6,960 metres, it is the tallest mountain in the Americas. As it is quite easy to climb, it attracts tourists and has several campsites on its slopes.

The tallest mountain in North America is the 6,194 metre-high Mount McKinley in Alaska. It is also called Denali by local Athabasca Indians, meaning 'The High One'.

Denali has five large glaciers flowing from it. It is so cold and dangerous that less than half the expeditions to the top are successful. Photo: AFP


Puncak Jaya

Tall, grey and rocky, Puncak Jaya is the highest island peak in the world, reaching 4,884 metres.

Although there's no snow on the summit, this mountain has two glaciers on its slopes.

This mountain is nicknamed Carstensz Pyramid after the Dutch explorer Jan Carstensz who first reported seeing the glaciers in 1623.

Unfortunately no one in Europe at this time realised ice could exist so near the equator, and the adventurer's reports were dismissed. Photo: George Steinmetz/Corbis


Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is a compact group of extinct volcanoes, stretching about 80 kilometres.

Its central cone Kibo is the tallest peak in Africa, reaching 5,895 metres. Next to it lie peaks called Mawensi (5,354m) and Shira (3,778m).

Mount Kilimanjaro is world famous, attracting climbers from all over the world and featuring in many films, including Disney's The Lion King.

You might also see it in the news. Global warming has shrunk Kibo's glaciers by 80 per cent and scientists predict the icecap might disappear altogether by 2040.

fab fact!

The world's 14 tallest mountains with peaks over 8,000 metres all lie in the Himalayan (above right) and the neighbouring Karakoram mountain range.


The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean near Guam is the deepest location on Earth. It is 2,550 km long and 11 km deep.

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