Seven Summits Challenge

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Seven Summits

The “Seven Summits” are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, namely:


  • Everest, Nepal / Tibet, Asia (8,848 m / 29,029 ft)
  • Aconcagua, Argentina, South America (6,962 m / 22,841 ft)
  • Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), USA, North America (6,194 m / 20,322 ft)
  • Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa (5,895 m / 19,340 ft)
  • Elbrus, Russia, Europe (5,642 m / 18,510 ft)
  • Vinson, Antarctica (4,897 m / 16,067 ft)
  • Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia, Australasia (4,884 m / 16,024 ft) or Kosciuszko, Australia (2,228 m /7,310 ft)


You can read more about the Seven Summits at:


The debate over whether Carstensz Pyramid or Kosciuszko should be included in the list depends on whether one defines the “seventh” continent as comprising Australia (the highest point of which is the summit of Kosciuszko) or the region known as Australasia or Oceania encompassing Australia and the islands of New Zealand and New Guinea (the apex of which is the summit of Carstensz Pyramid in West Papua, Indonesia).


This issue has led to uncertainty over who was the first climber to complete the Seven Summits and how many have completed the challenge.  In 1985, Dick Bass, a wealthy American businessman, reached the summit of Everest to become the first person to complete the “Kosciuszko” version of the Seven Summits, but he had not climbed Carstensz.   In 1986, a Canadian climber, Pat Morrow, completed the “Carstensz Pyramid” version of the list, and proclaimed that he was the first person to climb the Seven Summits.  The debate was kindled, although most climbers now take the view that Carstensz (a remote and more technically difficult rock climb), rather than Kosciuszko (a gentle stroll), is the true continental high point. Reinhold Messner, probably the greatest mountaineer the world has ever seen, had completed six of the seven summits (including both Carstensz and Kosciuszko) by 1985, all by hard new routes.  Messner completed the Seven Summits four months after Morrow and would probably have been the first to do so had he not been busy becoming the first climber to scale all 14 of the world’s 8,000 metre peaks! 


It is unclear precisely how many people have now completed the Seven Summits, but it is generally estimated to be between 250 and 350, depending on which definition of the challenge is used.


So far I have reached the summits of Kilimanjaro (2004), Aconcagua (2008), Vinson (2010), Elbrus (2011), Everest (2013) and Carstensz (2014).  I have also made two unsuccessful attempts on Denali.  In 2009 I was hit by a storm on summit day and forced to turn back by high winds and frostbite.  I returned in 2012, but our team was pinned down by a storm for 10 days in our camp at 14,200 ft.  When our food and fuel ran out we had no choice but to descend.  Tragically, four climbers from another team descending ahead of us lost their lives in an avalanche.


Three years on I am returning for round three with Denali and its notoriously bad weather.  If I'm successful that will (I think) complete my Seven Summits Challenge, although at some point I'll probably wander up Kosciuszko just to be sure!


Your generosity during my Everest expedition in 2013 raised over US$100,000 for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.   My goal in climbing Denali is to raise further desperately needed funds for the CICS.  As with Everest, my expedition will be entirely self-funded, so every dollar you donate will go to the Cancer Society.   If you would like to make a donation you can do so here   Thanks for your generosity.