If you are new to scaling icy peaks but you’re already crazy about the sport, then you may find yourself daydreaming about the world’s best mountain climbing locations for beginners. When you take into account the beautiful scenery, healthy exercise, and fresh air you are exposed to, you have to admit that mountain climbing sounds like lots of fun, even for novice climbers. Sure, you’ve probably seen movies like K2, Alive, or Touching the Void where experienced climbers or athletes suffer frostbite, fall off cliffs, or cannibalize one another. Mountain climbing doesn’t need to be treacherous, though. Instead of risking life and limb on a glacial peak in the midst of a blizzard, most beginner mountain climbers leisurely make their way up sunny, relatively safe mountains. You just need to choose a route that is appropriate to your skill and experience level. Any of these five mountains are the perfect choice for your first major climb.
Mount Baker, United States
If you are staying local, you can cut your mountain climbing teeth on Washington’s Mount Baker or Mount Rainier. These two mountains are considered the top training peaks in the world for their high elevations, manageable distances, and beautiful glaciers. Mount Baker is usually much less crowded with tourists than Mount Rainier is, yet boasts all of the same features as the more popular peak, including a volcanic summit, national forest, and a ton of ice. You don’t need any skill or experience to scale Mount Baker, but you do need to be in good shape. Mt. Baker is the perfect introduction to mountaineering. Typically, climbers will carry gear to camp and spend a full day training before taking on the summit.
Despite being the fourth highest of the famed Seven Summits (the highest in Africa), Kilimanjaro is actually one of the world’s easiest mountains to climb. You’ll be hiking six hours per day for about a week, but you’ll pass through six ecological zones. There are sites, such as this one, that can help to prepare climbers mentally and physically, as well as recommendations for climbing gear and fitness programs. You can help to support Tanzania’s local economy by hiring a guide outfit affiliated with the Kilimanjaro Porters’ Assistance Project, which works to ensure fair wages for local workers.
Mount Khuiten, Mongolia
If you are looking for something slightly more challenging but not quite dangerous, climb Mount Khuiten in Mongolia. Situated on the border of China and Russia, Khuiten’s peak measures at 14,350 feet. This climb crosses an expansive barren, a glacier, and a snowy ridge. You’ll need to take an introductory mountain climbing course before you set out and you can expect the climb to last one week.
Mount Elbrus, Russia
Mount Elbrus is Europe’s tallest mountain at 18,500 feet but the most popular climb is free from crevasses and only moderately steep. You’ll have to arrive several days early in order to acclimate to the very thin air, and on the trip to the summit, climbers can expect a 12-15-hour round trip. This climb begins with a 12,500-foot ride in a Soviet era cable car, which is an adventure in and of itself. You will want to be well conditioned before attempting this climb by creating a training program that includes a mix of cardiovascular training and strength building. The climbing season on Elbrus runs from the end of April through to mid-September. The best time to climb Elbrus is July to August when the weather is more stable.
At 22,840 feet, Aconcagua is the world’s tallest mountain outside of the Himalaya. You don’t need to know how to operate an ice axe to make this climb, but you do need to be in outstanding physical condition. The climb usually takes about three weeks to complete and takes you backpacking up a high-altitude trailhead beginning at 9,000 feet to 20,000 feet, where you’ll make camp before reaching the summit the following day. This climb moves slowly so that you can acclimatize to the altitude and you can expect to haul your own equipment.
As long as you’re in good shape and you stick with your guides, you are guaranteed to have the time of your life on any one of these five mountains. You don’t have to be an expert climber to reach the top of some of the world’s most famous peaks. You just need to love climbing.