Hiking is often thought of as a mere walk in the woods, but certain trails exist which should only be attempted by those seeking to challenge themselves and test their ability to persevere. If you want to saturate your eyes with beauty and your body with a sense of death-defying accomplishment, while taking in the sweeping vistas, lush waterfalls, dry deserts and high mountain peaks, these are the hikes for you.
1. The Dientes Circuit
Where: Isla Navarino, Patagonia, Chile
Why it's hard: remote, high, unsupported
On a desolate island along the southern most tip of South America exists an unknown Patagonia experience, the Dientes Circuit. This extremely remote 32.3-mile circumnavigation pits man up against the harsh and unforgiving elements with winds and volatile weather rolling in off the Southern Ocean.
Trekkers who manage to stay warm and find the trail are rewarded with rare views of Cape Horn and the Antarctic Sea. The remoteness, lack of trail markers and extreme weather make this one a must for a South America trek.
2. The Grand Randonnée 20
Where: Corsica, France
Why it's hard: High and steep, very exposed
Along the 102.5-mile spine of the Corsican Mountains exists the most challenging yet exhilarating trek in all of Europe. In this land, beauty lives alongside the edge of danger as vistas of windswept craters and towering pinnacles dot the skyline from the narrow perch on high mountain ridges. This trek should be attempted in the summer when pre-fixed chains ease the relentless climbs along steep sheer crumbly cliffs. The Grande Randonnée (GR) has many different routes but the 20 is among the highest respected and most difficult route in Europe.
3. The Snowman Trek
Why it's hard: Accessibility through mountain passes is difficult
Inaccessible ten months out of the year, this trek travels through 11 steep passes climbing up over 16,404 feet high along the border between Tibet and Bhutan. The extreme isolation and endless climb leads to a 50 percent failure rate for the few who attempt it -- although as much due to access to the high passes than due to difficulty of climbing and trekking.
However, perseverance and endurance is rewarded by experiencing the most pristine untouched wilderness on earth dotted with waterfalls, misty forests and glacial streams. Want to put this one on the bucket list? Talk to the guys at The Mountain Company, who run a Snowman Trek expedition every October.
4. Kill yourself on Kilimanjaro
Where: Tanzania, Africa
Why it's hard: Rapid ascent to 19,685 feet (and higher)
Known as the “Whiskey” route for being the most difficult and direct route up 19,340-foot Kilamanjaro, this short and steep climb reaches the snow-capped summit of the highest peak on the African continent.
The demanding 22.3-mile route traverses spectacular scenic landscapes of lush forests, waterfalls, and glaciers yet provides little time for the body to acclimatise to the high altitude, making high-altitude sickness a serious hazard.
5. Get lost in the maze
Why it's hard: Navigation, heat, lack of water
If the movie 127 Hours taught anything, it is that this stretch of remote landscape in Canyonlands National Park consists of numerous dead ends, disorienting sandstone fins and high cliffs making navigation extremely difficult. Entering this desolate area should only be attempted by the most experienced and hardened desert trekkers due to the combination of a complete lack of reliable water sources, extreme heat and challenging terrain. And if you don't want to saw your own arm off like Aron Ralston, always let people know where you're going.
6. Walk the plank
Where: Mt Huashan, China
Why it's hard: High, long and and tricky traverses
Located in the Shaanxi Province, Mount Huashan is one China’s five sacred mountains. Historically, this trek was embarked on as a spiritual pilgrimage leading to a monastery near the summit.
Nowadays, this beautifully scenic but heart palpitating trek has been made famous by the perilous “plank road” involving a series of narrow wooden planks and metal rungs bolted into the side of the mountain which hikers must carefully traverse.