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

Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam. A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon. He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon. His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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Rob Whittaker
Rob Whittaker
11 months ago

Seven summits takes money,sherpas to do all the dirty work.Stinks of white privlege people🤐So different then during Hillary’s very sad to see the decline of a noble pursuit

Craig Quigley
Craig Quigley
11 months ago
Reply to  Rob Whittaker

Not this Identity politics ‘white privilege’ rubbish. Loads who attempt are Chinese and Indian. Take your virtue signaling elsewhere.

11 months ago
Reply to  Craig Quigley

Congrats Craig Q, you certainly have demonstrated mastery of right-wing put-downs.
But instead of name-calling, can’t you just present your case to the contrary?
For example: Hi Rob, more accurately it would be “rich people privilege”, because a high number of the 7 summits crowd is now from Asia, South Asia and other non-white areas, especially on Everest.

Craig Quigley
Craig Quigley
10 months ago
Reply to  MuddyBoots

I prefer my original response- that’s why I penned it. But feel free to speak for yourself, because I do.

8 months ago
Reply to  MuddyBoots

Where exactly was the name calling? You were virtue signaling. He simply pointed out that you were wrong. Which you already knew by your second response. What was “right wing” about any of that?

11 months ago

.. and then there’s all the unclimbed summits around the world.

10 months ago

Martin’s “about the author” is a hoot to read. A life well lived!

Don Paul
Don Paul
10 months ago

If you’re not a millionaire, then set your goal to be the Seven Seas – seven hard aid routes in Yosemite. Makes the 7 Summits look like hiking.

North Sea – A3+ – Higher Cathedral Rock
South Seas – A3+ – El Capitan
Pacific Ocean Wall – A3+ – El Capitan
Atlantic Ocean – A4 – El Capitan
Electric Ocean – A4 – Yosemite Falls Wall
Sea of Dreams – A4+ – El Capitan
Arctic Sea – A4+ – Half Dome

Last edited 10 months ago by Don Paul
10 months ago

While I’m still recovering from the deep shock and outrageous insult of you leaving out the mighty Mt Kosciuszko / TarGanGil, Martin, I’ll just throw a few things in here: it probably doesn’t matter if you’re being guided, but if doing them independently, then I’d probably do Elbrus before Aconcagua. I’ve never done the former but summited the latter twice, and while it’s very easy, it’s also quite high and cold and easy to get into serious trouble, and abandoned, up high. jumar skills are not climbing skills – how much actual rockclimbing is done on PuncakJaya? having summited Vinson… Read more »