Mount Everest – world’s highest mountain?

At 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) high, Mount Everest has always been heralded as the world’s highest mountain. But is that really true? It depends on exactly what you are measuring.

You can measure the summit of a mountain by either the elevation above sea level, or by the height of the mountain from base to summit. If the mountain base sits on an elevated plain, the summit is at the height of the mountain plus the height of the plain or plateau.

In elevation, Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. However, if Mount Everest was placed at sea level, it would find itself outmatched by other mountains.

From sea level to summit, Mount Everest is 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) high. But the base of the mountain on the Tibetan plateau sits at 4,200 to 5,200 meters (13,800 to 17,100 feet) above sea level, so the height of the mountain itself only 3,650 to 4,650 meters (12,000 to 15,300 feet) high. This makes Mount Everest, from base to summit, looking a little short as compared to other mountains.

Mount McKinley in Alaska stands 6,194 meters (20,320 feet) high. The base of the mountain sits on the Denali plain, which sits at 300 to 900 meters (1,000 to 3,000 feet) above sea level. This makes Mount McKinley, from base to summit, roughly 5,600 meters (18,400 feet) high – a good 3,000 feet higher than Mount Everest!

Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in Africa has an elevation of 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) above sea level. Kilimanjaro is 4,700 meters (15,100 feet) high from base to summit, which means that from base to summit, Kilimanjaro is only 200 feet shorter than Mount Everest – almost the same height!

Cerro Aconcagua, part of the Andes mountains in the Mendoza Province, Argentina, has a total elevation of 6,862 meters (22,841 feet). But the Mendoza Province is about 700 meters (2,300 feet) above sea level already, leaving a base to summit height of 6,162 meters (21,206 feet). This means that Cerro Aconcagua is taller than Everest by over 1,524 meters (5,000 feet).

Mount Elbrus, part of the western Caucasus mountain range in Russia, has an elevation of 5,642 meters (18,510 feet). The mountain (actually a dormant volcano) sits on the Iranian plateau, and is 4,741 meters (15,554 feet) from base to summit. Mount Elbrus, the highest point in Russian and the highest mountain in Europe, is actually a little higher than Mount Everest.

However, the highest mountain in the world, as measured from base to summit, is a volcanic island. Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, has an elevation of only 4205 meters (13,796 feet), but from its base on the ocean floor to sea level, measures 5,800 meters (19,000 feet). The total height of Mauna Kea, from base to summit, is 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) – well above Mount Everest!