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This post was edited by Cicci at 2012-3-15 13:10|
By Lauren Zumbach
Climbing pioneer George Mallory scaled some of the world’s biggest peaks “because they’re there.” But with so many mountains and so little time, how does a climber know where to start?
We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of picking the perfect peak, so whether you’re the next Sir Edmund Hillary or more of a mountain man wannabe, you can focus on reaching the summit.
1. Hardcore junkies: K2, Pakistan/China
"So, who wants to go first?"
Everest may be taller, but real mountaineers know no peak on the planet beats K2 for sheer intensity. If you need an introduction, odds are you should stick to admiring it from afar.
This 8,611-meter Himalayan giant, dubbed the “Savage Mountain,” is considered the world's toughest, with routes harder than Everest's and weather that's even more brutally cold and unpredictable.
For every four climbers who reach the summit, one dies trying, and female climbers beware: the peak is said to be “cursed,” as three of the five women to conquer the summit died on the descent.
If that doesn't scare you off, you're either good enough to belong, or crazy enough to try anyway. Succeed, and you'll have earned the right to tell aspiring climbers that Everest is for wimps. If you're a cheater, head for Mount K2 instead, a decidedly friendlier Canadian peak with a name that will fool your less savvy friends.
Where to start: No question here -- any serious K2 summit bid will be with an expedition, who'll take care of the details. Be wary if they sign you up for a winter ascent, as it's never been successfully climbed when the weather turns even more brutal than usual. Unless you're just that hardcore, that is.
Adventure Peaks; +44 (0)1539 433794; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.adventurepeaks.com/expeditions/k2.htm
Amical Alpine; email@example.com; www.amical.de/expeditionstagebuecher
2. Couch potatoes: Bromo, Indonesia
You could even climb it twice if you wanted.
Who said climbing a mountain has to involve breaking a sweat? If the mere thought of hiking sets your heart pounding, head to Indonesia’s Bromo-Tengger National Park, where catching a glimpse of the volcano’s lunar-like beauty requires barely more effort than it would to pull up a photo on your laptop.
At 2,782 meters, the slightly taller Panajakan, which offers the best view in the Bromo area, may not have the stature of other peaks on this list, but when you can hire a four-wheel drive to take you within five meters of the summit for a sunrise view of the steaming Bromo National Park volcanoes and surrounding Sea of Sands, all while enjoying tea and barbecued corn on the cob at a peaktop warung, who’s going to quibble about a few thousand meters’ difference?
Where to start: Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is most often accessed from nearby Cemero Lawang, the closest village and park entry point, where you’ll need to pay 25,000 rupiah (US$2.80).
Cemero Lawang and other nearby villages have good hostel accommodations -- try Lava View Lodge or Café Lava -- but tours are easily arranged in many East Java cities as well. Try to avoid weekends, when easy access means big crowds.
Global Adventure Indonesia; (Café Lava and Lava View Lodge); +62 354 391163; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://globaladventureindonesia.com/cafe-lava
Bromo Iljen Tours; +62 333 774 5081; www.bromoijentours.com/tour
3. Purists: Matterhorn, Switzerland
So good, they modeled a chocolate bar after it.
Some say the Matterhorn has been overcome by tourism as guiding companies made the peak accessible to anyone. But if you want to go back to the birthplace of mountaineering, this 4,480-meter Swiss peak -- the most recognizable in Europe, jutting high above the surrounding Alps -- is the place to be.
Climb with any of the guiding companies on the peak today and you'll be roughing it a bit less than the first ascenders (think real gear and well-maintained huts along the Hornli Ridge with food decidedly more attractive than your standard freeze-dried trail dinner), but you'll still be following in the footsteps of the hardy few who created the sport.
To get a feel for the long mountaineering history you'll be joining, check out the Matterhorn museum at the base, but save it for after your successful ascent -- it contains nearly as many homages to failed Matterhorn attempts as the Zermatt Cemetary.
Where to start: Zermatt is your base camp for a Matterhorn climb, and it's easy to find a guide or any equipment you need in this town, which may not feel as traditional as purists would like, but caters to the skier/climber crowd perfectly.
Take a cable car to Schwartzsee and spend the night in Hornli Hut on Hornli Ridge before rising early for a long but single-day ascent that will leave you time to explore the rest of the Swiss Alps. To avoid feeling like you're being herded up the mountain, avoid the high season from mid-June to late-August.
Adventure Consultants; + 1 866 757 8722; email@example.com; www.adventureconsultants.com
Alpine Ascents; +1 206 378 1927; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.alpineascents.com/matterhorn.asp
4. Aspiring Ansels: Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, Argentina
Don't forget your camera, and don't forget to use it.
No ascent is complete without the victory shot that proves you made it to the top, but climb Fitzroy and Cerro with a photographer and they'll get so caught up in these Patagonian peaks' otherworldly scenery you'll have to remind them you're here to climb the peaks, not just stand back in awe.
You'll have to work for the perfect shot -- not only is Patagonia's weather notoriously fickle, Fitzroy is no walk in the park. Technical climbing skills for rock and ice are a must on any route, and if its 3,375 meters make it a relative dwarf, it's still no trophy peak.
Catch a view of the granite spires reaching skyward, though, and it will more than make up for the challenge. For those who are more photographer than climber, nearby Cerro Torre offers scenery nearly as epic, with none of the technical work.
Where to start: You'll rack up some flyer miles getting here -- Buenos Aires to El Calafte, though LADE, an airline operated by the Argentinian air force, offers cheap flights if you book far enough ahead. Hop on a bus from in El Calafte and enjoy the adventurous four-hour ride to El Chalten, the most common home base for Fitzroy ascents. You'll also need to pick up a (free) climbing permit at the national park office in El Chalten.
Andes; +44 1556 603929; email@example.com; www.andes.org.uk
American Alpine Institute; +1 360 671 1505; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.aai.cc
5. Families: Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
You may even spot Simba from the top.
Kilimanjaro’s family-friendly draw isn’t the safari surroundings, though "Lion King" lovers young and old will no doubt delight in the wildlife sightings.
If you’re planning to bring the whole family on your next mountain adventure, Kilimanjaro has a relatively low minimum age -- 10 years -- compared to other summits of its stature, and though the thin air at 5,895 meters is a challenge, multiple walk-up routes make it a good pick for budding mountaineers.
It’s also the top pick for sheer diversity in the sights along the way. You’ll travel through five different climactic zones en route to the “roof of Africa” and if you follow the Machame route, you'll likely see a wide range of wildlife too -- although many guides also offer safaris as an end-of-climb addition that will appeal to all ages.
Where to start: Anyone climbing Kilimanjaro must use a local guide, but with literally hundreds of companies offering expeditions, you should have no trouble finding one that fits your needs. This is a trip to plan ahead for -- you'll need a hefty dose of vaccinations and a visa to enter Tanzania, but one-of-a-kind Kilimanjaro is worth it. If you're a stickler for the details, make sure you reach the top of the highest of the highest of the three extinct volcanoes that form the peak, Uhuru.
Adventure Consultants; +1 866 757 8722; email@example.com; www.adventureconsultants.com
Alpine Ascents; +1 206 378 1927; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.alpineascents.com
International Mountain Guides; +1 360 569 2609; email@example.com; www.mountainguides.com