Mountains you can climb without a porter
The view from Mount Sinai takes in bare, jagged mountain tops and plunging valleys. (Frans Lemmens/LPI)
These mountains might not be the as intense as the mighty Everest or K2, but they are certainly more than 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 Mount Elbrus (5,642m), Europe’s highest mountain. Straddling the Russia–Georgia border and bulging above the Caucasus Ridge, Elbrus looks to be a daunting prospect. It is nearly 1,000m higher than any of the peaks around it, and glaciers chew at its edges, yet it offers no real technical difficulties – there is even a chairlift to 3,800m, where most climbs begin. A short distance above the chairlift is Camp 11; from here it is an eight-hour push to the summit. From the Azau cable-car station, ride or walk to the Barrels Huts, where the climb begins. But do not take the summit for granted – in 2004 the mountain claimed 48 climbers.
Mount Olympus, Greece
Rub hiking boots with the gods as you ascend Greece’s highest mountain, the legendary home of the Olympian gods. Mount Olympus still draws worshippers of a sort, as trekkers make the two-day climb to its highest peak, Mytikas (2,918m). The most popular trail up the mountain begins at the tiny settlement of Prionia, 18km from Litohoro. From here it is a two-and-a-half-hour climb to Refuge A, with the summit of Mytikas about three hours further. At the summit do not forget to sign the visitors’ register. It is possible to climb and descend in two days; start from Refuge A near Prionia.
Gunung Bromo, Indonesia
Emerging from the floor of Java’s massive Tengger crater are three volcanic peaks. The smoking tip of Gunung Bromo (2,392m) is the smallest of these but it is the one every hiker comes 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 will 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 (do not expect top quality!) to Bromo for around 100,000 to 150,000 rupiah.
Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
North Africa’s highest mountain (4,167m) is surprisingly kind on climbers. From the trailhead at the village of Imlil, a two-hour drive from Marrakesh, it is a five-hour walk into Toubkal Refuge, at around 3,200m, situated immediately below the western flank 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 is an easy half-day hike to the base camp. Scree jumping on the way down is awesome fun.
Table Mountain, South Africa
The flat-topped, 1,086m-high Table Mountain that gives Cape Town its visual splendour is also said to contain more than 300 walking paths. For most people, however, it is all about getting to the summit. 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 is one of the longest approaches. The Platteklip Gorge route should take two to three hours; 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.