7 of the Scariest Knife-edge Mountain Ridges

See climbers (and a mountain bike rider) conquer their fears of sheer drops on these exposed ridges.
Tommy Baynard walks along a knife edge ridge, Alaska
Stunning ridgeline of Xanadu, Alaska © Corey Rich
By Tarquin Cooper

"Being on a knife-edge ridge, you get the best views," says climber and photographer Jon Griffith. That may be true, but as you'll see from some of the wildest knife-edge ridges we've found here — a steady head for heights is also required.

Wild Alaska

Where: Xanadu, Alaska
Wildness: 10
Vertigo Rating: 10

Photographer Corey Rich grabbed this shot (at top) of Tommy Baynard after topping out on a new route up the south face of Xanadu, Alaska, in 2011.

“We were traversing to a saddle where we would begin rappelling down to base camp," recalls Rich. “I snapped a few pictures of Tommy teetering his way along the lichen and ice-covered knife-edge ridge. Hayden, 21 years old and by far the youngest member of the team, had already blazed ahead."

Just at the point where they decided to rope-up, Hayden disappeared from view but miraculously caught himself in time. "We roped up and finished the traverse to the summit," adds Rich. "Unfortunately, the shots of us roped up weren't very memorable at all. This initial picture of Tommy, all alone with the rope coiled classically on his back, was among the most powerful storytelling images of the trip."


The Matterhorn

Where: Switzerland
Wildness: 7
Vertigo Rating: 10

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the iconic 14,692-foot Swiss peak, and it's clear that it's lost none of its character in the years since. The final summit ridge is as precipitous as ever.

Says Alex Cowan, whose GoPro captured this vertigo-inducing sequence: “It's definitely not a moment you want to catch a crampon," he says. "The ridge itself is very thin indeed. All I remember is being extremely focused on my footing and trying to ignore the obvious sheer drops on either side. I actually get vertigo so, needless to say, this wasn't my most comfortable moment."

Still, Cowan, Joshua Pennell and guide Remo Baltermia managed better than Edward Whymper in 1865. One of his party slipped and the rope snapped, sending four to their deaths.


Ally Swinton balancing on the knife edge ridge of the Innominata on the wild South Side of Mont Blanc.
Wild exposure on Mt Blanc's south side © Jon Griffith / Alpine Exposures

The Innominata Ridge, Mt. Blanc

Where: Mt Blanc, Italy
Wildness: 7
Vertigo rating: 9

Mt. Blanc's Innominata Ridge has attracted climbers for decades — and more recently some crazy antics from the French wingsuit flyers Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet, who flew its length having first made a high-altitude jump from nearly 33,000 feet.

It's easy to see why. It's a stunning ridge that offers jaw-dropping views — and jaw-dropping drops — in every direction. But for seasoned climbers like photographer Jon Griffith it's a sweet experience. “They're not particularly hard to climb, but you feel like you're in a wild position. The exposure can feel a bit daunting at first, but it all adds to the excitement.”


Crib Goch — The 'Red Ridge'

Where: Snowdon, Wales
Wildness: 7
Vertigo rating: 7

Don't let the small size of Wales' mountains fool you; like their rugby team, they pack a punch. Situated on the flanks of the country's highest mountain, Mt. Snowdon (3,560 ft.) is a feisty little ridge by the local name of Crib Goch — literally meaning 'red ridge' in the Welsh language.

Says local mountain rescue chairman Rob Johnson: "It's about 3,200 feet long and a classic, requiring use of your hands and a good head for heights. The team gets called out many times each year to rescue people after they have gotten stuck, often too frightened to continue. In winter with snow on the ground it becomes a classic winter mountaineering route, requiring ice axes and crampons."


The Vineyard Arete

Where: La Cresta del Palomares, Spain
Wildness: 5
Vertigo rating: 7

Situated near the vineyards of La Rioja, northern Spain, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're unlikely to find yourself on anything too vertiginous. Well, that's what photographer Crista-Lee Mitchell thought before being invited to solo this little gem during a climbing holiday.

"I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the most impressive and unbelievable knife-edge ridges that I've ever experienced, in a seemly un-mountain area," she says. "Who would have thought that this world-class wine region would offer such an incredible ridge line! To top off an amazing day we cracked open a bottle of local wine after the technical section was done and took in the view for quite a while! Olé — only in Spain!"


Climber Will Sim on the summit ridge of the Eiger in Switzerland
The summit ridge of the Eiger © Jon Griffith / Alpine Exposures

The Eiger Summit Ridge

Where: Eiger, Switzerland
Wildness: 6
Vertigo rating: 7

Look at this picture. It's hard to believe, but this is actually the easy part. It shows Will Sim after making a one-day ascent of the iconic North Face of the Eiger.

"It was really good fun," says Griffith. "It's a pretty iconic one to tick." He adds: "Over to the left spans the rest of the Oberland while to the right is the Grindelwald Valley — and beers waiting below."

We're sure they were much deserved.


Red Bull Rampage

Where: Zion National Park, Utah
Wildness: 6
Vertigo rating: 9

POV doesn't get much more eye-watering than this footage from Kelly McGarry's epic ride during Red Bull Rampage 2013. He's known for flipping huge distances, among other things, and his flip of a 72-foot-long canyon is what helped earn him second place on the podium. But just the start of his ride would freak most riders out. Knife-edge ridge singletrack — with no margin for error.

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