The Seven Summits

By Molly John on March 1 2018 in World Facts

At 20,310 feet, Denali is the highest peak in the continent of North America.

The Seven Summits comprises of the highest mountain peaks of each of the seven continents. From the rarified air of the Himalayan to the plains of Africa and polar glaciers of Antarctica, the Seven Summits form a collection of selected peaks stretching to the far reaches of the globe. So far, only 350 people in the world have summited the seven peaks. The Bass list, named after the American climber Dick Bass who completed the summits in April 1985, forms the most accurate list of the summits. It comprises of North America's Denali (20,310 ft), South America's Aconcagua (22,841 ft), Antarctica's Vinson (16,067 ft), Europe's Elbrus (18,510 ft), Africa's Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft), Asia's Everest (29,029 ft), and Australia's Kosciuszko (7,310 ft).

7. North America - Denali

Formerly known as Mt. Mount McKinley, Denali is the highest peak of the North American continent at an elevation of 20,340 ft above sea level. Denali is located in south-central Alaska and is the third highest peak of the Seven Summits. The native Koyukon Athabascan people of Alaska refer to the mountain as the Denali (The Great One) while William Dickey named the mountain Mt. McKinley after President William McKinley’s support for gold. However, the president never visited the mountain nor Alaska and in August 2015, the name Denali was officially adopted and documented by the Department of Interior.

The ascent to the peak is classified as extremely challenging due to the severe weather and difficulty in acclimating. The West Buttress route is referred to as the easiest climbing route but the barometric pressure is higher than on any other mountain making it difficult for most people to reach the peak. It takes an average of three weeks to complete the climb, which is normally done between May 1 and June 26 every year when weather conditions are favorable. As of 2017, 32,000 people had attempted the summit with only a 60% success and 100 reported deaths on the mountain.

6. South America - Aconcagua

Aconcagua is the second highest peak of the seven summits and the tallest mountain in South America as well as the Southern and Western Hemispheres rising 22,841 ft above sea level. It is located in the Mendoza Province of Argentina. The mountain acquired its name from the native Quechuan words akun (summit), ka (other), and agua (admired).

The most common route to summit the mountain is the Aconcagua Normal Route along the Northwest ridge. It takes an average of 21 days from Mendoza to ascend and descend with climbing time ranging between December 1 and January 31 when the weather condition is favorable. The climb to the peak is considered less technical hence most climbers underestimate the ascent. Only 60% of the people who have attempted the climb made it with a large number suffering from altitude sickness, hypothermia, falls, and heart attacks.

5. Antarctica - Vinson

With an elevation of 16,607 ft above sea level, Vinson is the highest peak of Antarctica. It is located in the southern ridges of the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, 750 miles from the southern pole making it the most remote of the seven summits. Initially, the mountain was referred to as Vinson Massif, referring to a group of connected mountains forming a distinct section of a mountain. In 1935 when the highest peak was discovered, it was named Mt. Vinson.

Due to the unfavorable conditions of Antarctica encompassing a technical climb, cold windy conditions, low temperatures, accessibility, and short window opportunity for the climb, few people make it to the summit. Mt. Vinson experiences temperatures as low as -20 °F making it the coldest peak of the seven summits. The climbing period is December through to February during the Antarctic summer when temperatures rise to minus 29 °F and the sun is out for 24 hours.

4. Europe - Elbrus

The Elbrus Mountain is an active volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range at the Georgian border. It is the highest mountain in Europe with an elevation of 18,510 ft above sea level. Elbrus obtained its name from the Turkic people of the Caucasus region translating it to Mingi-Tau (resembling a thousand mountains).

Mt. Elbrus has considered the easiest climb of the seven summits due to the unique cable car system that ascends up to 12,500 ft. Climbers use the Standard route up to the south side of the summit. Nevertheless, the route is challenging due to snow, high winds, and a high elevation. The summiting season falls between May and September with climbers taking less than a week to ascend and descend. Albeit being an easy climb, the mountain reports about 30 deaths annually, which is the highest among the Seven.

3. Africa - Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and the fourth highest of the Seven Summits. In a traditional sense, Kilimanjaro is an active stratovolcano composed of layers of hardened volcanic ash, pumice, lava, and tephra. It is located in Moshi municipality in Tanzania and is the highest free-standing mountain in the world. The mountain was named by the Chagga people of Tanzania translating Kilima to mountain and Njaro to the whiteness of the ice cap at the peak.

There are 5 established routes to the summit namely Marangu, Machame, Rongai, Lemosho, and Mweka routes accessible all year round. All the routes provide scenic views of the National park and plains but the Marangu route is the most widely used. Climbers say Kilimanjaro is one of the highest climbs with minimal technicalities related to altitude and low temperatures at the peak.

2. Asia - Everest

Mount Everest is the highest mountain on earth elevating at 29,029 ft above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur region of the Himalayas and straddles the border between China and Nepal. Natives from Tibet and Nepal referred to the Everest as Chomolungma (Holy Mother). Every year, around 5,000 people attempt to summit the mountain with a 77% success rate recorded. The ascent is the most technical of the Seven Summits and only experienced mountain climbers ascend the mountain.

There are two main routes namely the southeast ridge from Nepal and the north ridge from Tibet. Altitude sickness, harsh weather characterized by avalanches, and strong winds are the major roadblock for climbers. The climb takes approximately two months with the climbing season starting from mid-May when temperatures are warmer and winds milder.

1. Australia - Kosciuszko

Mount Kosciuszko is the highest peak in Australia and forms the lowest peak of the Seven Summits. It is located west of Crackenback and forms part of the Alps National Park. The ascent to the peak is the easiest lasting for only 3 hours. The walk to the peak is open all year round but mostly used in summer (June to October). Over 100,000 people get to the peak each year making it the most summited peak of the Seven Summits.

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