The Seven Summits Challenge
The Seven Summits challenge was first completed by American Dick Bass in 1985 and involves climbing the highest peaks on all 7 continents including… Kilimanjaro (Africa), Elbrus (Europe), Aconcagua (S. America), Kosciuszko (Australia), Denali (N. America), Vinson (Antarctica) & Everest (Asia).
The Seven Summits challenge is split between the ‘Bass’ and ‘Messner’ list – The difference between the two lists rests on a difference of opinion on the definition of Australia or Oceania as the ‘Continent’. Hence some folks attempt the Bass list, others the Messner list and some complete both (and Mt. Blanc) just to cover all bases. The controversy, such as it is, arose after Dick Bass (an American businessman) first attempted to complete the highest peaks in the early 1980’s, using the widely recognised definition of the 7 geographic continents. This included Australia whose highest peak is the modest Kosciuszko. In response, Reinhold Messner claimed that Carstensz in Papua New Guinea (a significantly larger and more technical peak) should be the highest for ‘Oceania’ rather than Kosciuszko for ‘Australia’. His claim was based on inclusion of all continental shelves too, however even that arbitrary extension would not have paired Carstensz to Australia. There are may debates about what constitutes a continent – Oceania is in fact a region, as is Australasia. Defining it by tectonic plates is imprecise too because there are more than 7 plates globally. Indeed the debate could widen on that point to why Europe is considered a continent at all as it doesn’t sit on a different tectonic plat to Asia and is not one continuous land mass surrounded by water (it is a shared landmass with Asia as Eurasia). Hence Elbrus should not be on the list at all if tectonics are the measure. And on and on the debate goes. In some regions of the world, the education system teaches that there are 7 continents, in others 6 continents (Eurasia) and in some 5 continents (Antarctica not considered as no human habitation), hence the opinions are many and varied. But on the Seven Summits challenge itself, it is clear that the existence of Carstensz on the Messner List is more to do with a view on the required difficulty that a continental highest ‘deserves’, rather than a measure of what actually is the highest or not. This author reads the Seven Summits as being the highest in N America, S America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Antarctica, hence Kosciuszko (irrespective of its lack of technicality) is one of the Seven Summits.
- World record for fastest Seven Summits challenge (156 days) was briefly held by Ian McKeever in 2009.
- Pat Falvey is the only Irish person to have completed the Seven Summits (Bass List) twice (1997 & 2005).
- First person in the world to completed the Seven Summits including descent to sea level was Noel Hanna.
- The youngest Irish person to complete the Seven Summits was Clare O’Leary at age 3 in 2005.
- In recent years, as peaks become more accessible, further new records are appearing and being broken.
The list of Irish climbers (North and South) who have completed the ‘Bass’ Seven Summits list is as follows…
Pat Falvey (39) from Co. Cork in 1997
Pat Falvey (47) from Co. Cork in 2005
Clare O’Leary (34) from Co. Cork in 2005
Ian McKeever (37) from Co. Wicklow in 2007
Vivian Rigney (39) from Co. Dublin in 2010
Noel Hanna (42) from Co. Down in 2010
Neill Elliott (42) from Co. Fermanagh in 2015
Mary Scannell (41) from Co. Kerry in 2016
Terry Kelleher (56) from Co. Dublin in 2017
To the best of my knowledge, the list of Irish climbers who have completed the ‘Messner’ Seven Summits list is as follows…
Ian McKeever from Co. Wicklow
Noel Hanna from Co. Down
Vivian Rigney from Co. Dublin
Bill Hanlon from Co. Wexford
Mary Scannell from Co. Kerry
If you have any new information or wish to correct any existing information, please feel free to contact me as I am always excited to receive new stats and more accurate inputs.
Seven Summits Costs
The cost of completing the Seven Summits challenge varies depending on your choices and when it was attempted. Our Seven Summits project cost approximately €150,000 per person up to and including the last Everest attempt in 2015.
The most costly expeditions are Antarctica and Everest. The disaster in 2014 meant a retry in 2015 (which ended after 25 days due to the earthquake and avalanche), hence the combined Everest costs exceeded €70,000. Training and equipment over the years also added significantly to overall costs. 90% or more of the costs were self-funded, with less than 10% coming from local donors.