The Seven Summits

The “Seven Summits” are defined as the highest mountain on each of the seven major continental plates. There are two variants of the Seven Summits list.

The challenge was first conceived by Dick Bass and Frank Wells. They defined the Seven Summits as: Everest (Asia), Elbrus (Europe), Kilimanjaro (Africa), Denali (North America), Aconcagua (South America), Mount Vinson (Antarctica) and Mount Kosciuszko (Australia). Dick Bass become the first person to complete this Seven Summit challenge on 30th April 1985 with his ascent of Kosciuszko.

When the definitions of a continental plate are examined it becomes apparent that Australia is connected to other land masses. Kosciuszko, the highest point on the Australian mainland is 2,228 metres high.  New Zealand’s Mount Cook has a height of 3,754 metres and Carstensz Pyramid in Papua has a height of 4,884 metres. The legendary alpiniste Reinhold Messner proposed that the real Seven Summits should include Carstensz Pyramid in Papua rather than Kosciuszko in Australia. The Canadian mountaineer, Pat Morrow, became the first person to complete this alternative seven summits list with ascent of Mount Elbrus on 5th August 1986.

There is a lot of debate in mountaineering circles whether you should ascend Kosciuszko or Carstensz Pyramid to claim to have done the Seven Summits. To remove any debate, it is recommended that you actually climb 8 mountains.

Statistics are available on who has completed one of the Seven Summit lists and who has completed the eight summits. These statistics are available here.

There are also others that debate whether Mount Elbus should be included on the list as the highest point of Europe. The European continental plate is attached to the Asian plate and as such the continental plate boundary is not as clear as one would like for a definitive list. There is a school of thought that indicates that to truely do the Seven Summits then you have to also ascend Mont Blanc in France as Mont Blanc is definitely in Europe.

So for my Seven Summits challenge I am actually be attempting to climb nine mountains. Eight have been done to date and an attempt on Everest is next on the cards to hopefully safely finish my Seven Summits challenge.

Adam Helman has further discussed the various potential mountains that need to be climbed for a true Seven Summits attempt and he has published a very interesting article here – perhaps this opens the doors for other future adventures 🙂

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