Mount Fuji, Japan, 3,776m
Mount Fuji is a striking, singular peak rising almost 4,000m above Japan’s capital city, and one of the most-climbed mountains in the world. The hike up the most popular route, Kawaguchiko, is a great introduction to the stamina needed for climbing mountains, without technical terrain — the hike, all on well-established trail, starts at 2,300m and ends at the summit at 3,776m, and takes about eight hours round-trip for fit individuals. The official hiking season is only two months, July 1 to August 31.
Pikes Peak, United States, 4,302m
Pikes Peak gets hikers about as high as they can get in the continental United States — 4,302m, all on a good trail. And if you get to the top and don’t feel like walking back down, you can hop on the cog railway or hitch a ride in a car from one of the tourists who have driven up the road on the mountain’s north side. From the trailhead, the 21km hiking route gains 2,250m, a strenuous day of hiking that gives aspiring mountaineers a taste of what it takes to climb big mountains.
Tofana di Rozes, Italy, 3,225m
The Dolomites’ Tofana di Rozes offers a great mountain hiking experience, gaining 1,200m from the trailhead to the summit, and adds in a component of exposed rock climbing—on novice-friendly via ferrata, providing all the experience of rock climbing without needing the expertise and knowledge of how to use rock climbing safety equipment. The Ferrata Lipella is one of the longest, but not most difficult via ferrata in Italy, a system of iron ladders, rungs, and cables that the climber is tethered into in case of a fall. The entire climb usually takes five hours, four hours of which are spent on via ferrata.
Mount Hood, United States, 3,426m
The Pacific Northwest of the United States is a great training ground for the big mountains of the world, with large glaciated volcanic peaks that require all the skills used on 8,000m peaks, without the high altitude. Mount Hood is one of the least-committing peaks in the area, and a great first snow climb for climbers who are new to crampons and ice axes. The most common summit route, the South Side Route, is a half-day climb from the Timberline Lodge, and is guided regularly from late April through June every year.
Breithorn (via the Normal Route), Switzerland, 4,164m
The Breithorn’s western summit may be the most-climbed 4,000m peak in the Alps, thanks to the Klein Matterhorn cable car, which takes climbers to 3,883m, less than 300m below the summit. From that point, though, climbers head across and up a glacier and snow climbing up to 35 degrees, requiring use of crampons and ice axe. It’s a short climb, but its snow climbing and high altitude make it a good entree for beginning mountaineers.
Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, 5895m
Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain, and one of the world’s highest free-standing peaks, a volcano almost 6,000m high. And that’s the biggest challenge in climbing it — adjusting to the thin air at altitude. All of the routes on Kilimanjaro require a local guide, but are simply hiking on trails. Most guide services take clients from the start of the climb at around 1,800m to the 5,895m summit over the course of five or six days, allowing climbers to acclimatise to the increasingly thin air. It provides aspiring mountaineers the chance to see how their bodies react at high altitude without the technical or objective risks (avalanches, crevasse falls) of other high mountains.
Pico de Orizaba, Mexico, 5636m
A climb of Mexico’s highest mountain gives mountaineers a snow-climbing experience on a glacier that’s not heavily crevassed, and moderate altitude. Most guide services include several days on lower peaks to acclimatise, and then push for Orizaba’s 5,636m summit over one or two days. Summit day on the normal route begins at the Piedra Grande hut on a trail, then transitions to the Jamapa Glacier at about 5,000m, and climbs 40-degree snow and ice to the summit.
Island Peak, Nepal, 6,189m
Sometimes called 'the world’s easiest 6,000m peak,' Island Peak is the most popular 'trekking peak' in Nepal – peaks classified as attainable by climbers with some mountaineering experience. The climb isn’t a walk-up, though. It still requires an alpine start (two or three in the morning) and use of crampons and ice axe. Most parties tackle the 1000m climb from base camp to summit in one day, but many choose to take two days to climb. Many guide services include a trek to Everest Base Camp in their Island Peak itineraries.