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Climbing the Seven Summits reviewed by Tacoma New Tribune


Five Questions Ever since American mountaineer Dick Bass reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1985, becoming the first person to summit the highest point on each continent, duplicating that accomplishment has become an ultimate goal for many climbers.

In 2008, Mike Hamill, a guide for Ashford’s International Mountain Guides, reached the top of Africa’s Kilimanjaro becoming the 248th person to check off the accomplishment. But unlike many who reach the goal, he kept going.

Hamill, a 34-year-old West Seattle resident, has climbed the Seven Summits at least four times each. In 2008, he climbed all seven peaks in a 220-day stretch.

Few know these mountains as well as the New Hampshire native, making him the perfect candidate to write “Climbing the Seven Summits: A Comprehensive Guide to the Continents’ Highest Peaks.” (The Mountaineers Books, $29.95). The book went on sale last month and recently cracked the top 100 on’s best-selling mountain climbing books.

A day before he left for Alaska to guide climbers up Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak, Hamill slowed down long enough to field five questions:

1When and where does an international mountain guide find time to write a book?

“When you are guiding on mountains like Everest (a 2-12-month trip) you have a lot of time at base camp where you can sit and write for a couple of days. It’s a good project to fill in those holes in your schedule. But you do have to be diligent. ... This project took about three years.”

2Why did you want to write a book about the Seven Summits?

“Mainly because there is a general lack of good information out there on the Seven Summits. I had clients and friends who were having trouble finding good info to compare the peaks. I felt like it was a hole that needed to be filled.”

3So, you’re 34 and spending 200 nights a year in a tent, how long do you plan on keeping up this aggressive schedule?

“Mountaineering is pretty addictive and I love it, but it doesn’t really lend itself to a normal lifestyle. I want to do this for a few more years, then scale back a little bit.”

4You’re from the Northeast, where there are hardly any peaks as high as the Sunrise parking lot (6,400 feet) at Mount Rainier. What inspired you to climb big mountains?

“I got into it indirectly through skiing. I was in the Junior Olympics and we went to Alaska. I remember the moment when we were flying by Denali. It was inspiring. After that, I started doing more hiking on the East Coast and then progressed to mountaineering and eventually I applied for a job (with Rainier Mountaineering Inc.) to guide on Mount Rainier and I got it.”

5Which of the Seven Summit trips do you enjoy the most?

“I love the Vinson trip. It’s pretty sweet. The logistics are so difficult. You have to fly an old jet without windows to get there. You have to be committed and it is so remote. It’s a cool feeling and Antarctica is a beautiful place. You fly in with about 52 people and of those about 35-40 head over to the mountain (on a smaller twin-engine plane). You’re the only ones on the mountain and there is nobody else around for 80 miles.” 253-597-8497 

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Denali Summit

100% success on Denali!

Alaska Mountaineering Schools team, led by Mike Hamill, summits Denali. The team of 8 all summited in clear, sunny weather and has descended to Kahiltna base camp. Well done team!Denali Summit