Have I ever mentioned that I love mountains? Because I love mountains. If I had to move anywhere in the world, I think I would be pretty happy as long as there were mountains.[i] Back in high school, I went through this phase where I was reading all about Mount Everest. It all started with the Gordon Korman trilogy, Everest.[ii] After reading that, I wanted nothing more than to see the tallest mountain in the world for myself.
Seriously, I read everything I could find about Everest. And then I stumbled onto something even more awesome – the Seven Summits. The tallest mountain on each continent. And I was hooked.[iii]
These are the seven summits, and some facts about them. I’m not going to go into detail about why I want to visit each of them, because the answer would be the same for all – because they are the highest mountains on every continent! Which is awesome. So, here they are:
- Africa: Kilimanjaro | Height: 19,340 feet | Country: Tanzania, close to the Kenyan border. Kilimanjaro is an extinct volcano. One of the more well known mountains on this list, anyone who is in decent shape should be able to climb it – little mountaineering skill is required. There are tours offered that take you through rainforests, moorlands, and glaciers, and it is close to places where tourist safaris are offered.
- Europe: Elbrus | Height: 18,510 feet | Country: Russia. Elbrus is located in the Caucasus Mountains, and is also a dormant volcano. It seems that it would be just as difficult to get permission to climb Elbrus as it would be to actually climb it, as you need three different permits to do so. However, there is a chairlift up to the camp where the summit attempt launches.
- South America: Aconcagua | Height: 22,837 feet | Country: Argentina, near the Chilean border. You can walk all the way to the summit of Aconcagua without needing crampons, but this “ease” has led people to believe that it’s an easy hike, which is not true. This is the highest point outside of Europe, so altitude and wind have been significant factors in the past. It’s the Andes at it’s most beautiful and potentially most deadly.
- Oceania: Carstensz | Height: 16,023 feet | Country: Indonesia. Yes, this is the lowest altitude peak on the list, but it is rumored to be the most difficult of all of them. It is a sheer rock face that is hidden in the jungle of Indonesia. In the past, the nearby villages have forbidden climbers from approaching the mountain, so it is also one of the most difficult to access.
- North America: Denali | Height: 20,320 feet | Country: United States. Denali is the Native American name for what most Americans know as Mount McKinley. It is considered the coldest of the Seven Summits (it is not unusual for temperatures to drop to -50 degrees Fahrenheit at night), and is located in Alaska. It has a short climbing season (just May through July), and is protected as part of Denali National Park.
- Antarctica: Vinson | Height: 16,067 feet | No country association. Vinson Massif is located in one of the least traveled places in the world. It is named for the U.S. Congressman who persuaded the United States Government to support Antarctic exploration. Now accessible by cruise ship and other guided trips, Vinson requires some mountaineering skill to get to the top.
- Asia: Everest | Height: 29,035 feet | Country: Nepalese and Chinese border. The granddaddy of them all – Mount Everest. It is one of fourteen “eight-thousanders” (as in meters in height) in the world, all of which are located in the Himalayan mountain range in Asia. Notoriously challenging because of elevation issues and the lack of oxygen, Everest is the stuff of legends. There are several routes to the top, all of which take weeks because of the acclimation procedures that a person has to go through in order to protect against pulmonary edema. It is most common to summit from the Nepal side, as the Tibetan part of China is not always accessible.
I don’t want to climb them all, but I want to see them all. I’ve done a little rock climbing and know that I’m not at my best on a rock (or ice) face. But I’d like to see them. That counts in my book.
Most of my information was taken from this website. (http://7summits.com/index.php) Everything else was from Wikipedia.
Did I mention before that I love mountains?
[i] I should point out that, as much as I love the Midwest, there are no mountains here. It’s a shame, really.
[iii] If you’re interested, you should check out this book. Although there is some controversy now about whether or not Bass's achievements count toward the Seven Summits, because he did not climb Carstensz Pyramind in Indonesia - he climbed the highest peak on the continent of Australia, which is about 2,000 meters lower in elevation.