Hiking is about more than exercise or putting one foot in front of the other for days on end. It’s about a life-changing experience that requires careful planning, physical and mental preparation, and respect for the environment and local communities.
The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the World’s Tallest Mountains reveals the best routes and awe-inspiring mountain views that await hikers on these epic excursions.
Straddling the peaks of Nepal and Tibet, Everest is the world’s tallest mountain. It’s known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and Chomolungma in Tibetan. It was officially recognized as the world’s highest peak in 1852 by the governmental Survey of India.
One of the most significant challenges for climbers is altitude sickness. The air at the summit is a fraction of its pressure at sea level, which can cause a number of ailments, from fatigue to headaches.
To avoid this, climbers must acclimatize by spending time at different elevations throughout the trek. This process can take several weeks and requires patience. Climbers also face dangerous weather conditions, such as winds and snow storms.
One of Africa’s Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro is a snow-capped mountain that promises to take you to a place where craters fill with snow above sweeping plains trodden by elephant herds. It’s also unique in that it isn’t considered an uber-hard climb in terms of technicality, making it accessible to a wide range of hikers.
The mountain is divided into several climate zones, ranging from the tropical and humid rainforest to the hot and dry moorland and alpine desert zones. As you rise through the zone system, animal and plant life disappears and eventually you reach the summit or Arctic zone, a barren region dominated by ice and rock.
Although it does not top the list of the highest mountains in the world, Elbrus is a popular peak for hikers and mountaineers. Located in the Caucasus Mountains near the Russia/Georgia border, the two peaks of this dormant volcano feature permanent ice caps and 22 glaciers that feed into surrounding rivers.
Despite being an extinct volcano, Elbrus retains its conical shape and gently sloping profile. Its asymmetrical structure features two summits with the western peak higher in elevation than its eastern sibling, with a saddle between them.
Climbing Mount Elbrus requires a high level of fitness, proper training and acclimatization. During the summer months of June through September, climbers have their best chances of successfully climbing the mountain.
Located in the Andes of Argentina, Mount Aconcagua is one of the world’s tallest mountains. It is also the highest summit outside of Asia and is a popular mountain for experienced hikers looking to challenge themselves with a high altitude climb.
While Aconcagua is not a technically difficult mountain, it requires a good level of fitness and some experience with high altitude trekking. Climbers should plan to spend several weeks on the mountain to allow adequate time for acclimatization.
This magnificent peak offers stunning mountain scenery and is home to some fascinating archaeological finds. A mummified seven-year old boy from an Inca sacrificial practice was discovered on the mountain in 1985.
The peak of Chimborazo is Ecuador’s highest mountain, and a must-climb for any serious climber. Its unique feature is that it is the farthest point from the center of Earth – not measured by pure elevation, but rather by a measurement using the Earth’s bulge and flattened surface.
The normal route to the summit is a class 4 climb and requires ice climbing skills as well as navigating crevasses. For this reason, most climbers spend time acclimatizing on nearby peaks such as Cayambe before tackling the standard route to the Whymper Refuge.
The mountain is surrounded by a vast wildlife reserve that includes alpacas, vicunas, and llamas.
Khan Tengri is one of the highest peaks in the Tian Shan range and is on the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan-China border east of Lake Issyk Kul. Its geologic elevation is 6995m, but its glacial cap rises to 7000 m making it one of the five Snow Leopard Peaks of the former Soviet Union.
It is known as ‘Lord of the Sky’ or ‘Blood Mountain’ in some languages because the marble in its rock glows red during sunset. It is a very challenging mountain due to its high altitude and harsh conditions.
It is possible to summit this mountain during the winter though it requires special preparations. The best starting point is Almaty in Kazakhstan which has good climbing infra structure and accomodation.