The 7 summits are the highest peaks on each of the 7 continents. There are generally two accepted 7 summits lists – the Kosciuszko and Carstensz lists. Six of the 7 summits that are common on both lists are: North America’s Mt. McKinley, AK (20,320′), South America’s Cerro Aconcagua, Argentina (22,841′), Europe’s Mt. Elbrus, Russia (18,510′), Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341′), Antarctica’s Mt. Vinson (16,050′), and Asia’s Mt. Everest (29,035′). The Kosciuszko list counts Mt. Kosciuszko (7,310′) in Australia as the 7th summit indicating Australia as the 7th continent. The Carstensz list counts Carstensz Pyramid (16,024′) on the island of Papua New Guinea indicating that Australia, New Zealand, and all the indonesian islands are considered the 7th continent called Oceania. Carstensz Pyramid is quite more difficult to climb than Mt. Kosciuszko because of its approach, permits, elevation, and technical rock difficulty thus making the Kosciuszko list easier to complete. Kristine and I are initially targeting to complete the Kosciuszko list but would love to someday climb Carstensz Pyramid to complete the Carstensz list as well.
Opinions on how the 7 summits rank in difficulty are as different as the mountains themselves. However, the obvious general consensus on the most difficult 7 summit is undoubtably Mt. Everest. In terms of elevation, length of climb, glacier and crevasse travel, money, permits, and logistics, Everest has it all. Denali is likely considered the second hardest 7 summit to climb with its length of climb, glacier travel and sub-arctic weather making it a cold, dangerous mountain and difficult summit to attain. On the Carstensz list, Carstensz Pyramid would likely be the 3rd most difficult 7 summit while on the Kosciuszko list, Aconcagua is likely considered the 3rd most difficult because of its high elevation, length of climb, and notorious high winds. On the Kosciuszko list, the remaining 7 summits would most likely be Vinson, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, and then Kosciuszko in decreasing order of difficulty. On the Carstensz list, the remaining 7 summits would most likely be Aconcagua, Vinson, Elbrus, and then Kilimanjaro in decreasing order of difficulty. All in all, the difficulty of the 7 summits largely depends on each individual’s own ability and actual experience on the specific mountain.