Photo: Patrick Poendl/Shutterstock

Kilimanjaro and 8 More Sky-High Peaks Any Avid Hiker Can Summit

by Alex Bresler Jun 28, 2023

There’s no such thing as casual mountaineering. Climbing mountains requires a high level of fitness, physical and mental stamina, diligent planning and preparation, and the necessary gear to get you to the summit, whether you can get there wearing hiking boots or need footwear specifically designed for expert terrain.

Mountain-climbing can be broadly split into two categories: technical and non-technical. Technical climbing requires advanced mountaineering skills and specialized equipment, such as ropes, harnesses, helmets, ice axes, and crampons, which are spikes that attach to mountaineering boots to help wearers climb ice and rocks. Non-technical climbing typically requires neither. Trails are generally well-defined and more moderate than their technical counterparts. In other words, it’s the difference between trekking up mountains and literally climbing them.

For hikers, the idea of becoming a technical mountain climber can be as intimidating. Luckily, not all summits demand technical training. Below are nine formidable peaks that range from 14,000 to 24,000 feet and are accessible to hikers. They’re not exactly casual strolls, but if you’re an experienced trekker, these are some of the most impressive non-technical mountains you can climb.

Lenin Peak, Kyrgyzstan — 23,406 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: Paolo Berrino/Shutterstock

Lenin Peak’s summit is only about 5,500 feet lower in elevation than Mount Everest’s, which seems like a big difference until you consider how colossal both peaks are, and how much they tower over world-famous mountains are half their size. Located on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border, Lenin Peak is the highest summit in the Trans-Alai Range and the easiest to climb of Central Asia’s 7,000-plus-meter (23,000-plus feet) summits. There are more than a dozen routes to the top of Lenin Peak. The North Face Route is the safest, most accessible, and most popular. How long the climb takes varies, but ascents typically require at least three weeks.

Aconcagua, Argentina — 22,838 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: rocharibeiro/Shutterstock

Located in Argentina’s Andes, Aconcagua is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere and the second-highest of the Seven Summits (a term peak-baggers use to describe the highest mountain on each continent) after Everest. Despite being considered the highest non-technical mountain in the world, climbers should be equipped with mountaineering gear such as crampons and ice axes to navigate ice, snow, and glaciers. The most popular route, which may be referred to as the Normal or Northwest Route, usually takes between 12 and 14 days to complete. More challenging non-technical routes, such as the Polish Glacier Traverse, may take up to 20 days and require more advanced mountaineering skills. Climbers who choose this route will need to cross a steep glacier to get to the summit — hence the need for crampons — although no technical skills such as rock or ice climbing are required.

Ojos del Salado, Chile — 22,614 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: Oliclimb/Shutterstock

Chile’s highest peak, and the tallest volcano on Earth, Ojos de Salado is a dormant Andean volcano that towers over the Chile-Argentina border. The ascent to the summit typically takes between 9 and 15 days depending on whether you approach from the Chilean side or the Argentinian side, which is longer and more challenging. Ojos de Salado is considered non-technical because the majority of the ascent is a hike, although the final stretch involves a more technical scramble. You’ll need to obtain a permit and complete an acclimatization program if you depart from the Chilean side whereas the Argentinian side requires no permit.

Mera Peak, Nepal — 21,247 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: Vincenzo Fondacaro/Shutterstock

Mera Peak is located in Nepal’s Sagarmāthā region, the same Himalayan expanse that houses Mount Everest. In fact, it’s fewer than 10 miles from Everest as the crow flies, offering non-technical climbers some of the best views of the world’s highest mountain that they’ll ever see. High-altitude trekking experience is helpful to summit Mera Peak, which involves everything from hiking through forests and crossing suspension bridges to hiking through glacial fields and crossing crevasses. The ascent usually takes around two weeks. Climbers should come prepared with mountaineering gear such as crampons to ensure a successful summit, despite the fact that Mera Peak is considered a non-technical trekking peak.

Stok Kangri, India — 20,187 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: Swansiri/Shutterstock

Many climbers view Stok Kangri — located in India’s Ladakh region, or “the land of high passes” — as the perfect non-technical mountain to ease into Himalayan mountaineering. The highest mountain in the Stok range, the peak falls within Hemis National Park, which is otherwise known for having a large snow leopard population. Trekkers flock to the peak during the summer when the weather is favorable, although nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing. There are multiple ways to reach the summit, all of which start and end in Ladakh’s largest city, Leh. On a clear day, Stok Kangri summiters will get a glimpse of other famous peaks, including K2.

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania — 19,340 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: RAW-films/Shutterstock

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a common ambition for hikers. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and the fourth-tallest of the Seven Summits — one that climbers can tackle with only sturdy hiking boots, trekking poles if you like them, apparel and accessories for cold and rainy weather, and other multi-day hiking basics. There are several routes to the top, which generally range from five to nine days of hiking. The relatively gentle Marangu (Coca-Cola) Route and slightly more challenging Machame (Whiskey) Route are the most popular routes. Umbwe is the shortest and steepest route to the summit. Which path you choose not only determines the length and difficulty of the trek but also how much of the mountain you get to see and how much time you have to acclimatize to the altitude, which is arguably the greatest obstacle Kilimanjaro and other high-altitude non-technical mountains.

Mount Elbrus, Russia — 18,510 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: Iasen Doltshinkov/Shutterstock

The fifth-tallest of the Seven Summits, and the final one on this list, Mount Elbrus is located in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains, qualifying it as the tallest peak in Europe. There are two main routes for climbing Mount Elbrus: the non-technical Normal Route, which starts in the town of Terskol on the southern side of the mountain, and the Northern Route, which involves steeper slopes, more technical climbing over rock and ice, and more exposure to harsh weather conditions and higher altitude. The Normal Route typically takes four to six days to complete, depending on the pace of the climbers and weather conditions. It’s a challenging climb in a harsh high alpine environment, but the effort is well worth the spectacular views and cultural experiences if you choose to visit nearby villages and towns along the way.

Mount Kenya, Kenya — 17,058 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: Iviaggidimanuel/Shutterstock

Africa’s second-highest peak, Mount Kenya is both a non-technical mountain and one of the most scenic vantage points on the continent, with views spanning from the Great Rift Valley to Mount Kilimanjaro across the Tanzanian border. The scenery is spectacular as you ascend through forests, grasslands, glaciers, and a variety of other terrain. Mount Kenya has not one but three main summits: Lenana, Nelion, and Batian. Today, most climbers follow the Sirimon Route starting on the northwest side of the mountain and complete the trek in four or five days.

Mount Whitney, California — 14,494 feet

non-technical mountains

Photo: Patrick Poendl/Shutterstock

Mount Whitney is significantly smaller than many of the summits on this list, but it’s the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, and many peak-baggers consider climbing any mountain over 14,000 feet — colloquially, a Fourteener — to be a brag-worthy achievement. Located in eastern California’s Sierra Nevada range, Whitney’s summit marks the boundary between Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. The most popular approach to the summit is the Whitney Portal Trailhead, which typically takes two to three days to complete but requires nothing more than sturdy hiking boots, warm clothing, and a permit to climb the peak. That said, climbers should expect to scramble over a rocky ridge during the final stretch and be prepared for high winds, high altitude, and unpredictable weather.

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