The question in the title appeared on Quora so I reacted there and thought I could elaborate a bit on this in a separate text. So keep reading, there are more questions answered here.
At the summit of a mountain, people engage in a variety of activities that reflect both personal preferences and the unique experience of conquering a peak. Drawing from my almost four decades of mountaineering, I have witnessed diverse scenes atop summits.
From playing accordions on Triglav to savoring coffee on Tofana di Rozes, each summit has its own character. People often capture the moment with photographs, identify surrounding peaks on maps, and take well-deserved naps. Some change clothes, others enjoy meals, and a few operate drones, adding a modern touch to the age-old ritual.
In the Alps, touching the summit cross is customary, and signing a summit log book is a common practice. Personally, I record timing, indulge in breakfast and coffee, and savor the mountain air.
What do people do at the top of the mountain?
I have been mountaineering for almost four decades, and I have seen many things on summits. My first bigger mountain is Triglav in what is now Slovenia, and at that time it was Yugoslavia. So there on the summit, I have seen a group with an accordion. I could hear the music well before I got to the summit.
But it is usually not so. You can see people taking photos as in the picture above. The same picture shows also what somebody (i.e. me) was doing – preparing a coffee.
You will also see people checking maps to identify the surrounding mountains. Some use to take a nap (I am one of those), some are changing sweaty clothing, see the picture below from my tour to Tofana di Roses in the Dolomites.
Some people eat at the summit, and some are annoying everybody around with drones. Others may be posing for photos as the guy below (me) on the summit of Jof di Montasio in the Italian Alps. The same photo shows somebody using binoculars to watch around, etc.
Is this all? What else can you do at the top of a mountain?
In the Alps, I have seen that most people go and touch the cross, you have such crosses frequently on the summits there.
Signing a summit log book is also what most people do. On most summits in the Alps you will find a metal watertight box with a summit log book and a summit seal on a chain. So people write there about impressions, and those who collect summits use the seal to make a stamp in their own summit log notebooks.
As for me, here is what I usually do:
- I take a note about my timing, just to know how I was performing. But this is purely for information, I always give my timing when I describe my mountaineering tours. However, I rarely rush to the summit, this may happen only if I realize that the weather is changing.
- Then I take a rest and have my breakfast. This is because I usually start early and I cannot eat, I rather to this on the summit.
- After that I have my summit coffee, you have already seen my coffee pot, this is a Bialetti Moka, and I use it with my MSR Pocket Rocket 2 stove. You cannot imagine how a coffee can smell on a mountain summit, and how pleasant it can be after hours of hard walk and climb. But have a look below, perhaps you can? More about coffee on the mountain in my separate text.
- The rest depends on several factors, like the weather situation, people around, the type of the summit, etc. If it is nice and warm, I take a nap if possible. In the meantime I take photos and generally stay long on the summit if it is not too crowded. Sometimes I am there for one hour or so. On a glaciated summit the activities are very different.
- Then it is time to go back, so I have my ritual for goodbye to the mountain (this is something personal) and then I descend. If possible, I do some round tour and descend by following some other route, but most of the time it is the same route back.
But see this Matterhorn wingsuit flight to realize what some people can do when they are on a summit:
Other related questions
What does being on top of a mountain feel like?
I do not think I can describe it as I would want to. I am just a physicist and not a poet, and English is not my native. But this is personal in any case, what I feel is not necessarily what you might feel. One must try it.
Though, I would say that even more exciting than being on the summit is the moment when I am below the summit, and I realize that I shall manage it yet again. The photo below shows how it may look, this is the summit view of Tofana Di Rozes (3225 m) in the Dolomites Italy. As for the feelings, as I said, you have to try it to understand.
But again, this is about being on the summit, so let me summarize in simple words: It is a feeling of being alive again, at least for a while, during that stay on the summit. Now you might understand why I usually try to stay there as long as possible.
What is the top of a mountain called?
It is summit but some also use the term peak, apex, or pinnacle.
What is the flat top of a mountain called?
In the US this is called a mesa, so it implies a relatively broad and flat top on a mountain that can have steep sides.
What is the snow on top of a mountain called?
This is called a cornice, the word comes from the Italian language. It has an overhanging edge created by the winds, see the picture below. Such structures change all the time, they may melt in summer and then get created again next winter.
I remember one example on the final summit ridge of Weissmies (4023 m) in the Swiss Alps, where the cornice changed its edge from one side of the ridge to the other.
The term cornice is used also in architecture but with a different meaning.
What is a mountain lover called?
From what I can fund around, this seems to be an orophile. Do let me know if I am wrong, there is a comment box below.
The unique atmosphere on each mountain summit, influenced by factors like weather and location, dictates the pace of activities. Whether it’s a serene nap or a breathtaking wingsuit flight, each summit experience is a celebration of nature’s grandeur.
How about you? What do you do on a mountain summit? Let me know in the comment section below.
For more texts of this type please check in the category Mountaineering. See also my text about Dolomites FAQs, several photos here are from this area which is probably the most beautiful in the Alps.
If you are over 50 and not sure if you can start mountaineering, I would warmly suggest that you read my separate text on this. So, thank you for reading and have a nice day.