THE SEVEN SUMMITS

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. They are some of the most sought-after peaks on the planet. From the austere glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro on the plains for Africa, to the white limestone cliffs of Carstensz Pyramid rising from the rainforests of Indonesia, to Mount Vinson among the Antarctic ice sheets, the Seven Summits will challenge your strength and spirit and take you to some of the world’s most remote and majestic locations. As specialists in top-quality international climbing expeditions, Mountain Gurus offers ascents of each of the Seven Summits. Whether you’re an experienced mountaineer with your sights set on Mount Everest, or you’re just learning to climb, we offer the logistical support, instruction and expert guidance you need to succeed on the planet’s highest peaks.

Mount Everest • 29,035’/ 8,850m

Asia • Nepal • Himalaya

Mount Everest is the highest mountain on earth. Named “Chomolungma” in Tibetan and “Sagarmatha” in Nepalese, it straddles the border between China and Nepal in the Great Himalayan Range of Asia. With extreme altitude, severe weather and challenging logistics, Mount Everest is a serious undertaking and the pinnacle of many mountaineers’ careers. It is a spectacular adventure in Nepal’s beautiful Khumbu Valley, home of the famous Sherpa people. Mountain Gurus climbs the standard Southside Route. Our Everest expeditions are led by some of the most experienced guides in the industry, supported by some of the finest available logistics and basecamp facilities.

First Ascent: Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmond Hillary in 1953

Other Notable Ascents: First American ascent by Jim Whittaker in 1963. First ascent without supplemental oxygen by Reinhold Messner in 1978.

Fast Fact: When British mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine perished on the northside of Mount Everest just below the summit in 1924, they set the stage for one of mountaineering’s great mysteries. No one knows whether they reached the summit nearly 30 years before the official first ascent in 1953.

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Cerro Aconcagua • 22,892’/ 6,962m

South America • Argentina • Andes

Aconcagua is the highest point in the Western and Southern Hemispheres, and the highest peak outside of Asia. These credentials, combined with its relatively accessible climbing routes, make it one of the most climbed of the Seven Summits. Our expeditions begin in Mendoza, in the sunny wine country of Argentina. We then trek into the arid Andes Mountains to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp, the second largest base camp in the world after Everest Base Camp. There we can enjoy hot showers and delicious meals. The route itself offers spectacular views of some of the highest peaks in the Andes.

First Ascent: Matthias Zurbriggen in 1897.

Other Notable Ascents: Youngest summit by American Tyler Armstrong, age 9, in 2013. Fastest roundtrip ascent – 11 hours, 52 minutes – by Karl Egloff in 2014.

Fast Fact: A tent in Plaza de Mulas Base Camp is home to one of the highest contemporary art galleries in the world.

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Denali • 20,320’/ 6,194m

North America • United States • Alaska Range

In Alaska’s indigenous Koyukon language, Denali means “the Great One.” Aside from being the highest peak in North America, it boasts the greatest base-to-summit rise of any mountain entirely above sea level. Although it is not the highest of the Seven Summits, its northerly location means climbers must face severe cold and sudden storms, which make Denali one of the most challenging mountains in the world. On a Denali expedition, our climbers can look forward to highly experienced guides, the best available food and services on the mountain, and the famous flight from Talkeetna to base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier before climbing the classic West Buttress Route through some of the most dramatic terrain on the continent.

First Ascent: Walter Harper, Harry Karstens, Walter Stuck and Robert Tatum in 1913.

Other Notable Ascents: First female ascent by Barbara Washburn in 1947. First winter ascent by Ray Genet, Art Davidson and Dave Johnston in 1967.

Fast Fact: A weather station on Denali has recorded winter temperatures as low as minus 99 Fahrenheit.

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Mount Kilimanjaro • 19,340’/ 5,895m

Africa • Tanzania • Kibo

Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain on Earth. It is a volcano that towers over northern Tanzania, visible for miles around from the plains of the Serengeti to the grasslands of the Maasai Mara. Although “Kili” is very high, its relatively benign weather and the non-technical, trekking route to its summit make it one of the most accessible of the Seven Summits. On a Kilimanjaro expedition, trekkers enjoy the company of our friendly Tanzanian staff and dramatic views of the glaciers near the mountain’s summit. Most climbers choose to linger in Africa for a safari on the Serengeti or in the Ngorongoro Highlands.

First Ascent: Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtschellar in 1889, after a six-week ascent.

Other Notable Ascents: Fastest roundtrip ascent – 6 hours, 42 minutes – by Karl Egloff in 2014. Oldest summit by Anne Lorimor, 89, in 2019.

Fast Fact: Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo, the highest; Mawenzi (16,893 ft’); and Shira (13,140’). Kibo is dormant but may erupt again.

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Mount Elbrus • 18,510’/ 5,642m

Europe • Russia • Caucasus Range

Mt. Elbrus is a dormant volcano just north of the border of Europe and Asia, towering over its neighbors in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains. Twenty-two glaciers pour down its slopes. Mt. Elbrus is an excellent choice for those who are still practicing their high-altitude expedition skills, because climbers are able to spend every night of the expedition in comfortable hotels or high mountain huts. A chairlift carries climbers to 12,052’, and snow cats are available to carry climbers even higher. Mountain Gurus offers a 7-day Elbrus Express itinerary, a 10-day itinerary that includes a tour of Moscow, and an optional tour of Saint Petersburg after the climb.

First Ascent: Khillar Khachirov, 1874.

Other Notable Ascents: In 1997, a Russian team took a Land Rover Defender to the summit using a system of pulleys. It got out of control on the way down, and its driver jumped out before it crashed.

Fast Fact: A race to the summit is held every year. It was first won by the famous Russian climber Anatoli Boukreev in 1990. In 2010, Andrzej Bargiel set the current record to the summit in 3 hours, 23 minutes, 37 seconds.

MOUNT ELBRUS SOUTHSIDE »ELBRUS EXPRESS »

Vinson Massif • 16,050’/ 4,892m

Antarctica • Sentinel Range

Rising high above the Ronne Ice Shelf just 750 miles from the South Pole, Mount Vinson is the fifth tallest of the famed Seven Summits, but due to Antarctica’s severe weather and complex logistics, it was the last to be discovered, the last to be named, and the last to be climbed. An American team led by Nicholas Clinch made the first ascent in 1966, more than a decade after Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary touched the top of Mount Everest. On Vinson, mountaineers brave frigid temperatures and high winds while enduring the rigors of camping on glacial ice. They are rewarded with the experience of a lifetime: a climb through the unearthly beauty of the ice-covered continent in a season when the sun never sets.

First Ascent: 1966 by an expedition led by Nicholas Clinch.

Other Notable Ascents: First ascent of the east side in 2001 by an expedition led by Conrad Anker.

Fast Fact: Researchers had long suspected that a high mountain existed in West Antarctica, but Vinson was not actually seen until a Navy aircraft flew close enough in 1958.

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Carstensz Pyramid • 16,024’/ 4,884m

Oceania • Indonesia • Sudirman Range

Carstensz Pyramid is the highest point in Indonesia, the highest mountain on the Australian Continental Plate, and the highest mountain in Oceania, which includes the country of Australia. Locally known as “Puncak Jaya,” it is a dramatic pinnacle rising from the sheer, serrated ridgeline of the Sundirman Range on the lush island of New Guinea. While it is not the highest or most strenuous of the Seven Summits, it is often considered to be the most technically challenging. Mountain Gurus approaches base camp with a spectacular helicopter ride into the mountains. Most climbers choose to relax on the beaches of Bali after the climb.

First Ascent: 1962 by famed Austrian mountaineer, Heinrich Harrer.

Other Notable Ascents: In 1936, a Dutch expedition climbed neighboring summits in the Carstensz Range, including Ngga Pulu, which would have been the highest point back then before massive glacial melting reshaped the mountain.

Fast Fact: The mountain is named for Jan Carstenszoon, a Dutch explorer who spotted it in 1623. The sighting went unverified for 200 years, and he was ridiculed for claiming to see glaciers so close to the equator.

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Mount Kosciuszko • 7,310’/ 2,228m

Australia • Great Dividing Range

Mt. Kosciuszko is the highpoint of mainland Australia, dominating the skyline of the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves. Its place on the list of the Seven Summits has been the subject of debate. It depends on how you define a continent. When Dick Bass completed the Seven Summits for the first time in 1985, he climbed Kosciuszko instead of Carstensz Pyramid, arguing that mainland Australia should be counted as the entire continent. Famed mountaineer Reinhold Messner argued that Carstensz, as the highest point in all of Oceania, should be climbed instead. The Messner List tends to prevail today, in part because Carstensz is a true expedition climb, while Kosciuzko is an easy hike. Canadian Patrick Morrow became the first to complete the Messner List in 1986.

First Ascent: Pawel Edmund Strzelecki in 1840, and likely by indigenous people long before.

The Seven Summits • FAQ’s

What are the Seven Summits?

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is a coveted mountaineering accomplishment. American businessman Dick Bass conceived of the idea. He became the first to complete it on April 30, 1985. His ascents, now known as the “Bass List,” consisted of Mt. Everest, Denali, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Mt. Vinson, Mt. Elbrus and Kosciuszko. These days, most mountaineers climb a list of the Seven Summits first proposed by famed Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner. The “Messner List” includes Carstensz Pyramid instead of Kosciuszko.

Why the discrepancy between lists of the Seven Summits?

Definitions of the Seven Summits vary depending on how you define a continent. Dick Bass, arguing that mainland Australia should be considered a continent instead of the larger Oceania, climbed Kosciuszko (7,310’) instead of the much higher and more challenging Carstensz Pyramid (16,024’) in Indonesia. Today, most mountaineers follow Reinhold Messner’s list and climb Carstensz because it is a true expedition peak instead of an easy hike. Climbers have also debated whether Mont Blanc should be considered the highest peak in Europe instead of Elbrus. These days the consensus has settled on Elbrus, despite ongoing debate over the precise boundaries of the Asian and European continents. To make matters more complicated, it’s also possible to define continents purely in terms of tectonic plates. In that case, Everest would count as the highest mountain on the Eurasian Plate, and Hawai’i’s Mauna Kea would be added to the list as the highest point on the Pacific Plate. If you’re baffled by all the choices, the best solution is to climb them all!

Why climb the Seven Summits?

The world is filled with beautiful and challenging mountains, but the Seven Summits offer a unique and achievable goal for those who are willing to dedicate the time and effort to complete it. They are a bucket list for motivated individuals. Those who climb them can truly say they have stood on top of the highest peaks on the planet! Because the Seven Summits vary widely in difficulty, they are also an excellent way to learn the broad range of techniques that make up modern alpinism. Along the way, you’ll visit some of the most spectacular landscapes and cultures on the planet, from the ice sheets of Antarctica, to the Sherpa villages of the Khumbu Valley, to the homes of Maasai herdsmen on the plains of the Serengeti and the vast, lively base camps at the foot of Aconcagua. The Seven Summits are much more than just a climbing tick list. They are an invitation to test your strength and spirit and join a community of global adventurers.

How can I get started?

We would be glad to help you develop a training plan for the Seven Summits! In general, it depends on your climbing experience. If you’re new to the mountains, you should begin by learning ropework, climbing technique and expedition skills close to home before embarking on your first international ascent.

The mountains of Washington State are the premier training ground for glaciated mountaineering in the U.S. Our partner company, Northwest Alpine Guides, offers a wide variety of courses and climbs that will teach you the skills you’ll need on the Seven Summits. Most of our climbers begin their mountaineering careers on Mount Baker with our 3-day Intro Mountaineering Course, or 5-day Glacier Mountaineering Course. As the second most glaciated peak in the Lower 48, Mount Baker is a spectacular climb. Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan, and other peaks in the Cascade Mountains and surrounding ranges also offer excellent training opportunities.

If you would rather jump right into your first Seven Summits ascent, Mount Kilimanjaro is the best place to start. As a non-technical trekking peak, it’s accessible to anyone with good physical fitness. On it, you’ll begin to learn how to take of yourself on an expedition and climb at moderately high altitudes. Most of our guests enjoy a wildlife safari after the climb, making Kilimanjaro an excellent choice if you’re traveling with friends or family who aren’t interested in mountaineering.

Can I only climb a few of the seven?

Absolutely! Most climbers do not complete all of the Seven Summits. No matter how many of them you plan to climb, each of these mountains will reward you with an adventure and memories of a lifetime. When you set your sights on the highest point on any of the continents, you give yourself a fantastic goal to work toward. Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and Elbrus are all excellent, accessible options. Many people start with one or more of these, then decide if they want to work toward Denali, Carstensz Pyramid, Vinson or Everest. At Mountain Gurus, we also offer alternatives for those who want to experience the highest of the Seven Summits without the expense and time commitment of an entire climb. You may choose to trek to Everest Base Camp, or climb nearby Island Peak or Lobuche Peak, which offer excellent views of Everest, Lhotse and other giants of the Nepal Himalaya. We also offer an ascent through the Khumbu Icefall to Camp 2 at 21,000’ in Everest’s Western Cwm.

What can I climb beyond the Seven Summits?

If you’re preparing to begin the Seven Summits or looking for alternatives along the way, Mountain Gurus offers a wide variety of international expeditions. The volcanoes of Ecuador, including Cotopaxi (19,347’) and Chimborazo (20,702’), are very good choices. In Ecuador, guests enjoy dramatic climbing on some of the largest equatorial glaciers in the world, while relaxing in European-style mountain huts and hot springs resorts between ascents. The volcanoes of Mexico also offer an excellent introduction to high altitude international mountaineering. El Pico de Orizaba (19,347’) is the third highest peak in North America, and involves straightforward glacier climbing with relatively simple logistics, especially for guests flying in from the U.S. Please contact us for more information!