FAQ & FGA
Frequently Asked Questions & Frequently Given Answers
About the 7 summits: History, Statistics, the 7th summit and more : What about Kosciuszko, Dick Bass climbed it?
|Q:||Why is Kosciuszko/Mt Cook not on your site, isn't that the highest point of Australia? Dick Bass did not climb Carstensz, why not?
This is the most frequently asked question and there is no clear answer. Although I have my own opinion as you know, I will try to explain why different people have different views about this using facts, my notes and some Q&A's. There is no absolute truth in this and I welcome input on the discussion.
Fact: Dick Bass was the first person to start an adventure known as climbing the 7 summits. He wanted to climb the highest point of the seven continents on earth as defined by the encyclopedia Britannica. He succeeded by means of willpower, being the first person to do so.
Fact: Encyclopedia Britannica gives the following definition of a continent:
"One of the larger continuous masses of land, namely, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia, listed in order of size. (Europe and Asia are sometimes considered a single continent, Eurasia.)
There is great variation in the sizes of continents; Asia is more than five times as large as Australia. The largest island in the world, Greenland, is only about one-fourth the size of Australia."
Fact: The highest point of the continent Australia as defined above is Mt Kosciuszko.
Fact: EB's definition of an island is:
"any area of land smaller than a continent and entirely surrounded by water. Islands may occur in oceans, seas, lakes, or rivers. A group of islands is called an archipelago. Islands may be classified as either continental or oceanic. Oceanic islands are those that rise to the surface from the floors of the ocean basins. Continental islands are simply unsubmerged parts of the continental shelf that are entirely surrounded by water. Many of the larger islands of the world are of the continental type. Greenland (840,000 square miles [2,175,000 square km]), the largest island, is composed of the same materials as the adjacent North American continent, from which it is separated by a shallow and narrow sea. Likewise the world's second largest island, New Guinea (309,000 square miles [800,000 square km]), is part of the Australian continental platform and is separated from it only by the very shallow and narrow Torres Strait. A slight warping of the sea bottom in the vicinity of Torres Strait would be sufficient to join New Guinea to Australia; conversely, a slight rise in sea level may submerge a hilly coast and leave the hilltops remaining as small islands just off shore (such are those off the coast near Boston, Mass., and the islands off the Maine coast)."
Note: by definition this means that an island can be a part of a continent (as is the case with island in lakes and rivers), but that many (larger) islands are considered not to be part of any continent (like Greenland, Cuba, UK or New Guinea etc.)
This also means that all the 'continents' together don't add up to the earths total surface.
Q: If you are copying Dick Bass' achievement, shouldn't you climb the same mountains as he did, whether these are the true 7 summits or not?
A: If I were copying his effort I would do so, but my intention is to climb the highest points of the continental masses, spanning the earth surface.
Q: But Dick Bass climbed the highest peaks of the 7 parts of the world, right?
A: No, he did not. By definition, the total of the continents are not the earth surface as most of the islands are not included. If there was a 6km high volcano in the UK, it would not be considered the European 'summit' by Dick Bass' definition, but I would consider it so. Personally I don't think that you should leave out a large part of the earth's surface if you divide the earth in 7 parts and climb the highest peak on each part
Note: EB also mentions that:
- 'Eurasia is sometimes recognized as being one continent' (encyclopedia.com says that Eurasia is the default, not Europe and Asia.)
- 'The difference between a continent and an Island is arbitrary'
So it seems that you are right when saying that Australasia or Oceania itself not a continent, but New Guinea is not volcanic, but part of the continental platform of Australia...(EB notes that the separation of New Guinea and Australia only took place 8000 years ago by the flooding of the Torres strait)
So now we are stuck with the difference between continents and continental platforms. I prefer the latter, not because it would point out Carstensz as the summit to climb, but it covers all the continental islands in the world, not just the parts that were placed in group A: the continents instead of group B: the islands.
Q: 'But maybe Dick Bass just used the geographical borders? Then Carstensz, being part of Indonesia, is included, but is part of Asia, not Australia or Oceania.'
A: Your claim is right, but in this case there are two new issues popping up:
- first of all Antarctica has no government and has territorial claims from different countries, many of these are not solved by the Antarctic Treaty. So geographically this is no separate continent or depending on where you climb it is part of Europe, North America etc. (By the way, West Antarctica consists of an archipelago of mountainous islands covered and bonded together by ice. Does that mean it's not part of the continent?)
- secondly and maybe even more important: if you take the geographical borders of the Australian part of the world then it includes not only Papua New Guinea and Tasmania, but also New Zealand. The highest peak of New Zealand is Mt Cook, 3764m asl, way higher than 2229m Kosciuszko. But to make things even more complicated: also Papua New Guinea is 'member' of this geographical part, and they have mountains up till 4509m, Mt Wilhelm!
So if you take the geographical borders, than Kosciuszko certainly is not the one to climb.
(see also the CIA factbook for a list of all the high and low points in the world's countries.)
Q: (as asked by a site visitor) "Dick Bass climbed Kosciusko to claim the 7 summits, if Carstensz replaces this are you Harry going to tell Dick Bass he never achieved what he is laying claim to. Will you be able to claim to have climbed the seven summits if you have not been to the highest peak in Australia? Its an interesting issue."
A: Dick Bass did what he wanted to do and it was a great achievement. He has inspired me to do mostly the same as he did, but new insights have led me to believe that my quest for the 7 summits is the real one. There is no absolute truth here though as the 7summits simply have not been defined/or have been defined in different ways if you like, my definition is one of many.
Q: (as asked by a site visitor) "I refer to my Readers Digest Great World Atlas and another wonderful book I have, called 7 Summits Solo by Robert Mads Anderson, and I still agree with Gracie that Mt Kosciusko is the 7th summit. We can drain oceans if we like but it does not make any difference, Australia is the continent, not New Guinea or New Zealand. Incidentally, my Atlas mentions that scientists now believe that 200 million years ago all the continents were part of a super-continent which were split apart by forces from within the earth. So why not pick any seven highest summits that you fancy and climb them.
A: I have Robert Mads Andersons book (great reading!) but I also have other books that have different opinions. I still think that it should be the highest points of the continental masses, so including continental Islands. If you want to divide the earth's surface into 7 parts and climb the highest peaks on each part, I don't think you should leave big chunks of continental mass out, just because there are shallow waters on top of them and someone has decided long ago that these parts of lands are not defined as continents, but as islands.
Encyclopedia Britannica states that New Guinea is part of the Australian continental mass and therefore I think that the highest peak is Carstensz; you are right that New Guinea is not a continent itself as there are only 6 (Eurasia is mostly regarded as one), but it is part of the Australian/Oceanic continental mass; the focus remains on the summits of the continental masses of the earth, not on the continents.
Q: (as asked by a site visitor) "just to further debate as to which peaks are truly the seven to climb, if you refer to the encyclopedia Britannica, guess what? Australia is a continent, not the volcanic islands of Indonesia. they are actually on the continental shelf of Asia it would seem, thanks guys"
A: You would be right, except for the fact that New Guinea is not a Volcanic Island but a continental island and part of the Australian shelf as explained above. I see the point you are trying to make, but think that the original idea of climbing the 7 summits was to divide the surface of the earth into 7 parts and climb the highest points of each part aside from the fact of these parts are continents or not.
Therefore the question is: what is the 7th summit.
Fact: I have opened up a voting booth as I was curious about other people's reactions about this issue question.
On the polls menu you can see the voting button:
What is the 7th summit? Vote!
When you click on it you can choose what you think is the correct 7th summit to climb:
* When I made this booth I was unaware of Mt Wilhelm (4509m), but I guess that any vote for Mt Cook will result in a Mt Wilhelm vote as the reasoning for them being the one will be the same.
Q: (as asked by a site visitor) "I'm afraid that a vote is not really going to work, as the definition of CONTINENT is- a large continuous mass of land. Again new Zealand is not a CONTINENT and neither is Indonesia. This is fact and is really not open to debate or vote"
A: The voting booth is just there because I am curious how other people think about this issue; this is not the first time that it is debated that Carstensz might be the summit to climb or not. I am not asking to vote whether the EB should be updated with regards to their definition of continents, but want to define the 7 summits, independent from what Dick Bass has achieved.
There are clearly different opinions about this issue and I would like to see them translated in a simple poll, that's all. It will not be binding for me, you or other mountaineers as everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
Fact: The latest count showed the following distribution:
Carstensz Pyramid, Irian Jaya 44%
Mt Kosciusko, Australia 27%
Mt Cook, New Zealand 11%
I don't know 5%
I don't care, but this site is cool ;-} 13%
Note: So what do we learn from this?
- There are quite few people that agree with me
- There are about the same number of people who disagree
- Most visitors have an opinion
As you have read, in my definition Carstensz is the mountain to climb, being the highest summit between the Himalayas and Antarctica. I know Dick Bass was the 'inventor' of the seven summits, but Pat Morrow was the first to climb the seven including Carstensz, and therefore he was acclaimed by the mountaineering community to be the first person who climbed the real summits. (see: these lists of both category of climbers) I did climb Carstensz, but I agree that it is no clear-cut case. Long ago someone defined a 'continent', that's a fact, but who will determine what a 'summit' is:
- is it the highest point of a continental mass (then it should be Kosciusko for sure, but that would mean that Europe and Asia would share one summit as they are connected)
- is it the highest point of a continental mass including the surrounding continental islands? Then it is Carstensz for sure; if the sea level would be a bit lower, it would be connected to Australia and not to the rest of Asia.
- is it the highest point of a continental shelf: Carstensz seams to be on the edge of two shelves (quite logically as this is the way most mountains are being formed), but is it on it? Mt Cook, which is higher than Kosciusko probably is on the same shelf as Australia. If not, than the question arises if there are more than 7 summits!
- or is it just the geographical border? Than it should be Mt Cook as Carstensz is part of Indonesia, Asia. Although Carstensz shares it's land mass with Papua New Guinea which is Australian...oh, but wait, Mt Wilhelm is 4509m high...
One thing is certain: Dick Bass is a great mountaineer! He was a creative person that paved the way for people like you and me and he has achieved something great that no man had done before. Although some mountaineers keep mumbling that 7 summiteers are just rich dudes with too much spare time, it is just envy, as mountaineering isn't just about taking the most and dangerous way up a rock and being able to tell the story afterwards, but also a matter of planning, creativity, stubbornness and persistence!
Any input is welcome, please email me or use the feedback form.
Thanks and keep climbing,
Thanks to graciea3182, DavidN and ShirlNZ for joining in on the discussion on the forum. The new 7summits forum is online, please join for a new discussion!