The Seven Summits – The Ultimate Climbing Bucket List

The Seven Summits are defined as the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

A mighty goal, climbing all of these mountains is a pinnacle achievement that many mountaineers dream of. It’s a phenomenal feat that requires extreme fitness, commitment, determination, resilience and courage and as such, joining the ‘Seven Summiters’ club is an exclusive privilege held by very few people.

Listed in order of the largest continental landmass they are:

Asia: Mount Everest (29,035ft | 8,850m)

Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340ft | 5,895m)

North America: Denali (20,320ft | 6,194m)

South America: Aconcagua (22,841ft | 6962m)

Antarctica: Vinson Massif (16,050ft | 4892m)

Europe: Mount Elbrus (18,510ft | 5642m)

Australia: Mount Kosciuszko (7,310ft | 2228m)

OR

Australasia: Carstensz Pyramid (16,023ft | 4884m) (Some people define ‘continent’ differently leading to an alternate ‘seventh summit’).

The beauty of holding the Seven Summits as a goal is that it has a natural progression that suits a beginner mountaineer all the way through to more experienced climbers meaning that while monumental, it is a goal that can be held by anyone.

New climbers can start with smaller, shorter expeditions and work their way up to bigger, more committing climbs while the more experienced climbers can cut their teeth on giants like Denali and Everest. Climbers will always have different opinions about which peak is more serious and which should be tackled first, but ultimately the order is up to you as the individual.

To progress through the Seven Summits, one suggestion is to

  1. Enrol in a comprehensive alpine climbing course – for example train by climbing Mt. Rainier in Washington State or the Grand Teton in Wyoming, USA, Mont Blanc in France, Mount Fuji in Japan, Cayambe in Ecuador or comparable peaks and then as a suggested climbing order you can

Then:

  1. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa
  2. Climb Mount Elbrus in Europe
  3. Climb Aconcagua in South America
  4. Climb Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia
  5. Climb Vinson Massif in Antarctica
  6. Climb Denali in North America
  7. Make a training climb of 8,000m peak Cho Oyu in Tibet
  8. Climb Mount Everest in Asia
  9. Climb Mount Kosciuszko in Australia – it’s by far the easiest so you can bring all your friends and family with you on the climb to celebrate as the icing on the cake.

If you are new to climbing, we recommend Mount Elbrus, Kilimanjaro and Kosciuszko as good places to begin and start to build skills. These trips will give climbers and indication of how they will do on the more serious climbs and at higher altitudes. The financial and time burdens of these three trips are also smaller than Mount Everest or Vinson Massif.

Prior Experience and Technical Skill

It is important for your safety and success and that of those around you that you gain the requisite experience before joining a climbing expedition. All climbers attempting to scale the Seven Summits, must have a solid background in alpine, ice, and rock climbing techniques and must be very physically fit.

Here are the skills that you should be learning on the smaller peaks/and comfortable with before you attempt any of the larger climbs:

  • Roped glacier travel
  • Rigging for glacier travel with a sled
  • Cramponing
  • Ice axe techniques
  • Self arrest and team arrest
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Fixed line ascension; using a harness, ascender (jumar), ascender carabiner, primary safety (lobster claw) for descending or traversing while passing other climbers of anchors
  • Rappeling
  • Snow, ice and rock anchors
  • Running belays
  • Altitude illness awareness
  • Camp setup
  • GPS use and route finding
  • Rest step
  • Pacing
  • Packing a pack
  • Layering clothing.

Fitness & Training for the Seven Summits

Climbing the Seven Summits is difficult even for extremely fit individuals. If you have the desire to tackle this goal, having top notch fitness is critical to being successful. While some of the climbs are easier than other or require different types of fitness (rock climbing, carrying heavy loads etc) generally the best way to get fit for climbing is to climb. There is no substitute for getting out there and the more you climb the more prepared you will be for an expedition.

As a rule climbers need to be able to carry heavy loads for six to ten hours per day for multiple days in a row. Summit day on most of the Seven Summits consists of 3000-5000ft (1000 – 2000m) of elevation gain over ten to twenty hours of climbing. Outside of climbing, the most effective way to train is to undertake day hikes and multiday hikes of long distances at least once a week for five to ten hours at a stretch.

Beyond this, cardio training at a higher heart rate is important. Climbers should train five or six days per week. It helps to work with a trainer to stay on track and help map out a specific training regimen. Cardio fitness workouts should consist of at least forty five minutes of strenuous, continual exercise with a heart rate between 110 – 150. We recommend stair climbing, bike riding and running hills for cardio work. Remember that high altitude climbing is more about endurance than short, quick bursts of power.

Begin conditioning as early as possible and continue to ramp up until two weeks before the trip begins, then taper off in order to “peak” your fitness level. Rest several days before leaving, because travel and jet lag can take a toll on the body. Most importantly don’t overtrain or get hurt before the climb!

Expeditions Available

Every year we have expeditions scheduled to each of the Seven Summits as well as other exotic locations around the world. Each are adventures in their own right but are also excellent training treks and climbs to help you move toward the ultimate goal of the Seven Summits.

We are also happy to provide advice and guidance to you so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Further CTSS owner, Mike Hamill has published a comprehensive guide to the continent’s highest peaks titled “Climbing the Seven Summits” which has proven a great resource to hundreds of climbers over the years. It is available here:

Book

 

We look forward to climbing with you.