If you’re a lover of hiking and climbing then this one’s for your bucket list – climbing the world’s seven summits!
The continent with the highest peaks in the world is home to Mount Everest – a name on every ambitious mountaineer’s tongue. At 8 850 meters above sea level, this vast and beautiful mountain is the highest in the world and is located on the border of Nepal and China. The good news is that Everest is easier to climb than ever before with modern equipment and the advances in weather forecasting. However, Mount Everest has still claimed around 250 lives, with avalanches being the biggest threat. Everest is in high demand and costs a pretty penny. As with most mountains, there are a few trails, you can climb from Tibet, Nepal, or China. Prices range anywhere from $28 000 to $85 000 but a fully customized climb could even set you back over $115 000. The good news is that the Nepali Operators are still open to striking a good deal whilst the western operators are all about the money and competition. The best time to climb? Apparently there is a fortnight in the spring which is the sweet spot! Most climbs take place during 13 to 22 May.
The highest peak in South America is Aconcagua standing at 6 962 meters above sea level. It makes up part of the Andes mountain range in Argentina – Mendoza to be exact. Aconcagua is the second highest summit in the world after Everest in Nepal and is considered a relatively easy climb for its great altitude. There are a choice of routes, with the two most popular being the Normal Route and the Polish Traverse Route. These two start on opposite sides of the mountain but meet up 1000 meters or so from the summit. The Normal Route is considered the easier option of the two as camps are spaced evenly, not too far from one another, and no technical climbing skills are needed. If you want something more challenging then the Polish Traverse Route is for you – with ice climbing skills and great stamina needed as you climb straight up the east side of Aconcagua. Plan to put aside around 15 days for a hike up Aconcagua. The mountain’s weather is not the friendliest, with temperatures still reaching minus 30° Celcius in peak season and strong winds gusting through unpredictably. It is advisable to climb during the “safe” season from 15th November to 31st of March. Peak season is from mid-December to end of January every year.
The highest mountain in North America is found in Alaska – the centrepiece of Denali National Park which covers 6 million acres. The mountain is known by its Koyucon name, Denali, but was also called Mount McKinley for many years after a political enthusiast in 1896 named it after presidential candidate William McKinley. Its peak sits at 6 168 meters above sea level and this mountain is no joke to climb! The upper half of Denali is permanently covered in snow and glaciers with extremely cold temperatures sometimes hitting minus 60° Celcius with the wind bringing it down even further to minus 83° Celcius. This kind of icy cold can freeze a human in seconds. Due to the severe weather and treacherous glaciers, it is advisable to be very physically fit and have relative mountaineering experience in order to summit Denali. The best months for climbing Denali are between April and September with April, May, and June being the peak months. The most popular route is the West Buttress which takes 21 days and, although gruelling, is not technically difficult. Other popular route options include Muldrow Glacier, West Rib, and Cassin Ridge.
Mount Kilimanjaro is found in Tanzania in East Africa, not far from the Kenyan border. At 5895 meters above sea level it is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and a sight to behold as it stands tall and alone in a plain! Those wanting to summit this beautiful peak have quite a few route options ranging in difficulty and length. The shortest route is 5 days but it is recommended to take an extra day for acclimatisation as this greatly improves your chances of reaching the summit. All routes offer tented accommodation except the Marangu route which offers A-framed huts. Prices vary greatly depending on the agency you decide to use and the length of the route you decide to take. You will only be allowed to climb Kilimanjaro with a registered agency and there are plenty to choose from. A good agency will supply guides, a cook, porters, food, water, and camping equipment if needed – all you need to worry about is your day pack. Be aware that choosing the right agency is paramount to your success! The perfect time to climb is in the drier months, especially January/February and August/September; however, the best weather is anytime between January and mid-March or between June and October.
Mount Elbrus is considered to be one of the easiest of the seven summits to climb and lies on the dividing line between Europe and Asia. Found in Russia, Eastern Europe, it is the tallest mountain in the famous Caucasus range at 5 642 meters above sea level and is actually an extinct, double peaked volcano. There are two summits – the Western summit at 5 642 meters and the Eastern summit at 5 621 meters. The two preferred routes are the standard and northern routes and although others exist, they are incredibly difficult and not much information is available on them. The standard route makes use of Mount Elbrus’ unique cable car system which takes climbers up to 3 658 meters before they continue up the south side to the summit. Although Elbrus is considered one of the easiest of the seven summits, it is also one of the deadliest mountains due to the harsh weather and claims about 15 to 30 lives per year. It is therefore best to climb in the warmer seasons, making May to September the best climbing months with July and August being the most popular. Don’t be fooled though, even in summer the night time temperature can average minus 8° Celcius – In winter, you’d be looking at temperatures which can hit minus 30° Celcius during the day! The good news is that it takes less than a week to summit, the shortest of all the seven summits.
Mount Vinson (also called Vinson Massif) is found deep in icy Antarctica, lying in the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains and standing at 4 892m above sea level. It was first summited in 1966 but due to its remote location, has had few visitors in comparison to the other seven summits. Along with the remote location, the weather is treacherous, with harsh winds and extreme temperatures. The short window for climbing is during the summer months – December through February – when temperatures rise to around minus 4 – 20° Celcius and there is 24 hour sunlight. Winter can see severe storms and temperatures that have been recorded as the coldest on earth! You will need to be physically fit with plenty of mental strength to tackle Mount Vinson. Mountaineering skills are required as you’ll be tackling glaciers, vertical slopes, crevasses, snow, and plenty of altitude. The easiest way to reach Mount Vinson is to fly out from Punta Arenas in Chile and land on the blue ice runway of Union Glacier before taking another short flight out to the Vinson Base Camp at Branscomb Glacier. The favoured route is Branscomb Shoulder which has become the standard route and takes about 10 days. Prices start at around $30 000 due the remote location and difficulties faced when climbing. If you dare to summit, you can add your name to a very special list as only about 1000 people have ever summited Mount Vinson.
Mount Kosciuszko is Australia’s highest peak at 2 228 meters above sea level. The summit hike for this beautiful mountain is relatively easy going with a few trails to choose from:
- Hike from Thredbo Ski Resort in Kosciuszko National Park. The hike starts with a 15 minute ride in the Thredbo chairlift and continues with a 13km return walk through meandering pathways which takes 4 -5 hours.
- Hike or bike from Charlotte Pass. The hike is 18.6km return which takes between 6 to 8 hours.
- Hike the Main Range Track. This trail is a full day hike of 22km which begins and ends at Charlotte Pass. High levels of fitness are required.
The trails are not as difficult as other high peaks in the world and are therefore free. You will however need to pay the national park entry fees as follows:
* Winter Peak – $20.74 per vehicle per day; $8.58 per motorcycle; $18.19 per adult bus passenger and $2.58 per child bus passenger.
* Rest of the year – Alpine Way and Kosciuszko Road only is $12.16 per vehicle per day; $5.01 per motorcycle; $4.72 per adult bus passenger and $1.57 per child bus passenger.
They also have a range of passes such as multi-day, annual, and Short Breaks Pass.
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