Ever heard the expression “Don’t look down”? Well, as it turns out, these are very wise words indeed, especially in locations such as these. This planet that we call Earth has no end of high places, whether they are manmade structures, phenomenal natural landmarks or even gravity-defying vehicles, this list details 13 of the scariest places on Earth for any human to be standing. The human fear of heights is one that is nearly as old as humanity itself, however, heights are always something that, no matter how terrifying, people do not back away from. If they’ve not been constructed by man, the entrants on this list have all been conquered by brave explorers, people who defied fear itself to stand toe-to-toe with the gods. Whether heights are your thing or you’d rather eat bugs than hike up a mountain, everyone can appreciate the sublime wonder of these incredible places.
There’s no doubt that being up high is one of the most incredible and most feral experiences that this world has to offer. Hopefully by reading this list you’ll be more tempted to give heights a try, if not for the adrenaline rush but for the amazing view that surely awaits you as your reward. All these high places are truly amazing, take a look for yourself.
13. K2 (Pakistan/China border)
Whilst not the mountain you’d be expecting, there is a reason we have chosen K2 over its arguably more famous neighbour. The second tallest mountain in the world, standing at 28,251 feet tall at its summit, K2 was first mapped by British explorer T. G. Montgomerie in 1852. Between its first mapping and its first ascent in 1954 by an Italian climbing team, there were several attempts, all of which were unsuccessful. The first attempt in 1902 was led by British explorers but they were forced to abandon their mission at a height of 21,407 feet due to bad weather. After several more attempts, the mountain was eventually conquered. However, with tragedies such as those that occurred in 1986 and 2008, the mountain remains dangerous, with an average of one death for every four summits, K2 more than deserves its nickname – “The Savage Mountain”. Imagine standing atop the summit of this mountain, with the icy wind rushing towards you and the knowledge of the lives that the mountain has taken, would you look down? Didn’t think so.
12. Trango Towers (Pakistan)
It’s over the border into Pakistan for our next place of wonder. The Trango Towers are a series of high rock faces in an autonomous region in Pakistan. The Towers are popular with climbers from all over the world because each tower offers a unique climbing experience, with several challenging climbs and ascents that are enough to challenge even the most experienced climbers. The Trango groups have eleven different peaks available for climbing, the highest being Great Trango, which stands tall at 20,623 feet. Another interesting feature of Great Trango is its east face, which features the world’s largest nearly vertical drop – 4,396 feet, almost completely straight down. The sheer drop on Great Trango can only be terrifying to those attempting the climb. If you ever did get to the top, the sense of vertigo from looking down over 4,000 feet must be terrifying, but also exhilarating.
11. Mount Thor (Canada)
Mount Thor, also known as Thor Peak, lies in the Nunavut territory in Canada. The mountain holds the record for the largest purely vertical drop on Earth, 4,101 feet straight down. The first climb of the mountain was accomplished in 1965 and since then the mountain has become popular with both climbers and abseilers-those who descend down a rope attached at the top of a peak whilst wearing a harness. The completely vertical nature of the peak makes Mount Thor ideal for abseilers, as proven in 2006 when the world record for the longest abseil was set on the mountain. However, this peak is far from tame, as another abseiler died during the world record attempt. Not a nice way to go. Knowing the fatalities that have happened on the peak and the sheer rush of looking over 4,000 feet straight down, is enough to make any person tremble. A truly terrifying place to stand, let alone look down.
10. Bingham Canyon Mine (Utah)
We’re heading south now as we enter the beehive state. More specifically, the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City. Bingham Canyon Mine, also known as Kennecott Copper Mine, was founded in 1848 by two brothers when they discovered copper ores in the area. The mine is remarkable because it is the largest open pit mine in the world – 3,937 feet at its deepest point. The open nature of the mine means that, when you stand at the top of it, you can see straight down to the bottom. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the mine has also suffered a series of major landslides in recent years, one in 2013 when the mine experienced the largest non-volcanic landslide in North American history. Staring nearly 4,000 feet down, all while being uncertain of the ground below is enough to terrify most people.
9. Vrtoglavica Cave (Slovenia)
The Vrtoglavica Cave in Slovenia (near the Italian border) is part of the Julian portion of the world famous Alps range, lying inside Mount Kanin, a symbol of great national pride for the local people. It was discovered in 1996 by a joint Italian team of speleologists (those who explore caves) and the bottom was reached later that same year by a team from both Italy and Slovenia. The cave makes this list for its 1,978 foot pitch (vertical drop), the largest of any cave in the world. If one were to slip and fall into this cave, they’d be falling for a pretty long time. Among other features of Vrtoglavica is its waterfall, one of the largest in-cave waterfalls in the world. Both the waterfall and the pitch would be terrifying to look down from, one has a sheer drop of nearly 2,000 feet into a dark, and the other includes the sound of rushing water as you peer over the edge. Now you understand as to why this cave is featured on this list.
8. Khumbu Glacier (Nepal)
It’s back to Nepal, but still no mention of the famous mountain (yet). Instead, we turn our attention to the Khumbu Glacier, located in the same region as the aforementioned mountain. The glacier was first discovered in 1952 during the famous 1952 Swiss expedition of the famous mountain. The expedition was the furthest anyone had ever made up the mountain and paved the way for further missions such as the famous summit of the mountain by Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953. The glacier is spectacular to behold with its beautiful crystal clear ice, rarely touched or even viewed by man; the glacier’s highest point is at 26,247 feet above sea level, making it the highest glacier on earth. Glaciers are pretty terrifying on their own, the sheer height combined with the unstable nature of the ground below would make peering over the edge of any glacier a truly startling experience. Now, imagine that but over 26,000 feet above the ground and the way down being obscured by jagged rocks and unforgiving ice. If you were ever to reach the top of the Khumbu Glacier, the last thing you would consider doing is looking down. But if you did, you would be met with a truly petrifying sight.
7. Angel Falls (Venezuela)
Another spectacular landmark, we head to South America for our next entrant. Angel Falls cascades off the side of the Auyán-tepui mountain in Venezuela. Angel Falls holds the record as the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall; the total height of the waterfall is 3,212 feet and contains two drops, the tallest of which is 2,648 feet. The identity of the first man to fly a plane over the Angel Falls, American aviator Jimmie Angel, after whom the Falls were named after. Angel Falls is firmly embedded in popular culture as the tallest waterfall in the world and there are many hopeful adventurers who have dreamed of standing at the very top of them. However, when you consider the 3,000 foot drop and rushing torrent of water that would engulf you on the way down, you may have a slight change of heart.
6. Burj Khalifa (Dubai)
Our first man-made structure is in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is home to the gargantuan Burj Khalifa, an enormous skyscraper that holds many records in the world of architecture. As well as being the largest man-made structure on Earth (and indeed ever built) at 828 meters high. The building also holds the record for the world’s tallest freestanding structure, the tallest residential building, the most floors, world’s highest observation deck, the world’s highest nightclub, the world’s highest restaurant and the world’s second highest swimming pool.
Since its official opening in 2010, the Burj Khalifa has been a dominating feature of the ever-expanding Dubai skyline, helping to attract attention, and tourists, to one of the fastest growing countries in the world. A truly remarkable feat of human engineering, the tower is as incredible to behold as it is scary to imagine standing on the observation deck. Just be glad there is a deck, it’s a long way down.
5. Gateway Arch (Missouri)
Missouri’s capital, St. Louis, is where you can find the Gateway Arch. The first idea for the arch came in 1933, however, after years of construction issues, the building was delayed until the 1960s. After even more delays throughout the construction process, the arch’s completion date was finally moved forward by US President at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson. The opening ceremony took place on October 28, 1965.
The arch stands tall at 630 feet, making it the largest arch in the world, not to mention the Western hemisphere’s largest monument. Imagine standing on top of the famous arch and looking straight down, with 630 feet of air between you and the St. Louis sidewalk. Pretty chilling, huh?
4. Baldwin Street (New Zealand)
Forget huge buildings, giant mountains and tumbling waterfalls, our next entrant is a residential street in New Zealand. Baldwin Street in the New Zealand town of Dunedin makes the list not for height, but for steepness. The street is the steepest residential street in the world, with a 35% incline (or an incline of 19 degrees). Baldwin Street and the surrounding roads are amongst the steepest in the world, but Baldwin is the winner of that slightly dubious honour.
It is interesting to know that three men were charged with disorderly behaviour in 2009 for taking rides down the steep street in a cooler attached to the back of a car. Worse is when a local student was killed when rolling down the street in a wheelie bin in 2001. Knowing that a single slip could send you tumbling down this unforgiving street might just fill you with dread when looking down it.
3. Red Bull Stratos
Not a single place this time, but still a pretty terrifying look down. The Red Bull Stratos program captured the world’s attention with its ambitious attempt to have a human being break the sound barrier. The human in question, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, would be sent 24 miles (over 12,500 feet) up into the stratosphere (where the project takes its name from) and would jump out of a special capsule whilst wearing a specially designed pressure suit. After a failed attempt (due to bad weather), the jump finally took place in October 2012, 65 years to the day after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in a jet propelled air craft. After ascending the necessary distance above Roswell International Air Centre, New Mexico, Felix gave a salute and fell. After just over four minutes of plummeting, Felix deployed his parachute, but not before achieving speeds exceeding 800 mph and breaking the sound barrier, becoming the first human to do so without the assistance of mechanical power. However, this record didn’t last long as, just two years later, Felix had his record broken by the former Senior Vice President of Google. Anyway, Felix and his incredible bravery stand as an inspiration to all and proof that limits are only set by yourself. Would you have the guts to make this jump?
2. Didier Delsalle’s Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel (Nepal)
You’ve been waiting all list for it, so here it is – just not in the form you expected. Our trip to Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, comes in the form of a helicopter ride. Didier Delsalle is a French former helicopter and fighter jet pilot who made history when, in May 2005, he became the first man in history to land a helicopter at the top of Mount Everest. The flight was a perilous affair, with Delsalle constantly searching for updrafts in an attempt to propel himself up the mountain without straining his already oxygen-deprived engine. Delsalle not only had to combat winds of up to 186 mph and lack of pressure, but he also had to stay conscious during the gruelling flight as oxygen at such incredible heights was hard to come by. Eventually though, Delsalle was able to touch down atop the mighty mountain, 29,030 feet above sea level and a view that is hard to beat. Of course we can only speculate about the view, having never seen it ourselves, but Delsalle must have enjoyed it quite a bit – he went and saw it again the day after, just in case anyone thought his first landing was just down to luck. Now there’s a real daredevil. Would you leave your fate, nearly 30,000 ft. up in the air, in the hands of one man and a machine? And, more importantly, would you dare to look down?
1. Chicago Skydeck
It’s to the windy city next as we take a trip up 103 floors to the Willis Tower. Also known as the Sears Tower, the building was once the tallest in the world and, even though it lost that title in 1998, the building is still one of Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks in part to the Skydeck. The deck is a glass-bottomed room on the building’s 103rd floor that allows paying customers to experience dizzying heights, spectacular views and even witness the incredible shaking of the building that occurs in high winds. Whilst the deck is up high, you may be tempted to think that, since it is encased in supposedly unbreakable glass, that there would be nothing scary about this place. Well, think again. In 2014, a family was standing on the deck, posing for a picture, when suddenly the glass floor beneath them cracked… 1,353 feet up in the air. It’s safe to say the picture was ruined. Luckily, the glass didn’t completely break and the family escaped unscathed, although it’s they were pretty shaken up. The floor was replaced and the deck reopened, but we bet that you will think twice about going to Willis Tower now, right?