If Mt Olympus is the provenance of the gods, then mountains like Everest and K2 are reserved for something in between them and the average human. For those who aren’t professional or expert climbers, but want to feel like they’ve reached the top of the world, there are still great peaks to be conquered. These five mountains will push you to your limit without killing you, and are sure to send you home with a great story to tell.
Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, at 19,341 feet above sea level, and the fourth highest in the world. It’s not part of a chain, but of a volcano that formed around one million years ago. To reach the summit, you don’t need any special climbing skills, just to be in great shape. A climb will usually last about a week; expeditions tend to go slowly to avoid the onset of altitude sickness, the biggest challenge Kilimanjaro has to offer. The peak won’t put you at the top of the world, but the highest point in Africa isn’t too shabby.
Like Kilimanjaro, Elbrus is a dormant volcano. It’s located in the Caucasus mountains, near the border of Russia and Georgia. Winter ascents are difficult, but during the summer it’s a popular climb. A cable car system built in 1976 can drop off visitors as high as 12,500 feet, leaving them to finish the relatively straightforward route to the peak, at 18,510 feet.
Although the Matterhorn is the deadliest mountain in the Alps, it’s not as difficult a climb as it looks. The easier Hörnli route has fixed ropes along it to help, and many climbers reach the peak every summer. The key is not to tell your buddies which way you went.
As Outside Magazine notes, Washington’s Mt Baker is a lot like the more famous Mt Rainier, but a lot less crowded. The 10,781 foot high summit is reachable by even novice climbers, especially those who go with a guide service that provides some basic training beforehand.
The bigger risk factor may be that Baker is the second most active volcano in the range (after Mt St Helens) – so when you get to the top, enjoy the view and get out of there before you get blown away.
At just 5,267 feet, the summit of Maine’s tallest mountain would need to crane its neck to catch sight of the other peaks on this list. While it’s no Everest, it’s not a walk in the park, either. It’s steep and rocky, and the way to the top goes through the Knife Edge, a trail that’s only three feet wide for three tenths of a mile.
The northern end of the Appalachian Trail, Katahdin is a popular destination. If you want to try it out, show up early; visitors per day are limited.