*Please note: as the seven highest peaks in the world are in the Himalayas, the article looks at the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Actual highest peaks are at the end of the article.
Only a select few have conquered the Seven Summits, a grueling challenge that involves climbing the highest peak of every continent. They’ve seen the spectacular mountain-top views firsthand, and now you get a chance to soak in the scenery too as we go on a whirlwind tour of images captured by these exceptional mountaineers. So join us as we travel from the highest of them all – Mt. Everest – to the Western Hemisphere and Europe, to warm climes in Australia, Indonesia and Africa, and to the coldest ends of the earth.
But first, an explanation: because of conflicting continental border definitions, there are actually two lists of the Seven Summits; the first was created by Richard Bass and the second revised by Reinhold Messner shortly after. Without question, six of the seven peaks on each list match, although one is disputed: Bass chose Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 m) as the highest peak in Australia whereas Messner decided on the more challenging Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m) in Indonesia as the top of Australia-New Guinea.
In any case, bravo to the 229 people who have completed all seven on either list, and major kudos to the 81 who have summitted all eight!
1. Everest (Asia): 8,848 m (29,029 ft)
We start with the tallest and perhaps the most famous of peaks in the world, Mt. Everest. It is located in the Himalayan range, which features the highest mountains in the world. This is a view from the camp at 8,300 m.
Image: Divine Madman
A beautiful sunrise view from Aconcagua, just below the summit
3. Mount McKinley (North America): 6,194 m (20,320 ft)
A trip to the far north brings us to Mount McKinley, or Denali, which means ‘The Great One’. Denali is difficult not only because of the extreme cold; it also sits on a plateau of 610 m (2,000 feet), with a demanding rise of 5,500 m (18,000 feet). In contrast, even though Everest is almost 2,700 m (9,000 feet) higher than Denali as measured from sea level, it sits on a plateau at 5,200 m (17,000 feet) and only has a vertical rise of just over 3,700 m (12,000 feet).
4. Kilimanjaro (Africa): 5,895 m (19,341 ft)
Kilimanjaro is located in northeastern Tanzania. A dormant volcano, the famous peak has drawn worldwide attention in recent years because of a dramatic drop in ice cap volume. Here is a couple of striking views from the top
Image: John Brennan
5. Elbrus (Europe): 5,642 m (18,510 ft)
Located in Russia, Mt. Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe. Like Kilimanjaro, Elbrus is also a dormant volcano. The shape of the summit is described by its ancient Latin name Strobilus – pine cone – which is derived from the ancient Greek word strobilos, or ‘a twisted object’. Pictured is sunrise on this magnificent peak.
6. Vinson Massif (Antarctica): 4,892 m (16,050 ft)
Vinson Massif is the top of the bottom of the world. Located in the Ellesworth Mountains in Antarctica, the massif was first spotted by the US Navy in 1958. Here’s a view from space.
And another view here on earth, on the way up Vinson Massif.
7a. Carstensz Pyramid (Australia-New Guinea): 4,884 m (16,024 ft)
Messner List only
Carstensz Pyramid, named after a Dutch explorer of the same name, is an equatorial mountain in Indonesia. A mountaineering challenge, Carstensz is also unforgettable for another reason: kitty-corner to the mountain is the Grasberg (Freeport) mine, which is home to the world’s the largest gold mine and the world’s third largest copper mine.
Acid rock drainage, copper contamination and dangerously steep slopes have environmentalists and local citizens up in arms about the the mine’s environmental and safety hazards. Here’s a view of Carstensz from space.
7b. Kosciuszko (Australia): 2,228 m (7,310 ft)
Bass List only
Much shorter than any of the other mountains listed previously, Kosciusko has been called an ‘easy hike’ when compared to the other summits. Even so, the views from up high are truly spectacular.
An image showing the stairway to Kosciuszko…
Highest Peaks in the World
1. Everest Nepal/Tibet 8,850m 29,035ft
2. K2 (Godwin Austen) Pakistan/China 8,611m 28,250ft
3. Kangchenjunga Nepal/India 8,586m 28,169ft
4. Lhotse Nepal/Tibet 8,516m 27,940ft
5. Makalu Nepal/Tibet 8,463m 27,766ft
6. Cho Oyu Nepal/Tibet 8,201m 26,906ft
7. Dhaulagiri Nepal 8,167m 26,795ft