The Seven Summits, Highest Mountains on Each Continent

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is one of the "easier" 7 summits to climb.
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is one of the "easier" 7 summits to climb. | Source

What are the Seven Summits?

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents (highest peak on each continent), not to be mistaken as the seven highest mountains in the world.

Ascending to the peak of all seven of these mountains is a mountaineering challenge that was first created during the 1980s when American, Richard Bass first made this achievement.

The list of Seven Summits actually various from list to list (there's a good reason for this), so this list will actually cover nine summits. Explanations are included on why each mountain is on the list (and, of course, why there are nine mountains that are vying for a place in the list of Seven Summits.)

Mount Kilimanjaro

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Not the Seven Highest in the World?

You may be wondering why the seven summits aren't actually the highest mountains in the world.

The challenge is to make it to the summit of seven mountains, the highest on each of the seven continents. Mountaineers limb the highest in Asia, the highest in North America, the highest in Europe, and so on.

The seven highest mountains in the world are all in the Himalayas (K2 is in the Karakoram range, which is a part of the Greater Himalayas), a huge mountain range in Asia. In fact, all of the 100 highest mountains in the world are in Asia!

The Bass and Messner Scales

Because there are arguments as to which continent particular mountains are located, there are two, slightly different lists that a mountaineer can choose from:

The Bass List and the Messner List

Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro

The first summit is Mount Kilimanjaro as Africa's highest peak at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level. Kilimanjaro also one of only two of the Seven Summits also the list of the Volcanic Seven Summits. Kilimanjaro is higher than the other Seven Summit volcano, Elbrus.

Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano located in Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania. The mountain is made up of three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, with Kibo being the highest part of the mountain.

The cones of Shira and Mawenzi are completely extinct, but the Kibo cone is just dormant. Kilimanjaro has had no major eruptions for the past 360,000 years, there has been some activity in the volcano (Kibo) within the past 200 years.

Rock slides often occur on Kibo, with one occurring as recent as January 2006 which killed three climbers.

Vinson Massif

A view of Vinson Massif from space
A view of Vinson Massif from space | Source

Antarctica: Vinson Massif

Antarctica's representative for the Seven Summits is Vinson Massif, coming in at 4,892 meters (16,050 feet) high. This mountain is the most recently discovered as it was only found in 1958. However, its summit was reach less than ten years later, in 1966.

The mountain was discovered by a US Navy Aircraft surveying the area and was named for US Congressman, Carl Vinson of Georgia, who was a major supporter of funding for the exploration of Antarctica.

Aside from the usual hazards of Antarctica, the mountain requires very little technical difficulty for climbers.

Mountain of Cash?

Passage to Antarctica is so expensive that mountaineers often spend upwards of $30,000 in travel and fees in order to just look at Vinson Massif!

Mount Kosciuszko

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Australia: Mount Kosciuszko

Mount Kosciuszko, located in southeastern Australia, comes in at 2228 meters (7310 feet) high. Wondering about the Polish name? Mount Kosciuszko was named by Polish explorer, Paweł Strzelecki, because he felt it resembled the Kościuszko Mound back in his home country.

This mountain is fairly easy to climb, so if you're looking to say, "Oh, hey, I totally climbed one of the seven summits" but aren't really the hardcore climber type, pick Kosciuszko.

You Decide:

Which Mountain Should NOT Be on the List

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Oceania: Puncak Jaya/Carstensz Pyramid

Puncak Jaya, the highest peak of Mount Carstensz, is located in Papua Province, Indonesia. This mountain definitely looks like something right out of Lord of the Rings!

Because Puncak Jaya is significantly higher than Mount Kosciuszko, at 4884 meters (16,024 feet) high and is located on the Australian continental shelf, many argue that this should be on the list of seven summit instead of Mount Kosciuszko. This mountain is also more difficult to climb than Kosciuszko, adding to its climbing appeal.

Mount Everest

Mount Everest (in the clouds) and the peak of Ama Dablam (to the right.)
Mount Everest (in the clouds) and the peak of Ama Dablam (to the right.) | Source

Mount Everest

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Prayer flags left at Everest's base camp
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Prayer flags left at Everest's base camp
Prayer flags left at Everest's base camp | Source
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Asia: Mount Everest

Hailing as not only the highest mountain in Asia, but the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest is an astounding 8848 meters (29,029 feet) high. Nestled in the Himalayas(as are many of the world's giant peaks), this is arguably the most famous mountain in the world.

First summited by Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953, Mount Everest is very popular with climbers.

There are a number of trekking agencies that will take hikers to one of Everest's base camps. In fact, some agencies will even take even inexperienced mountaineers to the summit! However, climbing Everest is not to be taken lightly as there have been a number of climbing-related deaths on the mountain.

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc, brought to you by The Alps.
Mont Blanc, brought to you by The Alps. | Source

Mont Blanc

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The view from Lake Geneva, SwitzerlandThe view from d'ArcalodRiiiiiii colaaaaa!! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself!)
The view from Lake Geneva, Switzerland
The view from Lake Geneva, Switzerland | Source
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The view from d'Arcalod
The view from d'Arcalod | Source
Riiiiiii colaaaaa!! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself!)
Riiiiiii colaaaaa!! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself!) | Source

Europe: Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is located right on the border of Italy and France. This is the highest mountain in the Alps at 4810 meters (15,782 feet) high. Mont Blanc, isn't just for climbing, either! Since it's in the Alps, skiing is extremely popular, even on peaks as high as Mont Blanc!

Of course, climbers LOVE to do feats on summits, right? Mountaineering is made up of three parts: one part skill, one part bravery, and one part of downright crazy. Mont Blanc, is known, in particular for its climber's crazy exploits. For example, in 2007, a group of climbers set up a hot tub at the peak of Mont Blanc and did what anyone would do: put on their bathing suits and hopped in!

Mount Elbrus

View of Mount Elbrus from Mount Mashuk
View of Mount Elbrus from Mount Mashuk | Source

Mount Elbrus

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Europe: Mount Elbrus

Geographically speaking, Russia has always been a bit tricky. Is it in Asia or is it in Europe? (I've always been told that it's a part of Asia.) However, to make things difficult for the Seven Summit Challenge, Mount Elbrus is located in a particularly Europe-y part of Russia... in the southwestern section near Turkey in the Caucasus mountains.

To make matters worse, the peak of Mount Elbrus, at 4808 meters (15,774 feet) high, is much higher than Mont Blanc. Perhaps because of the sheer height of Mount Elbrus and the possibility that it really is in Europe, many mountaineers really don't consider Mont Blanc to be one of the Seven Summits. That said, Mount Elbrus is classified as "Europe" on both the Bass and Messner list, leaving Month Blanc off of both lists.

You Decide:

Is Mount Elbrus in Europe?

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Mount McKinley

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Bass or Messner?

Mountain
Height (highest to lowest)
Bass?
Messner?
Everest
29,035 ft
Yes
Yes
Aconcagua
22,841 ft
Yes
Yes
Mount McKinley
20,320 ft
Yes
Yes
Kilimanjaro
19,340 ft
Yes
Yes
Elbrus
18,510 ft
Yes
Yes
Vinson
16,050 ft
Yes
Yes
Puncak Jaya
16,024 ft
No
Yes
Mont Blanc
15,782 ft
No
No
Kosciuszko
7,310 ft
Yes
No

Mount McKinley

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North America: Mount McKinley

Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, is North America's highest peak, coming in at 6194 meters (20,320 feet) high. This mountain is located in Alaska at Denali National Park, straddling the beautiful Wonder Lake.

McKinley is made up of two summits, the North Summit and the South Summit. As the North Summit is lower than the South Summit, it is seldom climbed and actually not considered a part of the Seven Summit Challenge.

The Koyukon Athabaskan people who inhabit the area surrounding the mountain call it Denali, however, in a political stunt in support of then-president, William McKinley, the mountain was officially named Mount McKinley.

Aconcagua

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Aconcagua

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South America: Aconcagua

Aconcagua, located on the border of Chile and Argentina, is not only the highest mountain in South America, but the Americas as a whole. It is also the highest peak in both the Western Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere.

Coming in at 6962 meters (22,841 feet) high, this Andes giant is considered among mountain climbers to be the tallest non-technical mountain in the world, meaning that ropes are not required in order to ascend the peak.

The youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua, Matthew Moniz, was 11 years old at the time of his ascent and the oldest person was Scott Lewis at the ripe old age of 87.

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Comments 7 comments

TrahnTheMan profile image

TrahnTheMan 4 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

Cool hub! I climbed Mt Kosciuszko when I was in Australia. It involved catching a chair lift and strolling along a graded track. I was overtaken at one point by a grandmother. I still maintain I'm a mountaineer!


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 4 years ago

Melanie ~ FIVE STAR RATING ON THIS MAGNIFICIENT HUB. Yeah! I'm in all caps. If you want to be heard while standing on the top of a mountain you have to yell. So, how the heck did you use all those features in this hub? I haven't used the thumbnail and the chart yet.

Now about this top rated mountaineer's info blog, they will love it because of the superb photographs, the details and your commentary.

So, are you a mountain climber?

Blessings, Debby


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Holy crap- talk about a challenge! I think I'll leave epic journeys like these to other, more rugged travelers. Though I sure enjoyed reading about the Seven Summits! Your Hubs always inspire me to be more adventurous, Melbel. Thanks for that :D


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco

Wonderful pictures...awe-inspiring, actually. I've never climbed a mountain, but 2 friends have gone up Kilimanjaro. It was a slow, exhausting slog for them, but they really enjoyed it. Maybe one day! In the meantime, it's great to see these gorgeous photos.


diogenes 5 years ago

Very interesting. Mountaineering has always interested me. It's curious how no Mexican mountain is of interest, yet there are three there over 18,000 feet! I have also climbed one of them to within 3,000 feet of summit. I black out at higher altitudes. That was Popocatepetl...Bob


Ania L profile image

Ania L 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Amazing pictures and I must say I haven't heard about Aconcagua till today so good job for bringing it on :)

Thanks a lot melbel!


itsmonkeyboy profile image

itsmonkeyboy 5 years ago from London, UK

Hi Melbel, great hub and some fantastic pictures. Have you climbed any of the peaks yourself? I wrote a hub myself on Everest Base Camp if you're interested (I hope you don't think I'm trying to sell my hub, but I do think you may be interested in it if you haven't already done it!). I have a passion for Everest, but also so many other peaks around the world and I think you've managed to list them all! Thank you for sharing this with us.

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