The last 10 feet's the miracle. Jamming your hands and feet into a clean granite crack, pulling yourself onto the tiny summit block of Cathedral Peak, 12,000 feet above sea level, you feel the entire Sierra Nevada swirling around you. The approach doesn't suck either, hiking up through a quiet pine forest from Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows. The climb itself is actually not that technical, and when you reach the summit, with sheer drops on all sides, you feel like staying up there for hours, a pole sitter in space.

More information: Yosemite Mountaineering School can set you up with a guide (from $210; 209-372-8344).