Best Trips of 2001: High Altitude Adventures

High Altitude Adventures

Jan 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

An uncommon view: the North Face of K2 seen from Xinjian Uygur, China

From the highest hill in Indochina (cool) to the highest summit in New Zealand (cold) to the base of the second-highest peak in the world (colder). We've done the research. The rest is up to your legs and lungs.

China: The Back Door to K2

This is K2 with a twist. Mountaineer Jim Williams, a 30-year Himalayas veteran, leads a 32-day trek to the base of this 28,250-foot peak, the world's second-highest, from Xinjiang Uygur, a predominately Muslim, Turkish-dialect-speaking, autonomous region of China. One advantage to this approach (versus the usual route from the increasingly crowded Pakistani side) is the sheepherding and farming Uighur cultures encountered in the town of Kashgar before the trip's most rigorous slog: a six-hour-per-day, 14-day trek to the K2 glacier and a 12,631-foot base camp. Afterward, there's the 15,524-foot Khunjerab Pass, where five of the world's most impressive mountain ranges—the Hindu Kush, Kunlun, Tian Shan, Karakoram, and Himalaya—converge. Outfitter: Geographic Expeditions When to Go: June–September Price: $7,490 Difficulty: Strenuous —Sam Moulton

Breathe Deep Peru: Climbing and Trekking in the Cordillera Vilcanota
Acclimatize on the classic three-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. Then veer off the gringo route and through the rarely visited Cordillera Vilcanota, a range of 12,000- to 15,000-foot peaks, to climb 20,945-foot Nevado Ausangate. You'll stage a one-day summit bid from a 17,000-foot camp on the backside of the peak. "The crux of the climb," says Vince Anderson, owner of Skyward Mountaineering, "is a 50-degree glacial headwall early on." The rest is, uh, cake: scrambling around crevasses to the top and then returning to Cuzco on foot 21 days after you set out. Outfitter: Skyward Mountaineering $3,500 When to Go: June–August Difficulty: Moderate

Canada: Backcountry Snowboarding Rogers Pass, British Columbia
On day one of this five-day, 30,000-foot-total vertical trip, intermediate boarders learn backcountry travel basics, route selection, and avalanche-transceiver techniques. Then they ascend the powder keg that is British Columbia's 8,000- to 11,000-foot Selkirk Range on snowshoes or split boards and carve down epic, 4,000-foot alpine runs. "We set you up for success with steep chutes, wide-open bowls, and treed glades," says Yamnuska owner David Begg. Nights are spent in local hotels (on your dime), and each of the last four days involves tough decisions—Dome Glacier? Hermit Basin? Young's Peak? Don't worry, you can't go wrong.Outfitter: Yamnuska, Inc. When to Go: February–April Price: $520 Difficulty: Strenuous

Vietnam: Fan-si-pan Summit
Trek through lush fields of orchids and wild medicinal herbs to mingle with Hoang Lien Mountains hill tribes before reaching a surreal high-alpine environment of bamboo thickets, pine trees, and rhododendron. You'll slog through wet, steep jungle foothills, camping en route to the highest peak in Indochina, 10,312-foot Fan-si-pan—a far cry from the Himalayas and Andes, not to mention home—with glimpses of southern China. Outfitter: Snow Lion Adventures When to Go: November Price: $2,000 Difficulty: Easy
New Zealand: Climbing Mount Cook
The ascent of 12,346-foot Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest, is "much more technical than Denali," says Bryan Carter, managing director of outfitter Alpine Guides. The obstacles are numerous: heavy glaciation, big vertical scale (5,300 feet), and unpredictable weather. Consequently, you (a fit and skilled mountaineer) are allotted seven days for what could well take four. The payoff is a panorama of the Mackenzie Basin grasslands, the Tasman Glacier, and the Tasman Sea from a crowd-free mountaintop; only about 250 people summit each year.Outfitter: Alpine Guides When to Go: November–March Price: $1,400 Difficulty: Strenuous

Peru: Trekking in the Cordillera Vilcabamba
From coffee and tea plantations to sub-tropical forests and 6000 meter peaks, this 21-day adventure takes in all of Peru's Cordillera Vilcabamba, an area that has had few visitors in the past several centuries. Highlanders still wear their traditional dress and Incan roads still criss-cross the area. On your journey you'll trek four or five hours per day with ample lunch breaks and time to explore local villages and investigate the wildlife. You'll also cross five high-mountain passes, including the 16,000 foot Incachiriasca Pass before winding down your adventure with a visit to Machu Picchu. Outfitter: KE Adventure Travel When to Go: July-August Price: $2795 Difficulty: Strenuous
Alaska: Ski Mountaineering and Rafting in Glacier Bay NP Space.
That's what you'll notice when descending in your seaplane toward Glacier Bay on the first day of your arctic adventure. For twelve days, you'll be out there in Alaska's wide expanse, traversing the jagged blue ice of the Riggs glacier, climbing and skiing peaks that have never been skied, camping on ice, and descending the massive LeBlondou Glacier to the Tsirku River for 2-days of rafting. Outfitter: Alaska Mountain Guides & Climbing School, Inc. When to Go: June Price: $2400 Difficulty: Strenuous

France: Cycling the French Alps
If you take this trip, you'll be just like Lance Armstrong. Minus the cycling titles. Minus the against-all-odds story. Minus coverboy status. (Okay, so you both breathe oxygen.) This ten-day bike trip takes you onto the Route Des Grande Alpes and stages 14, 15, and 16 of the 2000 Tour de France. You'll pedal 70-100 kilometers a day, passing the Gorge de Cians on your way to the high passes of Col d'Iozard, Croix de Fer , and the 21 switchbacks of the l'Alpe d'Heuz. And, pardon my French, you'll rest your tired keister at night in some of the Alps most inviting resorts and inns. Outfitter: Cyclevents When to Go: July, August Price: $1850 ($950 if you camp) Difficulty: Strenuous
Tanzania: Climbing Kilimanjaro
Steep climbs and high altitude mark the Machame Route, a little traveled but highly scenic trail to the top of Kilimanjaro. This non-technical ascent will take you through cloud-forests and groves of giant heather before you reach the roof of Africa. But as a warm-up, you'll spend the first half of your two-week trip viewing wildlife in Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, and Manyara National Parks. Outfitter: Mountain Travel Sobek When to Go: January, February, June, July, August, September, December Price: $3990 Difficulty: Strenuous
Italy: Hiking the Dolomites
Imagine the Von Trapp's slurping spaghetti or Pavarotti singing Edelweiss, and you've captured the Dolomites, the northern border of Italy where Austrian and Italian cultures mingle in villages set among alpenrose blanketed valleys and jagged chamois-haunted peaks. This eight-day trek takes you to the picturesque Alto Adige region, Puez Odle Park, and Lake Crespeina. You'll lunch in some of the regions rifugi (mountain huts) and experience the wild and scenic land mountain people have made their home for centuries. Outfitter: Backroads When to Go: June, July, September Price: $3298 Difficulty: Moderate