Mountaineering & Expeditions

Highest Mountain In Europe | Top 10

From Elbrus to Monte Rosa, via Mont Blanc, these are Europe's biggest mountains

When you think of the highest mountains in Europe, you’ll most likely think of Mont Blanc, or perhaps even the Matterhorn. Whilst those two mountains are certainly impressive in their own right, they’re not the highest ones in Europe – with only one of them even making it onto this list at all.

‘Europe’ is a pretty broad term, so by saying Europe, we mean the geographical continent of Europe. There is much debate as to what the highest peak in Europe is, as number one on this list (Elbrus) actually lies on the border between Europe and Asia within the Caucasus Mountain Range. We are also only including prominent peaks in this top 10. After a lot of confusing research, it became clear that many of the other write-ups on the highest peaks in Europe were actually including satellite summits.

“Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Western Europe, not the continent of Europe”

We’ve also not included peaks such as Mount Ararat into this top 10. Mount Ararat sits on the Asian territory of transcontinental Turkey.

It’s long been disputed as to where the European / Asian border actually cuts through the Caucasus mountain range. Modern day authorities now agree that Elbrus falls within the European side of the border. For this reason, Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Western Europe and Elbrus is the continent’s highest one overall.

It’s also got to be said that if you have the required mountaineering experience and are planning to get stuck in and work your way through a few of these peaks, then you should take a look at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warnings first. The FCO currently advise against “all but essential” travel within Georgia, where many of the peaks in this top 10 are located.

1) Mount Elbrus

Pictured: Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe

Height: 5,642m

Location: Russia

Hotly disputed number one in the highest mountains in Europe league table, Mount Ebrus also takes a spot within the acclaimed Seven Summits collection (a list made up of the highest mountains on each continent). Elbrus itself is part of the Caucasus Mountain Range, which sits in Southern Russia and forms the border between Georgia and Russia as well as the joining place of the European and Asian tectonic plates (hence the mountain range).

Elbrus is made up of two west (5,642) and east (5,621m) volcano summits. The smaller east summit was first climbed back in 1829 by Khillar Khachirov. It wasn’t for another 45 years before the higher west summit was climbed in 1874 by a British expedition led by Florence Crauford Grove.

If you fancy climbing Elbrus, expect it to take three – five days between June and September with the first few days spent acclimatising around the smaller peaks in the region. Although Elbrus is one of the easiest of the Seven Summits, the whole of Elbrus is glacial and therefore requires solid mountaineering technique (and/or a mountain guide) to summit.

2) Dykh-Tau

Pictured: Dykh-Tau, the second highest mountain in Europe.

Height: 5,205m

Location: Russia

With a name deriving from a Turkic word, meaning Jagged Mount, Dykh-Tau is Europe’s second highest peak. Sat within the Caucasus Mountain Range, Dykh-Tau sits just 5km north of the Russian/Georgian border.

Being the second highest mountain in Europe, Dykh-Tau also takes its place on the Seven Second Summits. The Seven Second Summits is a list of the second highest mountains on each of the earth’s continents – a group of mountains that author Jon Krakauer said would be a harder challenge to climb than the Seven Summits. Dykh-Tau sticks to this trend as it is a much more technical climb than Elbrus, usually taking 10 days in total to climb.

3) Shkhara

Pictured: Shkhara, Europe’s thrid highest mountain

Height: 5,201m

Location: Georgia

Third on the list and the highest point in Georgia, Shkhara is another technically challenging climb that is situated within the Caucasus Mountain Range. Forming the highest point of the Bezengi Wall, a heavily glaciated, almost vertical 12km long ridgeline that creates a mecca for experienced mountaineers from around the word.

It was the North East Ridge of Shkhara that was first climbed, back in 1888, by a British and Swiss trio of Almer, Cockin and Roth. The North East Ridge is a technical climb in itself, giving significant challenges from the moment you step off the Bezengi Glacier. The climb of the NE Ridge follows the easiest route up to the summit of Shkhara and climbers will usually be expected to take two days on the route, with an overnight bivouac spent high on the ridgeline.

Although the NE Ridge is a fairly technical climb, it was the entire traverse of the 13km Bezengi Wall that was the crown jewel for mountaineers. This wall was first climbed back in 1938 by a group of strong Russian alpinists.

4) Koshtan-Tau

Pictured: Koshtan-Tau, Europe’s fourth highest mountain.

Height: 5,151m

Location: Russia

Koshtan-Tau also flanks the giant Bezengi range, alongside Dychtau and Shkhara. It’s another climbers dream, with steep slopes on all of its faces. The first ascent was made back in 1889 by Woolley via the North Crest, which is an amazing feat, given the simplicity of climbing equipment during those years. Climbers still flock to Koshtan-Tau these days, to climb on the historic ridges and spires that create the easiest way up the steep faces.

5) Mount Kazbek

Pictured: Mount Kazbek, the fifth highest mountain in Europe.

Height: 5,033m

Location: Georgia

Mount Kazbek (also known as ‘Kazbek’) is a 5,033 metre-high dormant stratovolcano that sits right on the border between Russia and Georgia. Given the geographical situation of the region, Mount Kazbek frequently receives tectonic activity, with small earthquakes frequently taking place in the region.

Because of all the tectonic and volcanic activity, the glaciers that hang onto the steep slopes of Mount Kazbek are frequently falling off in large chunks, frequently resulting in the deaths of many. This was no more true than in August 20th 2014, where seven people tragically lost their lives following a collapse of the Devdaraki Glacier.

6) Tetnuldi

Pictured: Tetnuldi, Europe’s sixth highest mountain.

Height: 4,858m

Location: Georgia

Although claimed to only be the 10th highest peak in the Caucasus Mountain Range, Tetnuldi takes the place of the sixth highest mountain in Europe as it is a prominent peak in itself, rather than a satellite summit.

Interestingly, there is a summit situated on the north-west side of Tetnuldi. Tetnuldi ski resort consists of just four ski lifts that take you up to an altitude of 3165m. Even though it’s in one of the most remote parts of Georgia, sitting just 15km from the town of Mestia  the ski resort is one of Europe’s newest ski resorts after opening on 8th February 2016.

7) Mont Blanc

Pictured: Climbing Mont Blanc, the seventh highest mountain in Europe.

Height: 4,808m

Location: France

Western Europe’s highest mountain and arguably the most famous mountain in this top 10. The highest peak in the European Alps, which stretch through the seven Alpine countries of France, Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia.

The first ascent of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian) is said to mark the start of modern-day mountaineering. It was first climbed by hunter and crystal collector Jacques Balmat and doctor Michel Paccard. The climb itself was actually brought forward by Horace-Benedict de Saussure, who put up a reward for any climbers who were brave enough to attempt this previously unclimbed peak.

Once Mont Blanc was climbed, it then started what is known as the Golden Age of Mountaineering, where Europeans went on to climb many of the classic peaks of the Alps.

As with many mountains in this top 10,  Mont Blanc also marks the border between two countries. This time, the two countries are Italy and France, who have both fought for the rights of the summit, with the issue of ownership dating back to the French Revolution.

8) Mount Dzhimara

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Height: 4,780m

Location: Russia

Also known as Jimara, Mount Dzhimara lies on the border between Russia and Georgia, within the North Ossetia–Alania area. It’s the second highest peak in the Khokh Range, with Mount Kazbek taking the top spot – just 9km away. The Khokh Range is a mountain range which is part of the Caucasus Mountain Range, with ‘Khokh’ meaning mountain in the Ossetian local language.

9) Ushba

Pictured: Ushba, Europe’s ninth highest mountain.

Height: 4,710m

Location: Georgia

Only ninth in this list, but probably the most stunning mountain. Ushba consists of two summits of a similar height – the south summit (4,710) and north summit (4,690m). The north summit is a slightly easier climb than that of the south, and for that reason, it was the first to be climbed of the two summits back in 1888 by John Cokklin and Ulrich Almer. It wasn’t till 1903 before we saw an ascent of the tougher south summit.

Ushba played host to an expedition where freeskiers Sam Anthamatten, Markus Eder and Leo Slemett hoped to climb Ushba to make the first descent on skis. Take a look at their movie below…

10) Monte Rosa (Dufourspitze)

Pictured: Monte Rosa (Dufourspitze), the tenth highest mountain in Europe

Height: 4,634m

Location: Switzerland

The second peak in this top 10 that is situated within Western Europe, this time sitting on the border between Italy and Switzerland. Monte Rosa actually represents a massif of mountains, with Dufourspitze being the highest of this range of mountains.

As the Monte Rosa massif can be viewed from many areas of the southern Alps, Dufourspitze features in many early writings and travel journals written about the Alps – most notably by Leonardo da Vinci.

The climbing route to the summit features crossing a large and expansive Monte Rosa Glacier, until you reach a rocky ridge that needs to be climbed to reach the pointy summit of Dufourspitze. This climb is technically straightforward (especially compared to many of the other peaks in the list), but it needs a high level of fitness and for the climbers to be well acclimatised.

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