Get a natural high with these high-mountain adventures
If Table Mountain’s old hat and the Chain Ladders just don’t cut it anymore, you may be in need of a higher challenge. These five mountains dotted all over the globe are the perfect gateway to high mountaineering. Not as challenging as Everest or Aconcagua, but by no means a walk in the park…
Yosemite National Park is one of the most spectacular places on the planet, but this means that some of its more popular peaks can get a bit overcrowded. The poetically named Cloud’s Rest is far enough off the beaten track that you should have it pretty much to yourself, especially if you go midweek. The 20km round trip is usually done in one very long day, but the incredible scenery and the eye-watering views from the top more than make up for the hardship.
This is a day-hike with a difference, so you’ll be heavily dependent on rugged gear like the K-Way Kilimanjaro '12 daypack, and K-Way Ridge boots. You’ll also want to have your wits about you for the final scramble to the top – the ridge is less than 3m wide at some points and there are sheer cliffs on either side. Cloud’s Rest can be hiked in winter but this is a decidedly snowy affair. It’s also a few kilometres longer as one of the passes is impassable in winter. Definitely not for sissies.
No-one seems to be able to agree whether Mafadi means ‘makes me slip’ or ‘satisfied dog’, but there is consensus that this ’Berg behemoth is the highest peak in SA. Access is from the remote Injesuthi campsite and involves a three or four-day round trip in seriously rugged and spectacular mountains. Mafadi may be one of the lower mountains on this list, but it’s also one of the most inaccessible, so you’d be a fool not to pack your K-Way Kilimanjaro tent.
As long as you have the right gear, Mafadi can be summited all year round: in Winter expect sub-zero temperatures and a possibility of snow. In summer, brace yourself for sweaty days and some serious rain. The most popular route involves San rock art, swimming in rock pools, and sleeping in caves, so there really is something for everyone. There are also some hellish descents, so your knees will thank you for investing in a pair of trekking poles.
Japan’s highest mountain is famous the world over for its perfectly conical, snowcapped dome. New roads mean that Fujisan, as the mountain is known locally, can be summited in a day. But it’s far more rewarding to overnight at one of the lodges halfway up and leave in the wee hours to reach the summit at sunrise.
The mountain is only officially ‘open’ from July to September, when the weather is at its most stable. But even then it can get seriously cold up top so you’d be well advised to wear a K-Way Mallard hooded down jacket and a good pair of gloves. It’s a good idea to avoid weekends and the week of 13 to 17 August as the mountain is extremely popular among local tourists at this time. As the saying goes, ‘He who climbs Mt Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool’.
The highest mountain in Western Europe holds a very important place in the history of mountaineering, which is why 20,000 adventurous souls clamour to summit it every year. In spite of being nearly 5,000m high, it is a far simpler climb than other alpine peaks like the Eiger and the Matterhorn. That said it still requires superior fitness and experience using ice axes and crampons. As such, hiring a guide and investing in some specialist gear such as these K-Way Mountain Gaiters is strongly recommended.
Although it straddles France and Italy, Mont Blanc is most commonly accessed from the French side, with climbers overnighting at Gouter Refuge (booking essential, only open from June to September). The summit is about 5 hours from the hut, and although the terrain is neither too steep nor too technical, it is permanently iced over and does require quite a bit of technical know-how.
We’ve saved the toughest for last. Antisana may only be the fourth highest mountain in Ecuador, but it’s remote, beautiful and technically challenging. There are no huts on the mountain, so you’ll need a tent and a very warm sleeping bag such as the K-Way Kilimanjaro 3 Thermashift. You’ll also need a guide and quite a bit of ice climbing experience due to the extremely active glaciers on its slope.
Antisana is definitely not to be attempted by beginners, but if you’ve already bagged a few 4,000m peaks it is an extremely rewarding step up. It’s only 50km from Quito, Ecuador’s capital, and the entire hike takes only two days. When you stand atop the summit at sunrise with views of 5,897m Cotopaxi on the one side and the Amazon basin on the other, all the hardship will be instantly forgotten.