Orodruin, better known in the Common speech as Mount Doom, is an impressive volcanic cone situated on the plateau of Gorgoroth in the land of Mordor, located in the northwest of Middle-Earth. This singular agglomeration of stone, ash and pyroclastic flows dominates its surroundings, and ongoing volcanism continuously alters its features from year to year. Precise determination of its final elevation remains elusive for this reason, as do reliable accounts of feasible routes up its mighty flanks. This is indeed a daunting summit to contemplate!
Mount Doom and environs, with possible approach and climbing route noted in blue.
Approaching Mount Doom poses significant logistical challenges, as access to the realm of Mordor is guarded by a host of defenses, natural and otherwise. The region is ringed to the north, west and south by impressive ranges of steep, fang-toothed peaks (worthy mountaineering objectives in their own right), and a vast desert to the east. Access through these mountains is limited to two known routes: the Morannon, or Black Gate, located at the junction of the Ephel Dúath and Ered Lithui ranges in the northwest corner of Mordor; and the stairs of Cirith Ungol, located due east of the city of Osgiliath in the heart of the Ephel Dúath. Both approaches are highly forbidding as the entirety of Mordor is privately owned and access to enter or cross it has been refused wholesale in recent years. Determined alpinists, however, may at their own risk choose to disregard this prohibition and seek out possible points of entry among the peaks. Small parties well-equipped with Elvish ropes and outerwear may be able to find a route while remaining undetected. In addition, it is possible to negotiate a guided climb, though guide personnel in the region often prove unreliable at best and treacherous at worst.
All in all, it would be fair to say that one does not simply walk into Mordor.
Apart from the physical difficulties entailed in reaching the top of Mount Doom, this climb is highly coveted because, as of this writing, there have been no confirmed accounts of anyone reaching its summit! That a peak of such notoriety has heretofore gone unclaimed speaks to the labor involved in overcoming its many obstacles. This, of course, only adds to its allure for ambitious mountaineers looking to see their names recorded in the Red Book of Westmarch. Here, then, is some description of previous attempts and possible lines of attack.
The Sammath Naur Route
All known attempts on Mount Doom have involved some variant on this route, so named for the current high point reached, the Sammath Naur or "Chambers of Fire." This prominent feature on the east face of the peak is actually a giant rift leading into the active inner core of the volcano. While of great interest to geologists and the metallurgically inclined, the Chambers of Fire will serve only as a distraction to climbers fixed solely on the summit. Of considerably greater use, though, is the road leading to the Sammath Naur. This well-maintained track circumnavigates the entire base of Mount Doom as it winds up to the great rift. (Note: the road originates to the east at the citadel of Barad-Dûr, the administrative and military capitol of the region. For the reasons stated above, it should be shunned at all costs by parties wishing to reach the peak.) From the top of the road, the climb proper begins above the Sammath Naur, and climbers should choose among the many jumbled routes along slag-heaps, piles of ash, precarious towers of stone and the ever-present threat of pyroclastic missiles and flowing lava. The steep central cone will likely require multiple direct-aid pitches to attain the summit ridge, from which the true summit must then be surmised and reached amid belching plumes of sulfurous smoke and intense heat.
Only one party is known to have scaled any part of this route in recent memory, that being the Elrond-Isildur expedition in the year 3441 of the Second Age. However, a new group comprising as many as nine climbers of wide-ranging backgrounds and abilities is currently rumoured to be preparing an assault on Mount Doom via the proposed "Baggins-Gamgee" line, which will attempt a direct climb to the Sammath Naur and then beyond. Anyone wishing to claim the summit first must consider an ultra-light, classic alpine-style attempt—and soon.
As noted above, the current ownership of Mount Doom and its environs are hostile to intruders, to say the least. No permission for summit bids will be officially granted during the remainder of the Third Age—it's likely that the Dark Tower will literally crumble to the ground before mountaineers can freely access this notable peak. In an effort to enforce this policy, the landowner employs a large private security force, well-armed and prepared to repel any trespassers. All entry points are guarded and monitored by advanced sensing and imaging technology. Aerial patrols further extend this cloak of surveillance, making even the most covert approach dubious at best. Extreme caution must be exercised by anyone attempting this peak; unless you have some magical means of making yourself invisible, you can expect to be harassed by the local heat at every turn.
In addition to the usual range of mountaineering equipment, additional measures should be taken. Clean, drinkable water will be difficult or impossible to procure along the route, so take extra. Due to the length and difficulty of the approach, a selection of top-of-the-line, lightweight gear will prove invaluable. As usual, the Elves currently seem to be supplying the best stuff—their ropes, raingear and Orc-sensing short swords are highly prized bits of kit. Also consider Elvish energy bars, a sort of leaf-wrapped bread product which supplies a surprising jolt of energy, ideal for the summit push.
Welcome to Dirtbag City. Camping is where you find it, and care must be taken to bivvy out of sight of roving security patrols. High-powered optical sensors routinely sweep every exposed ridge and plateau, so be prepared to hunker down out of sight for short, fitful bouts of rest. No services will be available anywhere along the way. Once again, it must be stressed that this is a lengthy, committing route; no outside support or rescue is likely for parties getting into trouble. Climbers injured or stranded on Mount Doom can expect to remain there indefinitely; it would require something on the order of giant eagles to pluck hapless mountaineers from its formidable upper reaches.
DisclaimerThe above is a work of satire. No, it won't help you reach the summit of any actual peak, but hopefully it will elicit a smile or two from those who are fans of J.R.R. Tolkien or overly dramatic mountaineering literature. Cheers!