The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge, first postulated as such in the 1980s by Richard Bass (Bass et al 1986).
Some sources claim Mount Wilhelm, 4,509 metres, as the highest mountain peak in Oceania, due to Indonesia being part of Asia. The peak belongs to the Bismarck Range of Papua New Guinea. But a Seven Summits list including Mount Wilhelm has never been widely supported or formally recognised; Indonesia is generally considered to span Asia and Oceania.
|"Seven" Summits (sorted by continent)|
|"Bass"||"Messner"||Summit||Elevation m||Elevation ft||Continent||Range||Country|
|X||X||Kilimanjaro (Kibo Summit)||5,895||19,341||Africa||Kilimanjaro||Tanzania|
|X||X||Vinson Massif||4,892||16,050||Antarctica||Ellsworth Mountains||claimed by Chile|
|X||Kosciuszko||2,228||7,310||Australia||Great Dividing Range||Australia|
|X||Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya)||4,884||16,024||Australia-New Guinea||Maoke Mountains||Indonesia|
|X||X||Everest (Sagarmatha or Chomolungma)||8,848||29,029||Asia||Himalaya||Nepal, China|
|X||X||Mount McKinley (Denali)||6,194||20,320||North America||Alaska Range||United States|
Reinhold Messner revised Bass's list by substituting the Australia-New Guinea continent for mainland Australia. Pat Morrow first met Messner's challenge, finishing with climbing Carstensz Pyramid on May 7, 1986, shortly followed by Messner himself climbing Vinson on December 3rd, 1986. Morrow has also been the first to complete all eight summits from both lists.
As of March 2007, more than 198 climbers have climbed all seven of the peaks from either the Bass or the Messner list; about 30% of those have climbed all of the eight peaks required to complete both lists.
The first person to complete Seven Summits without the use of artificial oxygen on Mount Everest is Reinhold Messner. Miroslav Caban is probably the only other climber (besides Messner) as of October 2005 to finish the project without artificial oxygen on Everest (finished in 2005 with Carstensz). Between 2002 and 2007, Austrian climber Christian Stangl completed the Seven Summits (Messner list), climbing alone and without oxygen, and reported a record total ascent time from respective base camp to summit of 58 hours and 45 minutes.
In 1990, Rob Hall and Gary Ball became the first to complete the Seven Summits in seven months. Using the Bass list, they started with Mount Everest on May 10, 1990, and finished with Vinson on December 12, 1990, hours before the seven-month deadline.
The world record for completion of the Messner and Bass list is 136 days, by Danish climber Henrik Kristiansen(43) in 2008. Kristiansen completed the summits in the following order: Vinson on Jan 21th, Aconcagua on Feb 6, Kosciuszko on Feb 13, Kilimanjaro on Mar 1, Carstenz Pyramid on Mar 14, Elbrus on May 8, Everest on May 25, spending just 22 days on the mountain (normally, expeditions take up to 2 months acclimatizing, laying ropes etc...) and finally Denali on June 5, beating Irish Ian McKeevers' previous record by 20 days. The shortest time span set by a woman is 360 days, set by Britain's Annabelle Bond in 2005.
In October 2006 Kit Deslauriers became the first person to have skied down all seven peaks (Kosciuszko list). Three months later, in January 2007, Swedes Olof Sundström and Martin Letzter completed their Seven Summits skiing project by skiing down Carstensz Pyramid, thus becoming the first and only people to have skied both lists.
On May 17, 2007, 18 year-old Samantha Larson from California became the youngest American to climb Mount Everest and also the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits (Bass list). In August 2007 she also climbed the Carstensz Pyramid.
On May 24, 2008, Cheryl Bart and her 23-year-old daughter Nikki became the first mother-daughter team to climb the Seven Summits. The entire ascent is detailed on their website
Alpinism author Jon Krakauer (1997) wrote in Into Thin Air that it would be a bigger challenge to climb the second-highest peak of each continent, known as the Seven Second Summits. This is especially true for Asia, as K2 (8,611 m) demands greater technical climbing skills than Everest (8,848 m), while altitude-related factors such as the thinness of the atmosphere, high winds and low temperatures remain much the same. Some of those completing the seven ascents are aware of the magnitude of the challenge. In 2000, in a foreword to Steve Bell et al., Seven Summits, Morrow opined with humility '[t]he only reason Reinhold [Messner] wasn’t the first person to complete the seven was that he was too busy gambolling up the 14 tallest mountains in the world.'