What Are The 7 Summits?
So what are the 7 summits? Well, the seven summits are the 7 highest mountains on each continent. It’s a huge dream of lots of climbers, adventurers, and explorers to summit the highest point on each continent in their lifetime. I’ve managed 4 (the easiest ones of course – Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and Elbrus, Russia), as well as the 2 dubious one of Mont Blanc and Mount Kosciuszko and now also Aconcagua.
Less than 150 people in history have completed the 7 summits, and only 20 to have done the 7 summits + North Pole & South Pole (and no one in history for that + every country in the world – my new goal!) yet for some strange reason these 7 summits are something that I’ve set as my new ridiculous goal, considering I’m barely a trekker, let alone a climber. But life is short, and the only way to achieve big things is to set big goals, so let’s give it a crack. I’m currently 34 years old (June 2018) and I’m aiming to complete this before I’m 40. But enough about me, let’s have a look at the 7 Summits and what they represent.
First of all, what are the 7 summits, in order of height:
1) Asia’s Highest Mountain: Mount Everest, Nepal, 8,848 m (29,029 ft)
How long does it take?
The short answer is approximately 2 months, maybe a little less, 6-8 weeks. Climbers start arriving at the mountain’s base camps in late March. On the more popular south side, base camp is at around 5,300 metres and sits at the foot of the icefall, the first major obstacle. Clients now acclimatise by climbing nearby, ‘smaller’ peaks. The next major staging post is Camp 2 (Advanced Base Camp), at the mouth of the Western Cwm.
From there you continue to Camp 3 and Camp 4 on the South Col. Sherpas rarely stay at Camp 3, since it is exposed to rock fall. Summit day, usually a date in mid-May when temperatures are warmer and wind milder, actually begins at around midnight. Climbers aim to be on the summit in the morning, with plenty of daylight left to get down before nightfall.
After acclimatisation is complete, the actual summit push from Base Camp and back lasts about a week.
How hard is it?
10/10. Mount Everest death rate is about 1.3% or so, but thankfully dropping every year. It’s both technical and physically grueling, a minimum of 6 months fitness training is recommended.
You would start end of March and aim to Summit mid-to-late May
$40,000USD to $65,000 is pretty standard. You can pay up to $100k for extra sherpas, extra tents/space/oxygen etc, but most struggle by on a thrift $50k! The fee to the Nepalese Government is $11k+ alone. Once you pay $50k+ you’ll most likely be with a Western guide along with local Sherpas, less than $50k and it will more likely be a local operation.
Success Rate in 2018:
Mount Everest success rate is roughly 50%
*PERSONAL GOAL: I’m hoping to attempt this in April 2021 or April 2022. Watch this space!
2) South America‘s Highest Mountain: Aconcagua, Argentina, 6,961 m (22,838 ft)
How long does it take?
Climbing Aconcagua takes approximately 3 weeks, a little less if you’re already acclimatised.
How hard is it?
7/10. The second highest summit on the 7 Summits, it’s not technical at all, but the serious altitude and fitness can play a part. Fitness training is required, a minimum of 6 weeks hard training.
Between 2001 and 2012, of the 42,731 mountaineers who sought to reach Aconcagua’s summit, 33 died. This gives a fatality rate of 0.77 per 1,000 or 0.077%.
Officially, the climbing season is between November 15th and March 31st of every year. Due to the weather though, it is best to climb Mount Aconcagua between late November and late February.
It ranges from $3,000USD to $6k
Success Rate in 2018:
Around 40% (estimates range from 30% to 50%)
June 2019. Here’s a pic of my FAILED attempt to summit Aconcagua in December 2018. Awful weather, 160kph wind and a very depressed Johnny. You can read about my failure HERE. I’m signed up to try again starting on NYE and throughout January 2020.
**Personal Edit: I did it (January 2020!)
3) North America‘s Highest Mountain: Denali (Mount McKinley), USA (Alaska), 6,194 m (20,322 ft)
How long does it take to climb Denali?
2/3 weeks, normally around 16 days.
How hard is it to climb Denali?
7/10. It requires some technical climbing, but nothing too heavy, but strong fitness is required.
32,000 people have attempted Denali with a death toll of around 100 (0.003%)
Climbing Season for Denali:
Early May to Late June
Approximate Cost to climb Denali:
$7,000USD to $12k
Mount Denali Success Rate in 2018:
I’m signing up to do this in May 2020. Let me know if you’d like to join!
4) Africa‘s Highest Mountain: Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, 5,895 m (19,341 ft)
How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?
You can race up it in 4/5 days if you’re in a rush, but a standard route is 6 or 7 days on the mountain.
How hard is it to climb Kilimanjaro?
4/10. If you’re a naturally fit person, you should be able to tackle Kili without any prior training. Not technical at all. 30,000 people summit per year, with a death rate of 1 death per 3,333 climbers (0.03%)
Kilimanjaro Climbing Season:
December to February and June to September. Winter season is generally colder than June-Sep and there is a higher probability of encountering snow on the summit
Approximate Cost to climb Kilimanjaro:
Kilimanjaro Success Rate in 2018:
This was the first of the Seven Summits that I climbed, all the way back in 2010, during my Cape Town to Cairo overland trip. You can read about how I did it, and how much it cost here.
5) Europe‘s Highest Mountain: Elbrus, Russia, 5,642 m (18,510 ft)*
*NOTE: Because the location of the boundary between Asia and Europe is not universally agreed upon Mont Blanc (4,810m) is occasionally considered as Europe’s highest mountain.
How long does it take to climb Mount Elbrus?
Around 5/6 days including base camp, acclimatization, and summiting.
How hard is it to climb Mount Elbrus?
If you use the transport options on the South Side (cable car and snowcat), 6/10, if not or you summit from the north side, 7/10. Not techincal at all.
In terms of death rate, about 25 die per year, around 0.15%.
Mount Elbrus Climbing Season:
July and August
Mount Elbrus Approximate Cost:
From $1,100 to $4k
Mount Elbrus Success Rate in 2018:
85% South side (using the snow-cat to carry you to 4,800), 55% North Side.
6) Antartica‘s Highest Mountain: Vinson, Antartica, 4,892 m (16,050 ft)
How long does it take to climb Mount Vinson?
Around 15 days from Chile, back to Chile again, and perhaps factor a couple of days delay in with the weather in Antartica.
How hard is it to climb Mount Vinson?
7/10. Cold, and physically exerting. Train hard for a minimum of 3 months. Technically, thankfully, not too challenging but extremely cold! Noone has ever died on Vinson (yaaay, finally!)
Mount Vinson Climbing Season:
Early December to late January
Mount Vinson Approximate Cost:
$30k to $60k including the South Pole
Success Rate in 2018:
** Personal Note:
I plan to combine this with a trip to the South Pole, meaning a cost of $70k+. Ouch! I’m thinking probably winter of 2022 for this one.
7) Australasia‘s Highest Mountain*: Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid), Indonesia (Western Papua), 4,884 m (16,024 ft)
*NOTE: Because the location of the boundary between Australia and Asia is not universally agreed upon Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m) is occasionally considered as Australia’s highest mountain. I climbed Mount Kosciuszko in May 2019 just to make sure, you can read about me hiking Mount Kosciuszko here.
How long does it take to climb Puncak Jaya?
Bali to Bali it takes just shy of 2 weeks
How hard is it to climb Puncak Jaya?
Quite technical (arguably the most technical of the 7 summits) but mostly fixed ropes, it is quite arduous though so being in good shape is required.
Puncak Jaya Climbing Season:
Puncak Jaya Approximate Cost:
$13,000USD to $20k
Puncak Jaya Success Rate in 2018:
I successfully summited Puncak Jaya in June 2019, and I did it for a fraction of the cost ($7,500!). You can read about my experience, and how I did it so ‘cheaply’ HERE.
THOUGHTS ON THE SEVEN SUMMITS:
I wrote this summary as much for myself as any of you guys out there. It’s tough to remember the seasons, the exorbitant prices, the chances of succeeding etc, but now I have a place to look back to. The total cost of the 7 summits? $110,000USD+. That’s a lot of money to save. But big dreams require sacrifice, suffering, and a little ingenuity, so I’ll dig out some sponsors I hope, work hard, save as much as possible and let’s see where we end up.
My plan? Kili, Puncak Jaya Elbrus are done, I plan to go for Aconcagua next (Jan 2020). Then Denali (May 2020). Then the big financial efforts of Vinson and Everest to finish. Let’s do it. If any of you guys ever want to join me for these, just let me know and let’s make it happen. Msg me here, or on FB, Twitter or Instagram. Just search for ‘onestep4ward’, see you on the summit.
SEVEN SUMMITS NOTE: The Bass and Messner lists, and what about Mont Blanc??
The first ‘Seven Summit’ list was created by Bass, where he used Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, instead of Puncak Jaya, in Indonesia. So the Bass Seven Summit list is as follows:
The second, more definitive ‘Seven Summit list, was created by Reinhold Messner who replaced Mount Kosciuszko with Puncak Jaya. Messner’s Seven Summit list is as follows:
- Puncak Jaya
Mont Blanc was widely regarded as the highest mountain in Europe in the mid 20th century, only for Elbrus in Russia to be accepted as the true highest point in Europe. That being said, to complete the Seven Summits without argument, one should climb the Seven Summits AND Mount Kosciuszko and Mont Blanc. I did both these mountains in 2019 to make sure!