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The Seven Summits

The "Seven Summits" is the name given to highest points of the seven continents of the world.

Five of the seven peaks on the main list above are unambiguous: Everest, Aconcagua, McKinley, Kilimanjaro, and Vinson are all, without question, continent high points. And, while consensus today is very clearly behind Elbrus and Jaya as the other two members of this exclusive club, there is some disagreement as to what constitutes the high points of Europe and the Australia/Oceania continent.

Elbrus, lying north of the main Caucasus crest, falls into Europe by a few miles, using the classic Europe/Asia dividing line. However, there are a number of valid objections to crowning Elbrus: The Caucasus are not really thought of as very "European" (not even "Eastern European"), instead being closer to the Middle East, and it is not very far from Elbrus to Damavand in Iran, a higher summit. The alternate candidate is Mont Blanc, clearly in Europe and boasting higher prominence and isolation values than Elbrus. Still, the consensus is that when it comes to the seven summits, Mont Blanc is at best an honorable mention.

Puncack Jaya (Carstenz Pyramid) on the island of New Guinea is clearly a dominant summit in the world hierarchy--it is the highest point between the high peaks of Central Asia and the Andes, and the highest peak on an island in the world. There are two main issue with calling it one of the seven summits: First, it is hard to call it a continental high point when it is not on a continental landmass, and second, politically it is in Indonesia, part of Asia. Lowly Mount Kosciusko is the high point of the generally flat continent of Australia, and it is sometimes proposed as an alternate for Jaya.

As a peakbagging pursuit, the seven summits was believed to be first conceived of by Dick Bass and Frank Wells who have written the book Seven Summits. Dick Bass completed all seven after climbing Everest in 1985, but he did Kosciusko, not Jaya, for his Australia/Oceania summit. Canadian climber Patrick Morrow was the first to complete the now-traditional seven summits, in 1986.

Over 80 climbers have now done the Seven Summits, and these days it has become a popular quest. The first Canadian man to climb the Seven Summits was Pat Morrow in 1986 and first Canadian woman was Urszula Tokarska in 2005.

Mountain Feet Meters Location
Everest 29,029 8,848 Nepal/Tibet
Aconcagua 22,840 6,962 Argentina, South America
Denali (Mount McKinley) 20,320 6,195 Alaska, North America
Kilimanjaro 19,339 5,963 Tanzania, Africa
Elbrus 18,481 5,633 Russia, Europe
Vinson Massif 16,067 4,897 Ellsworth Range, Antarctica
Carstensz Pyramid 16,023 4,884 Indonesia's (t/m) is Oceania's
highest mountain.
Mount Kosciuszko 7,310 2,228 Australia