To tread in realms surrounded by sky. To touch the top of the world. Once the visionary pursuit of an inspired few, their conquests opened the floodgates for others to do the same.
But what happens when too many want to? When it turns into a flaunting of wealth and attaining social media validation? The surge in popularity of scaling Earth’s tallest mountain has led to catastrophic consequences from underestimating Everest’s dangers.
From mismanagement resulting in long bottlenecks to improper equipment, 11 climbers have perished on the snowy slopes this year alone. Not to mention, an increasing amount of human detritus has tarnished the pristine landscapes. Even John Oliver addressed the issue during the popular programme LastWeekTonight.
Growing calls to enforce restrictions on Everest expeditions highlight the dangers of overcrowding this sacred mountain. But it doesn’t mean you can’t scale the heavens. There are other incredible places on Earth where you can get your alpine fix, testing your endurance and reaching for the sky.
Most importantly, the views from these peaks are equally unforgettable.
Mount Fuji, Japan (3,776m, 5 – 7 hours)
A series of trails with varying difficulty levels make this mountain a popular destination for trekking beginners. Rest houses along the way provide refreshment, respite, and accommodation. Buses even help you cover some of the distance, dropping you at 5th Station. But you can begin from the torii gate and embark on the route taken by Buddhists and Shinto worshippers. For centuries, it’s been a symbolic journey from life into the beyond.
The path to the summit only opens during specific periods, so be aware when setting your travel plans.
Teapot Mountain, Taiwan (600m, 2.5 hours)
If you wish to get acquainted with the efforts of a substantial hike, this trail in Ruifang district requires some mettle-testing effort. Sun exposure and some steep scrambling are part of the climb, but otherwise, it’s still a straightforward, equipment-free ascent.
Offering multi-directional panoramas from the top, the views of the Pacific Ocean and Taiwan’s terrestrial landscapes are well worth the effort. Having completed your adventure, you might want to scale the other mountains in the region as well.
Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand (2,291m, 9 hours)
For an added spike of adrenaline to your trek, how about scaling an active stratovolcano? Made famous as Mount Doom in the Lord Of The Rings films, this jagged complex showcases New Zealand’s forbidding terrains. But there’s nothing like peering into the gaping void from the rim of the volcano.
Depending on the season, you might experience lava ribs or ice-covered slopes, which are both potentially treacherous. So ensure you’ve got the necessary equipment and know-how, and you’ll be ready for some epic views.
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The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu, Peru (4 days)
Another hiking tour that doesn’t require sophisticated equipment, you’ll still need to pack smart and bring loads of determination. You’ll embark on cliff-side trails overlooking the vast beauty of Peru’s sharp, overlapping valleys, and sleep under vivid starry skies.
Along the way, you’ll get to see incredible remnants of the Incan civilisation. And as your journey ends amid one of the seven wonders of the world, you’ll find the journey was just as wondrous. Note that access to the trail is limited to 500 persons a day, so plan your booking early to get a slot.
Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia (4,095m, 2 days)
A well-known climbing location in Sabah, Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain is very accessible and an excellent starting experience for novice climbers. You get the thrill of staying overnight (which is mandatory) and making the ascent to the summit in the dead of night, before witnessing a glorious sunrise.
Kinabalu also fills you with a newfound drive as the jungle environment gradually thins out the higher you get. You’ll also be bewildered by the sheer power of the porters as they overtake you with ease, laden with goods to be brought to the base camp.
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Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (5,895m, 5 – 9 days)
The tallest mountain in Africa is an imposing monolith towering across the plains, providing a stark contrast with its rocky, barren slopes. There are several routes to scale, depending on your level of mountaineering ability. But you will be spending nights camping out in the frigid, windswept landscape, acclimatising as you rest.
Kilimanjaro’s success statistics show that many underestimate the rigours of the trek, so prepare yourself beforehand, and you’ll be rewarded with an experience few get to savour.
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Mount Khuiten, Mongolia (4,374m, 1 – 2 weeks)
If you’ve caught the mountaineering bug and are seeking expeditions requiring time, equipment and skills, this remote mountain is worth the trip. Getting to Khuiten itself will already demands days of travelling, but in addition to scaling the snow-capped slopes of the China-Mongolia border, you also get the privilege of traversing sweeping, untouched plains as you make your way to Khuiten itself.
From scenes of wild horses to glacial crevasses, this is a journey that crosses various landscapes and awakens the realms of the imagination.
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Torres del Paine, Argentina (7 – 9 days)
The southern region of Argentina, also known as the ‘End of The Earth’, holds an expanse of breathtaking vistas and is gorgeous everywhere you look. You’ll find plenty of trails and hiking adventures for you to experience.
The Fitz Roy Trek or Tierra del Fuego National Park are particularly impressive. But to test yourself against the full power of Patagonia’s landscapes, this week-long trek takes you through forests, steppes and ice fields on an otherworldly escapade.
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Damavand, Iran (5,610m, 4 – 5 days)
For more serious climbers, scaling Iran’s highest stratovolcano is an opportunity to experience all the logistics of a proper climb. From porter hires to planning your acclimatisation periods, fret not as you can find guided packages to help with the arrangements.
Immortalised in Iranian folklore and with breathtaking beauty to match, the route from the Caspian Sea to the Roof of Iran is an undoubtedly vigorous undertaking, but will reward you with every step.
Denali, USA (6,190m, 2 – 3 weeks)
If you’ve proven yourself against other peaks and are ready for a new challenge, this Alaskan giant dares you to rise to the occasion. Just as dangerous as Everest, Denali Peak requires proper planning and execution.
The challenge that awaits can be daunting for even the most seasoned climbers. But a variety of stunning views await across the trek and linger in the memory.
With responsible agencies organising expeditions, sustainable climbing experiences are a priority, so you’ll be taught the proper protocols and restrictions. But if the peak is too challenging for you, the National Park is still worth a visit for the magnificent tundra vistas.
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Few things are as profoundly satisfying as reaching the peak of a mountain through perseverance and will. Many, invigorated by their first climb, have turned this into a lifelong passion, picking up mountaineering skills and techniques along the way.
As with all climbing expeditions, it pays to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the exertions ahead. Book your climb with established and environmentally-conscious agencies, and show respect by managing your litter and packing patience. Love these mountains, and they will give you back so much more, while ensuring these geological titans are protected for future generations to enjoy.