The Highest Point on Every Continent
As you would imagine, the highest point is found at the peak of the continent’s highest mountain. In mountaineering this is known as the Seven Summits, which was first postulated and achieved on April 30, 1985 by Richard Bass. Below you can see the highest points on every continent compared to the “Eight-Thousanders“, comprising of 14 independent mountains on Earth that are more than 8,000 meters (26,247 ft) high above sea level. All of the eight-thousanders are located in the Himilayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia.
Below you will find a list of the highest points on every continent along with a gallery of each place and pictures of climbers at the summit. Information and factoids on each mountain are provided as well. Enjoy!
North America – Mount McKinley, Alaska
Mount McKinley (or Denali) in Alaska is the highest mountain peak in the United States and in North America, with a summit elevation of 20,320 feet (6,194 m) above sea level. Measured base-to-peak, it is the tallest mountain on land. Measured by topographic prominence, it is the third most prominent peak in the world after Mount Everest and Aconcagua. It is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.
In topography, prominence, also known as autonomous height, relative height, shoulder drop (in North America), or prime factor (in Europe), categorizes the height of the mountain’s or hill’s summit by the elevation between it and the lowest contour line encircling it and no higher summit. It is a measure of the independence of a summit.
- Five large glaciers flow off the slopes of the mountain
- The first ascent of the main summit of McKinley came on June 7, 1913, by a party led by Hudson Stuck and Harry Karstens. The first man to reach the summit was Walter Harper, an Alaska Native
- The mountain is regularly climbed today; in 2003, around 58% of climbers reached the top. But by 2003, the mountain had claimed the lives of nearly 100 mountaineers
South America – Aconcagua, Argentina
Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas at 6,959 m (22,841 ft). It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the province of Mendoza, Argentina. The summit is also located about 5 kilometres from San Juan Province and 15 kilometres from the international border with Chile. Aconcagua is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. It is also one of the Seven Summits.
The mountain and its surroundings are part of the Aconcagua Provincial Park. The mountain also has a number of glaciers. The largest glacier is the Ventisquero Horcones Inferior at about 10 km long, which descends from the south face to about 3600 m altitude near the Confluencia camp. Two other large glacier systems are the Ventisquero de las Vacas Sur and Glaciar Este/Ventisquero Relinchos system at about 5 km long. However, the most well-known is the north-eastern or Polish Glacier, a common route of ascent.
- In mountaineering terms, Aconcagua is technically an easy mountain if approached from the north, via the normal route. Aconcagua is arguably the highest non-technical mountain in the world, since the northern route does not absolutely require ropes, axes, and pins
- The first recorded ascent was in 1897 on a British expedition led by Edward FitzGerald. The summit was reached by the Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen on January 14 and by two other expedition members a few days later
- The youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua was Matthew Moniz of Boulder, Colorado. He was 10 years old when he reached the summit on December 16, 2008. The oldest person to climb it was Scott Lewis who reached the summit on November 26, 2007 when he was 87 years old
Europe – Mount Elbrus, Russia
Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay–Cherkessia, Russia, near the border of Georgia. Mt. Elbrus’s peak is the highest in the Caucasus, in Russia. While there are differing authorities on how the Caucasus are distributed between Europe and Asia, many sources agree that Elbrus is also the highest mountain in all of Europe, or the highest in western Asia, narrowly exceeding another volcano, Mt. Damavand in the Alborz range in Iran. Mt. Elbrus (west summit) stands at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft); the east summit is slightly lower at 5,621 metres (18,442 ft).
- Mount Elbrus has a permanent icecap that feeds 22 glaciers, which in turn give rise to the Baksan, Kuban, and Malka Rivers
- Elbrus sits on a moving tectonic area, and has been linked to a fault. A supply of magma lies deep beneath the dormant volcano
- The lower of the two summits was first ascended on 10 July 1829 (Julian calendar) by Khillar Khachirov, a Karachay guide for an Imperial Russian army scientific expedition led by General Emmanuel, and the higher (by about 40 m—130 ft) in 1874 by an English expedition led by F. Crauford Grove
- From 1959 through 1976, a cable car system was built in stages that can take visitors as high as 3,800 metres (12,500 ft)
- The average annual death toll on Elbrus is 15–30, primarily due to “many unorganized and poorly equipped” attempts to summit the mountain
- In 1997, a Land Rover Defender was driven to the summit, breaking into the Guinness Book of Records
Asia – Mount Everest, Nepal/China
Mount Everest is the Earth’s highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international border between China and Nepal runs across the summit point. Its massif includes neighboring peaks Lhotse, 8,516 m (27,940 ft); Nuptse, 7,855 m (25,771 ft); and Changtse, 7,580 m (24,870 ft).
The highest mountain on the Earth attracts many well-experienced mountaineers as well as capable climbers willing to hire professional guides. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind.
- The summit of Everest is the point at which the Earth’s surface reaches the greatest distance above sea level
- In 1953, a ninth British expedition, led by John Hunt, returned to Nepal. Hunt selected two climbing pairs to attempt to reach the summit. The first pair (Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans) came within 100 m (300 feet) of the summit on 26 May 1953, but turned back after running into oxygen problems. As planned, their work in route finding and breaking trail and their caches of extra oxygen were of great aid to the following pair
- Two days later, the expedition made its second and final assault on the summit with its second climbing pair, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali sherpa climber from Darjeeling, India. They reached the summit at 11:30 am local time on 29 May 1953 via the South Col Route
- On 16 May 1975, Junko Tabei of Japan became the first woman to summit Everest. Tabei and her climbing partner, Sherpa Ang Tshering I, were the 38th/39th unique individuals to complete the ascent
- On 20 August 1980, Reinhold Messner became the first person to reach the summit of the mountain solo. In so doing, he was also the first to solo summit without supplementary oxygen or support, traveling the Northwest route. He climbed for three days entirely alone from his base camp at 6,500 metres (21,300 ft)
- During the 1996 season, 16 people died while climbing on Mount Everest, the highest number of fatalities in a single year in the mountain’s history. Eight of them died on 11 May alone. The disaster gained wide publicity and raised questions about the commercialization of climbing Mount Everest
- By the end of the 2010 climbing season, there had been 5,104 ascents to the summit by about 3,142 individuals
- Apa Sherpa holds the record for reaching the summit more times than any other person, 21 times between 10 May 1990 and 11 May 2011. The record for a non-Sherpa is held by American climber and expedition guide Dave Hahn, reaching the summit 14 times between 19 May 1994 and 26 May 2012
- The youngest person to climb Mount Everest was 13-year-old Jordan Romero in May 2010 from the Tibetan side
- The oldest climber to reach Mount Everest’s summit is 76-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan, on 25 May 2008 from the Nepalese side. Sherchan beat the previous record set in 2007 by 71-year-old Katsusuke Yanagisawa
Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak). Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago, when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded just 200 years ago.
In 1889 Meyer returned to Kilimanjaro with Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller for a third attempt. Their climbing team included two local headmen, nine porters, a cook, and a guide. The success of this attempt, which started on foot from Mombasa, was based on the establishment of many campsites with food supplies so that multiple attempts at the top could be made without having to descend too far. They reached the highest summit on the southern rim of the crater on Purtscheller’s 40th birthday, October 6, 1889
Australia – Puncak Jaya (Carstenz Pyramid), Paupua Province, Indonesia
Puncak Jaya or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m) is the highest summit of Mount Carstensz in the Sudirman Range of the western central highlands of Papua province, Indonesia.
At 4,884 metres (16,024 ft) above sea level, Puncak Jaya is the highest mountain in Indonesia, the highest on the island of New Guinea (which comprises the Indonesian West Papua region plus Papua New Guinea), the highest of Oceania (Australian continent), and the 5th highest mountain in political Southeast Asia.
It is also the highest point between the Himalayas and the Andes, and the highest island peak in the world. Some sources claim Mount Wilhelm, 4,509 m (14,793 ft), as the highest mountain peak in Oceania, on account of Indonesia being part of Asia (Southeast Asia).
- The Carstensz Pyramid summit was not climbed until 1962, by an expedition led by the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer (of Seven Years in Tibet fame, and climber of the Eiger North Face) with three other expedition members – Philip Temple, Russell Kippax and Albertus Huizenga
- When Indonesia took control of the province in 1963, the peak was renamed ‘Puntjak Soekarno’ or Sukarno Peak, after the first President of Indonesia; later this was changed to Puncak Jaya. Puncak means peak or mountain and Jaya means ‘victory’, ‘victorious’ or ‘glorious’
- Access to the peak requires a government permit. The mountain was closed to tourists and climbers between 1995 and 2005. As of 2006, access is possible through various adventure tourism agencies
- Puncak Jaya is one of the more demanding climbs in one version of the Seven Summits peak-bagging list. (It is replaced by Mount Kosciuszko in the other version.) It is held to have the highest technical rating, though not the greatest physical demands of that list’s ascents
Antarctica – Vinson Massif, Ellsworth Mountains
Vinson Massif is the highest mountain of Antarctica, lying in the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, which stand above the Ronne Ice Shelf near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula. The massif is located about 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) from the South Pole and is about 21 km (13 mi) long and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide.
At 4,892 metres (16,050 ft) the highest point is Mount Vinson, which was named in 2006 after Carl Vinson, long-time member of the U.S. Congress from the state of Georgia. Vinson Massif was first seen in 1958 and first climbed in 1966. An expedition in 2001 was the first to climb via the Eastern route, and also took GPS measurements of the height of the peak. As of February 2010, 1,400 climbers have attempted to reach the top of Mount Vinson.
If you enjoyed this post, the Sifter highly recommends: