The Seven Summits
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The "Seven Summits" is the name given to highest points of the seven continents of the world.
Five of the seven peaks on the main list above are unambiguous: Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, and Vinson are all, without question, continent high points. And, while consensus today is very clearly behind Elbrus and Carstensz as the other two members of this exclusive club, there is some disagreement as to what constitutes the high points of Europe and the Australia/Oceania continent.
Elbrus, lying north of the main Caucasus crest, falls into Europe by a few miles, using the classic Europe/Asia dividing line. However, there are a number of valid objections to crowning Elbrus: The Caucasus are not really thought of as very "European" (not even "Eastern European"), instead being closer to the Middle East. The alternate candidate is Mont Blanc, clearly in Europe and boasting similar prominence and higher isolation values than Elbrus. Still, the consensus is that when it comes to the seven summits, Mont Blanc is at best an honorable mention.
Carstensz Pyramid (Puncack Jaya) on the island of New Guinea is clearly a dominant summit in the world hierarchy--it is the highest point between the high peaks of Central Asia and the Andes, and the highest peak on an island in the world. There are two main issues with calling it one of the seven summits: First, it is hard to call it a continental high point when it is not on a continental landmass, and second, politically it is in Indonesia, part of Asia. Lowly Mount Kosciuszko is the high point of the generally flat continent of Australia, and it is sometimes proposed as an alternate for Carstensz. However, the standard approach these days seems to be that continent in question is the Australia/Oceania continent, which includes Australia and most Pacific Islands. This includes New Guinea, Hawaii, and New Zealand, all of which have higher mountains than Australia.
As a peakbagging pursuit, the seven summits was first conceived of by Dick Bass and Frank Wells and written about in the book Seven Summits. Dick Bass completed all seven after climbing Everest in 1985, but he did Kosciuszko, not Carstensz, for his Australia/Oceania summit. Canadian climber Patrick Morrow was the first to complete the now-traditional seven summits, in 1986. Over 100 climbers have now done the Seven Summits, and these days it has become a popular quest. Everest and Vinson are the hardest, with guide services charging tens of thousands of dollars to take people to those peaks.
Links 7 Summits Completers from AdventureStats.com (Carstenz Version)
7 Summits Completers from AdventureStats.com (Kosciuszko version)
Seven Summits Climbers- EverestNews.com
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