Is there a word that specifically refers to reaching the top of a hill or mountain?

I want to describe the action of reaching the top of a hill and finally being able to see what is on the other side. Sorry if my explanation is not clear enough.

  • 3
    "Summiting" is the most common term among mountaineers heading for a well-defined, prominent high point. Among rock climbers, one often hears "topping out." This is different because rock climbers are often not interested in reaching an actual summit. Topping out would often refer to reaching the top of the technical climbing, after which you might rappel off, or continue unroped to an actual summit. – Ben Crowell Nov 26 '14 at 16:31
  • books.google.com/ngrams/… – Ben Nov 27 '14 at 18:02
  • One needs to note the difference between "topping out" as described above, and "topping off", which means placing the final major structural beam when building a tall building. Don't confuse them. – Hot Licks Dec 10 '15 at 22:51
up vote 54 down vote accepted

You could use summit as suggested by John D, or you could use "crest".

Whether you use summit or crest could be influenced by whether you are climbing a mountain or walking up a hill. It is more usual to talk about the summit of a mountain, and the crest of a hill (compare the previous reference with this).

"We crested the hill..." or "We summited the mountain..." .

I think crest would be better for the context you describe. "Summiting" tends to suggests that getting to the top was the ultimate goal, whereas cresting does not seem to suggest that.

  • Thanks, crested the hill is what I was after. Wasn't aware you could use crest as a verb – link64 Nov 25 '14 at 0:15
  • Summiting, surely? – Richard Nov 25 '14 at 17:17
  • You definitely don't want to say "peaked". – Hot Licks Nov 25 '14 at 20:04
  • 2
    When a use called @HotLicks says "dont say 'peaked!`" you'll want to listen. ;) – paqogomez Nov 25 '14 at 21:17

The transitive verb "summit" refers to reaching the top of a hill or mountain.

  • 4
    I've also heard it as an intransitive verb: we summited. Merriam-Webster online has this meaning (and not the transitive meaning, in fact). – aes Nov 25 '14 at 5:39

just for some archaic fun, 'culminate' technically means reaching the top of a hill (from the latin culmen)

(meta: This is my first time here, so be gentle. ... respectfully,)

'summit' and 'summited,' are the terms I've heard most frequently employed by actual mountain climbers.

MW Online, 2summit intransitive verb

2 : to climb to the summit
summited on May 29

Also, I've heard the intransitive verb 'peaked' used on a few occasions, though far less frequently. Rightfully or not, the term 'crest' carries connotations of wave-like fluidity and effortless grace. Whereas 'crest' sounds appropriate for ascending 'hills,' which cannot unreasonably be considered small mountains, the word sounds ill-fitting when one is describing the effort and danger involved in climbing mountains (which are hills on steroids). While I agree that the dictionary supports the use of the term 'surmount,' I find it rather archaic. As to its adversarial connotations those who scale true mountains consider themselves as contestants in a deadly sport and routinely anthropomorphize their subject.

(meta: Excellent question, link64. Please excuse my verbosity, I haven't had an opportunity to exercise my passion for a number of years, and then there's the medicine.)

  • 1
    +1 for mentioning the connotation of 'crest.' I would only use 'crest' as a verb when describing something like driving a vehicle over a small, smooth hill. – Kevin Krumwiede Nov 26 '14 at 1:14
  • 1
    ...and with crest, I don't imagine the journey stopping - you crest a hill and go down the other side, or drive across the plateau. Whereas with "summit", once you have summitted, you are at your destination. – Adam Nov 26 '14 at 17:20
  • +1 @Kris - thank you. As you're undoubtedly aware that was my first post. I don't know how I even found this place, and had I really know how high the quality of scholarship was here I don't think I would have had the temerity to have submitted that answer. I'm glad I did though. Thanks again. – user98990 Jan 18 '15 at 12:27
  • Nice to be of help. Good Luck. – Kris Jan 18 '15 at 12:35

mountains get conquered. hills get 'climbed'.

Here are two more suggestions: (see OED)

to scale: to climb to the top of something very high and steep

and (see OED)

to peak: to reach the highest point or value

Google brings up quite a few examples for "to peak a mountain".

  • Just saw that "to peak" was also mentioned by @Little Eva. – painfulenglish Nov 25 '14 at 10:07
  • As was, 'scale'. – user98990 Dec 8 '14 at 9:55
  • They were used by @Little Eva but buried. – pazzo Dec 8 '14 at 18:56

John D's suggestion of 'summit' is not incorrect, however I would avoid its use when talking about a hill or mountain as you might end up repeating the word (to summit the summit).

Instead, I'd recommend the use of the transitive verb surmount with much the same meaning.

  • 3
    "surmount" carries the implication of overcoming an adversary. I wouldn't use it in reference to a hill or mountain unless you want to imply it was a struggle to reach the top. – R.M. Nov 25 '14 at 1:13
  • 2
    @R.M. I respectfully completely disagree. Aside from my intuition, after reading your comment I checked my print copies of Oxford, Heinemann, Merriam-Webster as well as the first several results of a google search and all had a definition similar to 'to reach, stand, or be placed on top of'. Further, all of them referred to overcoming obstacles or difficulties in the abstract sense, rather than adversaries (a term which itself implies a person or at least agency in opposiiton). – DTR Nov 25 '14 at 2:22
  • 2
    You're absolutely correct there are definitions which solely refer to being placed on top of. I simply wanted to point out that it's commonly used in the (metaphorical) sense of overcoming obstacles, so readers/listeners may infer that sense from its use. So it's not that you can't use it to mean simply "stand on top of", just that I wouldn't recommend it, due to the attendant implications. (And thanks for the clarification - I did indeed mean "adversary" in the metaphorical sense, rather than an actual person.) – R.M. Nov 25 '14 at 16:45
  • 1
    If you repeat the word, you're not using it as intended. You summit a mountain, not a summit. (And why is it that you might end up repeating the word? Would it be an accident or something?) – John Y Nov 26 '14 at 14:40

protected by Andrew Leach Nov 26 '14 at 0:08

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.