The kind of people who summit Mount Everest make it look a lot easier than it is. Those who summit it more than once make it look like a walk in the park. Take, for instance, 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura, who recently became the oldest person to summit the world’s highest peak. This was Miura’s third summit, with his trusty rival, an 81-year-old Nepalese climber, not far behind him.
On the other hand, even if you’re like most of the people on this planet and you have a pretty good feeling you’ll never set foot on the peak of Everest, that doesn’t mean you have to swear off mountain climbing altogether. There are plenty of mountains around the world that are a heck of a lot more accessible than Everest, and just as rewarding to climb (well, unless you’re Yuichiro Miura, perhaps).
The first thing you need to keep in mind that while absolutely superior physical condition is necessary for climbing Mount Everest, you still need to be at a pretty darn good fitness level to engage in even beginner-level mountaineering. But when you’re sussing a mountain to climb for the first time, take into consideration the infrastructure that exists (trails, chains, ropes, etc.), the kind of terrain you’ll be on, how busy it is, how long it takes to reach the top, and how high the summit is (the higher it is, the thinner the air).
To get yourself prepared, it’s worth taking a mountaineering course to learn the basics. Check with your closest Mountain Equipment Co-op for local courses.
Top 10 mountain climbs for regular folks
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: It’s the 4th highest mountain in the world but thanks to relatively low-grade slopes, it’s possible for beginners to summit. A trip up will take about 5-7 days.
- Mount Baker, Washington: This dormant volcano can be seen all the way in Southwestern BC and all of the guide services on the mountain provide 2-day training to climbers.
- Machu Picchu, Peru: There are easier ways to get to this awesome mountaintop Inca site, but the classic route by foot along the Inca Trail is easy enough for beginners and makes the view up top all the more rewarding.
- Annapurna, Nepal: This is a section of the Himalayas (where you’ll find Everest) but it’s not quite as high nor as challenging, plus it offers accommodation options en route and incredible views.
- Lookout Peak, California: This is one of the easier mountain hikes in the Sierra Nevadas with huge panoramic views awaiting at the top.
- Mount Fuji, Japan: This iconic Japanese mountain doesn’t require any special technical skills to summit, though the hike to the top will take you 4 to 8 hours.
- Table Mountain, South Africa: This flat-top mountain doesn’t have a clear summit to speak of, but it can still be climbed. It takes about 2.5 hours to get up and there are plenty of trails up top to extend your trek.
- Castle Mountain, Banff National Park: This impressive castle-like mountain between Banff and Lake Louise can be summited in a long 12-hour day hike.
- Mount Elbrus, Russia: This is a dormant volcano in Russia and the highest peak in Europe but still relatively easy to summit, though the air is thin up top.
- Grouse Grind, Vancouver: Some Vancouverites summit Grouse Mountain on a weekly basis, but it’s still a pretty tough slog to the top, though ideal for fit people with limited hiking experience. Plus there’s a bar at the top and a gondola to take you back down.