TOUR DU MONT BLANC, FRANCE, ITALY, SWITZERLAND
When to go: July to September
Arguably at the forefront of multi-day walks in Europe, this stroll weaves through seven valleys and across the borders of three separate nations as it works its way around the base of the tallest mountain in Western Europe, the great Mt Blanc Massif. The craggy bluffs and precarious pinnacles of this heralded hike are home to armies of marmots and the exotic ibex, an alpine mountain goat made famous by the swirling staunch of its horns. Also native to these high-country hills are a multitude of flower species adorning its fields with a foreground of vibrancy and fragrance that perfectly compliment the already overwhelming views of the mountains in the background. There is certainly no shortage of sensory stimuli during the 10,000m of ascent contained within this circular cruise through the likes of Chamonix and La Fouly. Just to put the breadth of such a large series of rises and falls in altitude into perspective, Mt Everest stands at 8,848m, more than a kilometre shorter in comparison to the cumulative climb around Mt Blanc. While it is no short distance to traverse, servicing this long slog is a gamut of accommodation and dining, making it possible to live comfortably while next to the regal peaks which lure you to extend your stay.
SIERRA HIGH ROUTE, CALIFORNIA, USA
Distance: Approx. 313km
When to go: April to September
Undeniably a demanding hike, the enduring solitude of the Sierra High Route puts it in a league of its own. In fact, for the most part it is not actually a track at all, but rather a loosely defined (often completely unmarked) direction towards the opposite end of the one you began the journey from. Knowledge of navigation skills is crucial, with less than a fifth of the route being delineated. As such, it is mandatory to verse yourself in use of a compass, topographical maps, and track notes. Even more, the SHR is predominately above timberline and therefore requires nearly as much climbing as it does walking. Mindful risk analysis and discretion should absolutely be applied to scenarios where poor judgement could be costly. For as much as the unstable boulder fields serve up a treacherous traipse, they also induce a true sense of maverick exploration. The pioneer-style experience is sure to leave a lasting impression, as it is no simple hike to a lookout. The Sierra High Route is a quintessential journey granting plenty of time to wonder while you wander.
ROUTEBURN TRACK, NEW ZEALAND
Distance: Approx. 32km
When to go: November to April
The dual-island nation of New Zealand is the epitome of authentic adventure. Committed to integrating society and nature, the Kiwi Department of Conservation has established a selection of Great Walks over the years, which are generally regarded as the most worthy multi-day missions in the whole of both islands. Among these hand-picked gems there are a few that stand out in particular. The Routeburn Track is situated in the Southern Alps, winding its way through the Darran Range and linking Mt Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park. The bush of New Zealand is essentially an organic aviary, inhabited by few wildlife species outside of birds. The songs of these airborne hordes fills the air with an orchestra of delightful sound, especially that of the Kea’s soprano serenades. These colourful alpine parrots roost in treetops of the beech forest, but seem to have an omnipotent presence while on the Routeburn, ever-patrolling the skies on the prowl for a friendly feed and inviting themselves into your company without fear. The southern half of the trek proceeds atop the Harris Saddle, which runs parallel with and above the spectacular Hollyford Valley, visible all the way to the Tasman Sea. The golden tarns and turquoise waters of snowmelt catchments such as Lake McKenzie and Lake Howden, are furnished with DOC huts at appropriate stages throughout the wondrous walk.
LAUGAVEGUR TREK, ICELAND
Distance: Approx. 55km
When to go: June to September
The endemic rhyolite scree slopes of Iceland are unmistakably unique, their vivid mineral deposits produced by generations of transport via glacial migration and the course currents of raging rivers. Volcanic foundations prime the stretch of otherworldly domain with a rich geothermal mix of elemental ingredients, which comprise the recipe for such verdant vegetation and succulence of life. The contrast created between the dark tones of the rocky dirt and the almost fluorescent hues of lichen and shrubbery growing upon it, paint the landscape with a truly alien aesthetic. At times, this hike appears to be a movie set depicting an entirely different planet. The land is frequently overshadowed by the magnitude of massive waterfalls like Skogafoss, and the remarkable networks of braided streams snaking their plaits along the floor of valley as they do at Thorsmork. The richness of Earth’s bounty is accented again by that of the cosmos after nightfall, as the Northern Lights flicker their way across the sky in a jubilant dance celebrating of its own existence.
DANA TO PETRA TREK, JORDAN
Distance: Approx. 80km
When to go: October to April
The ancient Bedouin architecture near the Dead Sea has drawn attention to the Middle East since its discovery. However, most of these enchanting structures cannot simply be stumbled upon in modern times, though. The impressive 50m high facades of Petra and Al Khazneh entail five days of toil to reach. As you exert your energy enduring the sun’s efforts to sap you until shrivelled, you’ll encounter four individual biosphere climates while travelling to the ruins through the Dana Nature Reserve – Jordan’s largest Nature Sanctuary. While the sparsely vegetated earth is laden with few plants beyond the juniper tress dotting its horizon, it is not totally devoid of life, still housing a plethora of wildlife that find refuge and flourish in the arid spaciousness of the Wadi Araba desert basin. The region is home to some of the largest wingspan vultures on the planet, as well as exotic blue lizards that slink in and out of the shaded shelter of crevices.
MT FITZROY TRACK, ARGENTINA
Distance: Approx. 58km
When to go: February to March
Towering above all of Patagonia, Mt Fitzroy – also known as Cerro Chalten – is the most prestigious and prominent peak in the region. The mountain is not just outstanding for its elevation, it is also the precipitous escarpment of its Western face. The foreboding slab of stone strikes a chord of reverence in all who behold it, and has claimed the lives of many in pursuit of gazing back upon the world from its summit. For the less daring, craning the head back to gawk with mouth ajar at the awe-inspiring grade of Mt Fitzroy’s structure will more than suffice. While this grand finale is no doubt the most climactic portion of the voyage, travelling there is far from mundane. Revealing the handsomely intricate craftsmanship of Los Glaciares National Park, the Fitzroy track is the only permissible path through this incredible living gallery of natural art.
ALTA VIA, ITALY
Distance: Approx. 120km
When to go: March to October
Summoning outdoor enthusiasts from far and wide, the jagged ridges of the Dolomites beckon all who seek to satiate their appetite for epic exploits. A thirst for adventure is not optional if you have an escapade along the Alta Via Trail set in your sights, with an endlessly escalating grade of abrupt angles having earned this cluster of mountains their accolades. There is no more debate over whether this hike demands strides of dedication, than there is over it being a worthy exercise in mental fortitude. The rigours of the range reward with views unmatched. As one wanders these ridgelines, they will definitely find a fair share of insight into why the high-altitude poppy meadows that unfurl across the plateaus between limestone saddles have been coveted for so long. Rifugios – traditionally styled sleeping huts – are scattered all over the trail. These make the path once impassable a majority of the year due to unwelcoming seasonal weather, now possible to complete in relative comfort over a much wider span of the year.
AKSHAYUK PASS, BAFFIN ISLAND, CANADA
Distance: Approx. 100km
When to go: June to August
Nunavut is renowned for its iceberg garnished lakes and frozen plains, but the further you delve into the mysterious land of the midnight sun, the more dramatic and colossal the ice cap sculpted surroundings become. The islands of the Arctic Circle own some of the most tremendous scenes in existence, especially on the Cumberland Peninsula of the untamed Baffin island, where the mountains are so massive they are named after Norse gods. Winding down sandy riverbanks, over rocky glacial moraines, and through the cold tundra marshlands between Mt Thor, Asgard, and Odin, Akshayuk pass is a profoundly special place. Inhabited by polar bears and Arctic foxes, both a tremendous power and grace emanate from every inch of this wilderness. The riverbeds present at multiple stages of the journey are a serious factor to take into account when packing and preparing, as they are at the whim of rain-sensitive aquifers and are not always dry.
PICCANINNY CREEK, BUNGLE BUNGLE RANGE, WA
Distance: Approx. seven to 30km depending on route</>
When to go: May to October
In furthest reaches of Western Australia’s interior is Purnululu National Park on the border of Northern Territory. Deep in its bowels dwell the Bungle Bungle Mountains, and even further into its reaches is Piccaninny Creek. The annual wet season of the Kimberly region is responsible for creating the texture of the landscape, and for carving out the ancient gorge which now allows entry into an intricate series of crevices cut into the domed hills of the area. It is a seven kilometre walk to the start of the gorge, at which point there is no further trail and the track is completely unmarked. Though there may not be a definitive trail, the path created by the powers of erosion is nearly impossible to diverge from, as the beehive-like rock formations of the Bungle Bungles sprout out of the ground at sheer vertical angles. Going off trail isn’t really an option! The alternating colour scheme of light and dark layers of sediment in the stone within Piccaninny Creek not only tell a tale of Earth’s elemental ingredients, but also nature’s artistic tendencies.
MILFORD TRACK, NEW ZEALAND
Distance: Approx. 54km
When to go: November to April
The waiting list for admittance onto this world class tramp speaks for itself. Only accessible via boat trip with a guide escorting you, the Milford Track has all the makings for an unforgettable pilgrimage into the most isolated corner of New Zealand. Some of the eldest forest on either island, the hearty beech trees grow so rampant here that many sections of bush would be nearly impossible to infiltrate if not for the established pathway. An assortment of other indigenous fauna grow more heartily in the Southwestern coast of New Zealand than elsewhere across the country, fortified by the salinity carried aboard the sea breezes blowing through the fiords. Indescribable panoramic perspectives along Mackinnon Pass write the ticket for this trip to Milford Sound from Lake Te Anau, showcasing the striking 90 degree perpendicular intersections of the mountains with the sea.
MORE OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
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