A celebration of the high places of the world, in photographs.
This post was produced in partnership with our friends at Mountain Travel Sobek, who run trips to several of the locations featured below. Click the logo above to visit their website, and follow them here:
A FEW YEARS AGO, I was in southwestern Bolivia and had the opportunity to climb the 19,400ft Licancabur (as seen in photo #5 below). Acclimated as I was by having lived at 8500ft for the previous three months and sleeping at 14,000ft the night before, it was the most challenging hike of my life. After passing the halfway point — when our guide informed us that if we didn’t have a headache yet, we were probably good to go — it was baby step…baby step…rest…repeat.
With each stop, I turned and looked out away from the slope, toward the emerald water of Laguna Verde and the eerie crimson and rust of the altiplano far below, and then up towards the summit, smeared with snow. There was a conviction that I was earning each step, earning my present place in the world.
The shots below depict places like this, that require effort to reach, whether the climbing is done by rope, by helicopter, by ancient 4×4, or by pure bipedal forward locomotion.
Yosemite Valley, California
This valley, in the beginning glacially carved and now shaped by the flow of the Merced River, is the centerpiece of California's Yosemite National Park. The shot above was taken from Glacier Point which, at 7,214ft on the valley's south wall, is recognized as providing the best views of Half Dome.
Located near the city of Ica in southwestern Peru, Huacachina is built around the desert oasis of a small natural lake and surrounded by massive sand dunes that make it popular among tourists for sandboarding.
This shot was taken by Matador staff writer Jeff Bartlett on a backcountry ski mission. The Cariboos are a subrange of the Columbia Mountains.
Volcan Licancabur, Bolivia
As mentioned above, the volcano Licancabur stands 19,400ft in southwestern Bolivia, fronted by the minerally colored Laguna Verde. It can be reached and climbed in conjunction with tours to the nearby Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat.
If you climbed from the lowest to the highest points in this small country in the eastern Himalayas, you'd gain 24,180ft (7,370m). Pictured above is the Tiger's Nest, a cliffside Buddhist temple complex built at 10,240ft (3,120m) in the Paro Valley.
The Baining tribe gets its name from the low mountains that rise above the beach town of Kokopo on the island of New Britain. While it can be arranged for them to come down to the resorts and perform their fire dance, to see it in their home village you'll need to drive uphill for an hour and a half, the last few miles on a deeply rutted dirt track.
The highest mountain in Africa stands at 19,341ft (5,895m) near the Tanzanian border with Kenya. Ascents of the peak make use of several established camps on the mountain's slopes, allowing climbers time to acclimate to the elevation.
The Altais make up portions of the borders between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. This photo comes from western Mongolia and depicts a snow leopard, a globally endangered species that benefits from the remoteness and inaccessibility of these mountains.
The mountain on which Moses took possession of the Ten Commandments is located in the south of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Its 7,497ft (2,285m) summit is visited early each morning by dozens or hundreds of tourists eager to catch the sunrise.
The face of this 13km-long glacier on the west coast of the South Island is easily accessible on foot from the nearby village. To get further up it, though, you can sign up for a heli-hike, which is what this photographer did to make it into the ice cave pictured above.
You can drive to the top of the 13,803ft (4,207m) Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii in a 4WD vehicle, but if I were making the climb I'd opt for the 6-mile Mauna Kea Trail, which begins at the visitors' center at 9,200ft.
The distinctive peaks of Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia can be reached via multiple trails beginning at the park entrance. The guanaco, a close relative of the llama, is common throughout the park.
Standing 13,435ft (4,095m) at the northern tip of Borneo, Kinabalu is the island's highest mountain and frequently climbed by tourists accompanied by a requisite guide. While the mountain's tallest point can be reached easily, other routes along the massif are more technically demanding.
At the northern base of Mt. Everest is the Tibetan monastery of Rongbuk, claimed to be the highest in the world at 16,340ft (4,980m). Climbers ascending the world's tallest mountain via its North Ridge begin their journey at the nearby Rongbuk Glacier.
While the structure known as the Treasury--the one featured in Indiana Jones--may get the most attention, the Monastery is equally impressive and is located towards the rear of the complex at the top of a flight of a few hundred sandstone stairs.
In the northwest of ROC, near the border with Gabon, this park occupies densely forested, hilly terrain and is home to several threatened wildlife species, including chimpanzees and the western lowland gorilla, pictured above.
The 180km Haute Route runs from Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland, crossing numerous mountain passes and giving views of Europe's most famous mountains. The trek typically takes around 12 days.
Smaller but vastly less crowded than Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is one of hundreds of ruined Inca cities in the Peruvian Andes. It's reached via a 37-mile one-way trail starting in the village of Cachora, which takes in brutal elevation changes as it dips down into and back up the Apurimac River Valley.
This 32m statue of the Maitreya Buddha can be found on a rocky hill at 10,315ft (3,144m) in the Nubra Valley, just north of the main Himalayan range. The village of Diskit is connected to the city of Leh by the highest motorable road in the world.
The north coast of Kauai features series of sharply eroded cliffs that run down to the sea. This shot was captured in Koke'e State Park, one of several protected areas that encompass nearly half the island.
The most commonly used route up Mt. Everest hits the Southeast Ridge and starts here in Nepal. Base Camp is itself one of the most popular trekking destinations in the Himalayas and sits at 17,598ft (5,364m).
Last year, Matador Ambassador Katie Lambert became the first woman to free-climb this peak in a single day. Read her story here.
Photo: Ben Ditto
You can find this sign and this view at the entrance to Aconcagua Provincial Park, off of Ruta 7 just downhill from the border with Chile. At 22,837ft (6,960m), the mountain is the tallest outside the Himalayas.
Access to the park is mostly confined to a road that runs up Zion Canyon, with stops at trailheads that lead up the canyon walls at various places. Angels Landing, shown above, is one of the most popular hikes.
The high Rockies of Colorado are dotted with old mining settlements that once were home to thousands of residents but are now ghost towns. This one is in the San Juan Range, between Telluride and Silverton.