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Even those who are casually involved in the hiking and climbing community have most likely heard of the seven summits. This is a highly sought after goal among climbers, with people willing to spend thousands of dollars and years of training to accomplish the goal. As the name implies, the seven summits are the highest points on each of the seven continents.


The challenge was first created by Dick Bass in the late 1980s. After they published a book together on the subject, more climbers got interested in the idea. It is currently popular because it involves quite a bit of challenge and travel while still being mostly doable. The mountains involved in the challenge are commonly listed as: Everest, Nepal; Aconcagua, Argentina; Denali, Alaska; Kilimanjaro, Africa; Elbrus, Russia; Vinson, Antarctica; and Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia.


There is some controversy of which summits are actually included in the list, however. Some of the controversy is the fact that people cannot agree on whether or not Australia’s Kosciuszko and New Guinea’s Carstensz Pyramid are both part of the same Oceania continent. Typically, climbers agree that technically the Carstensz Pyramid is the highest part of Australia’s continental mass, but many prefer Kosciuszko because it was part of Bass’ original climb is situated on the main Australian island. Another bit of debate is over whether Europe should be represented by Elbrus, Russia or Mont Blanc, France due to questions over whether the seven summits challenge should be based on the political or geological idea of a continent.


To cover all their bases, some people like to do all of the original seven, along with Carstensz Pyramid and Mont Blanc. Most of these mountains are not considered to be technically challenging, so it is a quite achievable goal for many. Currently, there are several hundred people who have managed to scale all of these summits. Over the years, several other challenges have also developed. For example, Reinhold Messner was the first to complete all of the climbs without using supplemental oxygen. Those interested in completing the seven summits will find that they have many opportunities, since several climbing companies can provide the necessary training and equipment to climb the mountains.