A mountain can only be officially recognised as a mountain if its summit reaches above 600 metres. But, did you know that the highest mountain in the world is not the tallest mountain in the world? The difference comes down to the method of measurement used: The world’s highest mountain is Mount Everest in Nepal, measuring 8,852 metres above sea level, but the world’s tallest mountain is Mauna Kea in Hawaii, measuring 10,200 metres from base to peak. However, only 4,205 of those metres are visible above sea level, with the rest hidden underwater.
If it is your dream to get a mountain top view of the world, the good news is that you don’t need to be a mountaineer to achieve it. With just a good level of general fitness, there are a great many mountain tops around the world within your reach—some of them ‘conquerable’ in just one day.
At a little under 1,345 metres, Ben Nevis is the United Kingdom’s highest mountain. With its rocky path zigzagging all the way up to the summit, it is a mountain that can be scaled in a day, and if you are reasonably fit, you could be standing ‘on top of the world’ in a matter of hours. An average climb to the summit takes four hours and an average return journey to the bottom takes three hours. However, it is not an ascent that should be tackled without adequate preparation. Local mountain rescue teams advise walkers to wear sturdy walking boots and carry full waterproof clothing, a hat and gloves, and energy snacks and water. They also recommend carrying a map and compass and, of course, knowing how to read it! The weather can be extremely changeable on the way up and the higher you go, the more likely it is that a thick mist may descend. But, when suitably kitted out, you can become one of the estimated 125,000 walkers who make the trip to Britain’s highest point each year, and you too can enjoy spectacular views that extend to about 200 kilometres (125 miles) when conditions are good.
Mount Baker, North America
Mount Baker is an impressive 3,285 metres high and snow covered all year round, but it is a climb that is graded as suitable for beginners to mountaineering and is an ideal location to learn glacier travel skills. This makes it a popular training ground for those with the ambition of tackling more technical mountain climbs one day.
Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain at 3,776 metres and it is perhaps one of the world’s most recognisable mountains with its iconic volcanic shape. The official climbing months are July and August, during which the trails to the summit become very crowded. Although physically demanding, the popular Yoshida Trail takes an average of five to seven hours to ascend and three to five hours to descend. Fuji is split into ten ‘stations’ with most climbs beginning from one of the four 5th stations around the mountain. The majority who climb to the summit of Fuji do so to see the sunrise, with some climbing through the night carrying torches in order to reach the top by around 4.30 am. Another way to reach the summit before dawn is to climb to a 7th or 8th station on the first day, eat and sleep for a few hours in one of the many mountain huts available, and then continue the climb to the top in the early hours of day two. Most mountain huts provide food and a bed at reasonable rates but, the higher up you go, the higher the prices become!
At 5,895 metres, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest point on the African continent. It is promoted as the highest ‘walkable’ point in the world. This is because, despite its altitude, the majority of routes to the summit are non-technical and, therefore, suitable for non-mountaineers. However, it is not a mountain you can conquer in a day, with most Kilimanjaro trips taking between five to ten days. The routes are not steep or particularly demanding to climb, but a gradual ascent is always recommended in order to limit the potential for altitude sickness. Depending on your choice of route, you might see buffalo, elephants and monkeys, and experience widely varying eco-systems with everything from lush rainforests to glaciers.
At 2,228 metres, Kosciuszko is the highest mountain on the Australian continent but it is described as a mountain summit that can be reached by ‘any man, woman or grandchild’ due to a raised metal walkway that leads visitors all the way to the top. There is also a chairlift in operation all year round. The shortest route to the summit is an easy hike of 6.5 kilometres, making it possible to complete the round trip in just three or four hours at a relaxed pace.
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