Seven Summits

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Decade Volcanoes
Denali(6,194 m)
(6,194 m)
Blanc(4,810 m)
(4,810 m)
Elbrus(5,642 m)
(5,642 m)
Everest(8,848 m)
(8,848 m)
Kilimanjaro(5,895 m)
(5,895 m)
Aconcagua(6,961 m)
(6,961 m)
Vinson(4,892 m)
(4,892 m)
Kosciuszko(2,228 m)
(2,228 m)
Puncak Jaya(4,884 m)
Puncak Jaya
(4,884 m)
A map of the Seven Summits (or nine, depending on the definition)
A person ascending Mount Vinson

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge, first achieved on April 30, 1985 by Richard Bass.


Map of island countries: these states are often grouped geographically with a neighboring continental landmass.

The Seven Summits are composed of each of the highest mountain peaks of each of seven continents. Different lists include slight variations, but generally the same core is maintained. The seven summits depend on the definition used for a continent, in particular where the border of that continent is. This results in two points of variation: the first is Mont Blanc or Mount Elbrus for the continent of Europe; and the second depends on whether one includes all of Oceania or mainland Australia as the continent, which results in either Mount Kosciuszko or Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid).

This creates several possible versions of the seven summits, and has also given rise to some completing all nine peaks.

  • Aconcagua, Everest, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Puncak Jaya, Vinson
  • Aconcagua, Everest, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Kosciuszko, Vinson (the "Bass version")[1]
  • Aconcagua, Everest, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Kosciuszko, Vinson
  • Aconcagua, Everest, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Puncak Jaya, Vinson

See also Australasia and Australia (continent).

The concept Bass and his climbing buddy Frank Wells were pursuing was to be the first to stand atop the highest mountain on each continent.[2] They pursued this goal as they defined it, climbing Aconcagua for South America, Denali for North America, Kilimanjaro for Africa, Elbrus for Europe, Vinson for Antarctica, Kosciuszko for Australia, and finally Everest for Asia.[2]


Tectonic plates (see List of tectonic plates)

The highest mountain in the Australian mainland is Mount Kosciuszko, 2,228 metres (7,310 ft) above sea level. However, the highest mountain in the Australian continent which includes Australia and New Guinea is Puncak Jaya, 4,884 m (16,024 ft) above sea level,[lower-alpha 1] in the Indonesian province of Papua on the island of New Guinea which lies on the Australian continental shelf. Puncak Jaya is also known as Carstensz Pyramid. Mount Kosciuszko is very easy to climb, while Puncak Jaya is difficult.

Some sources claim Mount Wilhelm (4,509 m (14,793 ft)) in Papua New Guinea's Bismarck Range as the highest mountain peak in Australia, on account of Indonesia being part of Asia and Southeast Asia.[3] (See List of Southeast Asian mountains, which includes Puncak Jaya and other mountains in Papua, Indonesia.) However, such a definition is political, not geophysical.

  • Aconcagua, Everest, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Wilhelm, Vinson
  • Aconcagua, Everest, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Wilhelm, Vinson

Using the largest tectonic plates, Europe and Asia could be grouped as Eurasia, and the very large Pacific plate with Mauna Kea.[4]

  • Africa - Kilimanjaro
  • Antarctica - Vinson
  • Australia Plate - Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya)
  • Eurasia - Mount Everest
  • North America - Denali
  • Pacific Plate - Mauna Kea
  • South America - Aconcagua

Note that Carstensz/Puncak is actually on the Maoke Plate, which is usually grouped with larger Australian plate. If not then Mount Kosciuszko would likely revert to being the highest of that plate.

  • Africa - Kilimanjaro
  • Antarctica - Vinson
  • Australia Plate - Kosciuszko
  • Eurasia - Mount Everest
  • North America - Denali
  • Pacific Plate - Mauna Kea
  • South America - Aconcagua

In terms of Australia as a country, Mawson Peak (2,745 m (9,006 ft)) is higher than Kosciuszko; Mawson is an active volcano on Heard island, a small island territory in the southern Indian Ocean. Another approach is not to group islands with the large above-sea-level continents for climbing purposes, but the reality is that any climbing list with just seven peaks but making the claim of including all "continents" is not only intellectually dependent on what constitutes a "mountain" but also what defines a "continent".


The generally accepted highest summit in Europe is Mount Elbrus (5,642 m or 18,510 ft) in the Caucasus, appearing on both the Bass and Messner lists. However, because the location of the boundary between Asia and Europe is not universally agreed upon, its inclusion in Europe is disputed: if the Kuma–Manych Depression is used as the geological border between Asia and Europe, Caucasus and Elbrus lie wholly in Asia. If the Greater Caucasus watershed is used instead, Elbrus' peaks are wholly in Europe, albeit close to the border with Asia. Mont Blanc (4,810 m or 15,781 ft), lying on the border between France and Italy in the Graian Alps, is seen by some to be the highest mountain in Europe.[5]


North and South America have Denali and Aconcagua respectively. Looking again at plate tectonics there is also the possibility of summiting the high points on the smaller plates.[6]

The Bass and Messner lists

The first Seven Summits list as postulated by Bass (The Bass or Kosciusko list) chose the highest mountain of mainland Australia, Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 m or 7,310 ft), to represent the Australian continent's highest summit. Reinhold Messner postulated another list (the Messner or Carstensz list) replacing Mount Kosciuszko with Indonesia's Puncak Jaya, or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m or 16,024 ft). Neither the Bass nor the Messner list includes Mont Blanc. From a mountaineering point of view the Messner list is the more challenging one. Climbing Carstensz Pyramid has the character of an expedition, whereas the ascent of Kosciuszko is an easy hike. Indeed, Patrick Morrow used this argument to defend his choice to adhere to the Messner list. "Being a climber first and a collector second, I felt strongly that Carstensz Pyramid, the highest mountain in Australasia ... was a true mountaineer’s objective."[7]

Seven Summits (sorted by elevation)
Image Peak Bass list Messner list Elevation Prominence Continent Range Country First ascent
Everest kalapatthar crop.jpg Mount Everest 8,848 m (29,029 ft) 8,848 m (29,029 ft) Asia Himalaya Nepal / China 1953
Aconcagua 13.JPG Aconcagua 6,961 m (22,838 ft) 6,961 m (22,838 ft) South America Andes Argentina 1897
Mount McKinley.jpg Denali 6,194 m (20,322 ft) 6,144 m (20,157 ft) North America Alaska Range United States 1913
Mt. Kilimanjaro 12.2006.JPG Kilimanjaro 5,895 m (19,341 ft) 5,885 m (19,308 ft) Africa Tanzania 1889
Эльбрус с перевала Гумбаши.JPG Mount Elbrus 5,642 m (18,510 ft) 4,741 m (15,554 ft) Europe Caucasus Mountains Russia 1874
Mount Vinson from NW at Vinson Plateau by Christian Stangl (flickr).jpg Mount Vinson 4,892 m (16,050 ft) 4,892 m (16,050 ft) Antarctica Sentinel Range 1966
Puncakjaya.jpg Puncak Jaya 4,884 m (16,024 ft) 4,884 m (16,024 ft) Australasia (continent) Sudirman Range Indonesia 1962
Mount Kosciuszko01Oct06.JPG Mount Kosciuszko 2,228 m (7,310 ft) 2,228 m (7,310 ft) Australia Great Dividing Range Australia 1840
Comparison of the heights of the Seven Summits with the Eight-thousanders and Seven Second Summits.

7summits v2

Mountaineering challenge

The mountaineering challenge to climb the Seven Summits is traditionally based on either the Bass or the Messner list. (It is assumed that most of the mountaineers who have completed the Seven Summits would have climbed Mont Blanc as well.) As of January 2010, approximately 275 climbers climbed all seven of the peaks from either the Bass or the Messner list; about 30% of those have climbed all of the eight peaks required to complete both lists.[citation needed]


In 1956 William D. Hackett (1918–1999), an American mountaineer, reached the top of five continents. He climbed Denali (1947), Aconcagua (1949), Kilimanjaro (1950), Kosciuszko (1956) and Mont Blanc (1956). In that time, the Mont Blanc was considered to be the highest mountain of the European continent. Hackett made an attempt to climb Mt. Vinson and obtained a permit for the Mt. Everest in 1960 but due to several circumstances (frostbite, lack of funds, etc.) he never made it more than five.[8][9][10]

In 1970 the Japanese mountaineer and adventurer Naomi Uemura (1941-1984) was the first person to reach five of the Seven Summits including Mount Everest. He climbed Mont Blanc (1966), Kilimanjaro (1966), Aconcagua (1968), Mount Everest (1970 solo) and Mount McKinley (1970 solo). After the first solo trip to the North Pole (1978) he planned to go on his own to Antarctica to climb Mount Vinson. In preparation for the Antarctica expedition he did a solo winter ascent of the Mount McKinley (1984). On the descent he disappeared in a winter storm.[9][11]

In 1978 the Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner was the first person to reach six of the Seven Summits (1971 Puncak Jaya, 1974 Aconcagua, 1976 Mt. McKinley, 1978 Kilimanjaro, 1978 Mt. Everest). For Messner the Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya) was the highest peak in Australia (Messner list), but in 1983 he climbed Mt. Kosciuszko to satisfy also the other geographic definition of Australia. In the same year Messner climbed Mt. Elbrus and declared that this is the true highest peak of Europe. This definition was quickly accepted by others in the mountaineering community. Finally in 1986 he climbed Mt. Vinson, at that time he was only the fifth person to reach the Seven Summits.[9]

In 1985 Richard Bass, a businessman and amateur mountaineer, was the first man to climb all the Seven Summits. In only one year, 1983, he climbed six peaks: Aconcagua, Mt. McKinley, Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Vinson and Mt. Kosciuszko. All of these climbs he did together with his companion Frank Wells and different mountain guides. From 1983 Bass and Wells made various guided attempts to climb the Mt. Everest, the highest and most difficult peak in the list. Bass reached the summit of Mt. Everest in a party without Wells, guided by the American professional mountaineer David Breashears, on April 30, 1985. He then co-authored the book Seven Summits, which covered the undertaking.[12][9]

In 1986 the Canadian mountaineer Patrick Morrow became the first man to climb the Seven Summits in the "Carstensz-Version" (Messner list). He climbed Mt. McKinley (1977), Aconcagua (1981), Mt. Everest (1982), Kilimanjaro (1983), Mt. Kosciuszko (1983), Mt. Vinson (1985), Mt. Elbrus (1985) and finally the Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid) on May 7, 1986. Morrow was also the first to complete both lists (Bass and Messner).[9][13]

In 1990, Rob Hall and Gary Ball became the first to complete the "Seven Summits" in seven months. Using the Bass list, they started with Everest on May 10, 1990, and finished with Vinson on December 12, 1990, hours before the seven-month deadline.[14]

In 1992 Junko Tabei became the first woman to complete the "Seven Summits".[15]

Mary "Dolly" Lefever became the first American woman to climb the "Seven Summits" on March 11, 1993, when she climbed Australia's Mount Kosciuszko.[16][17] She had previously climbed the others.[17] Earlier in 1993 she had become the oldest surviving woman to have reached the summit of Mt. Everest; she was 47 years old.[16]

In January 1996, Chris Haver became the first American to climb and ski all seven summits.[18]

Yasuko Namba was famous in her native Japan for becoming the second Japanese woman to reach all of the Seven Summits including Everest, where she died during the storm of May 1996 during her descent. [19]

In 2000 Croatian mountaineer Stipe Božić completed the Seven Summits.[20]

In May 2002, Susan Ershler and her husband, Phil, became the first married couple to climb the "Seven Summits" together.[21] The first person to complete Seven Summits without the use of supplemental oxygen on Mount Everest is Reinhold Messner.[22] Miroslav Caban is probably the only other climber (besides Messner) as of October 2005 to finish the project without supplemental oxygen on Everest (finished in 2005 with Carstensz) (Ed Viesturs also summitted all peaks without supplemental oxygen.[23]). Between 2002 and 2007, Austrian climber Christian Stangl completed the Seven Summits (Messner list), climbing alone and without supplemental oxygen, and reported a record total ascent time from respective base camp to summit of 58 hours and 45 minutes.[24][25]

On 17 May 2006 Rhys Jones became the youngest person to complete the 7 summits (Bass list) at the age of exactly 20 years.[26][27] In May 2007, Samantha Larson completed the seven when she was 18 years and 220 days (she is still the youngest woman to have climbed the Seven Summits). Johnny Strange climbed the summits when he was 17 years and 161 days in June 2009.[28][29] On May 26, 2011 at 6:45 Nepali time, Geordie Stewart became the youngest Briton to complete the 7 summits at the age of 22 years and 21 days. In 2009-10, Indian mountaineer Krushnaa Patil made a bid for the fastest woman to complete the challenge; she fell short of the challenge when, in May 2009, her seventh and final summit bid on Mt. McKinley was halted by her guide's illness.[30][31]
[32] George Atkinson then became the youngest person in the world to complete the round aged 16 years 362 days.[33][34] On December 24, 2011, the record was once again beaten, by American Jordan Romero, who completed the challenge at the age of 15 years, 5 months and 12 days by climbing Vinson.[35][36]

In October 2006 Kit Deslauriers became the first person to have skied down (parts of) all seven peaks (Bass list).[37] Three months later, in January 2007, Swedes Olof Sundström and Martin Letzter completed their Seven Summits skiing project by skiing down (parts of) Carstensz Pyramid, thus becoming the first and only people to have skied both lists.[38]

The world record for completion of the Messner and Bass list was 136 days, by Danish climber Henrik Kristiansen in 2008. Indian mountaineer Malli Mastan Babu also had the eminence of setting a Guinness Book record by surmounting seven summits in 172 days in 2006, which made it to the fastest seven summiteers eventually.[39] Kristiansen completed the summits in the following order: Vinson on Jan 21st, Aconcagua on Feb 6, Kosciuszko on Feb 13, Kilimanjaro on Mar 1, Carstensz Pyramid on Mar 14, Elbrus on May 8, Everest on May 25, spending just 22 days on the mountain (normally, expeditions take up to 2 months acclimatizing, laying ropes etc...) and finally McKinley on June 5, beating Ian McKeever's previous record by 20 days.[40][41] Vern Tejas set the new record for the same, in 134 days. Tejas began with summiting Vinson on Jan 18 2010 and completing with McKinley on May 31. This was Vern's 9th time to complete the "Bass" Seven Summits.

In January 2010, the Spanish climber Carlos Soria Fontán completed the seven summits (Messner list), at the age of 71, after reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. He had climbed the first one in 1968.[42]

On 23 May 2010, AC Sherpa summited Mt. Everest as his last and final conquest of the Seven Summits (Bass list). In doing this, he set a new record by climbing the seven summits within 42 climbing days. Additionally, when climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (via Marangu) he summited in just 16 hours and 37 minutes, easily beating the previous record of 18 hours.

As of 24 December 2011, it is reported that only 118 people have climbed the Seven Summits if one assumes "full" completion of the quest requires climbing the "Eight Summits" across both the Bass and Messner lists (climbing both Carstenz Pyramid and Kosciusko in addition to the other six "undisputed" summits such as Everest). 231 persons have climbed the Messner list, while 234 have completed the Bass list. 348 have done either the Bass or Messner list.[43]

In 2013, Vanessa O'Brien became the fastest female to complete the Seven Summits (including Carstenz Pyramid), finishing in 10 months.[44] Cason Crane became the first openly gay man to climb the Seven Summits.[45]

On November 21, 2013 Werner Berger (Canada, ex-South African), at age of 76 years 129 days, became the oldest person in the world to complete the Seven Summits (the "Messner-7" incl. Mt. Kosciusko) after a 6-day jungle trek to Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia.


Alpinism author Jon Krakauer (1997) wrote in Into Thin Air[46] that it would be a bigger challenge to climb the second-highest peak of each continent, known as the Seven Second Summits—a feat that was not accomplished until January 2012. This is especially true for Asia, as K2 (8,611 m) demands greater technical climbing skills than Everest (8,848 m), while altitude-related factors such as the thinness of the atmosphere, high winds and low temperatures remain much the same. Some of those completing the seven ascents are aware of the magnitude of the challenge. In 2000, in a foreword to Steve Bell et al., Seven Summits, Morrow opined with humility "[t]he only reason Reinhold [Messner] wasn’t the first person to complete the seven was that he was too busy gambolling up the 14 tallest mountains in the world."[47]

Related climbing list concepts

One idea is to climb shorter peaks rather than the highest such as with the Seven Second Summits and Seven Third Summits. The Explorers Grand Slam includes the Seven Summits and both poles.

Some have now gone further to a "eight summits" concept that includes both the "Messner" and "Bass" peaks.[48]

  1. Everest (29,035 feet) - Asia
  2. Aconcagua (22,834 feet) - South America
  3. Denali (20,310 feet) - North America
  4. Kilimanjaro (19,339 feet) - Africa
  5. Elbrus (18,510 feet)
  6. Vinson (16,067 feet) - Antarctica
  7. Carstensz (16,023 feet)
  8. Kosciuszko (7,310 feet)

See also


  1. A higher elevation of 5,030 m (16,503 ft) still appears on some maps and sites, but is accepted by neither Indonesia nor the mountaineering community, nor is it supported by modern surveys. High resolution IFSAR data supplied by Intermap shows no cell higher than 4,863 m (15,955 ft). See also Australian Universities' Expedition (section 2, page 4).
  1. infoplease
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Adventurer: Dick Bass' Many Summits".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Statistical Yearbook of Croatia, 2007
  4. Seven Summits: Defining the Continents
  5. "The Seven Summits".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. [1]
  7. Hamill 2012, p. 284.
  8. American Alpine Journal: In Memoriam - William D. Hackett, 1918-1999 AAJ 2000, Volume 42, Issue 74, Page 435.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "History of the Quest for the Seven Summits (2004)" Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  10. British Mountaineering Council: "60 years of Seven Summits peak bagging (29/08/2013)" by Lindsay Griffin,, Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  11. Naomi Uemura, renowned Japanese adventurer",, Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  12. Bass, Wells & Ridgeway 1986.
  13. Jahoda, Petr (2006). History of 7 Summits project — who was first?. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  14. Krakauer 1997, pp. 44–45.
  15. Horn, Robert (29 April 1996). "No Mountain Too High For Her: Junko Tabei defied Japanese views of women to become an expert climber". Sports Illustrated.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Mary "Dolly" Lefever". 1993-05-10. Retrieved 2013-06-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 Balf, Todd (May 2, 2004). "Mountaineering: One Per Continent". Outside. Retrieved 2013-06-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Tharp, Mike (1996-01-29). "". U.S. News & World Report. External link in |title= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Stipe Bozic". Retrieved 10 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Ershlers First Couple to Climb the Seven Summits". International Mountain Guides.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "History of Seven Summits".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Czech climber tops seven summits". The Prague Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 58 Stunden, 45 Minuten, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10 December 2007. (German)
  25. Fastest Everest climber eats 3, 6000m peaks in 16 hours,, 9 November 2006
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  27. "Rhys' Everest Adventure". Retrieved 1 April 2008. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Riddel, Brad (November 2009). "On Top of the World". Boys' Life: 7. Retrieved September 26, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Pete, Thomas (June 9, 2009). "Malibu's Johnny Strange, 17, becomes youngest to bag Seven Summits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 26, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Hampshire climber Geordie Stewart held record for two hours". BBC News. May 26, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Dominiczak, Peter (2011-05-26). "Youngest Briton to scale world's top peaks – News – Evening Standard".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "California teen becomes youngest to climb 7 summits". Associated Press. December 24, 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "Jordan Romero Climbs Mt. Vinson Massif: Calif. Teen Becomes Youngest To Climb 7 Summits". Huffington Post. December 24, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "Kit Deslauriers Ski Mountaineering Highlights".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Letzter, Martin. "Se7en Summits". Se7en Summits.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  40. Henrik Kristiansen completes the 7 (8) summits challenge – new world speed record set
  41. "Canadian man climbs highest mountains on seven continents in 187 days". CBC. 2006-11-28. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  42. Carlos Soria culmina las "Siete Cumbres" casi a los 71 años (Spanish)
  43. Harry Kikstra's 7Summits database at
  44. "Boston's Vanessa O'Brien Completes 'Explorer's Grand Slam' in Record Time". April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  45. "Out100: Cason Crane". Out. November 7, 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  46. Krakauer 1997, p. 24.
  47. Morrow, Pat "Foreword", Seven Summits, PDF at Retrieved 2012-03-03. Archived October 12, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  48. Eight Summits


External links