Mountains you can climb without a porter
Ben Nevis, Scotland
Scotland’s highest mountain has an attraction that belies its numbers. Only 1,344m 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
Moses climbed it and carried back some stone tablets, but all you will 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 St Catherine’s Monastery, a Unesco World Heritage site, from where you can follow the camel trail or sweat out your sins on the Steps of Repentance. The 2,285m 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 3,750 Steps of Repentance.
Mount Fuji, Japan
Welcome to the mountain that is sometimes said to be the most climbed in the world. It is certainly among the most recognisable. Rising to 3,776m in the far distance of Tokyo, Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It has an official climbing season running through July and August, although you may want to visit 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 four-and-a-half 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 two-and-a-half hours and drops you at Kawaguchiko 5th Station, where the climb begins.
Half Dome, California
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 1,000m to the bare summit – steel cables lend some assurance on the final haul along the exposed northeast shoulder. There is a flat two-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 are a novice, be prepared; take a torch and extra water as rangers will only escort climbers who are seriously injured.