tallest mountain -- ain't k2, ain't everest

Last I checked, you’re TALL based on measurements from your toes to your head; standing on a bar stool doesn’t make you TALLER, only HIGHER.

The main island of Hawaii, last I checked, is – and by a wide margin – the tallest mountain on this comfortable little planet. No? The “base camp” there is thousands of feet (rods, cubits, centimeters) below sea-level. By comparison, Everest is one pimple among hundreds on an already-high plateau.

The peak on Hawaii may not be as HIGH as K2, of course, but the mountain is certainly TALLER.

After all, words to have exact meanings. (They change over time, but at any moment they mean what they mean.)


It depends what your definition of “mountain” is. If the landmass has to be above sea level (or at least above water), than Hawaii’s DQ’d.

Probably in relation to the Staff Report Which is taller, Mt. Everest or K2?.

Welcome to the SDMB, trillich, but I think you are picking nits. Tall is an approximate synonym of height, viz the Oxford Encyclopedic Dictionary’s definitions:
Tall 1. of more than average height. 2 of a specified height. 3 higher than the surrounding objects.

So, while your point about different measurements is valid, I don’t think you can use tall vs. high to accurately distinguish them. Other people may have an opposite understanding of tall vs. high as applied to mountains.

The terms I have usually seen used by those wishing to make the same distinction are: Tallest/Highest mountain in feet above sea level vs. Tallest/Highest mountain measured from base to summit vs. Tallest/highest mountain measured in displacement of summit from the center of the Earth. Three different definitions, three different mountains.

First, I just have to say that I’ve seen some really, really tall airplanes lately. Moths, too, for that matter. :slight_smile:

>The terms I have usually seen used by those wishing to make the same
>distinction are: Tallest/Highest mountain in feet above sea level vs.
>Tallest/Highest mountain measured from base to summit vs. Tallest/highest
>mountain measured in displacement of summit from the center of the Earth.
>Three different definitions, three different mountains.

Sea level isn’t significantly different than linear distance from geo-center of the planet (maybe a few dozen feet higher at the equator); as far as I know it’s "three different definitions, two different mountains: Hawaii (base to summit) and Everest (sea-level, center-of-earth).

Aside from the fact that “sea level” barely has academic meaning when in, say, Iowa, Chad, or Nepal.

Splitting hairs? Sure. As opposed to, say, discussions of why Arkansas is pronounced the way it is, or the demise of George Reeves, or the composition of Dr Pepper, or the misuse of “bait” in “bated breath”…


No they don’t, or at least, many words have many different meanings.

You might have checked a dictionary before posting that.

According to Merriam-Webster:

Bolding mine.

“Tall” is a synonym for “high.” The distinction you purport to make is not substantiated by Merriam Webster.

And as far as this goes, two words can be synonyms in some contexts, even if they are not precisely synonymous in others. A tall mountain can be the same as a high mountain, and a tall tree the same as a high tree, even if “tall” is not used in the context of the distance of an airplane above the ground.

You have a glaring hole in your argument in that you insist on a rigorous definition of height (and throw out “altitude of summit above sea level”) and then leave “base” in your proposed definition completely undefined? Why isn’t the base of Mt. Everest the place where the Eurasian supercontinent hits the sea floor just like the base of Hawaiian islands is the place where their land mass hits the sea floor?

IIRC the mountain whose peak is furtherest from the centre of the earth is Mt Kilimanjaro, as the earth bulges slightly at the equator.

I thought that was Mt. Chimborazo in the Andes.

You’re underestimating quite how far the Earth deviates from being a perfect sphere: the radius at the equator is about 20 km larger than that at the poles.
As a result, and in accordance with what paperbackwriter suggested, the furthest point from the centre of the Earth is neither Hawaii nor Everest: it’s indeed the summit of Chimborazo.

As an avid hiker, I sometimes like to use the dubious distinction between “high” and “tall” as if it were more meaningful than, apparently, is generally accepted. Although the term “base” of a mountain is somewhat arbitrary, it’s usually understood as the transition between the generally steeper upward slope of a mountain mass, and the surrounding countours of, on average, roughly flat or gentler inclination. It’s not terribly precise, but it’s also not difficult to recognize this rough transition, and hence most people tend to know what the “base” is intuitively.

I’ve hiked up mountains that were over 2500 meters in elevation, yet had to climb fewer meters from the trailhead (roughly at the “base”) to the summit than mountains that were around 1600 meters in elevation. Hence, I would say the latter is “taller”, while the former is “higher”, just to find a convenient way of saying “The vertical distance from the generally-recognized base to the summit is greater, in this instance, for the mountain of lower elevation than the one of higher elevation.”

If I am not mistaken, there is a Moutain in South America whose peak is further from the Center of the Earth. It is even more difificult to argue that position.



And someone climbed it once. In 1960. And stayed for 20 minutes.

Isaac Asimov wrote an essay on this debate in On Numbers. His final conclusion, after running through the variety of definitions, was that, since the most serious obstacle to climbing a tall mountain was the decrease in temperature and air pressure at high altitude, and these factors are tied directly to height above sea level, the best candidate for ‘highest mountain’ is indeed Everest.

I’m not sure I agree with Asimov’s reasoning (although I think I do agree with his final conclusion). If he’s worried about which mountain has the worst conditions (in terms of temperature and air pressure) at its summit, I think he also needs to factor in latitude. From this page:

Consider a mountain with a summit that was exactly 8838 meters ASL (i.e., 10 meters less than Everest), but located at the latitude of Mt. McKinley. The hypothetical mountain would have conditions at its summit that would definitely be worse than those on top of Everest, but would Asimov consider it to be “higher”?

What blows me away is that uber-geographer/naturalist Alexander von Humboldt climbed most of this mountain in 1799!

I thought the tallest known mountain is on Mars, however it may be on Venus, either way all 3 on earth are DQ’ed (esp if you start counting from the center of the earth).

All fine and good, but what is the heaviest mountain? I say Leslie West.