Michael Marcotte's Home Pageblank tileblank tileblank tileblank tile

Yes; I am, of course, aware that a peak experience is a sublime personal moment, and need not have anything
at all to do with a mountain. Somehow, however, many of my fondest travel experiences have involved mountain
peaks, or views of majestic ranges, and so I use the title as a double entendre. I haven't even ever visited a
single one of the highest 100 mountain peaks in the world. Everest is definitely on my bucket list, although I seriously
doubt I would make it even to the base camp, much less attempt even a partial climb. I'd be happy with a hike along
the foothills near its base. Below are my favorite mountain-travel experiences, in somewhat of high to lower order, not
necessarily by elevation.


1. Machu Picchu - Andes, Urubamba Povince, Peru. Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", The ruins on this peak are perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization., and are located at an altitude of 7,972 feet. Many visitors climb to the summit of Huaynu Picchu, the mountain in the background of most photos for a nice view. During our visit a portion of that trail had collapsed and been damaged by a fire, so the Huaynu Picchu trail was closed. We instead climbed to the summit of the Machu Picchu peak, which tops out at 10,009 feet. This was a strenuous climb (even with much of it paved with stone steps laid by the ancient inhabitants) of about 2 hours up, but only about 35 minutes coming back down (although we were in a hurry to catch a ride back from the ruins back down to the train). The views of the ruins and the Urubamba River Valley were increadible, and the mystical feel and cloud forest setting of the ancient city itself lends itself well to a peak experience. We spent the evening before at a hotel in Aqua Caliente, next to the train station to allow a maximum amount of time at the ruins and for the climb. This also allows exploring the ruins in relative solitude before and after the hundreds of visitors who arrive by bus have gone on their way. We always count this trip as one of our top three favorite trips.

2. Jungfraujoch - Bernese Alps, Switzerland. Jungfraujoch is actually the lowest point (11,371 ft.) on the mountain ridge between the Mönch, 4,107m peak (13,474 ft) and the Jungfrau (13,642 ft). It is just east this location that the mountain station of Jungfraubahn is located, Jungfraujoch railway station, which at an elevation of 3,454 meters (11,332 ft) is the highest railway station in Europe. I have been here four times and have always stood in utter extreme awe of the magnitude of the Aletsch Glacier filling the saddle between the two peaks. It is such a humbling experience that I always feel like I am shrinking to the size of a dust mote as I take in the grandeur of the surrounding Alps. Getting here is a grand adventure in and of itself. Interlaken is the logical starting point, but Kleine Scheidegg, Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen are all worthwhile stops on the way up, or the trip down.

3. Beibalou point on the Great Wall - Badaling, China. Beibalou is the highest poibt at Badalaing at 3,330 ft above sea level. Although the Great Wall is not itself a mountain, as you can see from the photos below, it clearly runs along their peaks, rising and falling with their contours, and it is no cakewalk to climb to Beibalou. Acknowledged by all as a remarkable feat of human labor and engineering, the view is inspiring, as well.

4. Mount Kilimanjaro - viewed from Amboseli Wildlife Preserve in Kenya, across to Tanzania. To be entirely accurate, I never set foot on Kilimanjaro. We could see the mountain sides clearly during our entire stay in Ambolseli, but the summit remained obscured by clouds except for a couple of extremely brief breaks in the cloud cover. It did not matter too much, the mountain made a great backdrop for the wealth and variety of wild life that we were seeing at Amboslei. A climb was out of the question, as that would have required several days extra on our already lengthy and action-packed 17-day safari.

5. Mont St. Michel - Normandy, France. No, it is not a mountain, but it is a small peak-shaped island mount on the coast of Normandy, with the kind of idyllic setting, which creates the instant setting for a peak travel experience. I've visited here three times, always enjoying the visit, immensely; watching the tide rush in (nearly always trapping someone who fails to understand the urgency of the sirens warning of the tide, and who at my visits barely escape before getting dashed on the rocks). I always stop at Mère Poulard's for an omelette, a peak dining experience, in my opinion, but not one that many American tourists appreciate.

6. Grand Teton - Wyoming, USA. Wow! Spectacular views and hiking trails & family activities. The photos should tell the story, but I can't show them all. Truly impressive mountains.

7. Mount of Olives - Jerusalem, Israel. I spent a little over 3 months in Jerusalem, from November, 1976 to early February, 1977. One of my favorite activities was to cross outside the Old City and up to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane to watch the sunset in the West over the city. The spritual and ancient setting truly made for a true peak experience.

8. Bora Bora - French Polynesia, South Pacific. I am not sure it is possible to a avoid a peak experience in Bora Bora. This is the most idyllic scenery one might imagine, and the most restful, refereshing trip I have ever taken.

9. Moorea - French Polynesia, South Pacific. Moorea runs a close second to Bora Bora for luch volcanic peaks jutting up from turquoise seas into nearly impossible idyllic scenery. We visited Moorea in 1994, six years before we would make it to Bora Bora.

10. the "Goddess" peak (Shennu Feng) - Three Gorges, China. Shennu Feng, "the Goddess", a.k.a. "Cloud peak" poised high above the Yangtze River in the Three Gorges area, offering one of the more imposing moments during our 2002 China trip.

11. Delphi - Mount Parnassus, Pindus Mountains, just north of the Gulf of Corinth, in central Greece. Delphi is an archaeological site on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus ( 8061 feet high) in the valley of Phocis, and was the site of the famous "Oracle" of ancient times. Since I have always enjoyed history, mythology and arcaheology, it is no wonder that this spot would mak my list. I visited here in 1976 and again in 1978.

12. Mount Kenya - Kenya, East Africa. Mount Kenya, at 17,057 feet, is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania). The Mount Kenya Safari Club, located high on the slopes of Mount Kenya, is still distant enough from the summit that the peak is often obscurred by clouds, but our real experience here, in 1992, was the animal orphanage.

13. the Eiger - The Eiger is a 13,020 feet high mountain in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. It is the easternmost peak of a ridge crest that extends across the Mönch to the Jungfrau. The northern side of the mountain rises about 9,800 feet above Grindelwald and other inhabited valleys of the Bernese Oberland, and the southern side faces the deeply glaciated region of the Jungfrau-Aletsch, covered by some of the largest glaciers in the Alps. By the time Trevanian's novel "The Eger Sanction" was published, I had already been here once (1971), and by the time the movie of the same name, starring Clint Eastwood, came out in 1975, I had already returned two more times. The view from Grindelwald is magnificent, and the area continues to fascinate me.

14. Zugspitze - Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The Zugspitze, at 9,718 feet above sea level, is the highest peak of the Wetterstein Mountains as well as the highest mountain in Germany. It lies south of the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and the border between Germany and Austria runs over its western summit. South of the mountain is the Zugspitzplatt, a high karst plateau with numerous caves. On the flanks of the Zugspitze are three glaciers, including the two largest in Germany: the Northern Schneeferner with an area of 30.7 hectares and the Höllentalferner with an area of 24.7 hectares. The third is the Southern Schneeferner which covers 8.4 hectares. When I was in Germany from 1973-1976, Garmish-Partenkirchen was a winter recreation area put to heavy use by the U.S, military personnel stationed in Germany. The winter views are breathtaking.

15. Na Pali Coast - Kaua'i, Hawaii. The Na Pali Coast State Park encompasses 6,175 acres of land and is located in the center of a rugged 16 miles along the northwest side of Kaua'i, the oldest inhabited Hawaiian island. The Na Pali coast itself extends southwest starting at Ke'e Beach extending all the way to Polihale State Park. The na pali (high cliffs) along the shoreline rise as much as 4,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Since the area is not accessible by car, a great way to view this impressive, rugged terrain is by boat. Snorkel trips depart from Hanalei Bay, and offer fantastic views of the cliffs, as well as great snorkeling.

16. the Summit at Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado, USA. Rocky Mountain National Park is a national park located in the north-central region of the U.S. state of Colorado. It features majestic mountain views, mountain lakes, a variety of wildlife, varied climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra—and easy access to back-country trails and campsites. The park is located northwest of Boulder, Colorado, in the Rockies, and includes the Continental Divide and the headwaters of the Colorado River. The Alpine Visitor Center is the highest facility of its kind in the National Park Service, located at 11,796 feet above sea level at Fall River Pass, about two miles north of the highest point on Trail Ridge Road. Elk abound nearer the summit of this route, and the views are amazing. A great place to get in touch with nature.

17. Ventana Double Cone - Ventana Wilderness, Santa Lucia Mountains, California. The Double Cone is located in one of the most remote regions of the Ventana Wilderness. The Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest is a Federally designated wilderness area located in the Santa Lucia Mountains along the Central Coast of California. The Ventana Double Cone is a prominent twin mountain top located in the northern part of the Ventana Wilderness. It is a popular hiking destination, located 15 miles in from the trailhead at Bottchers Gap. I hiked this trail one weekend, in 1974, with some Army buddies from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey. The trail is considered strenuous and crosses Devil's peak. Due to the terrain, the 15 mile distance is deceptive; you have start very early annd hustle to get to the Double Cone campground by nightfall. May guides make the roundtrip a 2-night, 3-day trip. We did in in two, but we were in our early twenties, in the Army and in good shape. Ventana is the Spanish word for window, and the trail certainly provides spectacular views. The Double Cone was not really any more impressive than most of the other ridges or peaks, it was just the destination. This was one of those "It's the journey, not the destination" experiences.

18. Allgäu - The Allgäu is a southern German region in Swabia. It covers the south of Bavarian Swabia and southeastern Baden-Württemberg. Füssen is a town in Bavaria, Germany, in the district of Ostallgäu, situated 3 miles north from the Austrian border. I came here first in 1973 to see the castle of Neuschwannstein, then returned to spend a week in the Allgäu, while on leave during 1974, and then again for a brief vist in 1978, with my sister and her husband. the castle is the main attraction here for most people, and I visited it a few times, but my longer visit was meant more just to enjoy the mountain scenery, unwind, and to take several long peacefully sublime hikes.

19. Tirol - Innsbruck is located in the Inn Valle, in Tirol, Austria, at the junction with the Wipptal (Sill River), which provides access to the Brenner Pass, some 18.6 miles south of Innsbruck. Innsbruck is situated in a broad valley between high mountains, the Nordkette (Hafelekar, (7,657 feet) in the north, Patscherkofel (7,369 ft) and Serles (8,917 ft) in the south. It is an internationally renowned winter sports centre, and hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. I visited here in 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1977. In addition to attending several events at the '76 Winter Olympics, I spent one day skiing at Igls, in the Patscherkofel mountains. Later, in 1977, I crossed into Austria from Italy, at the Brenner Pass, where I spent a couple of very cold hours standing in the snow trying to hitchhike a ride from the border crossing on into Innsbruck, where I caught a train bcak to Germany.

20. Zion National Park, Utah - Zion National Park is located in the Southwestern United States, near Springdale, Utah. Notable attractions are thee Three Patriarchs (a trio of closely ajacent peaks), the Canyon overlook, and the Narrows (a slot canyon that holds the path of the virgin River).

21. Le Puy-en- Velay - Haute-Loire, south central France. Because this city is not very near most of the other places that I usually visit in France, I have only been here once, on my first trip to France, on July 14, 1971, but I enjoyed the city very much. We stayed at a monastery, because the local a Pax Christi hostel was closer for renovations. After visiting the 12th century Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Puy, the peak-perched Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel, the iron statue of Notre-Dame de France (The Virgin Mary) overlooking the town, and several of the quaint, narrow, winding city streets and famous lace shops, we took in the Bastille day fireworks that night over the city.

22. Mt. Pilatus - Mount Pilatus - Mount Pilatus is a mountain (6,982 ft) overlooking Lucerne (Luzern) in Central Switzerland. I visited here in 1971 and again in 1973, both times enjoing the aerial panorama gondolas and aerial cableways from Kriens up to the top of the mountain. Incredible views, but it would not be for people who are afraid of heights.

23. Humpback Rocks - Blue Ridge parkway, Shenandoah Valley, Virgina. Although only about one mile to the Rocks from teh parking area, the climb is describeed by the Park Service as very tough, gaining about 800 feet in elevation on the way up. The views at the Rocks are great, looking west onto the Shenandoah Valley and north to Shenandoah National Park.

24. Devil's Tower - Devils Tower is an 5,112 foot high, igneous intrusion or laccolith in the Black Hills near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It is a striking and interesting hiking distination, particularly for those traveling between Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.

25. Mount Vesuvius - This is the volcanic peak whose eruption in 79 A.D. destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, about 9 kilometres (5.6 miles) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. That eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ash and fumes to a height of 20.5 miles, spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing. An estimated 16,000 people died due to hydrothermal pyroclastic flows.

26. Sacsayhuaman and Christo Blanco - I added this one, only in hindsight, as it did not even originally occur to me as a "peak." Sacsayhuaman is, however, a higher elvation (12,142 feet) than ANY of the preceding peaks or mounts, or for that matter any other land elevation that I have visited. The elevation just sneaks up on you a bit, since everything around it is likewise high. The Christo Blanco, which is in nearby eyesight, and which we also visited is described as "on a hill, overlooking Cucsco." That "hill" is at 11,200 feet, likewise higher than many of the preceding peaks.

27. New Zealand, South Island - I've lumped many a majectic mountain peak into this one entry, but New Zealand's South island is amazing. Milford Sound is one of the more impressive areas I have ever visited. Fox Glacier is a wondrous sight by itself sporting massive ice flows and blue ice caves, ringed by high, jagged rock peaks, a huge thundering waterfall, and strange as it might seem, rainforests! The Remarkables (backdrop used for the Misty mountains scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies) and Walter Peak, alongside Queenstown's Lake Wakitipu, Mount Roy and Rocky Mountain (perched above and providing incredible views of Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawei and Glendhu Bay), the towering Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Tasman, Mount Aspiring, Mount Haast, Franz Josef Glacier, Mitre Peak, Mt. Pembroke, Mt. Tutoku, Mt. Earnslaw and dozens of other peaks, ranges and glaciers amid the Southern Alps that we drove past or flew dauntingly nearby were just a few providing a richly diverse, and awe-inspiring landscape for a beautiful and friendly country.

28. Denali\Mt. McKinley, Alaska - The lower left inset view is from the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, in Talkeetna. We hiked in Denali National Park around Horseshooe Lake, but did not climb any portion or hike any trails on the base slopes of the mountain, itself. I was surprised to learn that Denali\Mt. McKinley, North America's tallest mountain, which stands 20,320 feet from base to summit, is actuall taller than Mt.Everest, which from base to summit measures only 12,000 feet. However, because the base of Everest already sstarts at 12,000 feet, the elevation at the summit Mt. Everest is approximately 29,000 feet. Since the base of Denali/Mt. McKinley is at only 2000 feet above sea level, it summit is at an elevation of 22,320 feet. The other two views are photos of peaks in the Alaska Range, taken during our excursion in July 2019 from Skagway down the Lynn Canal to the Chilkat Inlet and the Davidson Glacier.

Back to previous page
Back to Michael Marcotte's HomePage