Newcomers’ Guide: How to Climb the Seven Summits

Want to give the Seven Summits a try? What skills will you require and how much will each stage cost? Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Order and skills

Kilimanjaro is the best place to begin. It is a relatively simple hike to the summit of Africa’s highest peak. Provided you are fit and healthy, the trek itself won’t present any issues. However, at 5,895m, the altitude is no joke. Climbers need to pace themselves and watch for signs of altitude sickness, particularly if this is their first major peak.

After Kilimanjaro things get more tricky. All six remaining peaks require basic mountaineering skills. Most guiding companies suggest taking a short mountaineering course after Kilimanjaro. North American companies typically suggest a week or more of intensive training in the Cascades in Washington State. Here you will learn crampon, self-arrest, crevasse rescue, ice climbing, and glacier travel skills.


Trekking up Aconcagua. Photo: Shutterstock

Once you have passed a basic mountaineering course, you can head for either Aconcagua or Mount Elbrus. Elbrus is technically more demanding, but Aconcagua is significantly higher, presenting a different set of challenges. Each requires a good level of fitness and basic snow and ice skills.

Next up is Denali. Denali is a dangerous peak and requires more experience and proficiency in basic mountaineering. This is often the first stumbling block for Seven Summit hopefuls. The weather needs to hold and your skills will be tested.

Mount Vinson is next, requiring an expensive journey to Antarctica. At 4,892m, Vinson’s altitude won’t challenge you after Aconcagua. However, cold, wind, and glacier travel will test your fortitude.

Mount Elbrus. Photo: Shutterstock

The hardest of the Seven Summits

Finally, you are left with Puncak Jaya and Everest. Puncak Jaya is left late due to some technical sections that require rock climbing skills, something that is unnecessary on the previous peaks. The short, steep climb requires rappelling and jumar techniques. Historically, the hardest part of the expedition was reaching the mountain. Teams hiked for a week with their gear through the jungle, risking illness, injury, and the occasional run-in with unfriendly tribes. Teams now skip this entirely and go by helicopter straight to Base Camp.

Everest is a completely different challenge. Here the extreme altitude and changeable weather are your biggest worries. The vast majority of Seven Summits climbers lean heavily on Sherpa support, as well as copious supplies of bottled oxygen.

It is worth noting that experienced climbers looking to set speed records sometimes invert this list, starting with Everest.

Climbers ascend the upper Kahiltna Glacier on Denali. Photo: Shutterstock

Price to climb the Seven Summits

As always, prices vary depending on the companies you chose, your climbing abilities, and expedition requirements.

Atlas & Boots recently totted up prices from major guiding companies for all-inclusive trips to each mountain. The average cost for each peak:

Puncak Jaya – $23,480

Everest – $67,486

Vinson – $43,800

Denali – $9,991

Aconcagua – $7,008

Elbrus – $4,800

Kilimanjaro – $5,570

Ten day mountaineering course – $4,000

Total: $166,139

On top of these costs, you’ll need to spend money on climbing gear, clothing, insurance, and international flights. These can add between $10,000 to $30,000.

The summit of Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid), Indonesia. Photo: Shutterstock