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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 and achieved on April 30, 1985 by Richard Bass (Bass et al. 1986).
The Seven Summits are composed of each of the highest mountain peaks of each of the seven major continents. Different lists include slight variations, but generally the same core is maintained throughout.
The highest mountain in the Australian mainland is Mount Kosciuszko, 2,228 metres (7,310 ft) above sea level. However, the highest mountain in the Australian continent which includes Australia and New Guinea is Puncak Jaya, 4,884 m (16,024 ft) above sea level, in the Indonesian province of Papua on the island of New Guinea which lies on the Australian continental shelf. Puncak Jaya is also known as Carstensz Pyramid.
Some sources claim Mount Wilhelm, 4,509 m (14,793 ft), as the highest mountain peak in Oceania, on account of Indonesia being part of Asia and Southeast Asia. (See List of Southeast Asian mountains, which includes Puncak Jaya and other mountains in Papua, Indonesia.) However, such a definition is political, not geophysical. The peak belongs to the Bismarck Range of Papua New Guinea.
In Europe, the generally accepted highest summit is Mount Elbrus (5,642 m/18,510 ft) in the Caucasus. However, because the location of the boundary between Asia and Europe is not universally agreed upon, its inclusion in Europe is disputed: if the Kuma-Manych depression is used as geological border between Asia and Europe, Caucasus and Elbrus lie wholly in Asia. If the Greater Caucasus watershed is used instead, Elbrus' peaks are wholly in Europe, albeit close to the border with Asia.
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/7,310 ft), are to represent the Australian continent's highest summit. Reinhold Messner postulated another list (the Messner or Carstensz list) replacing Mount Kosciuszko with Indonesia's Puncak Jaya, or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m/16,024 ft). 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.'
|✔||✔||Kilimanjaro (Volcano Kibo: Uhuru Peak)||5,895||19,340||Africa||Kilimanjaro||Tanzania||1889|
|✔||✔||Vinson Massif||4,892||16,050||Antarctica||Ellsworth Mountains||N/A†||1966|
|✔||Kosciuszko||2,228||7,310||Australia||Great Dividing Range||Australia||1840|
|✔||Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya)||4,884||16,024||Australia||Maoke Mountains||Indonesia||1962|
|✔||✔||Everest (Chomolungma/Sagarmatha)||8,848||29,029||Asia||Himalaya||China, Nepal||1953|
|✔||✔||Mount McKinley (Denali)||6,194||20,320||North America||Alaska Range||United States||1913|
|†||Territory claimed by Chile. However, most nations do not recognize Antarctic territorial claims.|
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 Blanc 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 Pyramid rather than Australia's Mount Kosciuszko. Pat Morrow first met Messner's challenge, finishing with climbing Carstensz Pyramid on May 7, 1986, shortly followed by Messner himself climbing Vinson on December 3, 1986. Morrow has also been the first to complete all eight summits from both lists.
As of January 2010, approximately 275 climbers 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.
In May 2002, Susan Ershler and her husband, Phil, became the first married couple to climb the “Seven Summits” together. 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) (Ed Viesturs also summitted all peaks without oxygen. 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 Everest 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 was 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. Vern Tejas set the new record for the same, in 134 days. Tejas began with summiting Vinson on Jan 18 2010 and completing with Denali on May 31. This was Vern's 9th time to complete the "Bass" Seven Summits.
In October 2006 Kit Deslauriers became the first person to have skied down (parts of) 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 (parts of) Carstensz Pyramid, thus becoming the first and only people to have skied both lists.
On January 2010, the Spanish climber Carlos Soria Fontán completed the seven summits (Messner list), at the age of 71, after reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. He had climbed the first one in 1968.
On 23 May 2010, AC Sherpa summited Mt. Everest as his last and final conquest of the Seven Summits (Bass list). In doing this, he set a new record by climbing the seven summits within 42 climbing days. Additionally, when climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (via Marangu) he summited in just 16 hours and 37 minutes, easily beating the previous record of 18 hours.
On May 26, 2011 at 6:45 Nepali time, Geordie Stewart became the youngest Briton to complete the 7 summits at the age of 22 years and 21 days. This record stood for just 2 and a half hours before George Atkinson became the youngest person in the world to complete the round aged 16 years 362 days. On December 24, 2011, the record was once again beaten, by American Jordan Romero, who completed the challenge at the age of 15 years, 5 months and 12 days by climbing Vinson.
On January 5, 2012, at 6:30 am (Chile time) Romi Garduce became the first Filipino to complete the Seven Summits by climbing Mt. Vinson Massif (Antarctica).
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—a feat that was not accomplished until January 2012. This is especially true for Asia, as K2 (8,611 m) demands greater technical climbing skills than Everest (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.'