Guidebooks for walkers, mountaineers, trekkers, climbers and cyclists

Europe's High Points – summits of 50 European countries

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13 Oct 2009
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9781852845773
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Europe's High Points

Getting to the top in 50 countries

by Rachel Crolla, Carl McKeating
Published by Cicerone Press

A guide to reaching the summit of every country in Europe - driving, walking and climbing routes to the tops of 50 countries in Europe. Detailed route descriptions, sketch maps - advice on transport, seasons, grading and gear. From afternoon strolls in Malta to three-day mountaineering ascents on classic Alpine routes such as Mont Blanc.

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Description

Heading to the highest point of any European country is an experience not to be missed. Europe offers the hiker a wealth of adventure and a huge variety of dazzling scenery and each of our 50 countries celebrates its national high point in a different way. Now this unique guide brings together clear and detailed route descriptions of how to reach the summits of countries from Liechtenstein to Latvia, across the continent.

Whether you are attempting to climb a selection of individual high points or collect the set, you will find these routes lead you to some of the most striking landscapes and exciting terrain that Europe has to offer, with all the information you need about each country to get there – along with interesting but incidental information that you don’t!

Stretching from the frozen tundra of the Arctic Circle to the arid plains of the Sierra Nevada, this book contains something for everyone – from afternoon strolls in Malta and Moldova to three-day mountaineering ascents on classic Alpine routes such as Mont Blanc and Dufourspitze.

Don’t cross the Channel without it!

  • Activities
    strolling, hiking and climbing!
  • Difficulty
    from simple sightseeing (eg Vatican City) to serious Alpine climbs (Mont Blanc) - all routes clearly graded and equipment required given
  • Must See
    for the authors, it was Hvannadalshnukur in Iceland but each reader will have their personal favourite.. Scafell Pike (England)? Mount Elbrus (Russia)? Rysy (Poland)?

Contents

 

Introduction
A Eurovision for mountains
Why this Guide?
Using this Guide 
The Geography of Europe  
Plants and Wildlife   
When To Go   
How to Get There   
Health and Safety Issues   
Communication   
Mountain Safety   
Serious Ascents   
Equipment   
What is Europe?   

High Points
1     Andorra – Pic de Coma Pedrosa 2942m   
2     Austria – Grossglockner 3798m   
3     Belarus – Dzyarzhynskaya 345m   
4     Belgium – Signal de Botrange 694m   
5     Bosnia and Herzegovina – Maglic 2387m   
6     Bulgaria – Musala 2925m   
7     Croatia – Dinara 1831m   
8     Cyprus – Mount Olympus (Chionistra) 1951m   
9     Czech Republic – Snezka 1602m   
10     Denmark – Møllehøj 170m   
11     England – Scafell Pike 978m   
12     Estonia – Suur Munamagi 318m   
13     Finland – Halti 1325–28m   
14     France and Italy – Mont Blanc/Monte Bianco 4808m   
15     Germany – Zugspitze 2962m   
16     Greece – Mount Olympus 2917m   
17     Hungary – Kékes 1014m   
18     Iceland – Hvannadalshnukur 2111m   
19     Ireland – Carrauntoohil 1041m   
20     Kosovo – Djeravica 2656m   
21     Latvia – Gaizinkalns 312m   
22     Liechtenstein – Grauspitz 2599m   
23     Lithuania – Aukstojas/Juozapine Kalnas 294m   
24     Luxembourg – Buurgplatz/Kneiff 559m   
25     Macedonia and Albania – Mount Korab 2764m   
26     Malta – Ta’ Dmejrek/Dingli Cliffs 253m   
27     Moldova – Mount Balanesti 430m   
28     Monaco – Chemin des Revoires 162m   
29     Montenegro – Maja Kolata 2534m  
30     The Netherlands – Vaalserberg 321m   
31     Northern Ireland – Slieve Donard 852m   
32     Norway – Galdhopiggen 2469m   
33     Poland – Rysy 2500m/2503m   
34     Portugal – La Torre 1993m   
35     Romania – Moldoveanu 2544m   
36     Russia – Mount Elbrus 5642m   
37     San Marino  – Monte Titano 739m   
38     Scotland – Ben Nevis 1343m   
39     Serbia – Midzor 2169m   
40     Slovakia – Gerlachovsky stit 2654m   
41     Slovenia – Triglav 2864m   
42     Spain – Mulhacén 3478m  
43     Sweden – Kebnekaise 2111m   
44     Switzerland – Dufourspitze 4634m   
45     Turkey – Mahya Dagi 1030m   
46     Ukraine – Goverla 2061m   
47     Vatican City – St Peter’s Dome 132m     
48     Wales – Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa 1085m   

Some Disputed High Points
Azores – Mount Pico 2351m   
Canary Islands – Mount Teide 3718m   
Faeroe Islands – Slaettaratindur 882m   
Italy – Gran Paradiso 4061m; Mont Blanc de Courmayeur 4748m; Nordend (Monte Rosa) 4609m   
Turkey – Mount Ararat 5137m   

Appendix 1    Countries of Europe Fact Table   
Appendix 2     Mountain Routes Graded by Difficulty   
Appendix 3    Table of Mountain Heights   
Appendix 4    Glossary of Mountaineering Terms   
Appendix 5    Further Reading   
Appendix 6    Cicerone guides to Europe’s high points

 

Introduction

 

A Eurovision for mountains

This guide to climbing the high points in every European country serves as a celebration of the wide variety of national identities in Europe – a ‘Eurovision for mountains’, if you like. The European mainland is on our doorstep and may feel like familiar territory, but there is a wealth of adventure waiting in every one of its countries.

Heading to the highest point of any European country – a high altitude mountain or a comparative molehill – is an experience we wholeheartedly recommend. The sheer variety of Europe’s national high points, collected here in a book for the first time, offers a wealth of fantastic experiences. In short, you are holding in your hand the key to a treasure trove of discovery, adventure and fun. Some of Europe’s greater mountains and ranges may already be well known and celebrated, but many remain untrampled by international hiking boots. The vast majority of Europe’s countries take great national pride in their highest points and most have their own version of a treasure like Ben Nevis, be it gargantuan or diminutive.

Attempting to climb all Europe’s high points is a challenge like no other. You can experience the majesty of Mont Blanc and the Alps, confront Zeus on Mount Olympus, and feel quite baffled in the former Yugoslav nations. Lose yourself body and soul deep on Finland and Sweden’s highest mountains while the aurora borealis shimmers across the night sky. Race uphill and plod down dale. Head east, west, north and south, springing from peak to peak like a mountain gazelle. Leap crevasses, dodge marmots, watch eagles soar from beneath your feet. Climb above rolling blankets of white clouds. Shake hands with shepherds and wayward travellers. Share drinks (and even foods you may wish you had never been offered) with Bulgarians, Albanians, Norwegians, Italians and Bosnians as each makes a pilgrimage to their national high point.

Inevitably we have found that a country’s highest point tends to be in one of its most beautiful areas. From the splendid 100m waterfalls of Iceland’s Skaftafell in the west to Russia’s awe-inspiring Caucasus Mountains in the east, and from the arid red rock of Spain’s Sierra Nevada in the south to the Arctic tundra of Finland’s Halti in the north, this book will take walkers and climbers to some of the best scenery in Europe.

There is no governing body or infallible source for the designation of European state high points, and readers may be surprised to discover that disputes (or maybe debates) over national high points exist in many countries including Italy, Denmark and Montenegro. This is not a phenomenon unique to Europe; even the summit of Everest is claimed in its entirety by both China and Nepal. We have aimed to sift out the chaff to give the high-pointer a clearer picture, and disputes are all discussed in the relevant chapters. As well as disputed high points, there are also some common misconceptions about certain peaks. For example, some people mistakenly assume that Mont Blanc is Europe’s highest mountain, when in fact that award goes to Russia’s Mount Elbrus by a considerable margin.

Motivation

The start of our own quest to climb Europe’s highest points can be traced back more than ten years. Just after Christmas in 1996 we drove up to Scotland with three friends to climb Ben Nevis. Five teenagers piled into a Ford Fiesta, badly equipped and utterly naïve as to what lay in store. We drove through the night. In the morning we were fed to the brim at a B&B and eventually followed the icy tourist path to the summit of the Ben. We arrived at the top just as the sun set over the highlands. There was just enough time for us to stand on the highest ground and say, ‘Look at me, there is no one higher in Britain right now,’ before a storm and impending night engulfed us. It was our first national high point and an adventure to boot. At the heart of that day there was the elation of a personal and spiritual fulfilment.

Climbers talk a lot about the clarity and personal enlightenment brought about by mountaineering and for the outsider it is all too easy to scoff; but such emotions are voiced time and time again, even by the most down-to-earth Yorkshireman. A common theme keeps arising: man and woman’s search for an understanding of themselves and their place in the world. It is this philosophical search which inspired the ancient Greeks to make their highest mountain the home of the gods; that caused Babel-like towers to be built on the highest ground in Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia; which triggers Tibetans to utter prayers as soon as Chomolangma (Mount Everest) comes into view.
We all like to have a hobby and a challenge. Climbing the European national high points is, in our view, one step (or maybe two) above stamp collecting.

Why this guide?

Never before have all the national high points of Europe been gathered together in one place. While information and route descriptions for some of the high points exist elsewhere, collating them can be exceedingly time-consuming and troublesome and, even then, knowing which routes to choose might not prove easy. For some national high points there are no route descriptions beyond the pages of this book. Additionally, complicated geographical disputes have arisen over the designation of certain national high points and this book aims to resolve them. We have outlined any such disagreements and explained the reasoning behind our own choices. (Readers may be surprised to find Italy amongst these and perhaps the most complicated. Italy surprisingly has four different claims for its high point, but at the centre of the dispute is a virtual tug-of-war for the summit of Mont Blanc/Monte Bianco (see the France/Italy chapter).)

The beauty of the European high points in walking and mountaineering terms is that they range from ludicrously easy ascents (Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands and so on) to ones that will prove challenging to most people (France, Switzerland, Russia). There are also plenty in between. Someone who enjoys a good Lakeland hike will, by acquiring a few mountaineering and climbing skills along the way, be easily capable of working up to ascents of the more demanding national high points. None of the mountains require you to be the next Chris Bonnington or Julie Tullis, but a competent approach to mountaineering will prove invaluable (the foolhardy are rarely rewarded in any mountain range).
Naturally not all of us can take off four months and go racing around Europe to climb all the mountains in one big push. You might not even want to climb them all. Whatever you choose to do, this book is a great resource to call upon. Climbing a national high point is guaranteed to spice up a trip to any European country, and could provide the focus for planning future holidays.

This guide aims to answer the needs of anyone whose primary concern is getting to the top of these national high points. For the most part the simplest and most straightforward routes are described – but not always. Speed and ease of ascent routes is balanced against the subjective merits of those routes that might initially appear more time-consuming and even more technical, but ultimately prove more spectacular and pleasurable.

 

Sample Route

View Sample Route Map

37 San Marino

Monte Titano 739m


Location    Central Italy, 10km from Adriatic coast, 24km from Rimini
Start    San Marino town
Map(s)    Tourist maps showing Monte Titano’s three towers available from tourist information offices
Equipment    None
Climbing period    Year-round
Difficulty    1
Enjoyment    ****
Ascent    Little; depends on where you can park, or where bus drops you
Time    30mins plus extra time for negotiating narrow streets full of trinket stores
Water    Numerous cafés
Accommodation    Numerous hotels and two campsites
Getting there    San Marino signposted from A14 Bologna-Ancona autoroute. Take winding road up to San Marino town; many tourist car parks.
Public transport    Nearest station Rimini, then bus to San Marino
Nearby high point    St Peter’s Dome (Vatican City)


Tourist information leaflets for San Marino claim that this tiny republic is the most visited country in the world. I can hear some sniggers of disbelief, but this statistic is accurate if you calculate visitor numbers in ratio to native population. You will undoubtedly see plenty of holiday-makers in San Marino and are unlikely to have Monte Titano to yourself. In spite of its slightly ludicrous self-promotion, San Marino and its high point make a surprisingly interesting trip. Monte Titano is the mountain upon which the town of San Marino stands. There is something vaguely fantastical about the place, and comparisons with Jonathan Swift’s Laputa are inevitable. Its highest point is the second of three spectacular fortresses which are connected by winding hilltop walkways with precipices looking down on the surrounding plains of Italy.


Route

Follow signs to the ‘Second Tower’, also known as Cesta Fortress (the highest point in San Marino). You must pay a small entrance fee (€3) to go into the tower and the bizarre museum of weaponry inside (opening hours are 9am–5pm all year, except between Christmas and New Year). Go through the museum until you find a set of wooden steps leading upwards and take these. Go through two trapdoors and out onto a viewing platform at the top of the tower. You will have great views of the other two lower towers, the plains below and the coastline.

Did you know?

Famous native

Davide Gualtieri, a computer salesman and scorer of the fastest-ever football World Cup goal (8 seconds). He did so in a qualifier against England in 1993.

Irrelevant facts

San Marino has a fair claim to be the world’s oldest republic, founded in AD301. Napoleon in his conquest of Western Europe refused to conquer San Marino.

Maps

Overview Map Overview Map Sample Route Switzerland’s highest mountain Monte Rosa/Dufourspitze (4634m) from Weissmies (4023m) Monte Titano, San Marino (Davide Orlando) Iceberg lagoon at Jokulsarlon, used for filming 007 in ‘Die Another Day’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’ (Route 18) The Stefani fore summit on Mount Olympus (Route 16) (Wade Schwartzkopf) Mount Elbrus: the top of Europe. Rachel feels little elation as she is cut down to size by altitude sickness and fatigue Summit picnics: Rysy is very popular with Polish and Slovakian hikers ‘Hoogste Punt van Nederland’ (Route 30) The Vatican: the Eternal City from the Cupola

This book is divided into 48 chapters covering the high points of 50 European countries. Each chapter contains basic information about the country (or countries) and its (their shared) high point, including how to get there, the difficulty of the route and equipment needed, relevant map and a detailed route description (or descriptions). A sketch map showing the route/s is provided for each high point. Indications are given of the time needed to complete each route, rather than the distance, as the latter is often misleading on mountainous terrain, and distance can be diffcult to gauge accurately for many of the more far-flung routes.

Although the routes are accompanied by sketch maps, whenever possible you should take a detailed topographical map of an area. Again, when possible, details of suitable maps are given. Unfortunately, due to the remote and little-visited nature of some of the places described, it may be extremely difficult to get your hands on a decent map. When this is the case, searches online can occasionally bring up useful maps. Maps for these areas are often outdated and inaccurate and a degree of caution is therefore required. We have tried to make the route descriptions as clear as possible in case you cannot find a decent map to assist your ascent and descent. Some good map suppliers include: Stanfords, tel: 0207 836 1321 www.stanfords.co.uk; Elstead Maps, tel: 01483 898099 www.elstead.co.uk; and The Map Shop, tel: 0800 085 4080 www.themapshop.co.uk.

Difficulty

Each route has been given a difficulty grade on an ascending scale from 1 to 5:

  1. Easy tourist amble
  2. Standard hike
  3. Hike complicated by difficulties in any of the following areas: route-finding, time, altitude, ascent, scrambling
  4. Certainly requires the protection of a rope or via ferrata kit. Likely to involve exposure to steep terrain and may involve climbing, crevasses, risk of avalanche or rockfall, very low temperatures and high altitude (in addition to the difficulties of a grade 3 hike).
  5. Full alpine kit required. Prolonged exposure to high altitude, steep terrain, narrow ridges, climbing, crevasses, avalanche and risk of rockfall. Likely to involve very low temperatures. If severe weather is encountered retreat may prove extremely difficult.

These ratings are based on our own experiences on the mountains. They correspond to the difficulty of the primary routes we have described on the peaks and there may well be easier alternatives. For alpine ascents the official UIAA ratings are also included.

Further Reading

Mountain Safety

The Handbook of Climbing (BMC) Alan Fyffe and Iain Peter (Pelham Books, 1997)

The Hillwalker’s Guide to Mountaineering Terry Adby and Stuart Johnston (Cicerone, 2007)

Map and Compass: The Art of Navigation Pete Hawkins (Cicerone, 2008)

European High Points

A Coast to Coast Walk Alfred J Wainwright (Frances Lincoln, 2007)

A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book 4: The Southern Fells Alfred J Wainwright (Michael Joseph, 1992)

Ben Nevis Simon Richardson (Scottish Mountaineering Club, 2002)

Classic Climbs in the Caucasus Friedrich Bender (Diadem Books, 1991)

Eastern Alps: The Classic Routes on the Highest Peaks Dieter Siebert (Diadem Books, 1992)

Eastern Europe 1939–2000 Mark Pittaway (Hodder Arnold, 2004)

Easy Ascents in the Mont Blanc Range Francois Burnier and Dominique Potard (Vamos, 2002)

Lake District Rock: Selected Rock Climbs in the Lake District (Fell and Rock Climbing Club, 2003)

Lake District Winter Climbs Brian Davison (Fell and Rock Climbing Club and Cicerone, 2006)

Mont Blanc Massif Volume 1 Lindsey Griffin (Alpine Club, 1996)

Mont Blanc Massif Volume 2 Lindsey Griffin (Alpine Club, 1991)

Rock Climbing in Snowdonia Paul Williams (Constable, 2004)

Scafell, Wasdale and Eskdale A. Phizacklea (Fell and Rock Climbing Club, 1996)

The Alpine 4000m Peaks Richard Goedeke (Baton Wicks, 2006)

The Collapse of Yugoslavia 1991–1999 Alastair Finlan (Osprey, 2004)

The High Tatras Colin Saunders and Renata Narozna (Cicerone, 2006)

The Mountains of Montenegro  – A Mountaineering Guide Daniel Vincek, Ratko Popovic and Mijo Kovacevic (Podgorica Books, 2004)

Walking in Norway Connie Roos (Cicerone, 2006)

Winter Climbing: Ben Nevis and Glencoe Alan Kimber (Cicerone, 2003)

Natural History

Birds of Britain and Europe Jurgen Nicolai, Singer, and K Wothe (Harper Collins, 1994)

Wild Animals of Britain and Europe Helga Hoffman (Harper Collins, 1995)

Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe Bob Gibbons and Peter Brough (Bounty Books, 1998)

Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala summit (2925m) Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala summit (2925m) Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala summit (2925m) Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala Bulgaria - Musala

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Related blog post

BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour
Rachel Crolla – coauthor of Cicerone’s Europe’s High Points was interviewed last week on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. … read more

Reviews

"Cicerone are well known for publishing great guide books and have a huge choice on offer...

The authors' first hand knowledge really comes across well. As well as putting forward a serious and straight forward guide to climbing the summits there is also a personal and fun side to the book... I was impressed with the amount of information that had been fitted in and how helpful the content is. I climbed Mount Elbrus in 2005 and I wished I had read this guide before I had gone...

This book is so simple to search through and pick out the information you require. A lot of thought and research has gone into this book and it's noticeable.... A brilliant book!

Click here to read the full review: Europe's High Points, a review from UK Active Outdoors.

UK Active Outdoors, October 2014

“Some of Europe’s high point are more accessible than others” Well, true; especially when you define the dome of St Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican City as one of them.

Fortunately, this guide is stuffed with enough information guidance and observation to engage anyone with an interest in either mountains or pub quizzes.

This is a coffee table or loo-side book in the sense that it rewards quick browsing and picture surfing, but it is also a manual and practical guide. Some high points are tough by virtue of height or size, others for technical reasons.

Buy this book for Christmas and you’ll be sure to make it at least to St Stephen’s Day without going stir-crazy.’

(Walking World Ireland, October / November 2009)

‘Ticked off all the munros and Wainwrights and after a new challenge? This book might just fit the bill: it includes facts and figures, amps and walking/climbing instructions for the highest points in every European country – 48 in all.

It provides all the information required to inspire a host of high-level road trips and enough practical tips and advice to lend it weight.

Add it to your bookshelf and not only will you probably excel at your next pub quiz, it might just lift your walking horizons to a whole new level too.’

(Walk magazine, Winter 2009)

The two authors of this book clearly like a challenge, and they started bagging Europe’s biggest peaks, they couldn’t stop. From Elbrus to Mont Blanc, and taking in plenty of smaller and stranger highpoints, this book brings together clear and detailed route descriptions of peaks across the continent.

As well as the more well-known summits, we also enjoyed reading the lesser known, disputed and just plain unusual highpoints featured here, which gave us plenty to talk about down the pub.

(Trek and Mountain, March 2010)

It’s such a simple yet ingenious idea that it’s amazing no-one’s done it before. This is a guide to climbing the highest point in every European country. The climbs range from easy tourist hikes to serious mountaineering and everything in between, and Europe’s High Points gives various different routes up each peak.

Whether you’re in need of a new challenge and want to bag all 50, or if you just fancy seeing the crowning glory of a few countries from the Arctic Circle to the Sierra Nevada, you’ll be inspired here.

(Adventure Travel, November / December 2009)


For those who have finished the Wainwrights or Munros and are looking for a new challenge, how about visiting the highest point of every country in Europe?
 
This book devotes about 4-5 pages to each of the 50 country summits, in each case with a general description, main and alternative routes, information on local transport and accommodation. This is a well-conceived and nicely-written book with plenty of interesting reading and ideas than can be enjoyed by the practical and armchair peakbagger.
 

(Strider, April 2010)

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