The impressive landscape of the Alps is characterized by countless mountain massifs and four-thousanders, many of which are well-known. These are the nine highest peaks of the alpine region.
9. Grand Combin – Switzerland (4,314 meters)
The Combin de Grafeneire (4,314 meters) is not only the highest peak of the Grand Combin massif, but also makes up the ninth highest peak in the Alps. The heavily glaciated massif is located in the Valais Alps, near the Italian border and consists of two other main peaks, Combin de Valsorey (4,183 meters) and Combin de la Tsessette (4,134 meters).
The Grand Combin is a broad massif, characterized by thick glaciers and ice layers. The view from the village of Verbier is particularly famous. The massif also includes mountains such as Petit Combin and Combin de Corbassière. East of Grand Combin, in a deep valley below the impressive 1,200-meter steep east face of Combin de la Tsessette, the Lac de Mauvoisin reservoir is located. Its tributaries have their source in the mountain glaciers. The first ascent of Combin de Grafeneire took place in 1859. Today the normal route to the summit leads up the western side of the mountain. The massif also gets frequently crossed on skis or on foot as part of the high alpine Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.
8. Dent Blanche – Switzerland (4,356 meters)
The 4,356 meter high Dent Blanche is the eighth highest independent mountain in the Alps and lies about ten kilometers west of Zermatt in the Valais Alps. To the north it closes off Val de Zinal and Val d’Hérens is located to the west. The summit also constitutes the border between the French and German-speaking areas.
With its striking pyramid shape the Dent Blanche stands out from its surroundings. The four sharp ridges point towards the compass directions, respectively. The northeast face of the mountain is almost completely glaciated. Therefore, the first ascent took place in 1862 via the less steep and easier south ridge, which is considered the normal route to this day. The fact that the Dent Blanche is called “white tooth”, despite its summit being rather snow-free and rocky, is probably due to a confusion in a map copy. The name was presumably once assigned to the far more snow-covered Dent d’Hérens, which is often hidden behind the Dent Blanche.
7. Mont Maudit – France (4,465 meters)
Located in the French Western Alps, the 4,465-meter Mont Maudit is part of the Mont Blanc Group and ranks among the imposing four-thousanders. The seventh highest mountain in the Alps lies directly between Mont Blanc and Mont Blanc du Tacul. The ascend is difficult and demanding, which is probably why Mont Maudit got its name “Damned Mountain”.
There are two popular ascent routes to the summit. The first ascent took place from the French side in 1878 by two Englishmen. Here, Mont Maudit can be climbed via the northwest ridge and the Col du Midi. A similar route is used to climb Mont Blanc, which is why Mont Maudit is often not climbed solely. The ascent route from Italy starts at the Rifugio Torino, leading towards Mont Blanc du Tacul and over the Kuffner Ridge to the summit with a descent to the Refuge des Cosmiques. It is particularly famous for the steep, snow and ice-covered Kuffner Ridge, which is considered one of the most beautiful ones in the Alps. This route is demanding and possesses a very high climbing difficulty.
Mark your favorite places with our Explore the Alps map
6. Matterhorn – Switzerland (4,478 meters)
Arguably one of the most iconic mountains in the world is the 4,478-meter-high Matterhorn. The striking triangular peak is considered Zermatt’s local mountain and is the sixth highest peak in the Alps. The southern side of the mountain is already located on Italian soil.
The Matterhorn did not only achieve fame because of its impeccable beauty but in alpinism, it is also widely known for its spectacular climbing history. In 1865, after several attempts to climb the mountain, a competition took place between the British climber Edward Whymper and the Italian climber Antoine Carrel. The two climbers, who had once been friends, both wanted to claim the first ascent. Whymper and his roped party managed to reach the summit from the Swiss side just before the other team did. On the descent, however, part of his team fell to their deaths. This dramatic event and the competition attracted much attention and controversy. The Queen even wanted to ban the ascent so that no more British blood could be shed on the mountain.
Today, the route from Zermatt, via the Hörnli ridge is considered the normal route. Since the accident surrounding Whymper’s expedition, there have been over 500 other fatal accidents on Matterhorn.
5. Weisshorn – Switzerland (4,505 meters)
Sometimes called the most beautiful mountain in the Alps, the Weisshorn towers north of Zermatt in Valais. With its height of 4,505 meters, it is the fifth highest mountain in the Alps. Its even pyramidal shape with three sharp ridges forms the main peak of the Weisshorn group. Although it is surrounded by many four-thousanders, the Weisshorn is pretty isolated and in a remote location.
The rock on all mountain faces is very brittle, which is why they are not suitable for ascent. The first ascent took place in 1861, with the northeast ridge being considered the normal route. During an ascent, 3,000 meters of altitude must be overcome, which requires a high degree of endurance and alpine skills. The southwest ridge is considered the most demanding route.
4. Lyskamm – Switzerland (4,533 meters)
On the Swiss-Italian border, east of the Matterhorn and west of the Monte Rosa group, the five-kilometer-long ridge rises as the fourth highest peak in the Alps. The highest point is the 4,533-meter east peak, followed by the 50-meter lower west peak about a kilometer away.
On the northeastern side of the ridge, an icy rock face drops down over 1,000 meters. To the south the heavily fissured Lys glacier can be found. In 1861 the first ascent of the east peak took place and three years later alpinists crossed the ridge for the first time. The expedition included Sir Leslie Stephen, father of famous writer Virgina Woolf. The crossing of the ridge is very dangerous due to the heavily corniced terrain and has cost the lives of many mountaineers. This gave the Lyskamm the nickname “man-eater”. The mountain is also known from the 1921 Arnold Fanck mountain film “Im Kampf mit dem Berge”.
Dom – Switzerland (4,545 meters)
With an altitude of 4,545 meters, the Dom is the third highest Alpine mountain and the highest mountain that lies entirely on Swiss soil. It is located in the Valais Alps between the villages of Saas-Fee and Randa. The Dom is part of the Mischabel group, which consists of a total of eight four-thousanders. It is named in honor of canon Joseph Anton Bechthold, who first surveyed the mountain in 1833.
The Dom was climbed for the first time in 1858. The normal route leads from the west side via the Domhütte, past the Festi glacier. The ascent is dangerous. Especially crevasses, narrow ridges and the heavily corniced terrain pose high risks. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the other imposing Alpine mountains such as the Matterhorn, the Weisshorn, the Monte Rosa massif and Mont Blanc.
2. Dufourspitze – Switzerland (4,634 meters)
The second highest mountain in the Alps is the 4,634-meter-high Dufourspitze, which rises as the main peak of the Monte Rosa massif southeast of Zermatt. It is disputed whether it should also be counted as the highest mountain in Switzerland, since it is partly situated in Italy. Altogether, the entire Monte Rosa massif includes ten four-thousanders.
Initially, the Dufourspitze was called Gornerhorn before it was renamed in honor of general and cartographer Guillaume-Henri Dufour in 1863. He designed the first topographic map of Switzerland, named Dufour map. Furthermore, he was co-founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Dunantspitze, a secondary peak passed on the ascent to Dufourspitze via the east ridge , was renamed after Henry Dunant, another co-founder in 2014.
In 1855, the Dufourspitze was successfully climbed for the first time. For alpinists the route to the summit usually starts at the relatively low-lying Monte Rosa Hut, elongating the ascent and descent route. Crevasses and icy ridges pose the greatest difficulties.
1. Mont Blanc – France (4,810 meters)
With a height of 4,810 meters the famous Mont Blanc is the highest Alpine mountain. It rises impressively in the Western Alps, right on the Italian-French border. A topic of disputed is whether Mont Blanc could even be the highest mountain in Europe. This depends on whether Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus is considered to be situated on European territory. It is also the mountain with the eleventh highest topographic prominence in the world.
Mont Blanc is located between the Italian municipality of Courmayeur and the French commune of Chamonix. An almost 12-kilometer-long car tunnel, running beneath the mountain, connects the two towns. Adjacent towards the northeast and connected by a ridge Mont Maudit and Mont Blanc du Tacul, also four-thousanders, are located. In addition, the massif has some secondary peaks such as the 4,748-meter high Mont Blanc de Courmayeur on the southeast ridge. The summit of Mont Blanc is covered by snow and ice all year round and especially the northern side of the mountain is heavily glaciated. The Bossons Glacier descends over 3,400 meters and extends almost to the valley, thus overcoming the largest difference in altitude of all alpine glaciers.
Mont Blanc is of great importance in the history of alpinism and can be considered the birthplace of mountaineering. There were many attempts to conquer the mountain until 1786, when the first ascent was successfully completed. To this day, the mountain’s imposing beauty makes it an internationally popular tourist destination. Around 25,000 people climb the peak every year. The difficulties of the ascent are often underestimated, so that Mont Blanc is one of the deadliest mountains according to worldwide mountain accident statistics.
The ski resort of Chamonix itself is also world famous. In 1924, the first Winter Olympics were held here. The town is also the starting point of the popular Haute Route, which leads to Zermatt in Switzerland.