Mountains for Amateurs

Three awe-inspiring peaks even an amateur can climb

Photo: Pexels/Stefan Stefancik

We can’t all be Bear Grylls or Ranulph Fiennes and climb every one of the Alps without breaking a sweat. But here are three summits you can reach without any expert mountaineering skills

If you’re in decent condition, prepare thoroughly and possess a minimum amount of common sense, you’ll be surprised to find there are several four and five thousand-foot high mountains you can scale.

The top of these three awe-inspiring mountains can be reached without the need of a climbing certificate:

  • Mount Fuji, Japan
  • Mount Whitney, USA
  • Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Mount Fuji, Japan



At 3,776 metres tall, Mount Fuji is the highest peak in Japan. But that’s not the only reason it holds a special appeal. The indigenous Japanese religion of Shinto considers Fuji sacred and, with its almost perfect symmetry, it is thought to be home to various deities. 

Between July and August there is no snow on its peak, its mountain huts are open and the Japanese make pilgrimages to the summit in their droves. To avoid having to stand in line during the ascent (no joke) it is advisable to tackle the hike on a weekday in early July and possibly avoid the Yoshida trail, even though it is the easiest and most popular route to the top. The longer Gotemba trail takes an additional hour and a half, and you’ll need to plan for far fewer mountain huts, supply stations and toilets – as well as hope this route is less crowded.

Although the journey to the summit can be completed inside a day by anyone of good fitness, Fuji is not to be underestimated. To avoid fatigue and symptoms of altitude sickness, an overnight stay in a mountain hut is recommended. This way you can relax and enjoy an early morning sunrise above the clouds.

Tip: It can be extremely cold when you get to the top, but you should be prepared to work up a sweat on the way there. In the summer the sun beats down relentlessly, and on the mountainside there is no shade. Adequate sun protection and breathable clothing are a must.

Mount Whitney, USA

Mount Whitney

© Wikimedia // Geographer

Standing 4,418 metres tall, Mount Whitney is the highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada range and the United States outside of Alaska. Even if the giant Sequoia National Park in which it stands looks daunting, this is still a challenge that non-professionals take on. Popular with hikers, the Whitney Trail starts at just under 2,550 metres above sea level – so a good deal of the ascent is accounted for before you even start.

To get to the summit there are a further 17 km and a further elevation gain of 2000 metres to overcome, so an average Sunday walk in the country this is not. To reach the peak before nightfall, an extremely early morning start is required, and theoretically it can be done in a day. However, spending a night at one of the route’s campsites is recommended to get your body attuned to conditions at over 4,000 metres. 

The trail to Mount Whitney is largely secure. However, due to the often extreme weather conditions that occur in the mountains, even in the height of summer you can encounter flooded sections, ice or snow en route.

Tip: No matter which route you take, anyone wanting to climb Mount Whitney must first obtain a permit. The permits for overnight stays on the mountain are limited and issued to applicants via a lottery.

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania


© Flickr // Matt Kieffer

In the middle of the savannahs of Tanzania, Kilimanjaro rises 5,895 metres towards the sky. It is the biggest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Nevertheless, it remains one accessible to amateurs, and the journey to the summit has a lot to offer. On the way to the top you pass through various levels of habitat – from savannah into rain forest and up a glacier.

There are six different ways to reach Kilimanjaro’s peak. The Machame Route is considered the most beautiful, and is not as busy as the less demanding Marangu Route. You should allow six to eight days for the trip, and you’ll need a local guide to take you up the mountain. Depending on the route taken, you’ll either stay in a tent or a mountain hut, with the guides carrying your luggage between stops. 

Tip: The path to Mount Kilimanjaro is physically demanding and requires a steady foot. Your chances of reaching the summit are increased if you take an extra acclimatisation day about halfway through the journey.

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08 2016 The Red Bulletin

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