Seven Summits – Posted in: My Quest

I began my quest to summit the highest peaks in each continent when I lived in Washington State prior to understanding what it really meant achieve it.

Climbing the North Cascades seemed to quench my mountaineering spirit when living in Washington State even with a vision of the Seven Summits. Only until I arrived in sunny California, thought to be a mistake by a few close friends, did I know this is when the quest would drive forward.

Kilimanjaro: 19,340′, Africa – Completed In 2010

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet. It is located in Tanzania and part of the Kilimanjaro National Park. Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano with its three volcanic cones, “Kibo”, “Mawenzi”, and “Shira”. It is part of the Seven Summits making it a popular destination for many.

Mt Elbrus: 18,510′, Europe – Competed July 2013

Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in Russia at 18,510 feet in elevation and one of the Seven Summits. It is part of the Caucasus Range near the border of Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Mount Elbrus is the tenth most prominent mountain in the world and a dormant volcano with its last eruption said to have been 15-17 centuries ago.

Aconcagua: 22,841′, South America – Completed Jan 2015

Aconcagua is the highest mountain outside of Asia at 22,831 feet. It is located in Argentina in the Andes mountain range with the summit located about 3 miles from the international border of Chile. It is one of the Seven Summits, highest in South America and in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also one of the most sought after in the seven-thousand meter circuit. The mountain was created by the subduction of plates; but it is not a volcano. Although the effects of altitude are severe with only 40% of the air at sea-level at the summit, the use of supplemental oxygen is not common.

Denali: 20,320′, North America – Expedition to West Buttress Ridge In 2011, Expedition June 2016

In the Alaska Range with its rugged chain of peaks, it is home to the most impressive mountains in North America. Denali, standing at 20,310′, is the highest mountain in North America and one of the World’s Seven Summits. It is surrounded by massive glaciers and peaks only 300 miles South of the Arctic Circle and 200 miles East of the Bearing Sea making weather a difficult adversary. Denali offers some of the largest vertical gain of any mountain on Earth with base camp starting after a flight onto the glacier at 7,200 feet.

Mt. Everest: 29,035′, Asia – Survey Expedition Scheduled April 2017 to Everest Base Camp and Lobuche East at 20,075. Planning 2018 / 2019 expedition

The highest mountain on Earth is also known as Sagarmāthā in Nepal. It is part of the Mahalangur mountain range in both Nepal and Tibet, with an elevation if 29,029 feet above sea level. Everest’s summit borders between two countries, China and Nepal.  Check out link to 2017 expedition Survey Expedition Scheduled April 2017 to Everest Base Camp and Lobuche East at 20,075 feet.

Kosciusko 7,313′, Australia – Scheduled Summer 2017

Mount Kosciuszko in New South Wales is the highest peak in Australia at 7,310 feet. It is located in Kosciuszko National Park and one of the Seven Summits, the highest points in each continent. The Australian Alps contain Australia’s only peaks exceeding 6,600 feet in elevation.

Vinson Massif: 16,067′, Antarctica – Planning 2017 / 2018

Vinson Massif is part of the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains in the Antarctica. It’s the highest peak on the continent at 16,067 feet and part of the Seven Summits. Vinson Massif is a mass of rock and ice on the most remote continent on Earth making it also the coldest of the Seven Summits, ironically having the lowest snowfall with high winds. Planning has begun for a expedition to Vinson Massif in the 2017 / 2018 season. Transportation is key thus a introduction email sent in July 2016 to Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC (ALE) whom offers air transportation, logistic support and emergency response for those venturing to the interior of Antarctica. They are the largest and most experienced commercial flight and logistic providers on the continent.

Carstensz Pyramid: 16,023′, Oceania – Planning 2019

Puncak Jaya also known as Cartensz Pyramid is the highest mountain in Indonesia at 16,024 feet above sea level and the highest on the island of New Guinea in the Suridiman Range. It’s considered to some the highest on the continent of Australia/Oceania, not Mount Kosciuszko creating controversy on what should be included as the Seven Summits. This has divided some mountaineers into two separate groups when completing the quest.

Additional Details

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Seven Summits - The highest mountains of each of the seven continents

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Aconcagua: -32.653333, -70.010833
Kilimanjaro: -3.075833, 37.353333
Elbrus: 43.355000, 42.439167
Everest: 27.988056, 86.925278
Kosciuszko: -36.456111, 148.263333
Denali: 63.000000, -151.000000
Carstensz Pyramid: -4.078889, 137.158333
Vinson: -78.525556, -85.617222

The tallest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro is one of the most visited mountains in the world.

Located in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones Mawenzi, Kibo anKilimanjarod Shira all considered dormant. The summit is on Kibo reaching 19,341 feet with the popular months to climb in January, February, July, August and September. The Machame route is the best choice with its acclimatization profile. Compared to other six day routes, this route exposes the climber to higher elevations quicker at day three starting the body’s adaptation to altitude. This route requires that a person be in good shape to be able to tackle the challenging elevation gains and losses.

Itinerary – 6 days / 5 nights

  1. Drive from Moshi to the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park Gate  passing through the village of Machame located on the lower slopes of the mountain. Start the journey at 5,400′ walking a winding trail through the rain forest which can be muddy and slippery on the lower sections. Climb up the ridge until reaching Machame Camp 9,400′ in 7 miles.
  2. Leave the glades of the rain forest and continue upward until crossing a valley. Trek along a steep rocky ridge hidden in heather until the route turns west onto a river gorge arriving at Shira Camp at 12,500′ covering 3 miles for the day.
  3. Leave the Shira Plateau and continue to the east up a ridge, passing the junction towards the peak of Kibo. The direction changes to the South East towards the Lava Tower, aka “Shark’s Tooth.” Shortly after the tower, come to the second junction toward the Arrow Glacier at 16,000′ before starting the decent to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 13,000′. Although the day ends at the same elevation, this day is very important for acclimatization and preparation for summit day. 9 miles for the day.
  4. Leave Barranco Hut and continue on a steep ridge passing the Barranco Wall to the Karanga Valley. At the junction connecting with the Mweka Trail, continue up to the Barafu Hut at 15,000′. At this point, you have completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are to be seen from this position.
  5. SUMMIT DAY – A alpine start at 2am, begin the 3 mile ascent to the summit between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers. Head in a northwesterly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. At Stella Point at 18,600′, stop for a short rest and enjoy the amazing sunrise weather permitting. There may be snow during the final 1-hour ascent to the summit. At Uhuru Peak, you have reached the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. LIFE IS GOOD. From the summit, the steep 7.5 mile descent to the Mweka Hut camp site at 10,000′, stopping at Barafu for lunch. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon.
  6. Leave Mweka Camp for the Mweka Park Gate to receive your summit certificates. At lower elevations it can be wet and muddy so keep rain gear and warmer clothing handy. From the gate, you continue another hour to Mweka Village for a total of 6 miles before the drive back to hotel in Moshi at 5,400′. Be prepared to donate your gear at the end of the climb to the porters.

Good to very good aerobic fitness and be able to carry a medium weight backpack for several hours at high elevation. More details or recommendations will be sent after booking.

Breakdown Cost:

  • Climbing permit: $200
  • Logistics prior to mountain: USD 300 per person two nights before and after trip with breakfast and dinner and logistics to National Park.
  • Kilimangaro climb: USD 2500 per person total including food, tea coffee, guide, and equipment.
  • Summary of total cost for the whole trip would be USD 200 + 300 + 2500 = 3000 per person based on 2 to 6 people.

Locally supported by Highend Trekks SafarisJOHN KARIUKI

HIGHEND TREKKS is owned and guided By JOHN KARIUKI, his team of dedicated, passionate sociable and experienced staff just to make your holiday how you wish it to be. If you are looking for an experienced, affordable and competent guide company that knows, Mt. Kilimanjaro, mt. Kenya and East Africa’s famous parks choose HIGHEND TREKKS to plan and arrange your upcoming dream holiday.

Denali, standing at 20,237′, is the highest mountain in North America and one of the World’s Seven Summits.

It is surrounded by massive glaciers and peaks only 300 miles South of the Arctic Circle and 200 miles East of the Bearing Sea making weather a difficult adversary. Denali offers some of the largest vertical gain of any mountain on Earth with base camp starting after a flight onto the glacier at 7,200 feet. The mountain has experienced a few changes in 2015 including its official name and height. New technology used by the U.S. Geological Survey found that Denali tops out at 20,237 feet, short of the 20,320 feet commonly cited as the summit elevation. It was also renamed Denali the name originally known by Alaska Natives before it was renamed to honor President William McKinley.

The Team

The team of four comes from Cork (2), Copenhagen, and the United States. We first met on Elbrus in 2014 then completed an expedition on Aconcagua the year after. All have equal strength and style critical to any adventure when spending 3 weeks or more sharing a small tent. Couldn’t have put together a better team. Great mountaineers and great friends!

  1. Saturday May 28th – Flying to Anchorage to meet with team. Gear includes 5 large duffels each weighing 50 to 80 lbs each. Will finalize supplies tomorrow then travel in the afternoon to Talkeentna to stay in the Talkeetna Air bunks, the outfit flying  us on the glacier on Monday weather permitting.
  2. Sunday May 29th – Group gear arrived with no issues.  Team made our way to Talkeetna in the afternoon including preparing the gear at the airport hanger.
  3. Monday May 30th  – Woke up this morning to rain as we headed out for some breakfast before our 11:00 am orientation at with the park rangers. After a bit of delay for weather to clear up, we flew out at 4:55 pm to Kahiltna Base Camp 7,200′ on the S.E. fork of Kahiltna Glacier. We are on our way! Planning to leave near midnight to Camp I as glacier is frozen in evening cold.
  4. Tuesday May 31st  –  Arrived to Camp 1 at 7,800′ in the early morning after dropping 600′ on Heartbreak Hill for a net gain of 1200′. First day on the glacier and adapting to the surrounding beauty of the Alaskan range. Gear issues at start but nothing impacting the expedition (with a bit of luck).
  5. Wednesday June 1st – Left Camp I in the late evening up Ski Hill. This hill along with the other “ups” and heavy gear behind us made it a mental grind near the end. Arrived at Camp II at 9,800′ in the middle of the night and set up camp in the extreme cold. We dove into our tents for some rest before moving up to Camp III tomorrow. This will be the first camp we spend a day for a much needed break.
  6. Thursday June 2nd – Left for Camp III at 11,200′ in the afternoon and pushed through a white out as we turned west up the slope to camp. Looking forward to ditching the sleds from this point on. Found old camp offering room for two separate tents. Dug out snow, set up camp then made hot water for dinner.
  7. Friday June 3rd – There was another storm last night so we had to dig out our tents from snow this morning. This will be an acclimatization time spending the next day resting and getting our gear prepared for the next stage of the expedition.
  8. Saturday June 4th – Received another 6 inches of snow over night making the first chore digging our tents out once again. Weather not the best in the morning but with low winds, we decided to cache at 13,500′ via Motorcycle Hill in the afternoon. Stayed at Camp III again and hoping for a move to Camp IV tomorrow. Lots of efforts melting water for dehydrated food and drinking water in the bad weather.
  9. Sunday June 5th – Same weather but good enough to move to Camp IV, base camp at 14,200′. Cached gear and sleds but had trouble getting packs on backs due to extreme weight. Decided to dig out sleds and move up steep slopes and windy corner with the distributed load. Arrived at cache site and choose to spend the evening here in lieu of pushing to base camp. No impact to schedule as we would have came back tomorrow to get cache anyhow. Looking forward to a few days rest at base camp. We are perfectly on schedule and everyone is doing great and engaged in expedition.
  10. Monday June 6th – Awoke to clear but very cold morning. Dug up cache and moved to Camp IV in white out conditions. Hoping to find great site requiring little effort to set up key camp for final stages of expedition.
  11. Tuesday June 7th – What a day to relax! We made it to the half way point of the expedition and well ahead of schedule. Many camps abound including the French, Mexicans, Colorado’s and many others. Planning two rest days but let’s see how we feel tomorrow.
  12. Wednesday June 8th – Decided to cache 3 days supply anyhow at 16,200’ above the headwall as weather was in our favor and the bodies felt recovered. Would sleep back at Camp IV for continued acclimatization. Totally engaged in the daily requirements of the expedition mostly snow melting. Spirits high with final stage set for move to final advanced camp. Once back to camp, received changing forecast, broke stove and spilled dinner in ten minutes. What is going on?
  13. Thursday June 9th – Even with the changing low pressure weekend forecast, the winds were predicted to be less than 15 miles per hour. We decided to make the move to Camp V at 17,200’. We achieved the headwall with our heavy packs (getting heavier due to elevation), but agreed the final push on the West Buttress and exposed ridge around Washburn’s Tower might be to much, we dug out a platform on the ridge thanks to a shovel propped against the rocks at the only spot large enough for a tent. What a spot to spend the evening on Denali all alone!
  14. Friday June 10th – Woke up in the cold morning without the warming sun so far in the horizon. Hard to get hands and feet moving but continued up the exposed ridge onto the main massif of Denali. Took full advantage of fixed protection with extreme exposure all the way to Advanced Base Camp. Arrived in the early afternoon to windy, cold desolate conditions. Set up camp but wiped out with the treacherous autobahn in plain view. We only have a few days supply so the push for the summit must come tomorrow. Much needed rest and recovery over the next 15 hours. Aside from that we are on schedule and everyone is doing really great. Tomorrow is the last day up on this great expedition.
  15. Saturday June 11th – SUMMIT DAY! Planned to leave at 10:30 am with other parties but after melting water in the high altitude, we set off at noon. We traversed the steep face to Denali pass without issue before turning right up a exposed section to the slopes to Archdeacons Tower. Maintaining a good pace, we arrived to the large plateau at 19,400’ aka “football field” before the winds kicked in and fogged up first my googles then my glacier glasses. Without visibility up “Pig Hill” which required vision to kick steps into the steep, icy terrain, I decided eye protection must be disregarded. We ascended the moderate terrain to the crest of the summit ridge before the final 300’ of exposed ridge to the top of North America. The view up was anything but easy but we pushed on in the increased winds and zero visibility. Using the fixed protection to preventing slipping off the edge of the world, I after some time saw floating benchmark on what was the summit of the highest point in North America. What a day in my life! With only fifteen minutes on the summit, we started the long descent to Camp V and arrived back in the middle of the night.
  16. June 12th – We summited yesterday! The weather is good and the team is extremely happy. We’ve headed back down to Camp IV for the night.
  17. June 13th – Woke up early at Camp IV in hopes to make it to base and a flight out that evening. Picked up two caches along the way and felt the “Heartbreak Hill” reputation. At base, missed flight but enjoyed case of Coors Light left for the celebration. One more night on the glacier.
  18. June 14th – Woke up and heard the “Geo’Junga” name for next flight to Talkeetna. Burgers and beer we are on our way!
  19. June 15th – Dried out the gear and made our way back to Anchorage. Life is good!

Lobuche East at 20,075 feet

A survey expedition to the Himalayan peaks for a summit of Lobuche East at 20,075 feet with its rocky east face rising above the Khumbu Glaciers and less than 10 miles from the summit of Everest.


4/13 – Left Los Angeles nearing midnight on China Southern Airlines for 21 total travel time to the other side of the world. Not bad considering how long it took Mallory & Irvine almost 100 years ago.
4/14 – After 15 hours, arrived in Guangzhou, China before our final 5 hour flight.
4/15 – Arrived in Kathmandu in the afternoon 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Once settled at hotel took a walk looking for a vintage ice axe and a bite to eat. No luck on the ice axe and went back to hotel and hung out before heading to bed.
4/16 – Headed to airport to catch 8:30 am flight to Lukla at 9,199 feet (3,440m). What a mess but all ended well with a private helicopter ride above the Himalayan range. More to come on this story. Meet our guide and two porters and after a late lunch trekked to Phakding at 8,562 feet (2,610m and yes down) taking 2 hours as darkness approached. First night is this unbelievable landscape.
4/17 – Left at 7:45 am to today’s hard trek to Namche Bazaar at 11,286 feet (2,804m). Trail bustling with many teams and porters, we stopped after 2 hours in the last small village for some egg noodle soup before the steep ascent to Namche Bazaar. A grind but stopped about half way up for our first sighting of Everest and Lhotse. Unbelievable! Arrived around 1pm in this historical city. Rest day tomorrow aside from a small hike above town to keep the legs going. Life is Good.
4/18 – Namche Bazaar acclimatization day. After a short hike above town for even a better view of the highest point of the world, rested with a beer and a shot of triple cask scotch in afternoon sun.
4/19 – Trekked from Namche Bazaar on a traverse until we dropped steeply to the valley floor of the Dude Kosh river then up again to the Tengboche Monastery at 12,664 feet (3,860m) for lunch and a quick tour of the monastery. Continued another hour and half dropping and then up again to our guest house in Pangboche at 12,930 feet (3930m) with a direct view of Amadablam. Great day and fully engaged in the expedition.
4/20 – Woke up early to a amazing sunrise with mountains all around and Everest peaking above the ridge. Warmed up with a nice fire fueled by yak dung before breakfast. Trekked to Dingboche at 14,271 feet (4350 meters) about half the distance of yesterday and only 2 hours. Looking forward to a relaxing evening and a rest day tomorrow.
4/21 – Today is our final rest and acclimatization day at Dingboche. Woke up early before breakfast to catch the morning sunrise with a hike above town to experience our first view of Lobuche. Snow started to fall in the late afternoon as we look forward to getting back on the trail tomorrow to the village of Lobuche 16,108 ft (4910m) also named for mountain we look to summit.
4/22 – Hit the trail early for Lobuche which I consider the final day of our expedition approach. From the village of Lobuche we are within reach of our 3 climbs including Everest Base Camp, Kalapatthar and Lobuche High Camp to Summit. Stopped in Thukla at 15,153 feet (4620m) for lemon tea before ascending to Thukla Pass where many fallen climbers are memorialized. Arrived in Lobuche 16,108 ft (4910m) in the early afternoon for a full day of preparation for the rest of the expedition. This is where the fun starts.
4/23 – Left Lobuche at 7am for Gorak Shep at 16,994 ft (5,180m). Decided to hang out and have lunch to let the clouds clear instead of dropping our gear and climbing straight through. Stepped on the trail around 11am in route to Everest Base Camp at 17,601 ft (5,365m). The weather was cloudy with light snow most of the way until the first large orange tents came into view about 15 minutes before arriving. The entrance had a large memorial decorated with prayer flags where lots of celebration and pictures were taken. We stepped down to the Khumbu glacier then trekked the entire length of camp which was much larger than expected. As we continued, the Khumbu Ice Fall came into full view as the weather cleared perfectly. We enjoyed watching dozens of climbers work down the ice fall until a few came out of the entrance just below us. What a remarkable day being in the presence of the highest mountain the world! The weather began to change and we turned around and heading back to Gorak Shep which is the highest point we will sleep on this expedition.
4/24 – Decided this morning to head down to Lobuche at 16,108 ft (4910m) for a rest day before starting the summit attempt of Lobuche 20,070 ft (6119m). Plan was to hike up to Kalapatthar at 18,225 ft (5555m) for a closer view of Everest however with the weather questionable and we will get a similar view on the summit ridge of Lobuche, I decided it was best for the team to get an extra day before heading up to Lobuche High Camp at 17,712 ft (5,400m).
4/25 – Woke up to a very cold morning and needed my sleeping bag in the middle of the night. Met the climbing guide in the afternoon then started our climb to Lobuche High Camp at 17,712 ft (5,400m). Expect the tents to be even colder tonight as we wake up for a alpine start at 2am before our final push of the expedition. Our guide who has supported five Everest expeditions with one summit set up a fixed rope on a large boulder near camp for a quick training using a ascender and rappel device which we will need on the summit climb. The Himalayans couldn’t be more beautiful.
4/26 – Woke up at 1am for a 2am start. Night was warmer than expected with the stars brilliant above on our final day upward. Snow and ice was immediate with numerous fixed rope aiding in the step sections with the largest a 80 feet near vertical wall to achieve the top. We continued in the night on the lower ridge with exposure on both sides. Sometimes it is good not knowing what lies below. Got into rhythm with a “rest step dance” with the mountain spirit and in a few hours hints of the coming morning became visible with silhouettes of Everest and Lhotse. We stopped near a large rock to put on the crampons and harness for the first time. A short time later we faced the base of the fixed ropes leading all the way to the summit. We clipped our ascender to the fixed line and started the slow progress up the south face. The great thing with an ascender is if you are waiting on someone above or simply need a break, lean back and enjoy the views. There were about 5 teams heading up together and once at the summit we enjoyed amazing views of the entire Himalayans range. Spent 30 minutes at the top taking pictures and quick snack before heading down. They say the summit is only half way and the trek down required careful footing every single step. Once back we took a break before packing up and heading down to Thokla at 15,153 feet (4620m). After a long nap in the afternoon, got up for dinner and enjoyed the company of the sherpas around a warm stove before heading to bed. What a great day!
4/27 – Left Thokla with the original plan to stay in Deboche but decided to push thru all the way to Namche Bazaar at 11,286 ft (3,440m). This would allow a full days rest before heading to Lukla the day after. Stopped for lunch at Shomoare at 13,152 feet (4010m). Another long day but worth having only one day left on the expedition. Celebrated with a round of beers with the entire team.
4Well deserved rest day in Namche Bazaar. Goal today is to buy a yak bell. Nice!
4/29 – Last trekking day of the expedition from Namche Bazaar back to Lukla at 9,199 ft (2,804m). Pushed thru and arrived before noon to catch a flight back to Kathmandu. Received boarding tickets and ready to go but after a two hour wait, flights cancelled due to wind. Headed to local hotel and enjoyed evening conversation with new friends.
4/30 – Our guide took care of business for first flight out on other airlines from what is regarded as the most dangerous airport in the world. I would compare the operations to an aircraft carrier coming and going at fantastic speeds. Planning to get my first real shower in two weeks and enjoy Kathmandu for the day. Will attempt to get tickets for flight home tomorrow as well.
5/1 – Took the first flight out of Lukla and arrived in Kathmandu early morning. What a ride! No luck changing flight tickets (no problem) and will spend the week enjoying the sites and resting before heading home. Celebration dinner at authentic Nepal restaurant. Life is good!
5/2 – Continued relaxation with walk to the Monkey Palace above the Katmandu valley and dinner with live music. Look forward to coming home with one day left. What a expedition!
5/3 – Walked around the Narayanhiti Palace which is a museum today after the removal of the king in 2007. Enjoyed the real story behind what happened over dinner with our guides including the experience of living thru the 2015 earthquake.
5/4 – End the journey! Flight leaves at 11am with a 21 hour flight time thru China. Arrive home 7:30pm with time change in Los Angeles. Look forward to coming home and start preparing for the next adventure.

If you have any questions or would like to contact me to discuss future climbs, please contact: Jerald Richardson, 626.318.7213 or by email