Photo: Krishna.Wu/Shutterstock

8 Massive Mountains That Mortals Can Summit

Canada Japan Mexico Nepal Russia United States Hiking
by David DeFranza Nov 12, 2008
Spend much time in the mountains and you will inevitably find yourself gazing upward towards the high summits of great peaks.

If you are traveling in the Andes, Rockies, Alps, Himalayas, or another great range, the summits of these impressive peaks may seem like impossible objectives.

But in fact, the summits of even some of the highest mountains in the world are accessible to mere mortals: those with good fitness but limited technical experience. Of course, no trip into the mountains is without danger and those considering a trip up any mountain should be well versed in the hazards of changeable mountain weather and the difficulties of route finding.

More importantly, those considering a journey up a high mountain should be willing to take the time required to properly acclimatize. Failing to do so means failure, injury, and possibly death.

Keeping these caveats in mind, here are eight massive mountains that mortals can summit:

1. Mount Fuji

At 12,388 feet, Mount Fuji is not nearly the tallest mountain in the world. However, this imposing volcanic peak is the tallest mountain in Japan and seems to tower over the surrounding landscape.

The climb is aided by a network of well-stocked huts along the common trails that offer food and accommodation to weary hikers. Ascents of Fuji can easily be arranged independently, but it could be cheaper to join one of the many organized tours which typically include all food, lodging, and transport. Most people time their climb so they are on the summit at sunrise.

2. Mount Whitney

When approached from the east, Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States, looks like an impossible objective. However, the typical hiking trail, though long, is not unattainable.

The major challenges for those wishing to reach the 14,505 foot summit are the altitude, which requires adequate time for acclimatization, and obtaining a permit from the U.S. Forest Service.

3. Mount Temple

Photo: Autumn Sky Photography/Shutterstock

Mount Temple, 11,624 feet, dominates the landscape around Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada. Situated in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, this is no easy feat.

Still, the summit is accessible by most fit hikers willing to work their way up the trail, which is a bit of a scramble at times. The best part of this trail, however, is that it provides all of the adventure of climbing a massive mountain, without requiring any advanced technical knowledge. Keep in mind, however, that route finding can be a particular challenge on this mountain.

4. Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro

Photo: Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock

At 19,308 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa. It is also a largely non-technical trekking objective. Dealing with the altitude is certainly the main challenge when ascending Kilimanjaro.

Fortunately, the popular Marangu, or “Coca-Cola” route, has several huts for climbers to sleep in while they adjust to the altitude. Other routes offer smaller crowds and the opportunity for camping.

5. Pokalde Peak

Pokalde Peak, also known as Dolma Ri, is a 19,048 foot trekking peak in the Khumbu region of Nepal. Climbing this massive mountain in the Himalaya requires adequate acclimatization, a good degree of physical fitness, and some exposed scrambling.

From the summit, trekkers enjoy views of Makalu, Ama Dablam, and Pumori. Climbing the peak does require trekking permits, which will total $350 to $400 USD. Also, a guide, easy to arrange in Kathmandu, can be helpful for acquiring permits and route finding.

If you want to venture into the Himalaya but don’t have summit fever, check out The 5 Best Treks In Nepal, Trekking the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal, and Trekking the Mt. Kangchenjunga Circuit In Nepal.

6. Pico de Orizaba

Photo: Robert Briggs/Shutterstock

18,490 foot Pico de Orizaba, in Mexico, is the third highest peak in North America and an excellent objective for mountaineers of any ability.

Unlike previous peaks in this list, Orizaba does require the use of crampons, an ice axe, and possibly roped travel. Knowing how to self-arrest with an ice axe and basic knowledge of glacier travel are necessary, but not impossible to learn under the supervision of an experienced guide.

For more information, check out the excellent Mexico’s Volcanoes: A Climbing Guide.

7. Mount Elbrus

Photo: Vitaliy Kaplin/Shutterstock

Mount Elbrus, 18,510 feet, is the highest mountain in Europe. Located in southeastern Russia, the summit is snow covered but accessible via cable car. The normal route is also fortified with a string of huts, making it easy to plan

accommodation and allow time for acclimatization. Several permits are required for climbers attempting Elbrus, so be sure to begin planning well in advance of your arrival in Russia.

8. Ojos del Salado

Ojos del Salado is the second highest mountain in South America and, at 22,608 feet, the highest on this list. Truly a massive mountain, Ojos del Salado would certainly require crampons, ice axes, and extensive glacier travel experience, if it weren’t located on the edge of the Atacama desert.

As it is, the peak is mostly dry and rocky from base to summit, making it an accessible, albeit challenging, objective for novice mountaineers or experienced hikers. The entire climb is typically described as a hike because though it is long and at a very high elevation, it is almost completely non-technical, except for an exposed scramble below the summit.

This final scramble, along with the extreme height of the mountain, means that hiring a guide is advisable for inexperienced hikers.

If you love hiking and want to try climbing some of the highest mountains in the world, any of these eight massive peaks would be a great place to start.


Plan on hiking the snowy, icy backcountry? Check out Hal Amen’s “How to Survive an Avalanche” and David DeFranza’s “11 Most Dangerous Mountains in the World for Climbers.”

GOODS: Get your climbing and hiking gear here! Crampons, Hiking Poles , and The Backpacker’s Field Manual, Revised and Updated: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Backcountry Skills are some of the items we recommend! 

Discover Matador