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The Seven Summits

Updated on January 26, 2014

Introduction: Bass's and Messner's lists of the Seven Summits

The 'seven summits' is the collective name given to the list of the 7 highest mountains on the 7 continents of the world. The term was first coined by mountaineer, Richard Bass in 1985.

The list of the seven summits differs slightly based on which mountaineer one believes - for example while Richard Bass's list acknowledges Mount Kosciuszko as the highest mountain in Australia, Reinhold Messner believes the accolade should be given to Puncak Jaya (in Papua New Guinea which is geographically part of the Australia-New Guinea continental system).

Australia - New Guinea

The highest peak in Australia is Mt Kosciuszko - in the Australian Alps in the state of New South Wales. From base to summit, the mountain measures 2,228 metres above sea-level.

However, the Australian continent also includes the island of New Guinea and taking this into account, the highest mountain on the Australia-New Guinea system would be Puncak Jaya (also known as Carstenz Pyramid) which stands at 4,884 m. It must be noted though that although Puncak Jaya is politically in Indonesia (in the West Papuan central highlands) the island of New Guinea is part of the Australian continental shelf and hence the mountain is never classified as an Asian summit.

Mt Kosciuszko, Australia
Mt Kosciuszko, Australia | Source
Puncak Jaya, Indonesia
Puncak Jaya, Indonesia | Source

Europe

Mont Blanc at the border of France and Italy has long been generally accepted as the tallest peak in Europe. Standing at 4,810 metres high, it is situated in the Graian Alps and houses the 11 km long Mont Blanc tunnel which links Chamonix, France and Courmayeur, Italy.

However, geologists and mountaineers have increasingly been suggesting that the accolade of Europe's tallest mountain should be given to Mt Elbrus in the Caucasus mountains along the border of Europe and Asia. Specifically, Mt Elbrus has an altitude of roughly 5,642 metres and is located in Russia near its border with Georgia. The claim that Mt Elbrus is Europe's highest peak is disputed due to the border between Europe and Asia not being universally agreed upon - Mount Elbrus will lie in Asia if the Kuma-Manych depression's believed to be the continental divide between Asia and Europe else it would be accepted as a mountain lying in Europe.

Mont Blanc, France-Italy
Mont Blanc, France-Italy | Source
Mt Elbrus, Russia-Georgia
Mt Elbrus, Russia-Georgia | Source

Antarctica

The highest mountain in Antarctica is Vinson Massif (named in as recently as 2006 after Carl Vinson). The massif's peak caps out at 4,892 metres MSL.

Situated in the Ellsworth mountains in the Antarctic peninsula, it is situated roughly 1,200 km from the South Pole at a latitude of around 78 degrees south and a longitude of 85 degrees west.

Since no country claims or has any rights to set up official sovereignty over Antarctica, access to Vinson Massif (like any other region in the continent) is controlled and governed by the Antarctic treaty.

Vinson Massiff, Antarctica
Vinson Massiff, Antarctica | Source

Africa

The undisputed title of Africa's highest peak goes to Mt Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro's actually a dormant volcono (consisting of 3 cones - Kibo, Mawenzi, Shira) with the summit of Kibo (known as Uhuru) having an elevation of 5,895 metres.

Mount Kilimanjaro is also known to be the world's highest free-standing mountain i.e. it is in no way part of any system of mountain peaks like most other major summits while the peak of Uhuru at Kibo is the 4th furthest from the centre of the Earth.

It is situated in northern Tanzania along the border with Kenya and recently was listed by some organization as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.


Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania | Source

Asia

The tallest of the 7 summits (and the tallest mountain in the world), Mt Everest stands at a stratospheric 8,848 metres MSL.

Situated in north-eastern Nepal along the border with China (Tibet) (which actually runs through the precise summit of Everest), it is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas and is its peak is the 5th furthest from the Earth's core.

Mount Everest was named so in 1865 by Andrew Waugh, Surveyor-General of British India in honor of his predecessor, Sir George Everest and the first successful ascent of the summit was completed on May 29 1953 by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese guide, Tenzing Norgay.

Mt Everest, Nepal - China.
Mt Everest, Nepal - China. | Source

North America

Located in the Alaskan Range in Alaska, USA and at an altitude of 6,194 m, North America's highest peak is Mount McKinley (also known as Denali in a local Inuit dialect which translates to, 'The High One').

Mount McKinley is generally ranked 3rd in terms of topographical prominence after Everest and Aconcagua and is the centerpiece of the Denali National Park which surrounds it.

Apart from Vinson Massif, Mount McKinley is the only other peak out of the 7 summits which is located within or almost near Earth's arctic periphery as the other 5 peaks are located within way more temperate or tropical latitudes. Many mountaineers also rank McKinley as one of the easier mountains to ascend out of the 7 summits.

Mt. McKinley, Alaska, USA.
Mt. McKinley, Alaska, USA. | Source

South America

Last (but definitely not the least), the tallest mountain in South America (and as such also the tallest mountain in the Americas and the Southern and Western Hemisphere) is Aconcagua, in the Andes mountains in Argentina, near its border with Chile. Aconcagua stands at a mighty 6,960 m high and is the 2nd tallest of the 7 summits (after Mt Everest).

Unlike most of the other peaks on this list, Aconcagua's actually situated in a generally populated area of the world - the closest city being Mendoza, Argentina (home to the world-famous malbec wine-producing region). Mendoza's only located 112 km east of the mountain and its climb (especially from the north) is considered to be technically the easiest of the seven summits (as documented by experienced mountaineers, some of whom have successfully ascended Aconcagua without any ropes or pins). Despite lack of proper records, Aconcagua provides climbers a 50% success rate in general

Like the Andes, Aconcagua's geologically a mountain which was probably formed due to the subduction of the Nazca plate under the South American plate and since then has enjoyed spiritual significance in native South American folklore.

Aconcagua, Argentina
Aconcagua, Argentina | Source

The Seven Summits - Video

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      Carla 2 years ago

      It's very surprising to me that Annapurna has the hghseit death to safe returns ratio. I always thought that K2 is the nastiest beast of them all.Amazing blog, by the way! I m totally in love with it! THANKS!

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for the feedback Au Fait... Am sure you're not the only one who'll think twice before climbing up mountains these sizes :)

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      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      Very good information. Great photos too. Love mountains, but I don't think I'd ever want to try climbing them. Did enough hiking in the mountains when I lived in Colorado and that was enough. Tame compared to the arduous mountain climbing people do on these mountains you've featured, but sufficient for me to know I prefer to admire them from lower elevations and take photos instead. :)

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Well its never too late stuff4kids! .. age is only a number..

      Cheers for the feedback :)

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      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Wow. You know, I can still dream about climbing to the summits of all seven mountains but as I am racing towards my 61st birthday it is looking less and less likely that I will ever do it!

      Great hub, though and helped me do a bit of 'armchair mountaineering'!

      Thanks for sharing. :)

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thank you for the feedback cynth! ..Appreciate it..sincerely :)

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      cynthtggt 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Wonderful hub, so well presented and informative. Not only because I am a member but I have gone searching before for information on topics in these pages. And just the other day my friend and I were talking about Mt. Everest and I realized I knew nothing more about it except that it was the tallest mountain. This hub is not only a good reference source but it ought to be one of the hubs in "tips" for making a great hub. Great job.

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hey Kevin thanks for your feedback .. i think the way you rate filters down to an average score hence the 4.5 rating? .. neverthless cheers for reading .. yes I did do some research but then I'm good at Geography so it wasn't too hard lol

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      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      I am not a big fan of mountains/volcanoes but you must have put quite a bit of study/work into this. I thought that was interesting to read. I voted five star - at least I thought I did - it came out 4.5(?). Good work.

      Kevin

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      haha i dare you to climb it ;)

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Yup it aired on National geographic i think...

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      wow your partner's lucky to have been to Everest ... I havn't even seen Kosciusko up close lol ...thanks for the feedback

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      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Interesting post on these seven wonders. I have long been interested in Mount Everest, not that I would climb it, but so many have found it filled with adventure.

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      Eileen Gamboa 3 years ago from West Palm Beach

      Beautiful pictures. Reminds me of the movie of the photographer that spent her life trying to get the most unique photos of mountains. Dangerous occupation.

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      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Great hub; interesting with super photos. I've seen Mont Blanc and my partner has been to Mount Everest. It would be great to see more of these, they're spectacular! Ann

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for the feedback vkwok!

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      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing this interesting geography lesson. Those are some really great pics you chose.

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      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hi Joadh and Sheri ..Thanks for your feedback .. yes I too wasn't aware that Puncak Jaya was classed as a mountain on the Australian continental shelf .. I guess there's so much we never know about the world eh !

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      Sheri Dusseault 3 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Wow....stunning pictures and interesting hub.

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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very informative, interesting and educational hub. I had no idea about the conflict of opinion regarding which was the highest peak in the Australia's for instance. I didn't realise that Papua New Guinea would be included as part of Australia geographically....very interesting. Similarly Mt Elbrus. Voted up.