The Seven Summits challenge was first completed by American Dick Bass in 1985 and involves climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents including:
Aconcagua (S. America)
Denali (N. America)
Kosciuszko (Australia) or Puncak Jaya (See note below)
Mount Vinson (Antarctica)
The Seven Summits challenge has two options – The ‘Bass’ list or ‘Messner’ list. The difference between the two lists is that one includes the highest peak in Australia (Kosciuszko) while the other includes the highest peak in Oceania/Australasia instead (Puncak Jaya). Some will attempt the Bass list, others the Messner list and some will complete both for good measure. We are attempting the original Bass list. The total number of people who have completed the Seven Summits challenge worldwide is somewhere in excess of 300. By the end of our Everest 2015 attempt, our costs for completing 6 and attempting the 7th stood at $150,000 per person (2015 economics).
Seven Summits – Irish Connection
The Irish climbers (North and South) who completed the ‘Bass’ Seven Summits list are:
– 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
– John Dowd (53) from Co. Kerry in 2008
– 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
– Chris Bell (49) from Co. Antrim in 2022
– Johnny Ward (40) from Co. Down in 2024
– Ryan O’Sullivan (27) from Co. Sligo in 2024
The Irish climbers (North and South) who completed the ‘Messner’ Seven Summits list are:
– 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
– Johnny Ward from Co. Down
If you have any new information on climbers missing from the list or wish to correct any existing information, please feel free to contact me as I am always eager to receive new stats and more accurate data.
– World record for fastest Seven Summits challenge (156 days) was briefly held by Ian McKeever in 2009.
– First person to complete the Seven Summits twice, from each side of Everest, was Pat Falvey (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 Ryan O’Sullivan (27) from Sligo in 2024.
– In recent years, as peaks become more accessible, further new records are appearing and being broken.
Note – Kosciuszko vs Puncak Jaya
The controversy (such as it is) over two lists arose after Dick Bass first completed the Seven Summits in the early 1980’s, using a widely recognised definition of the seven geographic continents. This included Australia with it’s modest Kosciuszko peak as the highest point. Soon after this feat had been completed, Reinhold Messner completed a slightly different Seven Summits list, claiming that Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid) in Papua New Guinea – a much larger and more technical peak than Kosciuszko – should be the highest on the continent. His claim was based on inclusion of all continental shelves in the measurement, however even allowing for that geographic definition, it would still not make the list because Papua New Guinea is not on the Australian continental shelf.
There are many opinions over what constitutes a continent or indeed what the terms Australasia or Oceania mean. Defining continents by tectonic plates is also imprecise because the seven major plates are not the only tectonic plates on the planet. Indeed the debate could widen to why Europe is considered a continent at all as it doesn’t sit on a different tectonic plate to Asia and is not one continuous land mass surrounded by water (it is a shared landmass with Asia as Eurasia). Hence Elbrus would not be on the list at all if tectonic plates were the datum, so instead we use the Ural mountains as the division between Europe and Asia. And on and on the debate goes. Furthermore, in some regions of the world the education system teaches seven continents, in others six continents (Eurasia) and in some five continents (Antarctica not considered a continent in some parts of the world as it has no human habitation), hence the opinions are many & varied depending on what datum you use or where in the world you learned your geography.
On the Seven Summits challenge itself, it is likely that the existence of Puncak Jaya on the Messner List is more a statement on relative difficulty rather than a measure of what actually is the highest or not on a defined continent. This author reads the Seven Summits as being the highest in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Antarctica, hence Kosciuszko (irrespective of its lack of technicality and ease of climbing) is one of the Seven Summits because it is the highest point on a continent. However this writer also regards anyone who has completed the Messner list as also having completed the Seven Summits challenge, given that it is a challenge with two broadly accepted versions. More often than not you will find that anyone who has done the Messner list, has also completed Kosciuszko too in order to combat any debate.
Each to their own, and respect to all who complete the Seven Summits, regardless of which list it is.