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Climbing The Highest Point In 100 Countries

Lee Humphries’s love for walking in the hills and summiting high places has sent him on a personal mission to ascend high points, as well as low, across the world

At eleven years old, Lee Humphries was already hooked on climbing higher. He graduated from climbing the Shropshire hills to the highest points in England, Scotland and Wales before heading abroad.

It wasn’t until he planned to climb Korab (2,764m), the highest point in both Macedonia and Albania, in 2015, that he stopped to think how many country high points he had summited. After Korab it stood at 15 so he decided to try for 100, including all of Europe’s, as well as the highest mountains in Africa and South America.

As peak bagging goes, it’s a novel way to see some amazing places, and as Humphries points out, more people have stood on the moon than on the highest point of over 100 countries...

If you have a goal you’ve been putting off there is no time like the present to go and do it

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What are the most awe-inspiring sights you’ve seen reaching these high points, given you’ve been on 64 so far?
‘I would have to say the unexpected cloud inversions. I do experience it quite often on the higher country high points but now and then when it's totally unexpected it’s completely awe-inspiring. Standing on a mountain, distant peaks poking through the clouds that are like a blanket far below you. It's a moment that emphasises where you actually are – fantastic.’

What low highest point has been the most challenging to get access to?
‘Bahrain's highest point Jabal ad Dukhan may only be 134m above sea level but the military occupies and patrols the whole summit area. They have installed several layers of razor barbed fences lower down on the rocky slopes to prevent access. As if that wasn't already difficult enough to circumvent, during my climb several very aggressive wild dogs emerged from rock caves and approached me while I was ascending in 42°C heat.’

Do you think climbing mountains is good for our mindsets?
‘Yes. To climb a mountain you need to have willpower, dedication to the cause, and determination to achieve the goal of getting to the summit, even if your body and mind are telling you otherwise. I believe that pushing your own limits and being successful re-enforces a positive effect on our own mindset, so when we face any difficult challenges in the future we are stronger for it.’

Have you had any risky moments in the mountains?
‘While climbing Grauspitz (2599m) the highest point in Liechtenstein there is a steep boulder field turning to scree that leads along a knife-edge ridge to Hinter Grauspitz (2574m). I was just about to start climbing when I heard a loud noise above followed by a massive rockfall along the route I was aiming to take onto the ridge.’

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You’re planning to climb the 6,962m Aconcagua as your 100th country high point – are you nervous about it?
‘It's the highest mountain in South America and the tallest on my list. Having climbed above 6,000m in Peru a few years ago, I know that just walking, let alone climbing is a totally different game altogether at that altitude. The mountain itself is not really that technical and I don’t doubt my own ability, so the only things that makes me nervous are those that are out of my control such as bad weather or altitude sickness.’

You must have come across some interesting wildlife in your travels?
‘I was recently bitten by a spider in Trinidad and Tobago while in the middle of the jungle, not that far from the highest point. The vegetation was getting very dense so I was pushing through it with both my arms and legs. I felt a nip on my left arm, I looked and saw two small dots that had started bleeding, Within seconds I felt a painful tingling aching sensation that started to run down my arm. It certainly made for an interesting one-armed steep descent hanging onto trees, but after 24 hours the pain had subsided!’

‘While sleeping under the stars in a bivvy bag in the Alps, I was woken up to the sight of a big long-horned Ibex taking great interest in my rucksack that I was using as a pillow.’

Does climbing change your perspective on how people are living their lives back at home?
‘When heading back to the UK after spending days on my own climbing a high point the first thing that usually hits me is just how much of a rush everyone seems to be in. Frantically hurrying here and there, everyone has their heads down looking at their phones, not taking the time to talk to one another or look at our surroundings.’

‘I often hear many people make plans or have grand ideas which never materialise. A book or video is no comparison to actually experiencing the world for yourself. So, if you have an aim or a goal that you have been putting off there is no time like the present to go and do it. As Paul Brandt said: “Don’t tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”’

To follow Lee Humphries’s progress to 100 high points visit 100countryhighpoints.com

Words: Matt Ray

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