‘Must Do Overseas’ walks
Often when travelling abroad there is a well known mountain, hill or walk which simply have to be done. In this section I have included some of these. They are all straightforward, not difficult and mainly serve the purpose of describing any complications on the walk, getting to the walk or advice about the walk. For example, did you know you needed a permit to climb Mount Teidi and best sort it before you leave home!
- Table Mountain, Cape Town
- Kosciusko, Australia’s highest
- Mount Teidi, Tenerife, Spain’s highest
- Mount Washington, NE States
- Half Dome, Yosemite
Table Mountain, Cape Town, 1085ms (3558ft)
Table Mountain is the most climbed mountains by tourists to South Africa and most of those who don’t climb it go up by cable car. Not everyone goes to the summit which is Maclears Beacon, a couple of miles to the east of the upper cable station and restaurant
It is possible to get a bus, a taxi or even to walk to the lower cable station and this station is on the red bus route so you can take in Table Mountain while on a tour of the city!
The start point for walkers is nearly a mile to the east of the lower cable station at a bend in the road. Normally the start point is obvious because of the large number of cars and people going up or coming down the route. However I recommend that you obtain a copy of Slingsbys Table Mountain National Park map as this will reassure you of the route and the start point
It is not advised to stray from the main tourist track up Table Mountain or areas that are patrolled by the rangers, in particular I have heard stories of people going missing when climbing Devils Peak which is off the tourist route. The tourist information at the lower cable station will update you on safe areas as the position appears to change from year to year.
Anyway when I have been to Cape Town late in 2006 and early in 2012 the main tourist route up Platteklip gorge has been safe and indeed popular, on each occasion I have seen about 200 people going up and down the route.
It was a hot day when I went up on 5 January this year and I needed plenty of water. It is a steep ascent of over 2000 feet and takes between 1 hour and 2 hours to reach the plateau depending on how fit you are. It is very satisfying to break out of the gorge onto the summit plateau and a relief because in hot weather the climb is hard work.
On reaching the plateau turn left for the summit which takes a further 30 minutes of relatively easy flat walking or right for the restaurant. I turn left as I like to tick off the true summit before going to the restaurant!
It is best to return by the same route or get the cable car back down. In 2006 I walked along the 12 apostles for a mile or so before descending into Camps Bay but that was not recommended in 2012 for fear of robbery or worse
Whilst Devils Peak is not recommended a number of people were climbing the Lions Head in 2012 which at just over 2000 feet gives an interesting climb with some easy scrambling and great views over the city. The best start point is about 200 yards north of the major road junction at Kloof Nek and you should see cars parked at the start point. Sadly when I did this peak in 2006 it was covered in cloud.
Walking up Table Mountain when in Cape Town should not be missed and dinner at the waterfront afterwards will taste all the better if you have been up!
Kosciusko, Australia’s Highest, 2288ms (7310 ft)
Kosciuszko is the highest mountain in Australia and used to be regarded as one of the 7 summits, highest mountain in each of the 7 continents. However the Australian continent is now seen as including New Guinea and the highest peak is therefore the Carstenz Pyramid, an awkward and serious climb by all accounts
Probably the main challenge of Kosciuszko is getting to it, the nearest city is Canberra, about 100 miles to the north. I drove up from Melbourne entering the Snowy mountain region from the west. There was a fee of 32 Australian dollars to enter the Kosciuszko national park, equivalent to just over £20.
Kosciuszko can be climbed from Thredbo or Charlottes Pass. From either it is a relatively easy walk on a good path or boardwalk. The easiest route is to get the chairlift from Thredbo and it is then an easy 5 mile walk to the summit with only a few hundred feet of ascent. I started from Thredbo without getting the chairlift which meant a 7 mile walk and 2800 feet of climbing to the summit. An alternative would be to start from Dead Horse gap which gives a higher start point than Thredbo
From Thredbo a path led up near the chairlift and the 2000 foot ascent to the top of the chairlift took about an hour and was at times fairly steep. There was hardly anybody about so I was surprised to see a large number of people at the top of the chairlift. As I started along the boardwalks leading to the summit there was a steady flow of people including a large number of families climbing the mountain. Kids raced passed me and I discovered it was Australia day which had no doubt contributed to the popularity of the walk
It took a further one and a half hours to reach the summit from the top of the chairlift making two and a half hours from Thredbo. Although the walk is easy in good summer conditions it could well be a different proposition in bad weather or winter. One of the rangers had told me that there are a number of fatalities on the mountain in bad weather.
From the summit I headed on northwards for nearly an hour reaching the top of Mount Northcote (6900 feet) just off the main range track before turning back. I was now having a problem with lack of water. There was none up there and I hadn’t brought enough. I got back to the top of the chairlift and went straight into the Eagles Nest restaurant for much needed water and orange juice before heading back down the path to Thredbo
Kosciuszko is an interesting but not spectacular walk. The terrain is comparable to the white peak district in Derbyshire but clearly much higher!
The route from Charlottes Pass could give a good day by returning along the main range track past Carruthers Peak on the way back. This would certainly make for a long day as the total distance is nearly 20 miles
Mount Teidi, Tenerife, Spain’s Highest, 3718ms (12,198ft)
3,718m. It’s a long way up from the Costas, but the volcanic landscape of Los Canadas caldera and the view from the summit is worth the trip. It’s a “must do” if you visit Tenerife.
First you need a (free) permit to access the summit, which you get from the National Park offices. This needs pre-booking and daily numbers are limited, they require you to choose a two hour timeslot – plan ahead and get in several weeks early. The online application process is simple and you print off your permit and take it with you. There is a cable car (€25) from the caldera at about 2,300m up to about 3,450m, and several walking options to the cable’s top station, but the single summit access route is manned by a Park official. The cable is a popular excursion, so prepare to queue.
Once up the cable you need the permit and your passport to get through the gate. Go slowly; the 150m climb is simple, on a prepared path, but beware the altitude and wind. It may be baking on the coast but it will be cold on top. Fumaroles give a whiff of sulphur in the small summit crater but it is the far reaching views to the rest of the Canaries that hold the attention.
How to get a permit (click here).
If you plan to climb avoiding the cable car you’ll need a hire car. Public transport is available to the caldera but does not allow sufficient time to summit from the road. It’s a good 90 minute drive from the various coastal resorts, either north or south. Have your car available to you for an early start and, as the landscape is arid, take plenty of water.
Mount Washington, NE States, 1917ms (6288ft)
Mount Washington is in White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire and is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States
I was there in 2004 with my son James and we decided to climb it. There are a variety of options, you can drive up the auto road for a fee, go up via the cog railway which I imagine is spectacular or walk up. James wasn’t given a choice and we walked up from the Pinkham Lodge Visitors Centre which lies to the east of the summit at 2000 feet on route 16. The Visitors Centre was about 20 miles north of North Conway where we were staying
We went up from the Visitors Centre via the Tuckerman Ravine route, the most popular trail up the eastern slopes of the mountain. It was an 8.5 mile return trip with a height gain of approximately 4300 feet. There was a good path all the way but I would recommend you obtain a trail guide at the visitors centre
We had a beautiful sunny day for the climb. The route started through the trees and then above the trees climbed a headwall of some 900 feet next to a waterfall, the Tuckerman Ravine. After this we reached the broad summit ridge of the mountain which led to the summit a few hundred feet higher.
At the summit we joined all the people who had driven up or used the cog railway and the scene was similar to the summit of Snowdon on a summer day.
We returned down a similar route but varied it slightly by going off to the left over the Lion Head before rejoining the main trail just below the Hermit Lake shelter.
The route is not long but there is a considerable amount of ascent. The trail guide suggests 9 hours for the return trip and whilst it may not take this long you should allow a day for the return trip. It is well worth the time and I would recommend walking up to see Mount Washington properly. This route is far better than you would anticipate with the climb up the headwall next to the waterfall being the highlight
Half Dome, Yosemite, 2694ms (8840ft)
Half Dome is a dominating feature of Yosemite and for many visitors it is the ultimate Yosemite hike. It is an unforgettable experience not just because of the magnificent sheer cliff face falling into the valley floor but also the 400 feet of steel cable which ascends an exposed 45 degree rock face at the back of Half Dome and which is the easiest way up.
There is however no need for climbing gear in summer conditions when the cables are in place which is generally between late May and early October.
It is a long day with 4800 feet of climbing and a 17 mile return trip. In summer it can also get fairly hot so I suggest you set off early.
In late August 2003 I visited Yosemite and stayed in the campsite near Curry Village. I got up early and found the start point near Happy Valley Nature Centre setting off at 7am on a beautiful sunny day. There were plenty of other people around setting off up the mountain.
I followed the John Muir trail on the way up. This stays in the trees and misses the falls but gives a steadier ascent. It is slightly longer and less popular than the Mist Trail which leads up by the waterfalls.
After an initial 2000 feet of ascent the route flattened and the John Muir trail rejoined the Mist trail. The Trail then carries on without gaining any height for nearly 3 miles as the route works it way to the back of the mountain and passed the Little Yosemite Valley Campground.
After this the route started ascending again through the forest reaching the Half Dome Trail junction about 2 miles from the summit. You are now at about 7000 feet and the excitement is about to begin!
Take the left fork up the Half Dome Trail which continues ascending leading you out of the forest to the north east shoulder at 7600 feet. From here a rocky but relatively easy trail leads a further 650 feet up the mountain to the bottom of the twin cables. You will also see wooden crossboards every few feet which provide footholds.
Fortunately it was early and thus not too crowded plus the weather was good. I picked up some gloves at the bottom to protect my hands and started up the twin cables finding the wooden crossboards useful to take the pressure off my arms. I found it exposed and tiring on the arms but it is perfectly possible to get up as long as you have a good head for heights. I wouldn’t like to attempt it in bad weather or with thunderstorms about. I was told later that there are very few accidents on the steel rope ladders, 2 fatalities in 20 years
I stayed at the top for about 30 minutes, it is a large flat rocky expanse with superb views. I nervously peered over the edge down the rock face but wouldn’t recommend this!
I then set off back, going down the cables was easier than going up but there were increasing amounts of people going up so I had to stop and let people go by and visa versa. From the bottom of the cables it was a fairly quick descent to the waterfalls where I stopped to take some pictures and cool down
The main tourist shop in Curry Village sells a stack of guides and memorabilia for Half Dome. I bought a mug with the words “I made it to the top” hardly original but the picture was good. Then set off back to San Francisco getting back there at about 10.30pm, a long day!
Further details on climbing Half Dome and other Yosemite peaks can be found in the lonely planet guide to the Yosemite National Park.
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