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Ranking the Seven Summits

Discussion area for peaks outside of the USA.
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Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby scalba123 » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:33 pm

I don't know why this question popped into my head (and I'm sure someone is going to think that that is an incredibly stupid one), but is there a ranking of the seven summits from easiest to hardest? I'm going for my 2nd attempt at Kilimanjaro in May 2014 and I've been watching a ton of Everest documentaries lately, but I really haven't seen much about the other ones (although USA Keller's account of her Denali trek was an awesome read). I'm interesting in hearing about your thoughts. Thanks!

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby kushrocks » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:41 pm

Alan Arnette and Brandon (JbChalk) would be good people to talk to about this since I think they have both done 6 of the 7. I would be very curious to hear their opinion.


Good luck on Kili next year. I would love to go someday that sounds like an amazing trip.
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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby Alan Arnette » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:37 pm

My opinion. I think of them in two ways: technical/physical and logistics ranked from hardest to easiest via the normal routes:

Technical/Physical
Carstensz (rock)
Everest (altitude)
Denali (loads)
Aconcagua (altitude)
Elbrus
Vinson (cold)
Kili
Kosciusko

Logistics
Carstensz
Vinson
Elbrus
Everest
Aconcagua
Kili
Denali
Kosciusko

Overall Carstensz offers the most "real" climbing with 5.4-5.7 rock climbing plus a fun Tyrollean Traverse. It is without a doubt the most difficult logistically. Vinson is just hard (and expensive) to get to but the climb is like a small Denali unless you get stuck by the Antarctic weather. Everest has some climbing, especially on the North with the Steps or on the South between the Balcony and South Summit but it is the altitude that is the challenge. Denali is just a long physical effort with heavy loads plus numbing weather and crevasse danger (tried three times without a summit topping out at 17K each time). Aconcagua is all about altitude. Kili is also an altitude thing. Elbrus has some logistical issues, especially if you climb from the North like I did, but it is like a huge Rainier. Kosi is a simple walk-up.

Good luck on Kili! Make sure you do the safari.
Last edited by Alan Arnette on Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby Tortoise1 » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:01 pm

What happened to Vinson? I thought it was on all lists.

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby Alan Arnette » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:05 pm

Ha! I knew I forgot one!!! I'll edit my reply.

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby jbchalk » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:44 pm

Haha. I was just about to say what about lonely Vinson, Alan :)

Alan has a lot more experience and good info than I do on the list, but I wrote this awhile ago while my wife and I were just starting the 7 summits journey, so take it for what it is:

http://brandonandkristine.com/what-are-the-7-summits/

Good luck on Kilimanjaro and enjoy your experience in Tanzania.

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby SteveBonowski » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:04 pm

jbchalk's post is insightful. There indeed are two lists. Many "purists" don't recognize Carstenz as one of the 7; Carstenz, or Puncak Jaya, being mostly a "creation" of some guiding companies; because New Guinea is an island, not a continent. It's still, however, a worthy summit to pursue.

I'd also offer that Kos is not a "simple walkup." No mountain is really "simple." When I did it, the sky was real overcast with a hint of rain. If there was thunder, there is no easy way off or down to shelter. Also worth noting that Erik Weihenmayer may have climbed Kos in a blizzard in his quest for the 7.

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby Alan Arnette » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:11 pm

Good point Steve on Kos not being a walk-up in the winter or bad weather, similar to Bierstadt here in Colorado. As for CP, Pat Morrow and Reinhold Messner challenged Dick Bass's summit of Australia's Mt. Kosciuszko as the highest peak in Oceania thus making it an alternative. I'm not sure the guide companies had a lot to do with but certainly leverage this fact today. FWIW, my page on the 7 at http://www.alanarnette.com/7summits/7summits.php

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby jbchalk » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:37 pm

Kosi is definitely no gimme, especially in winter. Kristine & I climbed it last August (Aussie's winter) and we lucked out on a nice clear winter day albeit very cold and windy. The mountain had been socked in for 2-3 weeks and there hadn't been anyone to its summit in at least that amount of time per a local guide. Its very easy to get disoriented up on the alpine tundra in winter if weather should move in as there are no landmarks to get one's bearing. I remember hearing that 3 young Americans had perished a few years back in winter on Kosi having lost their bearing in a whiteout thus freezing to death.

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby Scott P » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:29 pm

Here is Kessler on the summit of Kosciuszko at 7 months old. It definitely a walk up in summer.

Image

Many "purists" don't recognize Carstenz as one of the 7


As for CP, Pat Morrow and Reinhold Messner challenged Dick Bass's summit of Australia's Mt. Kosciuszko as the highest peak in Oceania thus making it an alternative.


I believe it depends on what part of the world you live in. Messner is from Europe; Bass from the US. In Europe, Australia isn't recognized as a continent, but Oceania is. Australia and the US recognize Australia as a continent.
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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby Gabriel » Mon Oct 07, 2013 5:37 pm

IMO Messner is the first seven summiter. Dick bass, although he is my countryman, is not a climber as he paid guides and Sherpas and used bottled oxygen to get up his peaks. Messner, the Tyrolian, is a climber among climbers and the seven summits, although significant, are far from his most impressive climbs.

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Re: Ranking the Seven Summits

Postby RobertKay » Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:49 pm

I have done 8 of the 9 of the 7 Summits and here is my listing from hardest to easiest. Of course all of this is opinion and there is no right answer. In fact I suspect that weather conditions faced on each person's trip will affect where they place each peak in the order of things. Additionally there is more than one route up all of these peaks and that can affect your rating system as well.

Everest. It is very cold, you can't breath, eat or sleep on the summit push and it is a two month trip. It taxes you physically and mentally and people die every year. It may not offer a lot of truly technical climbing but it is Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, and that makes it very special. How can a climber not want to climb the highest mountain there is? The Sherpa people, scenery, history and adventure of the climb are beyond compare. I have failed twice now on this peak but am trying again next year with Altitude Junkies. I have tried both of the traditional routes (South Col with IMG and Northeast Ridge with Altitude Junkies). The place is addictive.

Aconcagua. It is cold and although much lower than Everest, you don't spend enough time acclimatizing. It is also not fun - lots of climbing up scree with big loads and I didn't find it very attractive. I climbed this by doing a traverse from Plaza de Argentina to Plaza de Mulas with Alpine Ascents.

Denali. It's cold, gets a lot of very bad weather, is reasonably high and has lots of crevasses. You also carry and tow a ton of weight. It is spectacularly beautiful and the climbing is fun. I used the West Buttress route and went with Alpine Ascents.

Carstensz Pyramid. I am not a rock climber but I found its rock pretty easy to climb and it never felt scary until the final ridge with the Tyrollean Traverse plus two more smaller gaps to cross. The real crux of the climb is the long long slog through mud, water and jungle getting there along with the near-guaranteed grief you get from the local tribes. IMHO Pat Morrow invented this peak because he was spanked by a non-professional American climber who beat him to be the first to do the 7 Summits. The Euros are entitled to their opinion of how you define Australia, but ask any Australian (I was born there) and he will tell you it doesn't include New Guinea. Just sayin'. We hiked in from Sugapa.

Vinson Massif. The temps vary wildly based on whether or not the sun is hitting you and how much the wind is blowing. I have pics of myself in a t-shirt and also fully bundled up in my down suit. The climbing is not too hard but the weather can make things very serious. It is fantastically beautiful. The real crux is the uber-expensive plane ride. I went with Alpine Ascents.

Elbrus. It is a very different climb because you spend most of your nights in a hotel at the base of the mountain so you eat and sleep well. The climb is really just a long day hike which you can shorten by bringing your skis (it is a pretty easy ski run). Since it isn't that high you don't really do any serious acclimatizing which makes the final push a good workout. The crux of this climb is getting the visa and traveling through Russia without getting harassed by the police. We were stopped and searched three times by cops with machine guns.

Kilimanjaro. This peak's difficulty is more a reflection of your budget. The cheap guide companies get you up and down in 4 to 5 days while the more expensive trips take 7 to 9 days. This makes for enough time for a little acclimatizing and also makes for smaller pushes each day. It is just a hiking trail on most routes. Leave enough time to do a safari and visit the beaches in Zanzibar. I didn't and really regret not doing so. I used Killiwarriors on the Western Breach route. Tanzanian law requires you to use a guide and porters.

Mont Blanc. This is a very subjective member of the 7 Summits. To me Elbrus felt like it was in Asia not Europe so I also did Mont Blanc. This is another great peak for a ski descent but is more technical than Elbrus. There can be some "real" climbing depending on your route. You will stay in huts so leave your tent and big sleeping bag at home. Chamonix is an awesome climbing/skiing/mountain town and is well worth the trouble and expense of getting there. The whole valley is achingly beautiful.

Kosciusko. There is no other way to describe this but very easy. I climbed it from the parking lot in winter and needed less than three hours to summit. I can imagine that navigating would be near impossible in bad weather but that is why there are hotels at the base - just be patient. I first went to the Australian Alps as a teenager. My aunt was driving and without meaning to be impudent I asked her how long until we reached the mountains. She said we'd been in them for several hours. Oops! I thought we were in some rolling foothills and the mountains were still somewhere ahead.

"Dick bass, although he is my countryman, is not a climber as he paid guides and Sherpas and used bottled oxygen to get up his peaks." I wasn't aware that using a guide or failing to have the right genetics to climb above 8,000 meters without oxygen means you are not a climber. I thought that made you smart, eased the tremendous logistics of climbing in very foreign places, taught you new skills and upped your chances of returning alive. Silly me.
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