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Written by Vishal on June 20, 2014 Share on

6 Breathtaking Treks for Aspiring Hikers

Did you know that the tallest peak in the world – Mt. Everest – was once completely underwater? Or that you can see a kaleidoscope of lights in the night sky in Iceland called the Northern lights? Or that Mount Annapurna in central Nepal is thought to be the most dangerous mountain to climb in the world, with the most fatalities? Be that as it may, it is also true that mountains have fascinated men since the beginning of time. There is something absolutely magical about climbing across scree, stones, snow and glaciers.

Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of reaching the summit! And the view during the journey is just breathtaking! What if we told you that there are places that match the adrenaline rush and beauty of such complex treks, but are safe to undertake even as an amateur? The six treks presented below are carefully chosen to bring some of this thrill and adventure into your lives and maybe inspire you to take the plunge full on!

#1 Mount Kilimanjaro:

One of the most famous mountains in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit is at a height of 19,341 ft. above sea level. There are 7 different popular routes that are taken for trekking up this mountain. We recommend the Northern route, called the Rongai route.

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The Rongai route is the only Northern route, approaching the climb from the Kenyan side, with low traffic and excellent scenery. It is better than the more popular, but extremely crowded Marangu route in terms of scenery. This is typically a 7-day hike, suitable for beginners and intermediates, covering a distance of about 90 kilometres in all. On an average, you would trek for 5-6 hours every day, with breaks in between. The final climb to the summit takes some skill and is usually attempted at midnight, so as to reach the peak at sunrise.

 This is a comparatively good route due to the slow ascent rate, making sure that you acclimatize to the altitude change gradually, thereby reducing the chances of altitude sickness. It also has a campsite along the only lake on Mount Kilimanjaro, from where you can enjoy a spectacular view of Kenya’s Ambosili Plains. 

#2 Everest Base Camp, [Nepal]:

No mountaineering enthusiast can resist the temptation of taking a shot at the highest peak in the world. However, that is a very tall ask. The Everest Base Camp trek provides a taste of that same thrill, on the foothills of the tallest mountain in the world, without the serious risks associated with a summit climb. This trek starts from Khumbra, Nepal, which is trekking country, largely populated with Sherpas and Porters, who would happily guide you to Base Camp.
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It is about an 8-10 day trek, reaching a height of 18,513 ft. above sea level at Kala Patthar. From here on a clear day, you can see the summit of Mount Everest. The trek route has numerous halts, which can be personalized as per your requirement. You can choose to have a more leisurely walk, whereby you can stop to see the multiple Buddhist monasteries hidden away in the mountain crevices en-route, or you can make a pit-stop at Sagarmatha National Park which is a fine example of a mountainous eco-system. Lots of time is needed to acclimatize the body to the change in air pressure and oxygen content, so frequent halts are recommended.

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This trek culminates at the Everest Base Camp, located at a height of 17,650 ft. above sea level. From that point forward, more seasoned mountaineers train and plan for their summit dash. Looking at the snow covered valleys and the majestic Mount Everest is sure to leave an indelible mark on your psyche, so you will be able to treasure these memories for a lifetime.

#3 Overland Track, Tasmania, with Mount Ossa [Australia]:

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This Overland Track spread over the Tasmanian countryside, and covering a distance of about 80 kilometres, is among the most famous in Australia. The track snakes its way between Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair – Australia’s deepest natural freshwater lake. Along the track are numerous smaller lakes, peppering the view.

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Located halfway along the track is Mount Ossa, with a height of 5,305 ft. above sea level. This is Tasmania’s highest peak and is a two day climb from the base. It has a superb variety of vegetation across the mountain slope as the altitude increases. This covers the area of the Cradle Mountain Lake St. Claire National Park. The track passes through typical Australian bush, old growth forests and even some swampy areas. Further ahead on the track, you will come across Lake Ayr, which is a very tranquil spot, and lends itself well to photo opportunities.

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The peak of Mount Ossa itself is a jagged piece of rock, stabbing the skyline. There are scanty forests all along the hike up, which lends the atmosphere some mystery. The last few metres of the hike are completely rocky though, and in the winter months it tends to get quite slippery due to ice. However, the view on reaching the summit is well worth the effort. The valleys are covered in pristine white snow in the winter months, which is a memorable sight indeed.

#4 Tour du Mont Blanc [Europe]:

The Tour du Mont Blanc, or TMB as it is popularly called, is among the most famous long distance walking trails in Europe. It covers a track of roughly 200 kilometres across three countries – Italy, Switzerland and France – around the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps.

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Traditionally covered in an anti-clockwise direction, this tour now has more than 150 different variants, which you can select basis the difficulty level desired for the trek. The standard anti-clockwise hike usually takes about 60 hours and is completed in 10 days’ time.

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The highest points across this hike are Col des Forers in France and Fenetre d’Arpette in Switzerland, both at 8,743 ft. above sea level. There are various minor cliffs that can be added to the standard tour, for an enhanced experience of hiking. These vary across difficulty levels and depend upon the person. There are many options of using public transport or lifts across certain stretches as well, which make this trail one of the most universal in appeal to a wide age bracket. 10 The route of the Tour du Mont Blanc is also used for an annual ultra-marathon event, called the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, where the winning time is usually about 20 hours to complete the 166 kilometre route.

#5 Tiger’s Nest, [Bhutan]:

Some treks draw you in and when you are into it you realize that nature has tricked you and it is not as easy as it looks. The trek to he hike to Tiger’s Nest is indeed one of them. The sheer beauty and adventure power packed in a single day makes the bait worthwhile.

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The Taktsang Monastery, which is also known as Tiger’s Nest, is one of the most important pilgrimages in Buddhism and arguably, the most famous landmark in Bhutan. Located near the city of Paro, it was built in 1692, in a cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated for 3 months and brought Buddhism to the valley. According to legend, the Guru flew to this remote spot, which is about 10,800 ft. above sea level, on the back of a tigress – hence the name.

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As tiger-back is not an option any more, trekkers face a serious challenge negotiating this track, where an altitude change of 2,600 ft. It is important to acclimatize oneself at the start of the trek, which is at a height of 8,200 ft. Most tourists leave the Tiger’s Nest hike till the end of their itineraries for this reason. An estimated 10,000 travellers attempt this trek every year but only about half of them make it due to altitude sickness. The hike normally takes about 5-6 hours uphill, and about the same time downhill. It is an extremely steep trail, with cheerful prayer flags dotting the path, motivating you to go on. At the midpoint is a quaint cafeteria serving local Bhutanese cuisine. A pit-stop to recharge yourself with hot tea and munchies is a great plan, as it helps to pace yourself. The last leg of the trek is up steep crumbling steps, so remember to use the handrail for safety as well as support. For the completely novice trekkers, there are horses available to take you up the trail till the point the steps start.

The monastery itself is situated amidst breathtaking scenery. However, inside the monastery, cameras are strictly forbidden. Remember to take lots of photographs on the way and back, as the rugged and untamed beauty of this country is truly something to remember.

#5 Iceland Winter Hike:

Last in this series of recommended sites for trekking is Iceland. Not because it is any less beautiful than the others, but because it is undoubtedly the trickiest and least populated terrain to trek over. Hence, even a minor accident in this area can become a major issue as help and first aid may be several hours away. It is strongly advised to not attempt this trek alone, or without an experienced guide.

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That being said, the sheer beauty of the landscape in Iceland is amazing. You can opt for a two-day trek through South Iceland to the glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon, and also engage in glacier trekking there. The lagoon is situated at the south end of the glacier Vatnajokull, near the Vatnajokull National Park and the town of Hofn. If you are lucky and the atmospheric conditions are right, you might see the multi-hued “Northern Lights” or the “Aurora Borealis” in the evening during this trek.

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There are a number of trails in this area, and most have a few sheds across them. During winters the locals leave the sheds unlocked and uninhabited for the use of hikers, but supplies need to be carried by the individual. There are other, longer hikes, which last up to 8 days, available during the summer months. They include some spectacular waterfalls and treks through a volcanic landscape. But the thrill of trying a winter hike is incomparable.

* PickYourTrail advisory: Ensure that you are healthy and have a basic fitness level before going on any hiking tour. Make sure you attempt all these treks in a group and carry necessary first aid and accessories.

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