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The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge, first postulated as such in the 1980s by Richard Bass (Bass et al. 1986).

Seven Summits definitions

Owing to different interpretations of continental borders (geographical, geological, geopolitical) several definitions for the highest summits per continent and the number of continents are possible. The Seven Summits number of seven continents is based on the continent model used in Western Europe, the United Statesmarker and Australia.


The highest mountain in the Australian mainland is Mount Kosciuszkomarker (2,228 m). However, the highest mountain in the Australian continentmarker which includes Australia and New Guinea is Puncak Jayamarker (4,884 m), in the Indonesianmarker province of Papuamarker on the island of New Guineamarker which lies on the Australian continental shelf. Puncak Jaya is also known as Carstensz Pyramidmarker.

Some sources claim Mount Wilhelmmarker, 4,509 metres, as the highest mountain peak in Oceania, on account of Indonesiamarker being part of Asia. The peak belongs to the Bismarck Rangemarker of Papua New Guineamarker. A Seven Summits list including Mount Wilhelm has never been widely supported or formally recognised.


In Europe, the generally accepted highest summit is Mount Elbrusmarker (5,642 m) in the Caucasusmarker. However, because the Caucasus form the border between Asia and Europe its inclusion in Europe is disputed. The highest mountain wholly within Europe is Mont Blancmarker (4,810 m) in France.

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), to represent the Australian continent's highest summit. Reinhold Messner postulated another list (the Messner or Carstensz list) replacing Mount Kosciuszko with New Guinea's Puncak Jayamarker, or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m). 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, Pat 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.'

"Seven" Summits (sorted by continent)
"Bass" "Messner" Summit Elevation m Elevation ft Continent Range Country First Successful Ascent
X X Kilimanjaromarker (Volcano Kibo: Uhuru Peak) 5,892 19,340 Africa Kilimanjaromarker Tanzania 1889
X X Vinson Massifmarker 4,892 16,050 Antarcticamarker Ellsworth Mountainsmarker claimed by Chile 1966
X X Carstensz Pyramidmarker (Puncak Jaya) 4,884 16,024 Australiamarker Maoke Mountainsmarker Indonesiamarker 1962
X X Everestmarker (Sagarmatha or Chomolungma) 8,848 29,029 Asia Himalayamarker Nepalmarker, Chinamarker 1953
X X Elbrusmarker (Minghi-Tau) 5,642 18,510 Europe Caucasusmarker Russiamarker 1829
X X Mount McKinleymarker (Denali) 6,194 20,320 North America Alaska Range United Statesmarker 1913
X X Aconcaguamarker 6,962 22,841 South America Andes Argentinamarker 1897

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 Blancmarker as well.)


Richard Bass, a businessman and amateur mountaineer, set himself the goal of climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, including mainland Australia. He hired David Breashears to guide him up Everest, the most difficult of his Seven, and completed his Everest summit on April 30 1985. He then co-authored the book Seven Summits, which covered the undertaking (Bass et al. 1986).

Reinhold Messner revised Bass's list by using the broader definition of Oceania and including Carstensz Pyramidmarker rather than Australia's Mount Kosciuszkomarker. Pat Morrow first met Messner's challenge, finishing with climbing Carstensz Pyramidmarker on May 7, 1986, shortly followed by Messner himself climbing Vinsonmarker on December 3rd, 1986. Morrow has also been the first to complete all eight summits from both lists.

As of March 2007, more than 198 climbers have 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.

The first person to complete Seven Summits without the use of artificial oxygen on Mount Everest is Reinhold Messner. Miroslav Caban is probably the only other climber (besides Messner) as of October 2005 to finish the project without artificial oxygen on Everest (finished in 2005 with Carstensz). Between 2002 and 2007, Austrian climber Christian Stangl completed the Seven Summits (Messner list), climbing alone and without oxygen, and reported a record total ascent time from respective base camp to summit of 58 hours and 45 minutes.

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 Mount Everestmarker on May 10, 1990, and finished with Vinson on December 12, 1990, hours before the seven-month deadline.

The world record for completion of the Messner and Bass list is 136 days, by Danish climber Henrik Kristiansen(43) in 2008. Kristiansen completed the summits in the following order: Vinson on Jan 21st, Aconcagua on Feb 6, Kosciuszko on Feb 13, Kilimanjaro on Mar 1, Carstenz 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 Denali on June 5, beating Irish Ian McKeevers' previous record by 20 days.

On May 15, 2006, Maxime Chaya became the first Lebanesemarker and the first Arab to have completed the Seven Summits.

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

On May 17, 2007, 18 year-old Samantha Larson from California became the youngest American to climb Mount Everestmarker and also the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits (Bass list). In August 2007 she also climbed the Carstensz Pyramid.

Criticism of the Seven Summits challenge

Many mountain climbers, beyond these one hundred and ninety eight, aspire to complete the seven ascents of one or both of these lists, but the expense, the demands placed on fitness, the physical hardship and the dangers involved are often greater than imagined. Popularization of the Seven Summits has not been without its detractors, who argue that it tempts the ambitious but inexperienced into paying large sums to professional guides who promise the "seven", and that the guides are therefore pressured to press on toward summits even to the detriment of their clients' safety.

Alpinism author Jon Krakauer (1997) wrote in Into Thin Air that it would be a bigger challenge to climb the second-highest peak of each continent, known as the Seven Second Summits. This is especially true for Asia, as K2marker (8,611 m) demands greater technical climbing skills than Everestmarker (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.'


  • Updated until March 2007, 198 summiteers.


See also

External links

  • [31381]: Impartial and unbiased advice about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

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