Climbing the Seven Summits – What to expect?

Climbing the Seven Summits or conquering the highest peak of every continent is one of the greatest mountaineering challenges. Not only because you can add some reputated peaks on your palmares, but it brings you to every corner of the world. And is there really a better way to explore the world than seeing it from its highest peaks?

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Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The Easy Climb – Since Kilimanjaro is located almost on the equator and it’s known for good weather, anyone with a decent shape who takes the time to train and acclimatize will more than likely conquer this mountain. It is considered as the easiest of the Seven Summits and is more of a high altitude walk than a climb. Success rate is low however, with only 50% because it has become a touristy thing to do with many casual travelers making an attempt while being under-prepared.

Altitude: 5895m  –  Cost: 1500$  –  Duration: 5-8 days  –  Success rate: 50%

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Mount Elbrus, Russia

The Basic Climb – Mount Elbrus is similar to Kilimanjaro but has the added challenges of winter weather and ice slopes. Although Elbrus is slighty lower than the highest peak of Africa, you have to deal with under freezing temperatures and need a basic knowledge of crampons and ice axe. Mount Elbrus is considered as a basic alpine climb, and is a great introduction into real mountaineering with colder weather and tough terrain. It is located in a remote corner near the border of Georgia with Russia.

Altitude: 5642m  –  Cost: 1000$  –  Duration: 5 days  –  Success rate: 80%

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Aconcagua, Argentina

The High Climb – Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia and gives mountaineers a chance to experience a major high altitude mountain expedition in Himalaya-style without the dangerous slopes or technical climbing. Reaching 6962m, climbing Aconcagua is significantly harder on every level in comparison to Kilimanjaro and Elbrus. Participating in an expedition like this requires a dedicated training program and perseverance. The highest peak of South America is often mistaken to be similar to Kilimanjaro due to the lack of snow slopes. The demands of a long expedition, heavy backpacks, extreme altitude, and the cold and violent wind storms come as a shock to many. As a result, about 70% of all climbers who attempt Aconcagua fail in their attempt.

Altitude: 6962m  –  Cost: 3500$  –  Duration: 19 days  –  Success rate: 30%

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Denali, Alaska

The Brutal Climb – Unlike on other mountains of the Seven Summits – including Everest – you don’t have the aid of porters or transportation of gear to ease your climbing. While climbers on Everest only carry a daypack, on Denali you have to be self sufficient all the way. This means carrying a heavy backpack and pulling a sledge with 70kg of gear in one of the coldest and hardest places in the world. This makes Denali one of the greatest physical challenges in the world. Reaching 6194m, it is higher than Kilimanjaro or Elbrus. However the low pressure of the Arctic have an effect on the body that makes the mountain even higher. The unusually high number of altitude sickness problems combined with severe weather, temperatures that easily reach -40C, and being just two degrees south of the Arctic circle literally expose climbers to some of the most hostile and miserable environments on earth.

Altitude: 6194m  –  Cost: 6000$  –  Duration: 21 days  –  Success rate: 50%

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Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia

The Rock Climb – To the question which mountain is the highest in Oceania, mountaineers have agreed to disagree. While the Bass lists thinks of Kosciuszko as the highest mountain of Australia, the Messner list has added Carstenz Pyramid as the highest peak of Oceania. Kosciuzko in Australia is an easy walk-up, but Carstenz Pyramid offers a whole new challenge. The shortest climb of the Seven Summits is more of a rock climb. But the biggest challenge isn’t climbing the mountain. No, the true adventure is geting to the mountain itself. Some less adventurous climbers occasionally take a helicopter all the way to 4500m and do the final summit push in a matter of hours. The real climb though will have a flight drop you off in a village where you’ll do a week long trek through thick muddy rainforests and bogs until reaching base camp. The technical part of Carstensz Pyramid includes rock climbing, scrambling, and jamaring up vertical walls.

Altitude: 4884m  –  Cost: 10000$  –  Duration: 15 days  –  Success rate: 99%

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Vinson Massif, Antarctica

The Cold Climb – Climbing Mount Vinson is actually quite similar to climbing Alaska but since you’re in Antarctica, the weather is much colder. However, Vinson Massif is only 4892m high, so you need less time to acclimatize. This also means a shorter expedition, less supplies and a lighter pack. Vinson is considered an easy climb, but since it is located in Antarctica at the bottom of the world, it is the most difficult of the Seven Summits to reach due to the expensive and complicated logistics. The positive side is that anyone who is willing to pay that huge load of money won’t be stupid enough to be badly prepared for the trip, making a 99% success rate.

Altitude: 4892m  –  Cost: 35000$  –  Duration: 15 days  –  Success rate: 99%

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Mount Everest, Nepal/Tibet

The Ultimate Climb – There are only a few mountains in the world that are harder to climb than Mount Everest. With 8850m, this is the world’s highest mountain and climbers need to spend quite some time in the Death Zone. Mount Everest can best be described as the combination of all extremes experienced on the other mountains of the Seven Summits. High altitude, cold temperatures, technical skills, … On Mt. Everest however, even the fittest climber or most experienced is still likely to fall victim to the extreme altitude and fatigue of such a long climb. While a Denali expedition usually lasts around three to four weeks in length, Everest expeditions take more than two months. This makes Everest a physical as well as a mental challenge.

Altitude: 8850m  –  Cost: 65000$  –  Duration: 70 days  –  Success rate: 20%

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My personal interest in the Seven Summits started in 2012 when I climbed Kilimanjaro. Five years later I’ve made an attempt on Elbrus (failed due to bad weather) and succesfully climbed Aconcagua. In the next few years I hope to raise enough funds for my Denali expedition. 
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