Hiking is a splendid method for clearing your mind while interacting with the treasures nature has to offer. When most envision the quintessential trail, they’re focused mainly on the potential for jaw-dropping sights. But some trekkers can’t feel satisfied unless they’re braving the fiercer side of nature for days at a time. If the latter category sounds more appealing, you better start packing your gear for these difficult hiking trails.
Umbwe Route, Mount Kilimanjaro-Tanzania
The terrain surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro is curried with steep paths and a harsh climate. But it’s the Umbwe route that’s universally hailed as the most difficult. This isn’t due to technical factors like poor footing or trail hazards, but rather the sheer endurance required to complete it.
Travelers are rarely offered a sweet reprieve of flat land, instead having to continually trek uphill for the entirety of it. It’s bound to push your calves and quads to the limit, considering it takes four to six days to reach the summit. And that’s another tense aspect of the Umbwe route; the fast ascent into high altitudes.
Since the elevation ramps up so steeply, hikers aren’t allowed enough time for their lungs to acclimatize. Even with a rest day at the Barranco Camp halfway point, the success rate for completion is quite low for this approximately 25 km hike.
At least the view is extraordinary. You’ll begin in low-lying jungle greenery before bursting into the raw air of the Karanga Valley, peppered with crazy-looking, flowering plants called giant groundsels. From there, the summit trek becomes snowier, rockier, and offers an ever expanding view of the Tanzanian countryside below.
A straight-up adventure spanning eleven high passes in the Himalayas. Once travelers reach an initial altitude of 4,500 meters, they rarely leave it til the trail’s end. One should spend a view days in the hub town of Paro, being 2,600 meters above sea level itself, to help acclimatize before they disembark.
From there, it’s a bumpy 2 day ride via minibus on rocky backroads to the little town of Dur. The initial route rides close to Tibet and offers an incredible view of the world’s highest unclimbed peak, Gangkhar Puensum.
The terrain is surprisingly varied with the usual snow capped traverses, waterfalls, and even bamboo groves. The wildlife is just as diverse; you may catch a glimpse of the rare snow leopard. If you’re particularly unlucky(or maybe very lucky), you might just run into a white tiger.
The trail actually winds through several small settlements and Buddhist monasteries as well. Overall, it will take 19 days to complete, so come duly prepared. Just take note that you’ll likely need to hire a guide group in addition to the $200 a day fee the government charges just for being in Bhutan, so it can get quite pricey.
Drakensberg Traverse, South Africa
When standing atop the Drakensberg escarpment, earthy greens and browns seemingly fade off into nothingness. The trail’s atmosphere begets an air of tranquility, yet it’s not without its thorns. In fact, it’s one of the world’s most dangerous hikes.
Scaling chasms while gripping onto crumbling rock walls certainly gives hikers their kicks. Besides that, there’s the game of chance when finding the best routes. Since there’s no official trail through this 220 km hike, travelers have to navigate between vague checkpoints or risk losing their way.
Though compared to high altitude, mountainous trails, the weather here is somewhat predictable though still dangerous at times. Early summer is subject to thick fogs due to warm air currents flowing down from Africa’s central jungles. Late summer clears the clouds, leaving travelers stuck under the hot sun for hours.