What Are the Seven Summits?
The term “Seven Summits” was coined by a Texas oil executive and passionate mountaineer named Dick Bass to describe the highest summits on each continent. He completed Everest, his seventh summit, in 1985, making him the first mountaineer to successfully complete the Seven Summit circuit, not to mention the oldest man to successfully reach the peak of Everest (a record since broken).
Since then, just over 400 brave souls have successfully pulled off the massive feat, which takes years and years of dedication to accomplish. Not to be outdone, a precious few have even taken it upon themselves to climb the seven second highest summits in each continent. The total estimated cost of climbing the Seven Summits is about US$200,000. So what are the Seven Summits in the first place?
List of the Seven Summits
1. Puncak Jaya – Oceania (16,024 feet)
This one in particular is a source of controversy, since it didn’t make Bass’s original list. Bass counted only the continent of Australia proper, and thus included Mount Kosciuszko, which is the highest peak on the Australian continent.
However, when a legendary climber named Reinhold Messner completed the Seven Summit challenge just a year and a half after Bass, he argued that the entire continent of Oceania should be factored into the equation. This means the Indonesian peak of Puncak Jaya, otherwise known as Carstensz Pyramid, would take the title over Kosciuszko according to the Messner criteria.
While most go by Messner’s formula when completing the circuit, some still swear by the original Bass criteria. About 30% of the climbers who have completed the Seven Summits climb both just for good measure.
Puncak Jaya is the most technically difficult climb on all of the list, and requires a multi-day hike through dense jungle before the ascent even begins.
2. Elbrus – Europe (18,513 feet)
This peak is located in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia near the Georgian border. Elbrus is actually an extinct volcano, and stands out dramatically from the surrounding landscape.
Climbers not only have the choice between two separate peaks, the Western Summit being slightly higher than its Eastern counterpart, but also two different routes to the top including a “normal route” and a less crowded but also much more difficult “hard route.”
The climb is unique in that it can be completed quite quickly, usually within the span of a week. The one downside is that the weather can be unpredictable, and unfortunately, climbers don’t have the luxury of choosing their climate conditions.
3. Kilimanjaro – Africa (19,340 feet)
Kibo is the tallest summit of the Kilimanjaro massif, a series of three dormant volcanoes located in Tanzania, Africa. As an added bonus, climbers get the experience of trekking through five different climate zones on their way to the top.
This is one of the most accessible climbs on the list due to the low level of technical difficulty, but it is still no walk in the park, so to speak. On average, 10 deaths are recorded per year, and all mountaineers need to be accompanied by an experienced guide.
Unfortunately, these days, Kilimanjaro is not just notorious as a mountaineering milestone, but also for its rapidly deteriorating glaciers.
4. Aconcagua – South America (22,834 feet)
Mount Aconcagua is part of the Andes mountain range in Argentina, near the Chilean border. It is the highest peak in both the southern and western hemisphere, as well as the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas.
While the ascent itself doesn’t require a high degree of technical skill, the massive altitude more than makes up for the difficulty. It is estimated that only 30% of people who attempt this peak actually make it to the top.
5. Vinson Massif – Antarctica (16,067 feet)
Due to the cold temperatures, nobody dared to tackle Mount Vinson until 1966, when an American team backed by the support of a group of scientists and researchers finally reached the top. Since then, over 1,000 people have successfully climbed with no recorded deaths.
While the weather is almost always treacherously cold, the good news is that the climb itself isn’t that difficult by professional mountaineering standards, and anybody who chooses to climb in the summer months will have the added benefit of 24/7 sunlight.
6. Denali – North America (20,310 feet)
Located in the heart of Alaska, Denali’s name literally translates to the “the high one.” Unsurprisingly, it towers dominantly over the surrounding landscape. Climbers who choose to tackle Denali will face a higher vertical gain than even Everest, not to mention isolation and severe, and often extreme, weather conditions.
These factors combined make Denali one of the most intimidating climbs on the list, with only about a 40% success rate in reaching the summit and almost 100 deaths over the years.
7. Everest – Asia (29,035 feet)
Last but not least is Mount Everest, the peak that some might already know as the highest mountain on the planet. The fact that Everest holds the unrivalled title means that it attracts about 800 climbers on an annual basis.
Climbing Everest is no easy feat due to the fact that it falls in an isolated region in Tibet near the Chinese border. Over the years, thousands have successfully completed their pilgrimage, while hundreds have sadly died trying.
Did you like this post? If so, you might enjoy these others from the Sporcle Blog:
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- What Countries are Transcontinental?
- A History of Bir Tawil – Land Left Unclaimed
Or, test your newfound knowledge in the Seven Summits trivia quiz below!