When most people think of mountaineering, images of snowcapped peaks in the Alps, Andes, Himalayas or the Rocky Mountains are conjured by the mind’s eye. 

Popular culture immortalizes the feats of the most intrepid mountaineering expeditions, which usually head to Mount Everest or one of the world’s other highest peaks. A quick scroll through the mountaineering documentary catalog in Netflix, Amazon or YouTube easily confirms this. 

Outside of the Himalayas and Karakoram Range, many people associate mountaineering with the most popular destinations in South America, the United States or Europe

However, for those in the know, there are plenty of other amazing climbing destinations scattered around the rest of the world.

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While many of these remote or exotic locales do not immediately jump to the fore of one’s mind when thinking of mountaineering, each spot presents incredible opportunities to climb varied and diverse terrains, while enjoying the immense and stunning scenery of some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

There are countless different mountain ranges and freestanding peaks scattered throughout the world, which would take many lifetimes to fully see and explore. Below, we’ve listed some facts and information about 10 of the world’s lesser-traveled and thought of mountaineering (and ski touring) destinations.

Preparation and training

Mountaineering is both a fun and rewarding sport, but it is also a challenging one. Along with being an excellent source of physical exercise and other providing health benefits, mountaineering can also be a mental challenge.

As a result, it is important to be fully prepared for the physical and mental aspects before heading out into the mountains. 

Most guides recommend spending between two and six months of physical training before heading out on a mountaineering expedition. This physical training can be broken down into four separate components: climbing conditioning, strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training.

  • Climbing conditioning is one of the most important aspects of mountaineering. It works out all the muscles needed to hike uphill carrying a pack that may weigh anywhere between 15 and 30 kilograms (33 to 66 lbs). The best way to practice climbing conditioning is to hike in the mountains or carry a weighted pack up a stair machine. (However, this second option is far worse for the ankles and knees, climbing conditioning in the mountains, if possible, is always the better option.)
  • Strength training for mountaineers usually focuses on the lower body and core, with some back and shoulder work. Most guides recommend finding a training regime that incorporates crunches and squats in the months leading up to the trip.
  • Cardiovascular training for mountaineers involves both aerobic and anaerobic exercises, with the goal being to increase lung capacity and strengthen the heart. Along with climbing conditioning, cardiovascular training is vital and very helpful for climbing at high altitude.
  • Flexibility training is key to climbing. Both before and after engaging in any of the aforementioned exercises, it is important to stretch. This will help prevent muscle injuries during physical exertion and give you a greater range of motion, all of which will come in handy on exposed mountain ridges and glaciers.

Away from the physical side of the sport, it is also key to be mentally prepared for the challenges that will come up while climbing. Among these are the elevation and climate conditions.

Even at fairly modest elevations – as low as 2,400 metres (8,000 feet) – the air becomes substantially less saturated with oxygen (thinner) and breathing becomes more difficult. 

Keep reading: Nutrition Tips For Mountaineering and Trekking Expeditions

Taking up yoga and practicing breathing exercises is a great way to mentally prepare you to exert increasingly more effort as elevation is gained while simultaneously bringing less oxygen into the lungs with each breath. 

It is also important to be prepared to deal with inclement weather. Many of the country’s mountain ranges create specific climate zones and are subject to rapidly changing conditions. From Canada’s Saint Elias Mountains to Antarctica’s Ellsworth Mountains, clear days can quickly turn into violent storms.

As a result, always plan for worst-case scenario weather conditions. This means bringing the proper clothing and gear as well as going over various route finding and navigation skills before the ascent. 

It is also always best to climb with a certified mountain guide who will help make the best decision and know when turning back is the only safe option.

What to bring on a mountaineering expedition

Along with the physical and mental preparation for a mountaineering experience, it is also essential to bring the correct gear. Having the proper equipment can be the difference between success and failure. 

While equipment lists will change based on the mountain and the guide service, below is a checklist of basic mountaineering gear required on most intermediate and advanced ascents.

Climbing and camping gear

  • 20 to 60-litre climbing pack
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Carabiners
  • Belay device
  • Climbing harness
  • Rope
  • Avalanche rescue gear
  • Crevasse rescue gear
  • Headlamp and extra batteries
  • Four-season tent
  • Thermal sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • First aid and toiletries
  • ID card, visas and necessary permits

Footwear

  • Gaiters
  • Hiking socks and liner socks
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Street shoes or sandals for base camp

Headwear

  • Neck gaiter and balaclava
  • Mountaineering goggles
  • Mountaineering helmet
  • Knit cap
  • Category 4 sunglasses (for snowy conditions)
  • Sunhat

Clothing

  • Baselayer bottom and top
  • Softshell pants and hardshell pants
  • Softshell jacket, midlayer top and hardshell jacket
  • Lightweight insulated jacket
  • Insulated down parka
  • T-shirts, shorts and trousers for base camp
  • Nightwear and underwear (long underwear is preferable for camping on mountains)
  • Liner gloves and mountaineering gloves

Eating and drinking

  • One-litre water bottle
  • Water purification tablets and/or steripens
  • Backpacking stove and fuel
  • Cooking and eating utensils
  • Energy snacks
  • Hot drink mix
  • Collapsible water container
  • Thermos
  • Biodegradable soap

Remember, some guides will provide some or all of the necessary equipment, while others will not. It is always best to ask the guide for a checklist before packing for an expedition.

1| Kilimanjaro

Photo: Erik Cleves Kristensen (https://www.flickr.com/photos/erikkristensen/).

Rising high above the savanna and Great Rift Valley in East Africa, Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest freestanding mountain and one of the most popular mountaineering destinations.

Known as Uruhu to the local populations, which means “freedom,” in Swahili, the dormant stratovolcano comprises three volcanic cones.

Reaching an elevation of 5,895 metres (19,341 feet), Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Tanzania and the rest of Africa. 

Keep reading: Climbing Elbrus and Kilimanjaro: How the First 2 of the Seven Summits Compare

It is widely considered the easiest of the Seven Summits to climb (on the Messner List). As a result, an estimated 30,000 people attempt to summit Kibo, the tallest of the three volcanic summits, each year. 

While considered a trekking peak, roughly one-third of those who attempt to climb the mountain do not succeed. A combination of underestimating the physical difficulty and high elevation lead many people to prepare to tackle the peak inadequately.

Challenges of climbing Kilimanjaro

The easiest routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro require no technical climbing abilities; however, there are plenty of other challenges associated with climbing Africa’s highest peak.

First and foremost among these is the altitude. With 5,885 metres (19,308 feet) separating the base of the mountain from its summit, Kilimanjaro is the fourth most prominent mountain in the world. 

While trekkers do not start from the very base, there is still plenty of elevation to cover in a relatively short time period. Therefore, taking time to acclimate is key to a successful ascent. Many climbers opt to summit nearby Meru Peak as an acclimatisation exercise.

Keep reading: Top 5 Climbing Destinations in East Africa

Away from the altitude, climbing Kilimanjaro requires a high level of physical fitness. Most ascents take about one week and require consecutive hours of hiking, often up steep trails on uneven terrain.

As a result, climbing conditioning and improving endurance prior to arriving in Tanzania are key to a successful ascent.

How to get to Kilimanjaro

Most trips to Kilimanjaro will begin with a flight into Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO). Most guides will either opt to meet you here or in the nearby city of Arusha.

From either of these two starting points, climbers begin their expedition to the top of the volcanic massif by transferring to one of the various trailheads inside the national park.

Routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro

Six main routes lead to the Kibo summit of Kilimanjaro: Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, the Northern Circuit, Rongai and Umbwe.

The Marangu Route is the most commonly used of these six routes. While it has the reputation as the easiest, this is not necessarily the case as it is the shortest route and allows for the least amount of time to acclimatise. However, it is the only option that offers mountain huts all the way up to the top. 

Though it is longer, and therefore a bit more expensive, the Machame Route is considered by professionals to be the easiest. The route winds through five distinct climate zones, offering stunning views all along the way. Though it is quite steep in sections, the route as the highest success rate.

The Lemosho route, which climbs Kilimanjaro from the west is generally considered to be the most challenging route. The steepest ascents of the peak are taken on this route, but the views are spectacular.

Regardless of the route that is taken, summit day is the toughest part of each of them. Climbers will get a predawn start and make a steep ascent beside the glacier in order to arrive at the top before midday. After enjoying the view and taking some photos, climbers will then descend the majority of the mountain before stopping at one of the first camps for the night.

Quick facts:

  • Continent: Africa
  • Location: Tanzania
  • Elevation: 5,895 m (19,341 ft)
  • Duration: 1 week
  • Best period: June to October, January to March

2| Carstensz Pyramid

Photo: Jagged Globe.

Situated in the heart of the remote Western Highlands on Papua Island, the Carstensz Pyramid is the highest point in Indonesia as well as the rest of Oceania. 

Known as Puncak Jaya to the local population, the Carstensz Pyramid is the shortest of the Seven Summits on the Messner List, but the most technically demanding to climb.

The massif is composed entirely of middle Miocene limestones and even boasts a small glacier at its summit, though experts believe this will have completely melted by the end of the decade.

Despite its close proximity to the world’s largest gold mine, the Carstensz Pyramid is incredibly difficult to access. A government permit is needed and travel must be arranged by an approved agency, adding to the difficulty of the ascent and making it even more remote.

Challenges of climbing the Carstensz Pyramid 

Despite its relatively low elevation, climbing the Carstensz Pyramid requires a high level of rock, snow and ice climbing abilities. The ascent along the standard route requires long stretches of multi-pitch climbing rated up to a UIAA Class V. 

On top of this, the approach is also quite difficult. Most expeditions require a five-day trek from the starting point to the base camp through the thick jungle over rugged terrain while hauling all the necessary climbing and campaign gear.

The difficulty of the approach has led many mountaineers to call the Carstensz Pyramid “the most miserable” of the Seven Summits.

The most dangerous part of the whole trip is generally the descent from base camp. This is when most recorded injuries occur. Adding to this is the fact that if injured, there is very low chance of an emergency evacuation. Instead, the injured party will need to be taken to the starting point by fellow climbers. 

How to get to the Carstensz Pyramid 

Most trips to Puncak Jaya will begin with a flight into the remote Illaga region. This is generally the last flight of a three-legged trip, which also includes flying into Bali and then transferring to Timika.

From Illaga, climbers will need to trek for four days to the base camp of the mountain, hauling all necessary equipment and gear. For an additional fee, some expeditions will include a helicopter flight directly into the base camp.

Routes to the summit of the Carstensz Pyramid

There is one main route that leads from the base camp to the summit of the Carstensz Pyramid. Starting from the base camp, the ascent beings with a steep multi-pitch climb, with slopes of up to 75 degrees interspersed with sections of scrambling.

About two-thirds of the way up the massif, climbers arrive at a ridgeline and follow this on to the summit. The ridge is quite narrow and steep with wide cracks along the way that climbers will need to descend into and climb back out of. 

Before arriving at the summit, climbers will traverse one last section of the ridge composed of very loose scree. However, after this, climbers are at the top and may enjoy the superb panoramic views of the Sudirman Range.

Quick facts:

  • Continent: Oceania
  • Location: Indonesia
  • Elevation: 4,884 m (16,024 ft)
  • Duration: 2 to 3 weeks
  • Climbing season: December to March, June to August

3| Vinson

Photo: Christian Strangl (https://www.flickr.com/photos/127405808@N06/).

Situated within the Ellsworth Mountains at the base of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Vinson massif towers over its surroundings. 

Stretching more than 21 kilometres (13 miles) in length and 13 kilometres (8 miles) wide, Antarctica’s tallest mountain is also its most popular mountaineering destination.  

Composed of several different summits, the tallest of which is known as Mount Vinson, the massif is one of the toughest of the world’s Seven Summits to climb.

While Vinson is the second shortest of the Seven Summits, it is the eighth-most prominent peak in the world. The sheer size from base to summit combined with the difficult nature of undertaking any Antarctic expedition makes Vinson an incredible challenge to climb.

However, the views from the summit over the rest of the Sentinel Range and Ronne Ice Shelf serve as ample reward for the significant effort required to conquer the peak.

Challenges of climbing Vinson

While the Vinson massif is not a very technically challenging peak to climb, the mountain presents many other challenges. 

Overall, the technical difficulty of climbing Vinson is rated as intermediate, similar to other intermediate-level peaks in the Alps. Climbers will need to have some basic glacier climbing abilities.

However, there are plenty of other challenges associated with climbing the peak. One of these is the physical difficulty associated with climbing. There is virtually no infrastructure on or around the mountain, so climbers need to haul all of their own gear from the base camp to the high camp.

The sheer isolation of the peak not only adds to the wonderment of the adventure but also memes there are no emergency services. Climbers need to be self-reliant for the duration of the expedition.

Away from the technical and physical difficulties of the ascent, the harsh climate on the massif is possibly the most challenging factor on the climb. Average temperatures on the peak are –28 ºC (–18 ºF) and the area is frequently windy. 

How to get to Vinson

Any expedition to Mount Vinson generally begins with a flight into the international airport in Punta Arenas (PUQ), Chile. Most guides will opt to meet up in the city and charter a flight to Union Glacier in Antarctica. From here, climbers will transfer to the base camp at Branscomb Glacier.

Routes to the summit of Vinson

Only one main route leads to the summit of Mount Vinson. Starting from the base camp, climbers ascend Branscomb Glacier until reaching the low camp. 

From here, some more technical ice climbing up a ribbed ice wall is needed before traversing another glacier and reaching the high camp.

Located on a flat spot just west of the summit, climbers will conclude the ascent by heading up the final cwm and reaching the top. From here, some adventurers opt to ski back down via a different route. 

Quick facts:

  • Continent: Antarctica
  • Elevation: 4,892 m (16,050 ft)
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Climbing season: December to January

4| Orizaba

Photo: Mountain Madenss.

Situated on the eastern edge of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, Pico de Orizaba rises dramatically up above its surroundings. 

Known as Citlaltépetl to the original inhabitants of Mexico, the dormant stratovolcano is the highest mountain in the country and the third tallest in North America. 

Its immense elevation has helped form the landscapes that enshroud it, with semi-arid terrain stretching from the western slopes of the peak and semi-tropical rainforests located just to the east.

Keep reading: Climbing the Seven Volcanic Summits: Facts & Information

This dramatic difference created by the mountain serves as one of the main attractions for climbing the volcano, which boasts incredible panoramic views at the top. On a clear day, both Mexico City and the Gulf of Mexico may be seen from its summit.

Orizaba has long been a popular mountaineering destination for international climbers. The eastern rim of the dormant volcano’s asymmetric crater rises steeply above the rest of the mountain and casts a long shadow over the summit during the hottest part of the day.

As a result, a glacier exists on the northwestern portion of the summit, which is also the most popular way to climb the peak.

Challenges of climbing Orizaba

Several routes of differing technical difficulty lead to the summit of Orizaba. The easiest route requires no previous mountaineering experience, while another popular one requires only basic glacier climbing skills.

For this reason, many climbers planning on more complicated ascents in the Andes or Alaska opt to head to Orizaba as a warm-up. 

Other routes to the summit require more technical ice climbing as they ascend the mountain using far steeper slopes.

Away from the technical difficulty, climbing Orizaba is a physically taxing undertaking. With a prominence of 4,922 metres (16,148 feet), Orizaba is the seventh most prominent mountain in the world. A high level of physical fitness is required to make the two to three-day climb.

How to get to Orizaba

Any trip to Pico de Orizaba will likely begin with a flight into Mexico City International Airport (MEX) or Puebla International Airport (PBC). From here, most guides will provide transport to the village of Tlachichuca, Ciudad Serdan or Atzinzitla, depending on the side of the mountain being climbed.

Routes to the summit of Orizaba

Two main routes lead to the summit of Orizaba: the Jampa Glacier Route and the Ruta del Sur.

The Jampa Glacier Route is the easiest of the two routes and therefore the most commonly taken. The route begins from the Piedra Grande Hut at 4,270 metres (14,010 feet), with an option to either hike or drive to the hut. From here, climbers ascend straight up the side of the glacier and to the top.

The Ruta del Sur is the other main route used to climb the volcano. It heads to the summit of the peak via the southern flank and avoids the glacier. However, this route is quite steep and requires some scrambling. Ice ax and crampons may be required to climb during the winter. 

Away from these two routes, the Serpent’s Head Route is another option for more advanced mountaineers. The route also involves ascending the peak via the southern side of the mountain and requires 10 pitches of grade 3 ice climbing. It is the shortest route to the top, but by far the most difficult.

Quick facts:

  • Continent: North America
  • Location: Mexico
  • Elevation: 5,610 m (18,406 ft)
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Climbing Season: November to May

5| Greenland Icecap

 Photo: Doc Searls (https://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/)

Covering 1.7 million square kilometres (660,000 square miles) of the world’s largest island, the Greenland Icecap is absolutely massive.

The immense ice sheet is the largest in the world outside of Antarctica and covers nearly 80 per cent of Greenland. Complete with stunning mountain ranges, coastal fjords and plenty of other geographical features, the island’s icecap serves as a veritable playground for ski touring enthusiasts.

Among the most popular options is to head out on an epic month-long crossing of the glacier, which is known as one of the Big 3 polar expeditions and takes adventurers from Isortoq on the eastern coast to Kangerlussuaq on the west.

Along the way, ski tourers will cross the two-kilometre (1.2-mile) thick ice sheet and enjoy stunning views over one of the most pristine environments on Earth.

Other popular options include ski mountaineering in the various mountain ranges farther north in Sermersooq, but these generally involve spending more time on the coast and less on the icecap.

Challenges of skiing the Greenland Icecap 

Ski touring across the Greenland Icecap is an incredibly challenging undertaking. While a high level of technical ability is not required, the month-long ski trek is physically taxing.

Despite the low level of technical ability required to ski across the continent, most guides recommend participants take a polar expedition course or have previous polar skiing experience under their belts before signing on to a trip.

Away from the technical abilities, ski tourers will need to be in immensely good shape. All participants will need to haul a sled full of personal and communal gear behind them as they go. Ski tourers should expect to spend between eight and 10 hours moving per day with no rest days.

Away from the preparedness of the participant, the climate is perhaps the most challenging aspect of any Greenland Icecap expedition. The weather is often extreme on the icecap with temperatures well below freezing and strong winds. Storms sweep over the icecap suddenly and without warning too.

How to get to the Greenland Icecap

Any trip to Greenland will begin with a flight into Iceland’s Reykjavik Airport (RKV) or Greenland’s Kangerlussuaq Airport (SFJ). Most guides will opt to meet at one of these points and arrange transport to Isortoq or another starting point.

Routes across the Greenland Icecap

While there is no prescribed route to cross the Greenland Icecap, most expeditions follow the imaginary line that delineates the Arctic Circle at 66º.

The adventure usually begins on the eastern shoreline of Greenland with a tricky and taxing ascent up onto the glacier from the rugged coastline.

After getting atop the glacier, the route continues with a gentle ascent for the next 240 kilometres (150 miles) until arriving at the high point of the icecap at 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) above sea level.

From here, skiers will begin to descend down the other half of the icecap, eventually arriving at its edge. Ski tourers will then descend off the icecap at Point 660 and make the 40-kilometre (25-mile) trek across the tundra to Kangerlussuaq fjord.

Quick facts:

  • Continent: North America
  • Location: Greenland
  • Elevation: 2,500 m (8,202 ft)
  • Duration: 4 to 5 weeks
  • Climbing season: April to June

6| Logan

Christian Strangl (https://www.flickr.com/photos/127405808@N06/).

Located in the middle of the remote reaches of Kluane National Park, Mount Logan towers above its surroundings, cutting an imposing figure on the horizon.

Reaching nearly 6,000 metres (19,700 feet) in elevation, Logan is the tallest mountain in Canada and the second-highest in North America. Along with its imposing height, Mount Logan is also one of the world’s largest mountains.

By base circumference, the massif is the largest non-volcanic mountain in the world and boasts 11 separate peaks, each of which reaches at least 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) in elevation.

As a result, the peak is a popular destination for advanced mountaineers and ski touring enthusiasts, especially those looking to conquer all of the Seven Second Summits

The eastern side of the massif boasts a 4,000 vertical-metre (13,1000 feet) wall, which is widely considered to be the best alpine climbing wall in North America. Meanwhile, the western sloe is far less steep and frequently skied down.

Challenges of climbing Mount Logan

Climbers heading to the summit of Mount Logan will face plenty of challenges throughout their ascent. 

Climbing via the eastern wall required advanced ice and rock climbing abilities. The western side of the mountain is far less steep, but climbers still need to make a sustained snow and glacier climbing ascent up to the massif and then on to the true summit.

Due to the bad weather that frequently enshrouds the peak, excellent route finding skills are required on the summit plateau. Even during the summer, which is also the wettest time of year on the massif, temperatures can drop −27 °C (−17 °F).

Regardless of the route that is taken, successfully summiting the massif requires a high level of physical fitness. Logan’s remote location means there is very little supporting infrastructure and most climbers will need to haul their own gear to the base camp and high camps.

How to get to Mount Logan

Due to its remote nature, Mount Logan is quite difficult to get to. Getting here begins with a flight into Haines Junction Airport (YHT), which can be reached by a charter flight from Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport (YXY). From here, you will meet your guide and take another flight to get to Kluane National Park. 

Routes to the summit of Mount Logan

About six separate routes lead to the summit of Mount Logan. However, only two of these routes are frequently used. 

The Kings Trench Route, which approaches Logan from the west, is the easiest and most commonly taken route. Ascents via the Kings Trench Route generally begin with a flight onto the Quintino Sella Glacier. From here, climbers usually ski or splitboard to the summit using the glacier system on the western flank of the massif. 

Meanwhile, the Eastern Ridge Route requires climbers to ascend the massive eastern wall, which requires a long and technical multi-pitch ice climbing ascent until climbers arrive at the eastern ridge. Once atop this ridge, the summit is a fairly short scramble away.

The Warbler Ridge, West Ridge, South-Southwest Ridge and the North Ridge are the other four routes that lead to the summit. However, none of these are used commercially.

Quick facts:

  • Continent: North America
  • Location: Canada
  • Elevation: 5,959 m (19,551 ft)
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Climbing season: May to August

7| La Malinche

Photo B.B. via Wikimedia.

Located on the eastern end of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, La Malinche is one of Mexico’s most popular mountaineering destinations. 

Rising to an elevation of about 4,460 metres (14,600 feet), La Malinche is the sixth-highest peak in the country. The dormant stratovolcano is located within a homonymous national park and, as a result, is a popular hiking and climbing destination.

Keep reading: Top Climbing Destinations in Mexico

Due to the low level of technical difficulty required to climb it, La Malinche is generally used as a warm-up peak for mountaineers heading to Pico de Orizaba or Iztaccihualt, between which it is located in the volcanic belt.

La Malinche is located on the border between the states of Tlaxcala and Puebla and is located just 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Mexico City. 

Challenges of climbing La Malinche

During the late spring, summer and early autumn, La Malinche is rated as a trekking peak, meaning no technical skills are needed to reach the summit. 

Most of the mountain can be walked up and some very basic scrambling abilities are needed over the last 100 metres (330 feet) to reach the summit. 

Depending on the levels of snowfall during the previous winter, an ice ax and crampons are usually not needed. Many guides, however, recommend bringing them along just in case.

During the winter, the climb can be a bit more tricky, especially with plenty of snow. However, winter is generally the time that novice mountaineers head to the peak to better learn the sport and get some alpine experience. 

Regardless of the time of year that the peak is climbed, reaching the summit of La Malinche still requires a high level of physical fitness and prior acclimatisation.

How to get to La Malinche

Most trips to La Malinche begin with a flight into Mexico City International Airport (MEX) or Hermanos Serdán International Airport (PBC), in Puebla. 

Most guides opt to meet either at the airport or in the city and provide transport to the start of the trip. However, it is also possible to take two or more buses from the airports to the trailhead.

Routes to the summit of La Malinche

Four main routes lead to the summit of La Malinche. Of these, the Cento Vacacional Route is by far the most popular one.

The route begins from the Centro Vacacional, which is a small recreation centre in the park and follows the old road up a series of switchbacks on the side of the peak. After a while, this leads to the proper trail which heads straight up the side of the mountain. After passing the treeline, the best option is to veer toward the ridge and follow it to the summit. 

The Altamira Route is the second most popular route to the summit of La Malinche and climbs the volcano from the northeast. This route is fairly straightforward. From the trailhead, climbers will follow the northeastern slopes up to the summit.

The last two routes up La Malinche are the San Isidro/Canoa Route and Axaltenco Route. These are also fairly simple but are more remotely located and are therefore not used very often. 

Quick facts:

  • Continent: North America
  • Location: Mexico
  • Elevation: 4,461 m (14,636 ft)
  • Duration: 1 day
  • Climbing season: November to May

8| South Pole 

Photo: Eli Duke (https://www.flickr.com/photos/elisfanclub/).

Generally defined as the point on Earth’s surface intersected by its axis, the South Pole is located in the heart of Antarctica. 

Situated on a windswept plateau, the South Pole sits atop a thick sheet of ice, reaching an altitude of 2,835 metres (9,401 feet). Ski touring to the South Pole is considered to be one of the greatest feats in outdoor adventuring and makes reaching the scientific station a pipe dream for many explorers.

The United States Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is located on the South Pole and is the destination for most skiers heading to the bottom of the world. A barber pole surrounded by a ring of flags marks the ceremonial South Pole and is currently located a few metres away from the actual South Pole (the location of which changes ever so slightly as the ice sheet moves on Antarctica).

Challenges of skiing to the South Pole 

Skiing to the South Pole is widely considered to be the toughest ski touring trip on Earth. Most guides require prospective participants to take a skills course to fully prepare for the two-week roundtrip expedition.

Participants need to have a high-level of off-piste skiing ability prior to heading to the South Pole and be comfortable skiing on plenty of different types of terrain.

Participants also must have a high level of physical fitness since much of the tour requires a steady climb up to the plateau upon which the South Pole is located. Ski tourers are also, generally, required to haul their own gear, set up and break down camp each night.

As with any other trip to Antarctica, ski tourers are more or less on their own during the trip and must be prepared to be completely self-reliant.

How to get to the South Pole

The vast majority of trips to the South Pole will begin with a flight into Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport (PUQ) in Punta Arenas, Chile. From here, guides generally charter two flights: the first onto Antarctica and the second to the base that serves as the start of the expedition to the South Pole.

Routes to the South Pole

Most guides follow one main route to the South Pole, though theoretically any number of routes can be taken. 

After flying to the camp at the 89th parallel, participants will ski 111 kilometres (69 miles), traversing the innumerable sastrugi, or steep snow ridges formed by the wind along the way.

Most expeditions involve eight to nine hours of travel each day, with one hour of skiing followed by a short break to eat a snack, rehydrate and rest. 

After five days of travel, participants arrive at the Amundsen-Scott Station and usually visit a few nearby high points to get some spectacular views over the heart of the continent before skiing back down to the 89th parallel.

Quick facts:

  • Location: Antarctica
  • Elevation: 2,835 m (9,301 ft)
  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • Climbing season: December to January

9| Toubkal

Photo: Peter Makholm (https://www.flickr.com/photos/46288142@N05/)

Towering above the rest of the Atlas Mountains, Toubkal is one of North Africa’s top mountaineering destinations and its highest mountain.

Located in the heart of Morocco, roughly 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Marrakesh, the nation’s capital, Toubkal sits at the heart of a homonymous national park. The sedimentary massif is easily accessible and considered to a trekking peak.

Many guides consider the peak to be the ideal introduction to mountaineering as the climb can be done over a long weekend and only requires very basic scrambling abilities.

However, many people opting to climb Toubkal decide to take on a slightly longer itinerary, trekking through the national park to the base of the peak before climbing it at the very end.    

Challenges of climbing Toubkal

The easiest route to the summit of Toubkal requires no technical mountaineering abilities. However, there are plenty of other challenges associated with climbing the peak, which does require a high level of physical fitness to climb.

Toubkal is the 38th most prominent mountain on Earth, with 40 percent less oxygen at its summit than there is at sea level. As a result, proper acclimatisation is key to a successful ascent. Hence, why many climbers opt to take a few more days to trek to the base of the peak.

Along with the fitness and altitude, the weather on Toubkal can be quite challenging. When climbing in the summer, the weather is generally hot and dry, but storms can form quickly on the mountain at higher altitudes. 

How to get to Toubkal

Most trips to Toubkal begin with a flight into Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK). Most guides will opt to meet here and provide transport to the start of the trip. Otherwise, it is possible to take a bus from the airport to Imlil, near the start of the trek. 

Routes to the summit of Toubkal

Three main routes lead to the summit of Toubkal, with two classified as trekking routes and one requiring more technical climbing abilities. 

Ikhibi Sud, also known as the normal route, is the most commonly taken and starts from the Toubkal refuge. From here, climbers cross a steep scree-overed slope and enter a hanging valley. The climb continues with another steep ascent up a scree-covered col, before veering left and arriving at the narrow summit crest. 

Ikhibi Nord Not is the other trekking route up the peak. While it is not taken as frequently as the normal route, it is considered to be a bit easier. The route starts farther down in the valley than the Toubkal refuge is located and turns right before arriving at the hut. Trekkers taking this route will follow a col up the northern side of the peak before arriving at the summit crest.

The West-North-West Ridge Route is the least commonly taken of the three routes and requires Grade III/IV climbing along the gaps and towers of the northwest ridge. It is longer than the other routes, but considered to be quite a pleasant climb.  

Quick facts:

  • Continent: Africa
  • Location: Morocco
  • Elevation: 4,167 m (13,671 ft)
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Climbing season: March to May, September to November

10| Kamchatka Volcanos

Jutting 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) into the northwestern Pacific Ocean, the Kamchatka Peninsula is one of the most remote and least-traveled regions of Russia.

Separating the Bering Sea from the Sea of Okhotsk, the 472,000 square-kilometer-peninsula (182,000 square miles) is mainly covered in mountains. In fact, two-thirds of Kamthcka’s landmass is composed of mountains and volcanic cones.   

The peninsula is composed of two main mountain ranges. The Sredinny Range runs through the center of the peninsula, and the Vostochny Range runs along the eastern coastline.

While both mountain chains boast plenty of excellent mountaineering, trekking and ski touring spots, the Vostochny Range is home to the peninsula’s famed volcanic peaks.

Most of these volcano peaks are covered in snow from November to July and become a veritable playground for experienced ski tourers. The valleys and slopes are also popular among trekkers looking for a more wild experience during the short summer.  

Challenges of skiing the Kamchatka Volcanos 

Due to the wide variety of options available on the Kamchatka Peninsula, there are ski touring opportunities for adventurers of almost every level. While a good level of off-piste skiing competence is required on any of the region’s volcanos, there are options that range from intermediate to advanced.

Regardless of the technical difficulty of the ski touring spot selected for the trip, anyone heading to the Kamchatka Peninsula to ski will need a high level of physical fitness with itineraries usually including entire days out on the exposed slopes of the peninsula’s volcanos.

How to get to the Kamchatka Volcanos

Any trip to the Kamchatka Volcanos begins with a flight into Elizovo Airport (PKC), which can be reached directly from Moscow, Anchorage and Tokyo during the ski season. Most guides opt to meet here or in the city itself before arranging transport to the start of the trip.

Ski touring routes in the Kamchatka Volcanos

Due to the sheer size of the peninsula and the vast number of different spots in which to ski, there is no prescribed route to take.

Among the most popular options is heading to the northern and southern volcanic groups and the Ganalsky Range, all of which are situated near the main city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

The northern group of volcanos comprises the Kozelsky, Avachinsky, Koryaksky, Arik and Aag volcanoes. None of these volcanos are too technically challenging to climb and descend and offer excellent views of the Pacific Ocean as well as out over the peninsula.

The southern group of volcanos comprises Viluchinsky, Mutnovsky and Gorely. These volcanos offer some more technical ski touring options as well as plenty of great sightseeing opportunities. Viluchinsky is renowned as one of the Northern Hemisphere’s top summer skiing spots.

The Ganalsky range is the farthest of the three from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and is mainly visited by ski mountaineers. The range boasts plenty of steep couloirs and stunning vistas. IT is also the most remote of the three, offering no amenities for visitors.

Quick facts:

  • Continent: Asia
  • Location: Russia
  • Duration: 1 to 2 weeks
  • Ski touring season: March to November

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