Monday, June 25, 2007

Seven Summits

Seven Summits –Seven Continents – Seven Months
Swedish Adventurer Sets New Guinness World Record

It’s unbelievable! It seems nowadays that each year sees a number of records and world records in the mountaineering and climbing scene. As you might suspect 2007 will be no exception with the latest feat of Swede Frederik Strang who climbed the Seven Summits in less than 7 months. From the hyped up challenge to the mountains itself, the history, the critique, Seven Summits draws much attention in the world of mountaineering and adventure. This article will explore some of the aspects of climbing the seven highest peaks on all seven continents.

The Mission

Fred had planned to climb the “Seven Summits” - the seven highest peaks on the world’s seven continents – in just seven months. He started his adventure in the spring climbing season of 2006 with Mt. Everest (8,848 m / 29,029 ft), it was his second time to summit the world’s highest mountain. Strang then raced from one continent and its highest mountain to the next in his quest against time. 6 months and 6 days later he reached the summit of Mount Vinson (Antarctica, 4,897 m / 16,067 ft) and completed his superficial challenge. Fred Strang’s record has been approved by Guinness World Records for the fastest combined ascent of the seven summits on all continents.

The Seven Highest Mountains on the Seven Continents

Let’s take a closer look at these mountains, where they are located and how high they are.

1. Mount Everest / Asia / 8,848 m (29,029 ft.)
2. Denali (Mount McKinley) / North America / 6,194 m (20,320 ft.)
3. Kilimanjaro / Africa / 5,895 m (19,340 ft.)
4. Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid) / Oceania / 4,884 m (16,023 ft.)
5. Mount Elbrus / Europe / 5,642 m (18,513 ft.)
6. Aconcagua / South America / 6,962 m (22,841 ft.)
7. Vinson Massif / Antarctica / 4,897 m (16,067 ft.)
8. Kosciuszko / Australia / 2,228 m (7,308 ft.)

There are two Seven Summits lists existing. The “Bass” list which includes the first 7 mountains in the list above and the “Messner” list. Reinhold Messner, famous Italian mountaineer and the first person to climb all fourteen 8,000er’s, revised the Bass list replacing Puncak Jaya with Kosciuszko in Australia, claiming Oceania is not a continent.

History of the Seven Summits
U.S. amateur mountaineer and businessman Richard Bass first had the idea to climb the seven highest mountains on all seven continents and was the first person in the world to finish the quest. Canadian mountain climber Patrick Morrow from British Columbia was the second climber to complete the Bass list and first on the Messner list. As of early 2007, almost 200 mountaineers climbed all seven peaks on the seven continents.

The Superficial Challenge

The term “Seven Summits” describes the seven highest mountains on each continent. The difficulties to reach the summits of these mountains vary widely. Some are so-called trekking mountains and their normal routes to the top do not require any extraordinary climbing skills.
While it certainly can be the “big adventure” for an individual with the financial resources, the physical fitness and mental strengths to endure all the hardship and risks that come with mountaineering, this type of adventure lost a lot of its value. Numerous guiding services offer packages and lure striving but often inexperienced mountain climbers into paying immense amounts of money to reach “big seven” – often at the expense of their clients’ safety (see Jon Krakauer’s excellent book “Into Thin Air” about the ’96 disaster on Mt. Everest).


Richard Bass: Seven Summits
Patrick Morrow: Beyond Everest – Quest for the Seven Summits
Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air