Mountains for mortals: 12 non-technical mountain climbs

As a climber, I have completed several indoor climbing and winter mountaineering courses but my technical climbing skills still leave a lot to be desired. I have mastered basic rope, ice axe and crampon skills but don’t practise them as often as I’d like. All too often I only find time for some wilderness backpacking in Europe or low-altitude scrambling in the UK. Regardless, I still have high hopes of climbing the seven summits. One day…

I’m aware that I’ll never be a Reinhold Messner or Chris Bonington (I’ll settle for reading their books instead), but I still long to pitch myself against tall mountains with imposing names.

If, like me, you’re in the amateur climber basecamp, you’ll surely enjoy these great non-technical mountain climbs. There are no “death zones” on these mountains but they offer plenty of challenges for mere mortals like me.

Non-technical mountain climbs

With the help of Adventure Consultants we have classed the below as non-technical mountain climbs. These mountains are below 7,000m (23,000ft) and do not require extensive high-altitude experience or practical knowledge (e.g. rope, crampon and ice axe skills or the ability to abseil and rappel). That said, as with all adventure sports, the more experienced and prepared you are for these challenges, the better.

1. Mount Kilimanjaro

Location: Tanzania, Africa
Elevation:
5,895m (19,341ft)
Range:
None – freestanding
Duration:
5-7 days

Kili remains the first and only one of the seven summits that I’ve actually completed – because it’s by far the easiest. There are several easy- to-moderate routes up to the summit making it one of the most accessible moderate-altitude treks in the world. Africa’s highest mountain is also the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Like many volcanoes, it is not attached to a mountain range. The Machame Route is by far the most picturesque but the mountain is very popular among tourists and hikers so don’t expect to have any of the routes to yourself.

More info: Adventure Consultants

2. Mount Temple

Location: Canada, North America
Elevation:
3,544m (11,627ft)
Range:
Bow Range
Duration: 
1-2 days

The most accessible peak above 3,400m (11,000ft) in the Canadian Rockies is also one of the most frequently climbed. The summit can be gained in a day thanks to its relatively low elevation gain: approximately 1,600m (5,250ft). Despite the relative accessibility, it should be noted that the mountain is a giant and dominates the western landscape of Banff National Park. Some fairly moderate to intense scrambling is required even on the “easy” route.

More info: A Scrambler’s Guide to Mount Temple

3. Ojos del Salado

Location: Argentina/Chile, South America
Elevation:
6,893m (22,615ft)
Range:
Andes
Duration: 
12 days

Positioned on the Argentina-Chile border, Ojos del Salado is the highest volcano in the world. It is also the second-highest mountain outside the Himalaya, second only to Aconcagua 630km (390miles) further south. Due to its proximity to the Atacama Desert (the driest place on Earth), conditions on the mountain tend to be fairly dry all year round. Despite this, expect to find snow on the slopes as it can fall all year round due to the volcano’s exposed slopes.

More info: Adventure Consultants

4. Khüiten Peak

Location: Mongolia, Asia
Elevation:
4,375m (14,354ft)
Range:
Tavan Bogd
Duration: 
7 days

The highest peak in Mongolia is probably the most remote mountaineering experience in the world. Its peak sits on the trilateral border of Mongolia, Russia and China! It is not a technical mountain but is challenging to reach. The surrounding wilderness comprises spectacular flowering fields and vast open mountain tundra inhabited only by traditional herding families – everything one would expect of the plains of Mongolia.

More info: Adventure Consultants

5. Mount Whitney

Location: USA, North America
Elevation:
4,421m (14,505ft)
Range:
Sierra Nevada
Duration: 
1-3 days

Mount Whitney is the highest summit in the contiguous United States (i.e. excluding Hawaii and Alaska) as well as the highest peak in the Sierra Nevada. It looks intimidating on first view but the popular Mount Whitney Trail starts at an elevation of 2,550m (8,360ft) meaning the summit can be reached in just a day (if you’re nuts). Most hikers prefer to take at least two days to complete the 35km (22-mile) round trip with an elevation gain of just over 1,900m (6,100ft).

More info: National Park Service

6. Mount Elbrus

Location: Russia, Europe
Elevation: 
5,642m (18,510ft)
Range: 
Caucasus Mountains
Duration
: 7 days

Non-technical-mountains - elbrusPeter | Atlas & Boots

The second “easiest” of the seven summits will require some crampon and ice axe use, but these basic skills can be learnt from guides prior to ascent. A cable car takes would-be summiteers to accommodation at the base of the climb at 3,600m (11,800ft). Here, climbers can undertake some acclimatisation hikes before tackling the mountain proper. Huts along the route make for a relatively “comfortable” ascent before the 3am summit bid.

More info: Adventure Consultants

7. Mount Brewster

Location: New Zealand, Oceania
Elevation:
2,516m (8,255ft)
Range:
Southern Alps
Duration:
 1-2 days

Brewster is a great mountain if you’re looking for a taste of alpinism in the wilderness of New Zealand’s South Island. There’s no need for acclimatisation on this mountain, but your guide will cover some basic alpine skills (ice axe and crampon) that you’ll need during the ascent. Apart from that, just plenty of stamina and a pair of steady legs should be all you need to get to the top. Brewster Hut provides comfortable overnight bunk beds at 1,450m (4,750ft), making for a pleasant summit day via either the West or South Ridge.

More info: Adventure Consultants

8. Pokalde Peak

Location: Nepal, Asia
Elevation:
5,806m (19,049ft)
Range:
Himalaya
Duration: 
9-12 days

Pokalde Peak is one of Nepal’s most popular trekking peaks and provides an excellent introduction to Himalayan mountaineering if you plan to take your skills further. You’re among the big dogs round here – expect to glimpse the Himalayan giants of Nuptse, Lhotse and of course Everest. Luckily for you, on this mountain you’ll be well below any death zones. Ideally, you’ll have some experience of ice axe and crampons before attempting this but there will be plenty of opportunity to hone these skills.

More info: Adventure Consultants

9. Mera Peak

Location: Nepal, Asia
Elevation:
6,476m (21,246ft)
Range:
Himalaya
Duration: 
10-13 days

Nepal’s highest trekking peak is less technically demanding than Pokalde Peak but its higher altitude requires longer and higher acclimatisation days. The gentle climb to the summit should not deceive would-be climbers. This mountain is very high and as with any Himalayan peak it is susceptible to severe weather conditions. Additionally, the trekking route from the north requires some high-altitude glacier walking.

More info: Adventure Consultants

10. Stok Kangri

Location: India, Asia
Elevation:
6,153m (20,182ft)
Range:
Himalaya
Duration: 
7-9 days

Stok Kangri lies in the middle of the captivating area of Ladakh in the northern part of the Indian state, Jammu and Kashmir. It is one of the more accessible Himalayan mountains outside of Nepal. High above the Indus Valley, many mountains in the area quickly rise above 6,000m (19,700ft). You’ll probably fly into Leh, the capital of Ladakh, at 3,524m (11,560ft) and acclimatise thoroughly before moving onto basecamp at 4,980m (16,340ft) to attempt the summit.

More info: Summit Post

11. Mount Chimborazo

Location: Ecuador, South America
Elevation:
6,268m (20,564ft)
Range: 
Andes
Duration: 
7-15 days (depending on experience/skills and program)

On the summit of Chimborazo, you’ll be at Earth’s closest point to the sun. Due to the mountain’s location along the equatorial bulge, its summit is the farthest point from the Earth’s core. Depending on your experience, it may be best attempted as part of an Ecuadorian volcanoes expedition taking in the Cotopaxi and Cayambe volcanoes beforehand. These lower-altitude volcanoes are no easy feats themselves and will equip you with the acclimatisation and basic mountaineering experience you’ll need to tackle the (currently) inactive stratovolcano of Chimborazo.

More info: Adventure Consultants

12. Aconcagua

Location: Argentina, South America
Elevation: 
6,961m (22,838ft)
Range: 
Andes
Duration: 
21 days

The second-highest summit of the seven and the highest mountain outside of the Himalaya and Asia, Aconcagua is an awesome mountain for professional and amateur climbers alike. The route is non-technical and often referred to as the “highest trekking peak in the world”. The key to mastering this mountain is time and acclimatisation – there is no shortcut to the top. It is perfect preparation if you dream of going on to tackle the big mountains of the Himalaya.

More info: Adventure Consultants


Recommended reading:

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills covers everything from the basics of equipment, knots, rappelling techniques, and leave-no-trace principles to the more advanced skills of setting up complex anchors, evaluating avalanche terrain, and developing your leadership skills.

In Girl on the Rocks: A Woman’s Guide To Climbing With Strength, Grace, And Courage author Katie Brown presents her interviews with numerous female climbers – from a young girl to a sixty-something professional climber – to learn what the sport has done for them.

Vertical Mind: Psychological Approaches for Optimal Rock Climbing teaches rock climbers how to improve their mental game so they can climb better and have more fun. The latest research in brain science and psychology can help you retrain your mind and body for higher levels of rock climbing performance.

Lead image: Dreamstime

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