Climbing the 7 Summits: Introduction

All the information on this site is 100% and has been thoroughly researched by myself. If you find some benefit from it, please consider donating a couple of dollars to help fund the education projects I am working on in Nepal. 100% of your donation goes through Save the Children to the intended cause and is completely tax deductible.

About the 7 Summits Project

I first became aware of the challenge known as the 7 summits about 5 or so years ago. It sat the back of my mind until I came across the infamous book about Dick Bass & Frank Wells, and their pursuit to become the first to accomplish the feat. This awakened my own desire for adventure and as of early last year, I decided that I too wanted to stand on top of some of worlds the tallest mountains.

There are 3 predominant reasons why I chose to take on this challenge.

Firstly, I wanted to raise a large amount of money ($250,000) for education projects in Nepal. Having visited Nepal last year and consequently falling in love with the landscape and it’s people, I knew I had to do something to help. I think Nepal is often overlooked in terms of donations and foreign aid as it doesn’t seem to provoke the same images of poverty as many other regions throughout Asia.

climbing-the-7-summits

 

I didn’t realise before I went and saw it with my own eyes, just how bad conditions were for a great deal of the population living there. Fundraising is a pretty competitive market these days and to stand out, you need to provide something which captivates the imagination of potential donors and allows you to then hold that attention long enough to explain why this cause is one worth donating to. I think for Australians in particular (my homeland), the 7 summits holds a lot of intrigue. We don’t really know much or get to experience big mountains or true cold over here so it is a fairly unique opportunity.

It’s also a personal challenge. I wanted to find my limits physically and mentally. The 7 summits was probably a good choice, particularly for a boy from the flat, arid plains of Western Australia.

Finally, as an adventure. A chance to see and experience places I probably otherwise would never have had the opportunity to explore. From the hostile border regions of Russia to the beautiful ice and snow desert of Antarctica.

INTRODUCTION

WHAT ARE THE 7 SUMMITS?

 

The ‘7 Summits’ is a relatively recent phenomenon that first captured attention in 1985 when Dick Bass, a wealthy Texas-based entrepreneur, became the first person to achieve the feat of climbing to the highest point on each continent. Since then, it has grown into a (relatively) popular adventure pursuit, with an estimated 450 individuals having achieved the feat as of this writing.

The original 7 summits, as achieved by Bass, included Mt Denali in North America, Mt Aconcagua in South America, Mt Elbrus in Europe, Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt Vinson in Antarctica, Mt Everest in Asia and Mt Kosciuszko in Australia. Since that time, there has been much debate on the validity of the last entry, Mt Kosciusko. Many argue that the more difficult and technically challenging Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya) should be included as the true 7th summit.

carstensz_pyramid

Carstenz is a little more difficult than Kosciuszko..

 

After a lot of research into the arguments presented on both sides, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s essentially a personal choice as to which mountain you wish to include, many indeed opt to climb both. Geographically, it comes down to how a continent is defined. Most of us are taught that Australia is a continent in it’s own right, hence why Kosciuszko was included originally. Pat Morrow, the first climber to complete the ‘Carstensz 7 Summits’ argues that a continent is defined in relation to continental shelves, rather than the land mass itself.

Realistically though, I think the reason the debate was initially raised was due to the fact that Kosciuszko was so easy to climb. True mountaineers didn’t believe it deserved a place amongst the worlds great mountains, which indeed it doesn’t. To my mind however, tackling the 7 summits is about more than just finding the most challenging mountains to climb. If that were the case then all but 1 on the list would fail to make the cut. It’s about travelling to all 7 continents and experiencing the sense of adventure that comes with that. For that reason, as well as being a relatively patriotic Australian myself, I’ve opted to include Kosciuszko in this guide and bypass Carstenz. There is plenty of great information out there if you choose to pursue the latter, you just won’t find it here.

 

7summits

RECOMMENDED READINGThe_Seven_summits

 

7 Summits: Dick Bass, Frank Wells & Rick Ridgeway

Holding On: Jo Gambi

Climbing the 7 Summits: Mike Hamill

Project 8,000: Andrew Lock

Into Thin Air: Jon Krakauer

A LITTLE WORD ON ALTITUDE..

One of life’s mysteries is the effect of altitude on the human body. A young, incredibly fit male could be struck down with altitude sickness at 4,000 metres while an ‘unfit’ elderly person could reach 8,000m without having so much as a headache. Then again the young man may reach the 8,000m point next climb without so many problems. Why this can occur nobody fully understands..

There are 3 main forms of altitude sickness; Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE).

 

AMS

Acute Mountain Sickness is the least serious and by far the most common of the altitude related illnesses. Symptoms are often similar to a hangover- headache, nausea, lack of appetite and problems sleeping. It can affect anyone at altitudes of over 2,500m and generally attacks indiscriminately; there are few common traits of those who tend to suffer from it.

There are 2 key factors which are generally found to be the greatest contributors. The first is gaining altitude too quickly and the second is vigorous exercise with poor care taken of your body. It is recommended not to ascend more than 500 vertical metres daily to minimise risks. It is also important to eat well and stay adequately hydrated when hiking/climbing. Drinking 4+ litres a day is recommended.

If suffering from AMS, it is important not to ascend, rather stay at your current elevation. If symptoms ease, you may continue ascending, albeit at a slower pace and with a keen observance as to how you are feeling. If symptoms don’t subside, it is recommended to descend at least 500m and re-assess.

 

HAPE

High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema is the build-up of fluid in the lungs, restricting oxygen from entering the blood stream. Symptoms of HAPE are general breathlessness, particularly while resting and an ongoing cough. The cough usually gets progressively worse, often producing a foamy white or pink substance. Once a chest ‘rattle’ can be heard, the situation is dire and drastic action must be taken.

As with AMS, it is unknown as to why some suffer from this condition while others don’t. Again, rapid ascension is considered a main contributor. Another may be a chest infection or even common cold that develops into HAPE as the sufferer ascends to higher altitude.

If suffering from HAPE, it is important to descend immediately, ideally with the aid of additional oxygen. If the condition is serious, gamow_baga Gamow bag (pictured) may be used to artificially create additional air pressure around the victim. The anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone may be used as well as Nifedipine, a drug that helps to open up the blood vessels in the lungs

 

HACE

High Altidue Cerebral Oedema is a build up of fluid in the brain and the most dangerous, albeit least common of the altitude related illnesses. It is generally considered a more severe version of AMS, the sufferer exhibiting similar symptoms such as severe headache, vomiting and drowsiness. Coordination will be severely affected, the sufferer often unable to walk in a straight line without stumbling and brain function, such as speech, being severely inhibited.

As with the other two, it is widely unknown what causes HACE. It is thought that it is simply severe AMS and may occur when a sufferer of AMS ignores the symptoms and continues ascending to higher elevation.

The only cure is a rapid descent as soon as symptoms are recognised. The sufferer will often require help as their co-ordination will often be too impaired to descend safely on their own. The anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone is often administered as a temporary relief to reduce swelling of the brain tissue.