What are the Seven Summits?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Seven Summits are the highest peaks on all seven continents of the world, and a formidable mountaineering challenge. By 2007, less than 200 climbers were on the list of those who had successfully climbed all of them, including Rob Hall and Gary Ball, who completed all seven in seven months in 1990, and the first woman to summit all seven, Junko Tabei, in 1992. The mountains of the Seven Summits represent demanding technical challenges, and only highly experienced climbers should attempt them.

Mount Everest, one of the Seven Summits.
Mount Everest, one of the Seven Summits.

Usually, the Seven Summits are listed as Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Puncak Jaya, Vinson Massif, and Mount Everest. This list was compiled by Reinhold Messner, who refined an earlier list made by Richard Bass, who also wrote the book Seven Summits. Many climbers who successfully complete the Seven Summits move on the Second Seven Summits: Mount Kenya, Mount Tyree, Puncak Trikora, K2, Dykh-Tau, Mount Logan, and Ojos del Salada. Some climbers have argued that the peaks of the second set, especially K2, represent a much more intense technical challenge than their taller counterparts.

Aconcagua is the second highest summit in the world.
Aconcagua is the second highest summit in the world.

The highest peak in the Seven Summits is, of course, Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters). Mount Everest is located in the Himalayan mountains of Asia, and is sometimes also called the “Summit of the World” because it is the highest point on Earth. The next highest peak is Aconcagua, located in the Andes Mountains of South America in between Chile and Argentina. Aconcagua is 22,481 feet (6,962 meters) tall. North America hosts the third tallest mountain on the list, Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, located in Alaska with a height of 20,320 feet (6,194 meters).

The fourth mountain in the Seven Summits is Kilimanjaro, in Africa, which towers over the plains of Kenya at 19,339 feet (5,895 meters). Eastern Europe's Mount Elbrus, in the Caucasus, is next on the list, with a height of 18,481 feet (5,633 meters)—some people prefer to list Mount Blanc as the highest peak in Europe, not counting the Caucasus as part of that continent. Antarctica's Vinson Massif follows, with a height of 16,067 feet (4,897 meters), and the final peak is Puncak Jaya, also known as Carstensz Pyramid, in Indonesia, with a height of 16,023 feet (4,884 meters). This last mountain, representing Australasia, is disputed: some mountaineers prefer Australia's Mount Kosciusko, which has around half the height of Puncak Jaya, but is also properly located in Australia, rather than Oceania.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I'm a beginner climber and have climbed Mount Olympus in Greece. Mount Olympus is an ideal starting point for beginners and it only takes five hours to reach the top. Even though this is not even comparable to the world's seven summits, I had a really tough time because of mountain sickness. Thanks to nausea and a terrible headache, it took me about nine hours to reach the top. Climbing mountains is not everyone's cup of tea! I can't even imagine climbing Kilimanjaro or Denali. I'm really fond of climbers who made it to the top of these summits. They obviously have immense training and a strong healthy body.


I was surprised to learn about how several of the seven summits of the world were named. Mt. Everest was named after Colonel Sir George Everest, the Welsh surveyor of India at the time. Mount Vinson was named after Congressman Carl Vinson and Mount McKinley was named after William McKinley. William McKinley was a Republican Presidential Nominee in 1897! Apparently, the man who named Mount McKinley was a Republican and a supporter of the Presidential nominee. The funny part is that the natives of Alaska (as well as non-Republicans) are upset that the official name of the Mount remains McKinley. They prefer the name Denali but US Congress is very happy with the name and is reluctant to change it!


I remember the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where 15 climbers had lost their lives. It was such a tragic event and the media frenzy continued for a long time about what exactly happened. This was really the first time that attention was brought to commercial expeditions to the world's highest summits.

The climbers that composed the teams on Mount Everest that year did not have enough experience to complete the climb but this was ignored for monetary gain by the organizers and team leaders. The sad part is, little has changed since then. There is not enough oversight of these expeditions or the amounts of money attained from enthusiastic mountain climbers who are looking for a memorable experience of climbing the seven summits.

Deaths have occurred every year on Mount Everest since 1996. Its just very sad because one cannot predict nature. But people who organize these expeditions have the responsibility of the individuals they are leading as well as the natives who support them during the climb. Unfortunately, I read that many natives have also died while trying to make some money for their families. Is reaching the top of the world's highest mountain really worth so many lives?

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