Striding edge, UK lake district
Anyone who says all walking in England is tame needs to step out on the Lake District’s Striding Edge scrambling route to the top of England’s third highest mountain Helvellyn (above left). Better still, take on the ridge walk in winter, when you’ll need an ice axe, crampons and nerves of steel. The climax of the hike at 863m involves a hair-raising tiptoe along a narrow path with vertiginous drops down either side. Guided day trips can be booked from Carlisle from £22.
HuaShan plank walk, China
Forget hot coals – if ever there was a test of faith this is it. Pilgrims in China taking on the infamous Hua Shan Plank Walk to visit temples on the sacred Huashan mountain near Xi’an must be prepared to shuffle along rickety planks, while holding onto rusty chains, as they cross sheer cliff faces some 305m above the ground. Ultimate thrill-seekers will be disappointed to learn that via ferrata-style cables have been added. Guided day trips are available from Xi’an for £184.
Half Dome, Yosemite, USA
This sheer 1,500m rock face in the USA’s famous Yosemite National Park is best know as the natural environment of the world’s best freestyle rock climbers. But you too can experience the thrill of the hill, if not the real danger, by hiking within 150m of the summit, and then topping out with a cable ladder first installed in 1919. Lasting Adventures runs guided 16-mile one-day hikes to the summit of this granite monument, from £150 including free ‘Get high on granite’ T-shirt!
Iditarod Trail, Alaska
Run in the depth of the Alaskan winter, a week before and along the same ‘route’ as the legendary husky race, the Iditarod Trail Invitational is one of the most extreme bike, foot, or ski races on the planet. With no official route, minimal support allowed and the emphasis on self-reliance, the 350-mile race takes competitors between Knik, over the Alaska Range to McGrath in the interior. Finish the race (most don’t) and you qualify for the 1,000-mile race the year after…
Caminito del rey, spain
Translating as ‘The King’s Little Pathway’ this is the once-rickety boarded trail that clings to the sheer walls of the Chorro gorge in southern Spain’s Malaga region. Originally constructed for access to hydroelectric plants in the mountains, this path fell into lethal disrepair garnering irresistible notoriety among dare-devils. Now fully restored and reopened, it’s less risky but the views make up for it. Marbella Escapes runs day trips from Marbella for £63.
Huayna Picchu, Peru
If you’ve ever see the iconic photo looking down on Machu Picchu, then you’ve already seen Huayna Picchu, as it’s the pyramidal peak behind the citadel. Rising another 360m above the lost city, this peak can be hiked up to (with an extra permit) via steep steps with cables and railings. Near the top there are ruins to visit – as long as you can squeeze through a narrow tunnel to get to them. Chaska Tours offers guided tours from Machu Picchu town for £50.