What is the Explorers Grand Slam (aka the Adventurer’s Grand Slam)?

If you don’t want to read my ramblings, the explorers grand slam, aka the adventurers grand slam, is a quest to climb the 7 summits and reach both the North and South pole.

Adventure means different things to different people. And at different stages of our lives. And most importantly of all, to our belief of what we are capable of. For me, growing up on welfare, single-mother family, I couldn’t even comprehend wondering about what is the explorers grand slam (also sometimes known as the Adventurers Grand Slam).

Simply taking a flight out of Ireland for me back then was an adventure. But something happens to you. At some point, you choose to break out that limited mindset. Something can happen that’ll change your frame of reference forever.

what is the explorers grand slam
What is the explorers grand slam?

My Personal Journey to the Adventurer Grand Slam; Seeking Adventure

For me, I can’t decide which moment in life it was for me. Visiting every country sounds like the obvious one, but that left me in a dark place to be honest. I realised it wasn’t so difficult. Or dangerous. More a logistic, expensive ordeal. Anyone could do it, if they committed their life to it.

So I started seeking REAL adventure. Running ultra-marathons, cycling across countries, and climbing the seven summits. I even ran a marathon at the North Pole and rowed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Finally, I came across the Explorers Grand Slam. Now that is real adventure. One that requires commitment, sacrifice, time, effort and suffering. Sign me up!

Rowing the Atlantic Ocean
Rowing the Atlantic Ocean, 100% unsupported.
running the north pole marathon
Crossing the finish line at the North Pole Marathon

But what actually IS the Explorer’s Grand Slam?

Ok, ok. You didn’t want my life story. I get it! I’m writing in a stream of motivated consciousness here, apologies, but let me get to the point.

The explorer’s grand slam, or the adventurer’s grand slam, is an adventure goal to reach the North Pole, the South Pole and to summit each of the Seven Summits (the highest point on each of the 7 continents).

Explorers Grand Slam variations

There are some variations within the Explorers Grand Slam, generally regarding how you get to the Poles, and what you consider the 7 summits.

  • 7 Summits has 2 variations. One correct (Messner list) and one incorrect (Bass list). This comes down to whether you consider Mount Kosciusko or Puncak Jaya as Australia’s highest peak (SPOILER ALERT: It’s Puncak Jaya!).
  • The poles have 3 variations. One pure, and the other 2 a lot easier. You can ski from the coast to the South and North Pole. That’s the true way. Or you can fly direct to the Poles, or get the plane to stop 60 miles from the Pole, and arbitrarily ski 60 miles to the poles. Weird.

Ski the last degree Scam?

To ski the entire Arctic or Antarctic, to the Poles, is HARD CORE. And legendary. Very, very few people have done it. Because it’s so hardcore, expensive and difficult, many (for-profit) companies invented the ‘Ski the last degree’ trips. Where an airplane flies you near to the Poles, and then for 10 days or so you ski the last 60 miles.

Ski the last degree is such a random, arbitrary ‘achievement’. To take an airplane 95% of the way, then drop yourself near the Poles to ski the last bit is so strange. The reality is that you must either ski the whole thing, or you might as well just fly to the Poles. To fly 95% of the way, then randomly ski the last bit is a rich person’s cop out.

But in the business of exploration and adventure, with all the sponsorship and social media likes, people like to acclaim it as something real. And then of course, with the adventure companies selling guided products, they too support the concept of skiing the last degree. It’s a racket.

Do it for fun? Sure. But to randomly draw a line 60 miles away from your target and start skiing from there? That’s not a real expedition. It’s manufactured.

If money, and social media likes, and profit wasn’t an issue, people would either ski the whole thing, or fly to the poles. This last degree stuff is nonsense.

Regardless of which, the explorers grand slam is simply reaching the summit of the 7 summits, and reaching the 2 poles, irrespective of how you reach them.

How many people have completed the Explorer’s Grand Slam?

To date, 73 people in history have completed the Explorer’s Grand Slam, in one variation or another.

Only 12 people have done it properly, skiing from the coast to both poles. Legends.

Who was the 1st person to complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam?

David Hempleman Adams was the first person to ever complete the adventurer’s grand slam, back in 1998.

What is the True Explorer’s Grand Slam?

If that wasn’t enough, then the True Explorer’s Grand Slam is both poles and the Seven Summits plus all 14 of the world’s mountain peaks that extend over 8,000m (26,000ft) in height.

Three Poles Challenge

This is the adventurer grand slam light. North Pole, South Pole, and highest ‘pole’ (Everest Summit). The legendary Edmund Hilary was the first to do this, in 1985.

adventuers grand slam
Edmund Hilary

How many people have visited every country AND completed the Adventurers Grand Slam, aka the ULTIMATE adventurers grand slam???

None. 2 came close. With this, I hope to be the first person in history to complete this. Eeeeek.

My progress to complete the Adventurer’s Grand Slam:

I’ve reached the North Pole, and climbed 5 of the 7 summits.

That leaves me with climbing Mount Everest next year, and then Antarctica’s highest mountain, Vinson, and the South Pole. Depending on finances and success/failure on Everest in April, I could potentially finish this Winter 2023/24.

climbing Denali
Me at the summit after climbing Denali earlier this year. That was FREEZING!
ultimate explorers grand slam
The ULTIMATE explorers grand slam. MEMBERSHIP AS OF 2024. 1.


Before we continue, I have created a new phrase, to help people strive for even more as the exploration of our awesome planet develops. The ULTIMATE explorers Grand Slam (or the ULTIMATE Adventurers Grand Slam). This is:

  • Visit every Country in the world (all 197++)
  • The highest point on each continent, aka the 7 summits**
  • Reach both the North and South Pole

++ Even though there are 197 countries, the ULTIMATE EXPLORERS GRAND SLAM requires more than ‘just’ every country. This is about exploring the world, so we need to find the balance between adventure but avoid the duty of becoming trainspotters. So for example where Hong Kong, despite not being a country, should of course be counted, where an island like St Martin, or French Polynesia, shouldn’t.

With that said, this list then needs to include all 193 UN countries, plus Kosovo, Taiwan, Palestine and Vatican City. Also, it should include all the major land masses and other nations that are ‘almost’ countries, so that’s Greenland, Faroe Islands, Svalbard, Hong Kong and Macau.

And disputed territories of Somaliland (and therefore Somalia properly too as part of the 193). Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Iraqi Kurdistan (and therefore Iraq proper as part of the 193) and Tibet.

That brings the total number of ‘countries/nations’ to 210.

** To complete the ULTIMATE EXPLORERS GRAND SLAM you need to have all bases covered, so that means the standard 7 summits, both the Bass and Messner lists of the 7 summits completed, as well as Mont Blanc. That means you need to have Mount Kosciuszko and Carstensz Pyramid under your belt.

NOTE: I’m also thinking this should include Mount Wilhelm to cover all 7 summit bases. And also perhaps Niue and Cook islands too. In additional to perhaps the hottest and coldest spots on the planet, as well as the highest and lowest points.

Let me stew on it, but I think that would be the most approriate list to truly declare yourself an ULTIMATE EXPLORER.

How many people have done it? ONE.


Others to nearly complete the ULTIMATE ADVENTURERS GRAND SLAM?

As far as I know 3 people are coming close but missing a few pieces:

  • Travel legend, Brundo Rodi, according to records is missing a few disputed territories.
  • Travel legend, Jeff Shea, missing Puncak Jaya as one of the seven summits.
  • Jason Wang (aims to finish in 2025)

Let’s hope we can watch this list grow in the coming years.

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