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eYe-reEs
post Jun 21 2011, 12:55
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10 best things to climb

Over ice and iron girders, shinnying up temples and scaling rainforest trees – tackle the world’s most worthwhile ways to reach the top. In this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences we’ve gathered together ten things to go up, from the somewhat gentle to the downright difficult. Let’s just hope you can get down.

1. Tikal, Guatemala


image by mockney_piers

Ascending the steps of a 1250-year-old temple at the ancient Mayan megacity of Tikal to climb above the Petén jungle is one of Central America’s greatest experiences. During the first millennium AD this site was the main metropolis of the Maya, one of the mightiest pre- Columbian civilisations. There are a clutch of ruins to roam, but tallest and most tantalising is Temple IV at the west of the complex. From the top Tikal’s three other temples can be seen soaring out of the treetops – more unexcavated ruins lie hidden in the jungle. Stay virtually on the edge of Tikal’s temple flanked central plaza at Jungle Lodge, with one of Petén’s best pools.

2. Sossusvlei, Namibia


image by gregw66

The world’s highest dunes, the world’s oldest dunes… you won’t be here long before the record-breaking sand statistics rear their heads, but Sossusvlei certainly boasts among the most mesmerising dunes on the planet for clambering over. Dunes here reach as high as 325m, but as sand walking is around 2½ times tougher than it would be on a normal surface, climbing is far from simple. The park Sossusvlei sits in, a swath of sand covering a good third of Namibia, fans out in all directions from the dune summits in a kaleidoscope of colours from blood red to amber to mauve. Stick to the dune’s crests for the easiest ascents. Dawn is ideal dune-viewing time: stay inside the park boundaries for those early starts.

3. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina


image by longhorndave

Hearteningly in these times of global warming, this glacier is among the few on the planet not actually retreating. Forming a 3km, 60m-high icy frontier against the lake it abuts, Perito Moreno advances only for lake water to periodically undermine and, in spectacular style, collapse it. Five-hour glacier treks bring you up close and personal to the glacier’s myriad peaks, fissures and, if you’re lucky, the ice cavern the lake hollows underneath, all effusing an ethereal blue glow. If the trek isn’t a sufficient vertical challenge, try the ice climb, 20m up a sheer ice wall, and the ice abseil back down. El Calafate is littered with agencies offering glacier tours.

4. Old Man of Hoy, Orkney Islands, Scotland


image by Effervescing Elephant

Gather your grappling hooks, fasten your crampons – you’ll need technical gear to scale this iconic sea stack, standing just offshore from some of Britain’s highest cliffs on the wild island of Hoy. Flat, fertile Orkney isn’t renowned for rock climbing but the Old Man is a big exception. The 450ft rock tower thwarted attempts to climb it until 1966, way after Everest had been conquered. Scale soon to avoid disappointment: one of the Old Man’s ‘legs’ was washed away in 19th-century storms; geologists reckon the rest of the stack will ultimately follow suit. Get detailed information on climbing Orkney sea stacks at www.ukclimbing.com. Guided ascents of the Old Man are possible: try http://northernskies.webs.com.

5. Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii


image by elisfanclub

Five volcanoes rise in a veritable smorgasbord of ruptured, frequently fiery peaks out of the lunar-like massif which makes up this World Heritage–listed national park: lava junkies should head here for a phenomenal fix. Not only are the world’s most dramatic volcanic vistas located on Big Island (try the most active, highest and largest volcanoes) but the craters are easily accessible (a road runs round the rim of Kilauea). Roads shouldn’t dishearten climbers from hitting the trails – some 240km of paths take the intrepid out to less-visited parts of the park. Check out offerings to Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, en route: gifts from seashells to gin are left to appease her fiery wrath. Plan climbs and keep tabs on lava sightings in the park at www.nps.gov/havo.

6. Crac des Chevaliers, Syria


image by peuplier

It’s not particularly tough climbing this 12th-century Crusader castle but the challenge of ascent isn’t everything, especially once you’re greeted with the view from the parapets. Dubbed the ‘most wholly admirable castle in the world’ by TE Lawrence, the fortress stands atop a 650m outcrop on a historically important through-route to the Mediterranean coast. Crac was defensively sound enough for the Knights Hospitaller to make the castle their Crusade headquarters in 1142, and is famous for its walls never having been breached (despite multiple attempts by the Saracens). Reaching the battlements is easier for visitors today but the surrounding lush, ancient-monument peppered Orontes Valley has changed little over the centuries. Scale early to avoid tour busloads. Hama is the prettiest base for visiting Crac.

7. Canopy Walkway, near Iquitos, Peru


image by anoldent

For a long time this 500m walkway, strung between trees in the Peruvian jungle, was difficult to visit, with access largely restricted to researchers. It’s easy to see why they flocked – this is one of the best ways to appreciate jungle birdlife on the planet. Now the intrepid traveller, too, can scramble up above the rainforest canopy to be put into prime viewing position for a visual feast of tropical avian activity. Public walkway access is exclusive to guests of Explorama. Their ExplorNapo Lodge is a half hour walk away.

8. Stok Kangri, India


image by kun0me

One of the world’s only non-technical climbs in excess of 6000m, the peak of Stok Kangri often yields better views of the Great Himalayas than the Great Himalayas themselves. Allowing for acclimatisation, it’s a four- or five-day trek to the summit. This is about as high as non-professional mountaineers get on the planet: a clear day sees exquisite views of K2, with the huge Ladakhi capital of Leh a mere speck on a horizon, hemmed in by the imposing mountains of the Karakoram Range. Pamper yourself after your mountain exertions with a stay at the luxurious Grand Dragon Ladakh.

9. Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia
image by SpecialKRB

Ever seen Roger Moore’s Bond in A View to a Kill and fancied climbing one of the world’s largest bridges, girders and all? Your best bet lies in Sydney, not San Francisco, where scaling the Sydney Harbour Bridge takes you to a dizzying 134m above the photogenic harbour. Three types of climbs are offered on the planet’s biggest steel arch bridge; wedding ceremonies have even been conducted on top. Vertigo-sufferers can content themselves with ascending the Pylon Lookout at the southeast end of the bridge: a modest 87m, climbed via steps rather than hair-raising catwalks. Bridge-climbing is a popular activity in Sydney these days: visit www.bridgeclimb.com for details. The Pylon Lookout is open from 10am to 5pm daily.

10. Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania


image by paulshaffner

Not featuring Africa’s highest mountain in a compendium of great climbs, with its bird’s-eye views of the wildlife studded savannah way below, would be a travesty. At 5895m this clocks in as the highest freestanding mountain in the world, with a stunning variety of routes to the summit. One way up sees you accompanied part-way by a ranger to protect you against Big Game; others take you past Kilimanjaro’s glaciers and have you camping overnight in a volcanic crater. Climb above the Serengeti savannah without donning hiking boots on a safari by balloon.

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eYe-reEs
post Jun 21 2011, 13:32
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Mountains you can climb without a porter

In an excerpt from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we bring you some fine and friendly mountains. These beauties are not your mighty Everests and K2s, but nor are they the hills you used to camp in when you were a kid. Be warned.

Mount Elbrus, Russia

Far from the glory-grabbing summits of the European Alps are the shy twin peaks of Mt Elbrus (5642m), Europe’s highest mountain. Straddling the Russia–Georgia border and bulging above the Caucasus Ridge, Elbrus looks a daunting prospect. It’s nearly 1000m higher than any peaks around it, and glaciers chew at its edges, yet it offers no real technical difficulties – there’s even a chairlift to 3800m, where most climbs begin. A short distance above the chairlift is Camp 11; from here it’s an eight-hour push to the summit. From the Azau cable-car station ride or walk to the Barrels Huts, where the climb begins. Don’t take the summit for granted – in 2004 the mountain claimed 48 climbers.


Twin peaks of Mt Elbrus
Wade Eakle, Lonely Planet Photographer

Mount Olympus, Greece


Whitewashed houses on hilltop above Livadi harbour
Mark Daffey, Lonely Planet Photographer

Rub hiking boots with the gods as you ascend Greece’s highest mountain, the legendary home of the Olympian gods. Mt Olympus still draws worshippers of a sort, as trekkers make the two-day climb to its highest peak, Mytikas (2918m). The most popular trail up the mountain begins at the tiny settlement of Prionia, 18km from Litohoro. From here it’s a two and a 1/2 hour climb to Refuge A, with the summit of Mytikas about three hours further. At the summit don’t forget to sign the visitors’ register. It’s possible to climb and descend in two days; start from Refuge A near Prionia.

Gunung Bromo, Indonesia


Tourists on lip of Gunung Bromo's crater
Peter Ptschelinzew, Lonely Planet Photographer

Emerging from the crater floor of Java’s massive Tengger crater are three volcanic peaks. The smoking tip of Gunung Bromo (2392m) is the smallest of these but it’s the one all who visit come to climb. The easiest and most popular route is from Cemoro Lawang, on the crater rim, accessed from the city of Probolinggo. The route crosses the crater’s Sand Sea, and within an hour you’ll be on the summit of Bromo, savouring views into the steaming crater. Like mountains the world over, the favoured time to reach the summit is sunrise. Travel agencies in Solo and Yogyakarta can book minibuses (don’t expect top quality!) to Bromo for around IDR100,000–150,000.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco

North Africa’s highest mountain (4167m) is surprisingly kind on climbers. From the trailhead at the village of Imlil, a two-hour drive from Marrakesh, it’s a five-hour walk into Toubkal Refuge, at around 3200m, situated immediately below the western fl ank of this High Atlas giant. From here, trekkers usually scurry up and back and return to Imlil in a day. The climb’s greatest challenge is in Toubkal’s famously long scree slopes; be prepared for a walking experience like quicksand. Catch a taxi from Marrakesh to Imlil; it’s an easy half-day hike to the base camp. Scree jumping on the way down is awesome fun.

Table Mountain, South Africa


Table Mountain and The Twelve Apostles
Richard I'Anson, Lonely Planet Photographer

The flat-topped, 1086m-high mountain that gives Cape Town its visual splendour is also said to contain more than 300 walking paths. For most people, however, it’s all about getting to the summit, and pronto. For this, the route through Platteklip Gorge is the most straightforward. The gentlest climb is along the Jeep Track, through the Back Table, though the gentle gradient also means that it’s one of the longest approaches. The Platteklip Gorge route should take two to three hours up; but you can descend in about four minutes on the cable car if you wish. There is a well-catered (albeit expensive) cafe at the top of Table Mountain.

Ben Nevis, Scotland


Ben Nevis (1343m) and the Mamores seen close to the West Highland Way in Lochaber.
Gareth McCormack, Lonely Planet Photographer

Britain’s highest mountain has an attraction that belies its numbers. Only 1344m above sea level, its paths are pounded by hordes of walkers and climbers. For most, the ascent means following the queues up the Mountain Track but mountain connoisseurs prefer the more difficult approach across the satellite peak of Carn Mór Dearg, a climb that involves picking along a thrilling rock ridge between the two summits. And if Ben Nevis whets your mountain appetite there are another 283 Munros – Scottish peaks above 914.4m – you might want to climb. Base yourself in Fort William and buy a map. The mountain has many routes and the weather changes suddenly;
many travellers have found themselves stranded and some have died.

Mount Sinai, Egypt


Female tourist sitting on top of Mount Sinai, Sint Katherine, Sinai desert.
Frans Lemmens, Lonely Planet Photographer

Moses climbed it and carried back some stone tablets, but all you’ll need is a sleeping bag and some warm clothing if you want to be here for the requisite dawn vigil atop the Sinai Peninsula’s signature mountain. The climb commences at Unesco World Heritage–listed St Catherine’s Monastery, from where you can follow the camel trail, or sweat out your sins on the Steps of Repentance. The 2285m summit, which offers stunning views of the surrounding bare, jagged mountains and plunging valleys, is reached after around two hours along the camel trail. Ascend the path zigzagging up the mountain side and then return down the aptly named (3750) Steps of Repentance. You’ll find accommodation around St Catherine’s Monastery.

Mount Fuji, Japan


Yamanaka-ko and Mount Fuji
Bob Charlton, Lonely Planet Photographer

Welcome to the mountain sometimes said to be the most climbed in the world, and one that is certainly among the most recognisable. Rising to 3776m in the far distance of Tokyo, Mt Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It has an official climbing season running through July and August, although you may want to come just outside this peak season to avoid crowds that are almost as large as the mountain itself. The climb up from the traditional starting points takes around 4½ hours; aim to reach the summit in time for dawn to witness sunrise and to beat the clouds to the top. From Tokyo take the express bus from Shinjuko; the journey takes 2½ hours and drops you at Kawaguchiko 5th Station, where the climb begins.

Half Dome, USA


Half Dome rock at sundown
Thomas Winz, Lonely Planet Photographer

Looming over Yosemite Valley like a stony wave, Half Dome is one of the world’s most stunning pieces of rock architecture, and a major lure for hikers. The trail begins at Happy Isles in the valley, climbing more than 1000m to the bare summit – steel cables lend some assurance on the final haul along the exposed northeast shoulder. There’s a flat 2-hectare expanse on top with glorious views across Yosemite, especially from the overhanging northwest point. The climb can be made in one mammoth day, or you can camp on the northeast shoulder. If you’re a novice, be prepared; take a torch and extra water as rangers will only escort climbers who are seriously injured.

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