If Everest has you running for the hills, stop.
Just because you don’t have it in you to risk your life like Rob Hall and Beck Weathers, it doesn’t mean you can’t climb. Mountains are often associated with hard-core hikers and lifelong-trained risk-takers but we’re going to let you in on a little secret: a mountain is anything that is taller than 1,000 feet, and the basis of hiking is walking. So, if you climb anything higher than 1,000 feet by just putting one foot in front of the other all the way to the top, you can call yourself a mountaineer.
Now, we aren’t saying it’s easy. What we are saying is that there are other mountains out there besides Everest, and you don’t have to conquer the toughest one to earn the title of Mountain Climber.
If you’ve never had the euphoric feeling of conquering a beast—no matter how big or small—here’s a list of the best places to experience it in.
Snowdon is a secret treasure in the heart of Wales that can be conquered with a bit of stamina and excellent footwear. The mountain will win you over with its outstanding scenery and varying paths, from perfectly laid out cobbled trails to almost vertical steps leading to breath-taking landscapes (pictured at top). There are several routes to choose from—including a steam train that will take you right to the top but where’s the fun in that? All have their own challenges and adventures but most can be accomplished in about three hours. At least, that’s what you’ll be telling yourself when you’re about to quit after a two-hour climb and suddenly see elderly people and children beating you to the top. Did we mention there is an actual cafe at the top serving cake? Now that’s a reason to conquer a mountain.
New Zealand’s varying landscapes and mountainous scenery makes it an ideal place for some adventure. Stony Bay Peak, at the heart of the South Island’s seaside town Akaroa, is a family-friendly climb for a day trip around the bay area. The 2,624-foot high peak is no Mount Everest and that’s exactly what makes it so interesting. It’s high enough that you’ll feel you’ve conquered the world but not so hard that you have to prep for years and pack everything but the kitchen sink. If you’re anything like us and have never touched climbing equipment in your life and would like to keep it that way while still looking like the ultimate bad*ss, Stony Bay Peak is the one for you. Expect to see mountain peaks with lush green forests surrounded by clear blue seaside and picture perfect postcard views with a little bit of sweaty effort but no blood or tears.
The Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is a beautiful cornerstone of California’s hiking trails. It’s a part of the Yosemite landscape, which is infamously drilled into every hard-core hiker’s memory. Do not be fooled though—it’s not an easy victory. First you have to go through an application process that’s more like a lottery just to be able to climb up the 8,839-foot giant and after that you need to physically conquer the 16-mile trail. Needless to say, this one is for the physically fit with no fear of heights, as it takes an average of 12 hours to climb and descend. The waterfalls, stunning forests and endless view over the flat top of this giant beauty are worth the trek, though.
Photo: Rahman Roslan/Getty
Mount Kinabalu has a tough shell to crack, but once you do, you get an outstanding view over the Borneo island. Out of the climbs on this list, it requires the most preparation and time. Just like with Half Dome, you will need to apply for a permit and book two days for the conquest but no mountaineering equipment is required, just a pair of hiking shoes and some guts. An official guide will be there every step of the way and each of those steps will take you closer to the mountain’s heart, which will open up to you once you’ve earned it.
If you were to use the term “out of this world” to describe something, Mauna Kea would be it. This one million year old dormant volcano 13,796 feet above sea level is something so special you can appreciate its beauty just by looking at photos of it. If you truly want to be blown out of the water, pack your bags and spend a day hiking up the volcano, because, the sky’s the limit. Actually, it’s not. Once you reach the summit, you will be above the clouds trapped in the white fluffy scenery. If you are a fan of stargazing, stick around—the top is a perfect location for astronomical observations, which is why there are several different kinds of telescopes up there.
Elina Eronen Piper is a creative freelance writer, a curious soul and an imaginative wordsmith with a love for unique travel experiences, Scandinavian design and salty liquorice. She has written for the likes of Expedia Finland, REVS, Costume and ELLE Finland.