40 years, Australia
From 2005 to 2008, while working as a mountain guide, I mainly focused on the program of the Seven Summits, which consists in climbing the highest peaks of every continent of our planet. During these 4 years I have done this program twice and today I want to share with you their experiences and answer questions such as how much money and time is required by an ordinary person to become a member of the honorable 7 Summits Club.
In this review, I will not talk about such options as solo-climbing, climbing without a guide and in the economy version. I think that climbing with a guide is the only viable option in the case of the 7 Summits. I will also not consider variants with private jets, and attempts to break the current speed record. My version regards physically healthy person who does not have any climbing experience at all, or has a purely symbolic commercial climbing experience in the Alps, or the Cascades, or the Carpathians, etc.
Normally, Mount Everest causes the greatest concern between humans. Many people think that to climb it, you have to be a perfect athlete with a solid high-altitude climbing background and even this does not give an absolute guarantee of success. And yet, this is not true. Modern climbing equipment, infrastructure, professional support team of mountain guides and climbing sherpas makes this task quite doable even for people with a complete lack of climbing experience. Take a look at the statistics: every year from 300 to 500 people climb the highest point of the planet, most of whom do not have the exciting climbing background. I personally know a few people who climbed Mount Everest on the first try. And it was the first mountain in their climbing resume!!! As a rule, success rate among athletes is even lower than that of ordinary people in connection with the fact that athletes often try to climb Mount Everest alone (on their own), without oxygen, or via a more complicated route. That is why the probability of recreational climb to Mount Everest is lower than that of a tourist in the framework of well-dressed commercial expeditions (or guided tour).
If you ask me whether an ordinary person within the guided tour with no experience can climb the Everest, I will tell you yes. But this does not mean that I encourage everyone to give up their business and run to climb Mount Everest. Naturally, the more experience you have - the better. But if you don’t - no worries. You’ll have enough time to fully get it, because not all mountains from the 7 Summits list as difficult as Mount Everest. You can start from the easiest one and gradually increase the level of difficulty then.
By this way, we’re ready to start planning our schedule. What mountains to start from? Not from the Everest, for sure. You can follow the rule "7 Summits easiest to hardest", but in general, this rule can not always be aligned with schedule of your vacations, as well as with climbing seasons. My advice is to start with the closest and easiest mountain to your location. For instance, if you live in North or South America, you may find it easier to start with the Aconcagua rather than Mount Kilimanjaro. I also do not recommend starting with Mount Denali because this climbing may definitely discourage you from the desire to finish your 7 Summits adventure. Leave the Denali for the end. You better start thinking about it after climbing the first half of your Seven Summits list.
From my own perspective, Mount Kilimanjaro is the perfect mountain to start from. You do not require investments in expensive climbing equipment, you do not require such climbing skills as walking on crampons or abseiling. Ascent to Kilimanjaro will give your body an excellent understanding of what a lack of oxygen is and how to deal with a high-altitude sickness.
Then you can try to climb Mount Aconcagua. This mountain will make you practice the application of the acquired skills in terms of dealing with high-altitude sickness, but not as part of a 6-day climb, but as part of a full-scale 3-week expedition. In addition, you will have the chance to acquire experience of walking on crampons.
Mount Elbrus is a good continuation of your 7 Summits adventure. It is lower than Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Aconcagua but advanced climbing skills will be required.
Advanced climbers leave Kosciusko for the last part of the 7 Summits schedule as you can manage it by riding a bike or even with a two-years old child between your hands. To be frankly, it is too easy to pay attention to, at least before you climb the Everest(or at least the Denali).
We left a part the Denali, the Vinson Massif and the Everest. I would start from the Denali just because it fits easiest your schedule in addition to the fact this climb will give you the opportunity to get ready to Antarctica and Himalaya cold weathers. After all, after climbing the Denali, you will be ready for the Everest a well as for the Vinson Massif. Normally, after climbing the Everest, people simply are out of excuses not to spend enormous amount of money to climb in Antarctica.
I have pledged to implement the program of 7 Summits from 3 to 5 years. On average, people have time to climb no more than one or two mountains per year. In addition, climbing seasons of the mountains like the Denali and the Everest are identical, which means that you will not be able to go in the same year. Unless you just do not play these games when getting acclimatized on Mount Everest, you will immediately fly to climb Mount Denali. By the way, this is how speed records are established. The current is less than a year. In addition, long expedition fit harder into your schedule. It is much easier to plan a 6-day climb to Kilimanjaro than a two-month climb to Mount Everest.
Now let's talk about the main thing: the price. Key factors influencing the cost are air tickets, climbing equipment and clothes, as well as the cost of guided tours..
On the 7 Summits equipment you will need about $9 000 USD. It makes no sense to try reducing it, because your life and health depend on it. As a rule, all camping equipment is provided by a tour operator. All positions exceeding $100 USD, are divided into relevant categories of our 7 Summits hardware list (price is approximate):
All the other little things, such as sneakers, headlamps, thermoses and etc. can cost you about $500 USD. If you're curious, you can look at a sample gear list for climbing Mount Elbrus and it will provide you almost a complete understanding of the cost.
You will need 6 intercontinental flights, each of which will cost about $1 500 USD. So you will have to spend $9 000 USD on the tickets.
Assuming that you always choose the cheapest offer of the market, you will need at least another $100 000 USD to cover the guided tours cost. But as usual, people get familiar to a particular provider, and rarely go with another one. Below I will give the lowest current rates and the duration of the guided tours, which I found among the 6 key tour operators. For your convenience, I classified all the 7 Summits in order of difficulty:
|Mountain Name||Popular Route||Elevation||Climbing Seasons||Average cost of a guided tour||Duration of Climb||Activity Level|
|Kilimanjaro||Marangu Gate||5 895 m / 19 341 ft||All year round||$3 000 USD||6 Days||Moderate/ Challenging|
|Aconcagua||Normal Route||6 962 m / 22 831 ft||15 Nov - 1 Mar||$3 500 USD||17 Days||Challenging|
|Elbrus||South Normal Route||5 642 m / 18 511 ft||1 Jun - 30 Sep||$800 USD||7 Days||Challenging|
|Denali||West Buttress||6 195 m / 20 325 ft||15 Apr - 31 Jul||$8 000 USD||3 Weeks||Tough/ Extreme|
|Everest||via South Col||8 848 m / 29 029 ft||1 Apr - 15 Jun;
1 Sep - 31 Oct
|$42 000 USD||2 Months||Extreme|
|Vinson Massif||Normal Route||4 897 m / 16 066 ft||15 Nov - 15 Feb||$32 000 USD||17 Days||Challenging/ Tough|
|Kosciusko||via Thredbo||2 228 m / 7 310 ft||01 Nov - 30 Apr||$0 USD||1 Day||Easy/ Moderate|
By this way, the sum of all the numbers will be at least $118 000 USD and 3 years, from which 22 weeks will be spent directly in the mountains (154 days, 1/7 of the time). This is the ideal option, but you need to be prepared for the fact that not every mountain can be climbed at the first try. Respectively, time and cost will increase proportionately. On average, I would advise you to consider 5 years and about $150 000 USD on the implementation of the program.
By the way, your adventure does not end after the completion of the program the 7 Summits. You can extend it to start collecting other mountains from the list of the 7 Volcanoes, the Second 7 Summits, the 7 Second Volcanoes and so on. Keep in mind that there are plenty of other popular mountains and you can see a list of them in such articles as "Top 10 Most Guided Mountains in the World and Why", "Top 5 Most Expencive Summit Trips in the World", or "Classification of Guided Climbs".
And by the way, you can always take a shortcut and go, instead of the 7 Summits only to 5 of them, leaving Mount Everest and Vinson Massif to those who can afford to pay for them for $40 000 USD for each.
By the way, thanks to the project www.mountainplanet.com these numbers can be reduced, because the platform allows you to negotiate directly with a guide and exclude tour-operator margins from your expenses. The platform also gives you the advantage to rent equipment from fellow climbers for affordable price.
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