How to

16 June 2016

The Best Mountaineering Trips for Beginners

To someone with no experience, mountain climbing can seem like an exciting and utterly terrifying prospect in equal measure. Think about all the things you read about climbing expeditions, the films, the books, they’re all about people staring death in the face in some way or another, which isn’t exactly something you want to be doing on your holiday. On the other hand, those views.

So, where to begin? The difference between a hill and an actual, factual mountain is something of an abstract one, but typically anything more than 300 metres high is a mountain. That being said, Mount Wycheproof in Australia is regarded as a mountain, despite only being 43 metres tall. In mountaineering terms, it becomes a matter of challenge and reward, and there are plenty of mountains dotted around the world which are kind to the uninitiated, but offer all the splendour of the more punishing expeditions.

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Snowdon – 1,085 Metres – Wales

Ben Nevis might be the tallest peak in the UK, but it is not beginner friendly, apart from a reliably overcrowded seasonal tourist route. Low visibility and sharp drops make it something of a treacherous undertaking. Despite being only 250 metres lower, Snowdon is far easier. Depending on which of the routes you take, it takes between 3 and 4 hours to summit, and you can do it almost year round, weather permitting. You’re unlikely to see any snow at the peak, but there is a cafĂ© up there, and you can spend a few days trying out progressively more difficult routes until you’re more used to it all.

Monte Bronzone – 1,434 Metres – Italy

There are hundreds of peaks to climb in the more mountainous regions of Italy (which is, let’s be honest now, most of it), some easy, others not, but if you want a unique but relatively easy going climb, Bronzone is a good bet. It towers over Lake Lugano, with a collection of ancient villages in its wake. Dasio is one of these, and it also acts as a base camp for the climb to the top. On the way there are caves, waterfalls and other small villages, making it well worth a lengthy stay. It’s also not a particularly popular spot, so you might go the whole trip without encountering another hiker.

Mount Sinai – 2,285 Metres – Egypt

One of the most famous mounts in east Africa, Sinai has an extremely significant religious context, with a Mosque at the summit, as well as the cave where Moses is said to have been given the 10 Commandments. It tends to be better as a night climb, just because of the massive heat Egypt experiences for so much of the year, so the most important thing is to bring a torch. Many people choose to time it so that the sun is rising as they summit, which only takes a few hours, depending on whether you take the easier Camel Path or more difficult Steps of Penitence – 3,750 steps carved into the ravine, leading to Saint Catherine’s Monastery.

Mount Fuji – 3,776 Metres – Japan

I know what you must be thinking: “The tallest mountain in Japan!? For a beginner!? You sir are a lunatic!” Lunatic I might be, but despite its imposing appearance, Fuji is not an overly advanced or brutal climb. The main hiking route starts at the 2,300 metre mark and goes all the way to the summit. As Fuji has a very limited hiking season – from the beginning of July to the end of August – it’s very popular and often crowded, but that’s a good thing, as if things start getting too much for you, you’re never far from help. There are a number of checkpoints across all 5 of the major paths, used both as rest spots and places to camp if it takes you more than a day.

Jebel Toubkal – 4,167 Metres – Morocco

The Atlas Mountains are a huge draw for tourists bound for Morocco, and Toubkal is the granddaddy of all the peaks that line the range. It’s also the highest peak in all of North Africa, offering some of the most breath-taking views on the whole continent. Starting from the village of Imlil, you travel up to the Toubkal Refuge, stay there for a night, and then make for the summit. The terrain towards the final leg is quite loose, so you have to be very careful, and in the summer months the heat will spa your energy, but as long you rest regularly and bring plenty of food and drink, there’s no reason why inexperienced climbers shouldn’t take a crack at it. Once again, its popularity means that you’re never far from help.

Pikes Peak – 4,302 Metres – United States

For a mountain with such a high summit, 53rd highest in all of North America (more impressive than it sounds), Pikes Peak is a remarkably easy one to summit. The trail is very well maintained, spanning 21km and ascending 2,250m. It takes a full day, and it will most certainly wear you out, but there are very few other peaks of comparable height which are as straightforward. Runners and bikers favour the route as well, and if you’re too tired by the time you reach the top to do it all again, there’s a cog railway which will take you back down again. There is a risk of altitude sickness, which actually makes it a good place to do some altitude training, or just generally get used to the feeling of thin air.

Cotopaxi – 5,897 Metres – Ecuador

At this point in the list, we’ve reached the point where some rudimentary training is necessary. There’s no doubt that Cotopaxi can be summited without extensive mountaineering experience, but you’ll need to know how to use ice axes, crampons and belays, as there are sections of snow and ice which can’t be crossed without them. That being said, training for this kind of gear is easy to get in the Andes region, and no mountain above 5,000m is accessible without a licensed guide in Ecuador, a very sensible rule. In this sense, Cotopaxi is a very good starter mountain for those wishing to take on more challenging peaks further down the line. More than 100 climbers take a crack at it most weekends if the weather is good, the actual ascent is only a little over 1,000 metres, and there are plenty of tour packages. You’re unlikely to hit the true summit, as it gets pretty tough, but you’ll be high enough to appreciate the stunning view.

Imja Tse – 6,189 Metres – Nepal

Sometimes called ‘Island Peak’, Imja Tse is thought to be the easiest peak in the world to reach which is higher than 6,000 metres. It’s also a fantastic introduction to the daunting, legendary Himalayas. As an added bonus, the trip actually starts in Kathmandu, enabling you to spend a while exploring the ancient city before going after the mountain, first flying into the village of Lukla. Like Cotopaxi, this one requires crampons, ice axes and rope for some sections, but these skills can be learned locally and refined when you actually start the climb. You start at around 3am, and it can be summited in a day, but most choose to take two. There are a few crevices to negotiate, but other than that it’s all pretty straightforward, and once you hit the top you’ll be in the looming shadow of Lhotse, Everest’s hulking, 8,516 metre next door neighbour, and the 4th highest mountain on the planet. Perhaps with some further advancement, you might end up looking down on Imja Tse’s peak from it, one day.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop.