Re: Which is taller, Mt. Everest or K2?

Link to Mailbag Article: Which is taller, Everest or K2? – CKDext

I’ve heard some similar question to this before that demonstrates just how pedantic people like me can get.

The word in question is “taller.” Mt. Everest is, as most everyone will agree (and isn’t “most everyone” an interesting oxymoron?) the <it>highest</it> mountain in the world, meaning it reaches the greatest extent above sea level. However, I have heard it said that the <it>tallest</it> mountain in the world, measured from base to summit, is Mauna Kea, in Hawaii. The online encyclopedia at, for example, calls it “the highest island mountain in the world, rising c. 32,000 ft (9,750 m) from the Pacific Ocean floor”, which certainly trounces Everest.

So what <it>are</it> the highest mountains in the world? Where does Everest (and, for that matter, K2) rank on this list?

Thanx! Ciao for niao!

Mike “Hammer” Hammond…
[Note: This message has been edited by CKDextHavn]

I’m not aware of a list like this. One problem is that “height above sea level” is at least clearly defined; we might quibble as to exactly what sea level was, but any disagreement would be on the order of a few meters at most.

However, the “base” of a mountain is much harder to define unambiguously. If you like, you could argue that all of Asia is the “base” of Everest, and that we should be measuring from the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

Most people would agree that’s ridiculous, but where does the mountain really begin? It’s not hard to imagine that between the lowest and highest “reasonable” estimates of the base there might be a difference of hundreds of meters in some cases. For instance, what do you do if the land on one side of the mountain is much higher than the land on the other side?