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.
Altai Mountains, Mongolia
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.
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.
On the dunes above Huacachina, Peru
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.
The Highlands region comprises most of northern and western Scotland, an area of rough mountains, sparse population, and killer trekking opportunities.
Cariboo Mountains, British Columbia
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.
Above the Ennedi Plateau, Chad
Read the convo with Jimmy Chin and Tim Kemple on climbing the Ennedi to learn how this shot, taken in the desert of northeastern Chad, came about.
Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
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.
Baining Mountains, Papua New Guinea
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.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
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.
Mount Sinai, Egypt
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.
Fox Glacier, New Zealand
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.
Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal
The well-traveled Annapurna Sanctuary trek has its terminus at Annapurna Base Camp, which itself is the starting point for ascents of various peaks in the Annapurna range.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
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.
Torres del Paine, Chile
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.
Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
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.
Base of Everest, Tibet
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.
Akesu, Xinjiang, China
In far northwestern China, the province of Xinjiang runs up against the Tian Shan Mountains at the border with Kyrgyzstan, with peaks topping 7,000m.
Mount Rainier, Washington
Each summer, hundreds of aspiring mountaineers take on the 14,411ft (4,392m) Rainier in preparation for expeditions to taller, scarier mountains around the world.
The Monastery, Petra, Jordan
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.
Mount Olympus, Greece
The tallest mountain in Greece and mythical home of the gods is 9,570ft (2,917m), its summit accessible via a non-technical climb beginning in the town of Litochoro at its base.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of Congo
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 Haute Route through the Alps
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.
Jumping off from Tasiilaq, a town of 1,930 in southeastern Greenland (making it one of the largest settlements on the entire island), you can access multiple low peaks, glaciers, and fjords.
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.
Pulpit Rock juts out 600m above Lysefjorden, a fjord at Forsand, in southern Norway, and is accessed via a 3.8km trail.
Diskit Monastery, Ladakh, India
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.
Semien Mountains, Ethiopia
This range of mountains in northern Ethiopia is protected by national park status and contains peaks well over 4,000m, as well as rare wildlife like the above gelada, a relative of the baboon.
A range of the Italian Alps, the Dolomites reach over 10,000ft and are crisscrossed by several multi-day tracks, or Alte Vie, which are linked by mountain huts used for accommodation.
Napali Coast, Hawaii
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.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
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).
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
This terrain of active volcanoes and mineral-rich lakes on the North Island is most often trekked on the one-day, 20km track of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan
In 2010, Matador Ambassador Shannon Galpin rode her single-speed across the Panjshir Valley, ending the journey just short of the 14,000ft Anjuman Pass for safety reasons.
Mont Blanc, France
There are many different multi-day trails in the vicinity of Europe’s highest peak, giving hikers plenty of opportunities to get to know the massive mountain even if they don’t actually climb it.
Greater Caucasus Mountains, Georgia
These 5,000m+ mountains separating Georgia and Russia are home to the former’s ski resorts, with Gudauri being the most visited.
Denali National Park, Alaska
The 6 million acres of this park consists of taiga, tundra, the highest peaks of the Alaska Range, and a whole lot of uninhabited wilderness.
Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia
Near the 16,512ft (5,033m) Mount Kazbegi in the Caucasus, this 14th-century church occupies the top of a hill and is accessible by trail as well as a rough jeep track.
Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan
Seoraksan, South Korea
The name of the highest peak in the Taebaek Range as well as the national park that surrounds it, Seoraksan stands 5,604ft (1,708m), just a few miles inland from the East Sea.
Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan
The Pamirs straddle western Afghanistan and Tajikistan and have multiple peaks over 7,000m.
Mount Proboscis, Northwest Territories
Last year, Matador Ambassador Katie Lambert became the first woman to free-climb this peak in a single day. Read her story here.
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.
Zion National Park, Utah
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.
Picos de Europa, Spain
Picos is a mountainous region and national park in northern Spain.
High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
This photo was taken on Mount Toubkal, which at 13,671ft (4,167m) is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains.
Lake District, England
Castle Rock, Antarctica
Castle Rock’s 1,360ft have to be earned with more effort than they would anywhere else in the world. From the top of the crag, there’s a good view of Mount Erebus, one of the tallest on the continent.
The tallest of a pair of massive volcanoes stand just 70km southeast of Mexico City.
Lycian Way, Turkey
The 500km Lycian Way runs along the coast of southern Turkey from near Fethiye to near Antalya and gains and loses elevation frequently.
Colorado ghost towns
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.
This post was proudly produced in partnership with our friends at Mountain Travel Sobek, who run trips to several of the locations featured below. Click the logo to visit their website, and follow them here: