Ever wondered which European mountains offer the best climbs? As a key point on my “Things I Must Do Before I’m 30” list, I’ve spent the last few weeks compiling a list of twenty mountains in Europe that are worth climbing. I’ve presented them here in order of height:
20. Ben Lomond, Scotland, UK.
Ben Nevis may hold the title for the highest mountain in Scotland – and the UK – but Ben Lomond, sitting on the edge of Loch Lomond, is a worthier climb: It has the traditional mountain shape, and at 3196 feet (974 metres), just about anybody can climb it.
19. Scaffell Pike, Lake District, England, UK
Scaffell Pike is the highest mountain in England, at 3209 feet (978 metres). It’s situated in the middle of a cluster of other peaks, and the view from the top is reputedly stunning.
18. Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
Most people know that Mount Vesuvius is the active volcano that destroyed Pompeii. Far less people know you can climb this mountain (when it’s not erupting) as it’s part of a National Park. At 4203 feet (1281 metres) we’re still in “long hike” territory in terms of difficulty of climb, and climbing an active volcano is definitely a story to tell back home. Just avoid any glowy orange streams.
17. Ben Nevis, Scotland, UK
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain both in Scotland and the UK, at 4406 feet (1344 metres). Its funny shape doesn’t put off legions of climbers every year, and there’s even special arrangements for disabled climbers to reach the summit. Just beware the vicious midges that plague Scotland during the summer months.
16. Serra Do Geres (sometimes spelled Gerez), Geres National Park, Portugal
Portugal isn’t famous for having particularly high mountains, but the ones it does have are an excellent platform to hone your skills before attempting any of the Alps, Pyrenees or Sierra Nevadas. At 5115 feet (1548 metres), Serra Do Gerez is a worthy offering.
15. Mont Ventoux, Provence, France.
Just take a moment to savour that view. There’s a road all the way to the highest point, which is 6273 feet (1912 metres), so this mountain could be cycled, rollerbladed or skateboarded if you wanted to mix it up a bit. As the name suggests, it’s windy at the top, so you’d better pack a mac.
14. Torre, Serra da Estrela, Portugal
On the Spanish border with Portugal, Serra da Estrela (Star Mountain Range) packs an impressive punch. The highest point is Torre, which is 6539 feet (1993 metres). It’s also Mainland Portugal’s highest point (the highest point in Portuguese territory is on Madeira Island in the Atlantic Ocean), so if you bag this one, you’ve climbed the highest mountain in Portugal.
13. Rochers de Naye, Montreux, Switzerland
At 6699 feet (2042 metres), this is the first mountain over 2000 metres on the list. It’s also a Via Ferrata, a special network of fixed climbing points around the Alps (and now extended all across France/Andorra) that can be solo-climbed. There’s also caves and marmots nearby. What’s not to love?
12. Kaiseregg, Bernese Alps, Switzerland
This mountain looks like it got bombed, with the huge curvy hole in its front. I guess that’s where the “egg” in “Kaiseregg” is supposed to fit. At 7169 feet (2185 metres), it’s well worth a climb when there’s no snow.
The fourth highest mountain in France, Arcalod is 7274 feet high (2217 metres). It also happens to be an Ultra Prominent Peak (the peak is at least 1500m above the surrounding landscape). I would imagine getting back down again would be the trick.
10. Tour d’Ai, Leysin, Switzerland
At 7658 feet (2334 metres) high, this mountain looks like it fell down drunk and landed in the forest. I particularly love the stripy effect of the rock face and the greenery.
9. Torre Grande, Cinque Torri, San Vito Di Cadore, Italy
Cinque Torri is a five-peak mountain on the Via Ferrata, one of the first Via Ferrate to be constructed – this one apparently has a museum dedicated to the World War One Italian soldiers who fought their war right here on the Austrian Front.
8. Mount Olympus, Litochoro, Greece
In mythology, Olympus was home to the Greek Pantheon of Gods, and no list of European mountains would be complete without it. It’s the highest mountain in Greece (of course) at 9577 feet (2919 metres), and as part of a national park it’s climbable, too.
7. Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
Officially the highest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna was rumoured to be the resting place of one of the Ancient Greek Titans. Higher than Olympus, Etna’s height is constantly changing because of the regular eruptions, but currently stands at 10,990 feet (3350 metres).
6. The Eiger, Bernese Alps, Switzerland
Famous for having the biggest North Face in the Alps, the Eiger has claimed the lives of many climbers in the early days of mountaineering. It’s 13,020 feet high (3970 metres).
5. The Matterhorn
Another infamous mountain, at 14962 feet high (4478 metres) the Matterhorn was classed as the most dangerous climb in the Alps for a very long time. Now, there’s a funicular (railway) all the way to the top. Also, it looks like a wizard’s hat.
4. Mont Blanc
Most climbers consider Mont Blanc to be the highest mountain in Europe (although it depends on the geographical definition of Europe, as the community’s a bit divided). It’s certainly the highest mountain in “geopolitical Europe,” at 15781 feet tall (4810 metres) it’s certainly no picnic in the park to climb. Most climbers spend some time acclimatizing before making a bid for the summit.
3. Mount Ararat, Turkey
It’s the tallest mountain in Turkey, dwarfing even Mont Blanc, at 16954 feet (5137 metres), and is said to be the mountain where Noah’s Ark ran aground after the Great Flood, so it’s very historic. You need a special permit to climb it, however.
2. Gora Dykh Tau, The Caucasus Mountain Range, Russia
While there’s a lot of disagreement as to whether The Caucasus actually counts as Europe, both the Seven Summits and Seven Second Summits lists have mountains from the Caucasus range in them. Dykh Tau is the European contribution to the Seven Second Summits (the second highest mountains in each continent) at 17077 feet (5205 metres), so it made my list (and the first five thousander on the list).
1. Mount Elbrus, Caucasus Mountain Range, Russia.
If Gora Dykh Tau was the second on this list, then Mount Elbrus, the European listing for the Seven Summits, is of course going to be number one. It dominates the landscape at 18510 feet (5642 metres) and has the reputation for having the worst toilet in Europe on its summit.
Which of these would you like to climb most? Which looks impossible? Are you inspired to climb something in the New Year?