Could you climb the world’s seven summits?

Ascending a mountain could be the perfect physical and mental challenge once lockdowns end, says Sarah Marshall.

Both mentally and physically, climbing a mountain is a form of release and a challenge promising great rewards.

In 1985, Richard Bass and his climbing partner Frank Wells successfully completed their goal of summitting the highest mountain on each continent, setting a benchmark for generations of avid climbers to come.

“Reaching the top of the ‘seven summits’ is considered a mountaineering challenge,” says Dan Stretch, a Global Rescue Operations Manager based in Nepal. “Now climber attitudes are peaking with it looking likely some summits might be open for 2021. All of the big mountains, except Mount Kilimanjaro, had no season last year, making local economies and expedition companies keen to restart.”

For anyone eager to stretch their legs, here’s a guide to the world’s top cloud ticklers.

Denali, Alaska, USA Originally known as Mount McKinley, until Barack Obama officially restored its original native name in 2015, this snow-capped mountain is a highlight attraction of Denali National Park – a vast tract of wilderness in Alaska. Every year, ambitious climbers attempt the 18-day ascent.

“We are proceeding cautiously, with a few important caveats,” says Maureen Gualtieri, the mountaineering public information officer for Denali National Park and Preserve. “On the mountain, there will undoubtedly be some protocol changes, and the rangers are putting together those plans now.”


Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania Giraffe and elephants wander close to the foothills of this dormant, three-coned volcano, which is the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

Multiple travel companies can arrange tours, which take between five to nine days, depending on weather; January, February and September are regarded as the best months. Of all the seven summits, this is the one most people can realistically conquer – but don’t expect a walk in the park. It’s still a challenging trek and altitude sickness means many don’t make it to the top.

Mount Everest, Nepal The tallest mountain in the world attracts both crowds and controversy. Who can forget those images of climbers queueing to reach the peak as if they were lining up at a supermarket check-out? All to pay a £33,000 bill – which is the amount you’d need to stump up to make the climb.

Climbing expert and Mount Everest chronicler Alan Arnette predicts record crowds, deep discounts and heavy publicity once the pandemic is under control. “This could encourage another 2019 with inexperienced clients, unqualified guides and overcrowding,” he laments.

Mount Kosciuszko, Australia Thanks to its ski resort, access to this mountain is relatively easy. “It’s a drive, a ski lift and a hike for a few hours and you’re there,” says Gordon Janow, from Alpine Ascents, who has led expeditions to all seven summits. Pick up the scenic chair lift in Thredbo to the walk start point of a trail winding above Lake Cootapatamba, Australia’s highest lake.

A 13km return, the trip should only take about five hours. There are no permits required, although park entry is around £10 and the chair lift costs £15.

Mount Elbrus, Russia Summer is the ideal time to climb this dormant volcano located in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, in the Caucasus Mountains. Although it requires training, stamina and good weather, Europe’s highest non-technical peak is achievable for most. But beware: at the summit, there is 50% less oxygen than at sea level.

“Last summer, the mountain was open by the end of the season, with a lot of Russian climbers. Hopefully, with the vaccine and improved political relationships, the mountain will be open again in summer 2021,” says Mark Gunlogson, president of Mountain Madness.

Mount Vinson, Antarctica Rising around 1,200km from the South Pole, this icy, remote mountain was first spotted by air in 1935, although people didn’t start hiking until the 1960s. Although easier than some of the more technical summits, its location makes it extremely challenging. Nevertheless, organised tours still operate.

“The Mt. Vinson climbing season runs from late November to mid-January,” says Nick Lewis, mountain operations for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. The company, who are planning to run tours in 2021, say they have already received a lot of interest – particularly for a trip planned to coincide with the December eclipse.

Aconcagua, Argentina Part of the Andes, in the Mendoza region, this is the highest peak outside of the Himalayas. Although scaling the summit does require some training – and a substantial amount of cash – it is achievable and takes up to two weeks.

Most people use the nontechnical ‘Normal Route’, although altitude sickness can be extreme. High winds and frequent storms are another risk.