When we think of water bodies, mostly we imagine all low-lying “at sea level”, don’t we? But in recent times more and more lakes have been discovered which sit high above the sea level, nestled in mountain ranges. Here we have listed the top ten generally accepted highest lakes by altitude. Some of them are actually ponds but that is because the guidelines to distinguish between ponds and lakes are too confusing.
The Damavand Pool as the name suggests sits atop Mount Damavand, a volcano that according to “Shahnameh” is believed to have magical powers. This pool sits at 5,650m above sea level in the crater summit of Mount Damavand. It is frozen most of the year, but when melts during the summer to form an icy pool, it is a rare sight, due to its height and frozen nature. It is worth the climb to see the view up here at one of the highest lakes in the world.
This lake on the border of Bolivia and Chile is spectacularly beautiful. Poquentica Lake is located on the summit of an extinct volcano 5,750m above sea level. This mostly frozen lake is surrounded by a terrain full of crystals. It was discovered in 2005 as part of an expedition by Nathalie Cabrol with a team of scientists from the SETI Institute; she described this lake as “a geologist’s wonderland”.
As with most of the high altitude lakes from this list, it is not safe to climb till this lake.
In the high lying mysterious mountains of Tibet, lies Ridonglabo Lake which is equally mysterious. This lake sits at 5,801m above sea level and is formed from a melted glacier which, as global warming heats the planet up, has become a common occurrence in the Himalayas. Very little has been found about this lake apart from the fact that It is 14km away from Mt Everest and close to Ridonglabo Peak. It would need a brave and daring explorer who climbs to discover more about this gem.
Aguas Calientes Pool, in the Antofagasta region of Chile, is situated at the top of the Cerro Aguas Calientes. This is another volcanic lake, and the microorganisms live in it give it a distinctive red tinge. It sits at 5,831m above sea level but has been well explored by climbers. Along with a few neighboring volcanoes this lake is a popular destination for mountaineers. You might also find it by the name Simbad.
Bolivia/Chile border has more to give to this list. Lake Licancabur, another volcano explored by SETI team, lies a south from Poquentica and is situated at 5,916m. This mountain is divided between Chilean and Bolivian territory, but the lake is around one kilometer from the border on the Chilean side. It is much bigger than most of the lakes on such altitudes around 100m by 70m and 8m deep. This lake has been scuba dived and thoroughly explored.
This volcano, neighbor to Cerro Aguas Calientes, has its own crater pool. With the diameter of 10-15m its size might not be as impressive as is its height 5,950m and the 45 degree angle of the volcano. The volcano is believed to be extinct as there has been no known lava flows in recent times, but the curves and the terrain on the sides is enough to detract most of the skilled climbers. This pool is considered of great importance to historians.
Coming back to Tibetan lakes again, East Rongbuk Pool is a seasonal pool forms because of melting of snow. It is named after one of the Glacier that contributes to its formation, the East Rongbuk Glacier. It was found by Graham Hoyland while he was travelling with a territorial army who wanted to blow away this marvel using explosives in order to get past it. If at the right moment the holy men from monastery had not intervened to protest against destroying it this 4th highest lake sitting at 6100m might have been destroyed.
Another Glacier Changtse also creates a lake, the Changtse Pool, high up at 6216m above sea level in the Tibetan mountains. Very little is known about this lake which is said to be 180m by 230m, one of the biggest lakes at high altitude. The Changtse Peak, explored in 1924 by George Mallory’s in an ill-fated expedition from which he did not return, is linked to Mount Everest. This is another mysterious Tibetan lake, with unknown source of the water, appears on topological maps and can almost be spotted on Google Maps.
Lhagba Pool sitting at 6368m above sea level is the highest of the Himalayan lakes, located on the slopes of Everest. Not much has been discovered about this pool but it is said to be 180m by 50m. It is belived to be around 6km north and 3 km east of the summit and has very scarce oxygen.
At 6,390m above sea level, the lake is only a small crater, with a diameter of around 100m and a depth of 10m Nevado Ojos del Salado, which translates to “The Eyes of Salty Water” in English, is the highest lake in the world. Much to everyone’s surprise the highest lake in the world does not have a name of its own but borrows it from the volcano it sits upon. Even the volcano is highest on Earth and has had some recent volcanic activity like vapors and sulfuric gases leaking out. This peak is on Chile-Argentina border and can be climbed from both the sides. Though it is preferred to climb it from the Chilean side as it has more touristy, jeeps, huts and gives a luxurious feeling to this adventure. The good thing is that the highest lake in the world does not ask you to be a professional climbers for a visit and is accessible to anyone who is up for an adventure.