Location: Tanzania, Africa – Altitude: 19,340 Feet – 5,895 Meters – Cost: $1500 – Duration: 5 days – Success Rates: 50%
Location: Russia, Europe – Altitude: 18,510 Feet – 5,640 Meters – Cost: $1000 – Duration: 5 Days – Success Rates: 80%
Location: Argentina, S America – Altitude: 22,841 Feet – 6,962 Meters – Cost: $2500 – Duration: 18 Days – Success Rates: 30%
Location: Alaska, N America – Altitude: 20,237 Feet – 6,168 Meters – Cost $6000 – Duration: 25 Days – Success Rates: 50%
Location: Indonesia, Oceania – Altitude: 16,023 Feet – 4,884 Meters – Cost $10,000 – Duration: 15 Days: Success Rates 99%
– The Cold Climb – Attempting Vinson Massif is very similar to climbing Denali and is actually an easier mountain overall, with the only exception being colder weather. Vinson is 4,000 vertical feet shorter than Denali, so less time is needed to acclimatize. Saving time acclimatizing means a shorter expedition, less supplies, and a lighter pack. Since Vinson Massif is located in Antarctica at the bottom of the world, it is the most difficult of the Seven Summits to reach due to the expensive and complicated logistics. Like Carstensz Pyramid, for most climbers getting the funds is usually the most challenging part of the trip. At $35,000 for the climb, you can bet anyone willing to throw down that kind of money is going to be in top shape to guarantee they don’t waste 30 grand. By the time you’re this late in the game, almost all expeditions members are very experienced and knowledgeable, and at least a few expedition members likely already climbed Mt. Everest.
Location: Antarctica – Altitude: 16,067 Feet – 4,897 Meters – Cost: $35,000 – Duration: 15 Days – Success Rates: 99%
Location: Nepal, Asia – Altitude: 29,028 Feet – 8,848 Meters – Cost $65,000 – Duration: 70 Days – Success Rates: 20%
Four years later I was out of the military with a new job and I found myself considering Elbrus again. What inspired me about this trip was not necessarily Elbrus itself, but that the Caucasus region had several tiny countries that I could easily backpack in a single trip. To me Elbrus would simply be an added bonus. Since the climb would only take a week it left me with plenty of exploring time for other countries. In the summer of 2006 I was able to get the time off I needed and had a successful climb of Elbrus, checking off two of the Seven Summits. You might assume that climbing another one of the Seven Summits brought back my motivation, but it was actually after Elbrus I decided I would not pursue the remaining five mountains. In all honesty I climbed Elbrus while I was sick, had a near death experience, and lost 10 lbs in a week, and this was the second easiest of the entire challenge! The remaining climbs would need a minimum of a month vacation time each and I’d much rather be exploring other countries than spending a year’s worth of vacation being miserable on a mountain. Since Kilimanjaro and Elbrus where the easy ones I also questioned my ability for the remaining mountains. The physical and financial challenges that I would have to endure seemed overwhelming if not impossible for an average person like me.
There was no defining moment that changed my mind about the Seven Summits. For some unknown reason only a year later in 2007 I noticed that I suddenly began to think about Aconcagua a lot, even dream about it. My dreams were random.. Sometimes I’d be climbing the mountain, other times I was in the airport on the way to Argentina, and a few times even standing on the summit. My desire to try another one of the Seven Summits began to get strong enough that I worried I might start losing sleep at night. Finally I talked to my boss who was surprisingly supportive and helped give me the time off I would need for Aconcagua.
In February 2008 I had a successful expedition and climbed the 2nd highest of the Seven Summits. I somehow dedicated myself to training several days a week, took climbing courses, and in June 2009 I climbed what I once thought was impossible, Denali, the second hardest of the Seven Summits. In 2011 I continued towards my dream by reaching the top of Oceania after conquering Carstensz Pyramid and its miserable rainforests. At this point, there is no doubt that I am capable of climbing Vinson Massif so my only unknown is Mt. Everest. I’d like to try to Vinson Massif next although getting the funds or sponsorship will be another challenge.
Everyone’s reason for attempting the Seven Summits are different but for me I see this more as a traveling goal than a climbing one. Just like I want to see the unique places in every country in the world, I also believe that the tops of all seven continents are special places to reach. While I do appreciate the physical and mental challenges that climbing has to offer, I don’t consider myself a mountaineer or plan to join any major mountain expeditions beyond these. Most avid climbers counter “there is always another mountain,” but I feel like the Seven Summits offer a little bit of everything in the climbing world and would satisfy my climbing goals.