This may be a more difficult task than you expected. The Seven Summits are a highly debated topic in the world of mountaineering, considering there are actually two lists. The first was created by Richard Bass in 1978, who determined the highest peak of mainland Australia to be Mount Kosciuszko. In 1985, Reinhold Messner replaced Mount Kosciuszko with Indonesia's Puncak Jaya, concluding that the seventh continent was Australia's entire tectonic plate. As of June 2016, 409 people have climbed seven of the eight peaks on either of the two lists, the youngest being 15, and the oldest 75. Here are Messner's Seven Summits, from lowest to highest:
1) Puncak Jaya, Indonesia
Elevation: 16,024 ft
Puncak Jaya, also known as Carstensz Pyramid, is the highest peak in the Oceania region on the continent of Australia (Australia comprises New Guinea, the country of Australia, New Zealand, Timor, and other smaller islands on this continental plate). It is part of the Sudirman Mountain Range in the western central highlands the Papua Province on the island of New Guinea, making it the tallest island peak in the world. Many overlook this mountain as one of the seven summits because although it resides on the continent of Australia, it is politically governed by Maritime Southeast Asia.
2) Vinson Massif, Antarctica
Elevation: 16,050 ft
Mount Vinson is the highest mountain on the vast continent of Antarctica. It is located on the southern part of the main ridge of the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains. Although this mountain isn’t a technical climb, it is one of the most difficult of the seven summits. It is only 750 miles from the South Pole, making it the windiest, wildest, and most freeeezing trek to the top. If you climb In the summer, it’s not exactly sizzling, but at least there are 24 hours of sunlight to help your scramble to the summit!
3) Mt. Elbrus, Russia
Elevation: 18,510 ft
Located in Russia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano in the Caucasus Mountain range that separates Europe from Asia, one of the most rugged mountain ranges in the world. Although Elbrus is technically located in Russia, it is only a few miles from the country of Georgia. From the mountain’s summit, one can gaze upon Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Because of its ambiguous location, some climbers claim that Mt. Blanc in Switzerland is the tallest peak in Europe, although Elbrus is the preferred. Its crater is filled with ice and snow and the mountain still retains its conical shape, so basic knowledge of ice, snow, rope, and self-belay techniques are suggested for summiting.
4) Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Elevation: 19,341 ft
Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, and has the highest peak in Africa: Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters. While classified as a mountain, Kilimanjaro is actually made up of three volcanic cones that were formed by the Great Rift Valley: Shira, Mawenzi, and Kibo. The ice cap has shrunk in size by more than 80 percent since 1912, and it’s predicted that it will be gone in 15 years. Kilimanjaro is the least technical climb of all seven summits, but don’t be fooled - its high altitude and five different climate zones make the trek a challenging one.
5) Mt. McKinley, Alaska
Elevation: 20,322 ft
Continent: North America
Mount McKinley, also known as Denali (since its name change in 2015), is the highest mountain in North America. The Athabaskan Natives originally named the mountain Denali, which means 'high one' but in 1896 a gold prospector renamed the mountain Mount McKinley after U.S. President William McKinley (although he never visited!). Some consider Denali to be the highest peak of all Seven Summits because it is taller than Mount Everest by 6,000 feet when measured from base to summit. However, most consider the trek to Everest base camp as part of its climb.
6) Aconcagua, Argentina
Elevation: 22,838 ft
Continent: South America
Aconcagua is not just the highest mountain in South America, but also the highest in the Western Hemisphere. It is located in the Andes mountain range in Argentina, and is visible 100 miles off the coast in the Pacific Ocean. Most of the hiking routes to the summit are pretty straight forward and don’t require technical climbing skills for crossing crevasses or ascending up steep walls. However, the easier routes take much longer, between 11-20 days for an average climber. Because many people rush this trek and do not consider changes in altitude and weather, Aconcagua has one of the highest death tolls of the world’s highest peaks.
7) Mount Everest, Nepal/China
Elevation: 29,029 ft
Mount Everest, the boldest, baddest, and by far the most difficult of the Seven Summits, stands on the crest of the Great Himalayas of Southern Asia, on the border of Nepal and China, in previously owned Tibetan territory. The Tibetans worship it as “Mother Of The World” and believe it to have magical powers. Despite its spiritual value, it is the most expensive hike because of all the gear and crew required to summit, with permits starting around $10,000. Only 200 climbers have made it to the top, and about 4,000 people have died on their way to the top, including many of the mountain’s sherpas. The climb to base camp takes eight days alone, and summiting can take many months depending on the weather.