What, exactly, is the attraction of mountain tops? “The danger of climbing mountains is part of what makes it a powerful and enriching experience,” writes mountaineer and author, Conrad Anker, for National Geographic. “… Beyond the bare essentials — bravery, endurance and teamwork — the recipe for getting to the summit has been tweaked continually… But what has not changed is the principle that climbing a peak is more than just reaching a summit.” Anker concludes his piece with George Mallory’s take on climbing: “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life.” Mallory was the legendary British mountaineer who succumbed to Everest’s treacherous slopes in 1924.
For those with a head for heights, an adventurous spirit and a decent level of fitness — but who perhaps lack the climbing skills of Sir Ed — Verve brings you a collection of some of the world’s most wondrous peaks whose summits are surmountable on foot.
Ben Nevis, UNITED KINGDOM
Britain’s highest point, Ben Nevis, rises 1,344m from Scotland’s Grampian Mountain range. Known locally as ‘The Ben’, this somewhat unusually shaped mountain attracts around 150,000 trekkers each year, with the summit walk, known as the Mountain Track, stretching 16km and taking about eight hours to complete. The name comes from the Scottish Gaelic Beinn Nibheis, which translates as ‘malicious mountain’. Indeed, it suffers some of Scotland’s worst weather conditions and walkers should be well prepared. The north face is also home to a collection of the United Kingdom’s highest cliffs and a mecca for ice climbers. The ruins of an observatory, which closed in 1904, rest at the summit.
Cradle Mountain, Australia
Few areas better exemplify the rugged wonder of Tasmania than the stunning Lake St Clair National Park, home to the incredible 1.5km-high Cradle Mountain. Named, obviously, for its resemblance to a crib — babe and all — the summit offers a 360-degree panoramic view of a Jurassic landscape and the park’s glacially formed namesake lake. Allow for an eight-hour return trip on the summit track and look out for some alternate route options available on the way back down.
Table Mountain, South Africa
There are a staggering 350 differing routes to the summit of the fabled flat-topped South African peak that is Table Mountain and more than 900 if you count the climbs. The path through Platteklip Gorge is the oldest and most direct one with the summit surmountable in as little as two hours. But it’s a tough slog. The 1,086m mountain is among the world’s most iconic owing to its unique plateau shape; its ‘tabletop’ stretches for an astonishing 3km, edged by Devil’s Peak to the east and the western Lion’s Head.
The danger of climbing mountains
is part of what makes it a powerful and enriching experience…
Mount Fuji, Japan
Japan’s highest and most fabled peak, Mount Fuji, is an active volcano which last erupted in 1707 and 1708. Resting 100km south-west of Tokyo, it rises, often through clouds, to 3,776m. This is one of the world’s most beautiful mountains, whose peak season lasts from July until August, when there is little snow and the weather is relatively calm. More-experienced hikers may still be able to scale its summit through to late September but, after then, extreme winds, snow, ice and the risk of avalanches make Mount Fuji a no-go.
Mount Huashan, China
Mount Huashan, near the site of China’s legendary Terracotta Warriors, is one of the nation’s five ‘Great Mountains’ and has been of spiritual significance for thousands of years. Many of the trails’ stone steps were carved out by nuns, monks and pilgrims. The mountain splits into five peaks: its southern one stands highest at 2,160m and there is also a ‘skywalk’ — widely considered the world’s most dangerous tourist route — which consists mainly of wooden ledges affixed to one of the mountain’s sheer cliff faces. No exact figures are available but many have died hiking Huashan’s notorious paths with their ominous titles, such as the ‘Thousand-Foot Precipice’, ‘Hundred-Foot Crevice’ and ‘Black Dragon Ridge’, not offering too much in the way of reassurance.
Mount Sinai, Egypt
Follow in the footsteps of Moses with a hike up the 2,285m Mount Sinai, the site upon which he received the Ten Commandments. Supposedly. Two tracks take trekkers to the top: Siket El Bashait affords a longer, shallower stroll of around two-and-a-half hours while Siket Sayidna Musa provides the steeper ‘steps of penitence’ — 3,750 in total. The ancient Saint Catherine’s Monastery, a Unesco World Heritage Site, rests at the monolith’s base while on top is a functioning Muslim mosque, a Greek Orthodox chapel and the ruins of a church.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Africa’s highest peak is not for faint-hearted hikers; its 5,891m summit means a real risk of serious and potentially fatal altitude sickness throughout this multi-day trek. Kilimanjaro, also the highest free-standing (not part of a range) mountain on Earth, incorporates three volcanic cones, two of which are extinct; the other, its highest, last erupted two centuries ago. The stunning slopes are home to both rain forest and alpine desert, culminating in a snow-kissed arctic top. The ‘Coca-Cola Route’ is the most popular way up, with mountain huts dotted along its path.
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces