Mountaineering is an incredible sport. It requires strength, determination, agility and courage. The feeling of suspension when you’re so far from the ground is exhilarating. Take yourself to new heights at our favourite places to climb.
1. Mount Everest
Where? The Himalayas, Nepal
Let’s compare: That’s 84.2 football pitches
Slightly optimistic, we hear you say, but let’s start big. At 29,029ft above sea level, Everest is the world’s tallest mountain. It was first conquered in 1953 and since then there have only been 2,500 climbs. You’ll have to travel to the heart of the Himalayas and obtain a permit first but if your climb is successful, you would join the world’s privileged elite. For those of you who want a slightly lesser – but no less spectacular challenge – then we’d recommend the trek to Everest base camp. The famous 12 day adventure features less technical climbing but you can still enjoy the superb views of Everest and surrounding peaks. Not bad eh?
2. The Matterhorn
Where? The Alps, Swiss/Italian border
Let’s Compare: That’s 46.6 Big Bens
This famous pyramid-shaped mountain is one of the most popular mountains to climb in the world…it has a worthy place on our list. It towers over Zermatt, a resort bustling with activity all year round. Many climbers flock here in summer as it is the best time of year to tackle the summit. You do not have to be an experienced climber to venture to the summit; the popular Horni Ridge or Lion routes feature huts, ladders and fixed ropes all the way. We like the sound of that…however, if you want to test your skill, then the North Face or Furggen ridge will do just that. Don’t be fooled by any sunshine when you set off – the Matterhorn’s isolated position means it is subject to violent changes in weather conditions.
Where? Tanzania, Africa
Let’s Compare: That’s 196.6 blue whales
This spectacular mountain is unique in more ways than one. Firstly, its flat top makes it ideal for a well-deserved rest at the top, and secondly, you don’t need much technical equipment or experience to conquer its heights. What do you need? A good level of physical fitness…and a camera, because you’ll encounter breath-taking landscape changes as you move from lush forest to expanses of moorland to vast alpine desert. Finally, when you near the summit, you’ll sight the Kibo crater at 2.4km wide and 182m deep.
Where? Himalayas, Nepal
Let’s Compare: That’s 24.9 Eiffel Towers
Back to the Himalayas for another giant. First climbed in 1950 by an expedition of French climbers, Annapurna was the tallest mountain climbed until Sir Edmund Hilary and co mastered Everest six years later. The Annapurna range has six peaks and in terms of captivating geological and cultural diversity, it’s difficult to beat. Mountain passes, blazing sunsets, bamboo forests – it’s worth a visit, so plan your trip between April and October when the conditions are best.
Where? Karakoram Range, Chinese/Pakistan border
Let’s Compare: That’s 775.7 double decker buses
K2 may be 237m lower than Everest but it is actually more difficult to climb, with only a few hundred having conquered its towering peak. It is also incredibly remote – you can’t nip out to get bread or a beer like you can from the box stores in the villages near Everest. If you make it to the K2 base camp, the next town is over 200 miles away! Your journey will begin with a treacherous drive, followed by an 8 day hike before you even reach the mountain. K2 isn’t for the faint-hearted.
6. Mount Elbrus
Where? Caucasus Mountains, European/Asian border
Let’s Compare: That’s 24 of the world’s highest bungee jumps
The highest peak in Europe is a sprawling double-caned volcano as well as a melting pot of ethnic diversity. Elbrus is not technically difficult, making it the easiest climb in the region (an inexperienced climber can make their way up the glaciated double-summit without much difficulty). However, like the Matterhorn, conditions change quickly and around 20 people die on Elbrus each year because they are ill-equipped. Don’t let this be you…you’ll need crampons and an ice axe for this climb, and make sure don’t forget your sunglasses either.
7. Mount Khuiten
Where? Mongolia/Chinese border
Let’s Compare: That’s 1.6 Golden Gate bridges
Around half the height of nearby giants such as K2 and Everest but what it lacks in height it makes up for in isolation! Khuiten is one of the least accessible mountains and to reach it, trekkers must venture across one of the most intrepid regions on Earth – these vast, golden landscapes mark the beginning of an incredible journey and if you’re lucky, your adventure group may have arranged to shuttle you to the mountain on a camel. But back to the climbing…it requires a degree of skill as it is technical in places, particularly as the route to the top takes in many glaciers.
8. Mount McKinley (Denali)
Where? Denali National Park, Alaska
Let’s Compare: That’s 203.2 of the world’s longest limousine
This mountain is worth climbing firstly because it’s the tallest in North America, and secondly because the elevation gain from base to apex is unique – at 18,000ft/5,490m it is unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Its majestic beauty generates spectacular new views with each leg of the climb and its beauty generates a magnetism which draws in alpinists from around the world. A physical and demanding ascent requiring intermediate mountaineering skills will take you to Denali’s snowy peak.
9. Cilaltépetl and Iztaccíhuatl
Elevation? 18,405ft/5,610m and 17,159ft/5,230m
Let’s Compare: That’s 1937.3 and 1806.2 red telephone boxes
The third and seventh highest mountains in North America respectively are two extinct volcanoes which tower over the Mexican countryside, south-west of the city. Conditions here are most amenable October to April but even then climbers will need experienced mountaineering skills; acclimatisation alone can take up to three days. Vertical ice walls created by glaciers will have ice-climbers cheering, but please, ice-axes down first.
Where? Elburz Mountains, Iran
Let’s Compare: That’s approximately 2.4 times the length of the smallest channel island
Iran’s highest volcanic peak is also significant in Persian mythology as the symbol of Iranian resistance against foreign rule in poetry and literature. The culture and landscape will blow you away (metaphorically we hope) no matter which of the 16 routes to the summit you choose. Some of the more difficult routes require skilful rock climbing, but the most popular is the Southern Route which has a midway camp. If you are partial to a spectacular sunset, then the Western Route is famous for it. So long as the volcano doesn’t erupt (it’s ‘potentially active’) and you keep a safe distance from the bears and leopards, then we’re sure you’ll have a trip to remember.
Whichever peak you opt for, remember to take out suitable Trekking Insurance to cover you for every eventuality.