See Everest, K2, Matterhorn, and Other Giant Peaks as Never Before
Scientists at the German Aerospace Center are using satellite data to create incredibly precise, photorealistic views of the tallest mountains on earth.
In September 2010, after hearing mountain climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner talk about the difficulties of a recent expedition up K2, one being gaps in her knowledge of the terrain, earth scientist Stefan Dech had an idea to turn satellite data into a three-dimensional map of the mountain.
Two months later, Dech, a director at Germany's Earth Observation Center, found himself in an animation lab, "flying" over the Baltoro Glacier to the summit of K2, then turning around and looking down the north ridge, into the Shaksgam Valley below. The new imagery gave an unprecedented level of precision for scientists—and future climbers—to see every position, every upward trail, and every possible route for a virtual climb along to the summit, the most difficult of all the 8,000-meter peaks.
In the years since, he and his colleagues have collaborated with their French counterpart, the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and the Airbus Group to take data from the Pléiades satellites and create intricate terrain models of 13 mountains in all. These models have been turned into photorealistic views from perspectives and heights never possible before.
Now they are all collected in a new book, Mountains: Mapping the Earth’s Extremes (Thames & Hudson, 2016). Inside, Bech writes that it will “give nature-lovers, mountain-lovers, and ambitious climbers a new and inspiring way to access to the great mountains of the world without leaving their armchairs.” Here's a sample.