# Declaring the Largest Mountain in the World Is Complicated

By: Zach Taras  |

If a random stranger were to stop you on the street and say, “Excuse me, but what’s the tallest mountain in the world?” you will probably give them the correct answer: Mount Everest.

But could you accurately discuss the measurement criteria? Or, to tackle an even trickier question, what is the largest mountain in the world?

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## How to Measure a Mountain

When it comes to the tallest mountains, ranking can present something of a challenge. For one thing, as you've probably noticed, mountains tend to be part of what are called "ranges," so distinguishing between them isn't always as easy as it might seem.

Then, if you want to properly compare them, you have to decide how you're going to measure them. Are the highest mountains those whose peaks rise highest above sea level? Or those who are most dramatically higher than the surrounding landscape?

Believe it or not, you can actually rank the highest mountains in terms of their distance from the Earth's center — and in every case, the list will change.

Finally, if we're talking about the largest mountain on Earth, we're adding another layer of complexity, since the highest mountain won't necessarily be the largest in terms of volume. Below, we'll tackle the differences and equip you with candidates for the title of largest mountain.

## 5 Tallest Mountains Measured From Sea Level

At a certain point, convention can be your friend. So, to kick things off, we can adopt the terms that are most commonly used when describing the world's tallest mountain.

These aren't the highest mountains when measuring from the base, or the surrounding landscape, or the Earth's core. They are the highest mountains above sea level, which is the most popular standard.

### 1. Mount Everest

At 29,032 feet (8,849 meters) above sea level, Mount Everest's summit is widely recognized as the highest in the world.

Straddling the border of China and Nepal, it is part of the famous Himalayan mountain range, and something of a tourist attraction for ambitious (and wealthy) climbers, leading to overcrowding and pollution.

### 2. K2

The second-tallest mountain in the world, rising 28,251 feet (8,611 meters) above sea level. Also in Asia, K2 is part of the Karakoram mountain range. While also a popular destination for climbers, the highest peak of K2 is considered much more difficult (and dangerous) to summit than Mount Everest.

### 3. Kangchenjuga

Another of the mighty Himalayan mountain peaks, Kangchenjuga rises 28,169 feet (8,586 meters) above sea level and is the third-highest mountain above sea level. Like many of the highest mountains, it lies on a border, this time between Nepal and India.

### 4. Lhotse

We're still in the Himalayan mountains — you might be noticing a pattern here — this time 27,940 feet (8,516 meters) above sea level, making it the fourth-highest mountain. Like many a huge mountain in this range, its "parent mountain" is Mount Everest.

### 5. Mekalu

Rising 27,838 feet (8,485 meters) above sea level, and still in the range of Mount Everest — we can't seem to avoid these Himalayan peaks — Mekalu is on the border of Nepal and China.

## 3 Technically Tall Mountains by Different Criteria

Finding the distance above sea level is not the only way to measure a mountain. Here are some other contenders and the ways they are measured.

### 1. Mauna Kea

If you want to measure a mountain from its base, island mountains are undeniably impressive. Mauna Kea rises 33,474 feet (10,203 meters) from the base of the Pacific Ocean, leading some to consider it the tallest mountain on Earth.

It's also a dormant volcano, and located on the island of Hawaii, which means you'll have to pack very different gear than if you were planning to climb Everest, for example.

### 2. Denali

If you're measuring from base to peak on land, Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) is the tallest mountain in the world, at 18,000 feet (5,500 meters). It also has the tallest mountain peak in North America, at 20,310 feet (6,190 meters) above sea level.

Denali is one of the famous seven summits, which is a list of the tallest mountain on each continent.

### 3. Chimborazo

This is one of the other mountains you probably never heard of, as its claim to fame rests on an obscure, if fascinating, bit of trivia.

The Earth, while round, is not perfectly spherical, and is fatter around the equator than at the poles. Therefore, being located in Ecuador, and part of the Andes Mountains, Chimborazo can be considered to be the highest point on Earth, as well as the farthest point from Earth's center.

## The Largest Mountain by Pure Mass

We've now wound our way from the Mount Everest base camp in the Himalayas, all the way to the equator, the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and back again. We've seen different ways you can slice the onion of "highest mountain." But what about largest? What about all-around size?

The winner is generally recognized as another volcanic mountain. In fact, it's an active volcano: Mauna Loa.