Climb every mountain

Three to peak   ... Bridie Campbell, Gavin Marshall and Hugh Ward.
Three to peak ... Bridie Campbell, Gavin Marshall and Hugh Ward. Photo: aussie7summits.com

Three adventurers will attempt to conquer seven peaks on seven continents. It's no mean feat, Daniel Lewis reports.

'No, not a single peak," said a grinning Sir Edmund Hillary when he was once asked if he had ever done any mountain climbing in Australia. "But I have been to the top of Kosciuszko."

The first man to conquer the 8850-metre Mount Everest said of his stroll up the 2228 metres of Australia's highest mountain: "I don't regard that as one of my greatest feats."

Everest is legendary for its often deadly difficulty, usually requiring Sherpas, oxygen tanks, ice axes, crampons, ropes and weeks of toil to reach its summit.

Caution must always be taken in any alpine area, but in pleasant summer weather Kosciuszko can be walked up in a day with little more than a cut lunch, a water bottle, some sunscreen and sensible shoes.

It might be a joke as far as the world's mountaineers are concerned, but many of them are still drawn to climb Kosciuszko because it is part of a great mountaineering challenge, the Seven Summits, which involves conquering the seven highest peaks of the seven continental masses.

And, this weekend, another three mountaineers have started out on the long, hard climb to join the exclusive Seven Summits club by taking the short, easy stroll up Kosciuszko.

Blue Mountains couple Hugh Ward, 30, and Bridie Campbell, 35, together with Gavin Marshall, 48, who works for Fairfax Media in Sydney, then plan to do Kilimanjaro (Africa) in July, Aconcagua (South America) in December, Elbrus (Europe) in July 2013, Vinson (Antarctica) in December 2013, McKinley (North America) in May 2014 and Everest (Asia) in April-June 2015.

They set their ambitious goal last year after failing in an unassisted attempt to climb Mt McKinley, defeated by bad weather after two weeks on the mountain.

"Whenever we decide to do something we always kind of go, 'Just how far can we push this?' " Ms Campbell said.

Taking on the Seven Summits not only requires courage, skill and discipline, it requires plenty of money.

Mr Marshall said the Seven Summits would probably cost the group nearly $200,000 each, so sponsorship is welcome.

Simply getting to Vinson in Antarctica or buying a permit to climb Everest is a five-figure exercise.

The trio have a website, Aussie7summits.com, where readers can follow their journey, including this weekend's ascent of Kosciuszko.

Some argue that Australia alone is not a continent, it is part of Oceania, and therefore the highest peak is not wimpy Kosciuszko but mighty Carstensz Pyramid, in the Indonesian province of West Papua. It boasts equatorial glaciers and a height of 4884 metres,

There is a separate Seven Summits list featuring those who have climbed Carstensz instead of Kosciuszko.

Patrick Morrow, a Canadian who was the first to conquer the seven summits of the Carstensz list in 1986, put his ice axe into Kosciuszko when he observed: "Being a climber first and a collector second, I felt strongly that Carstensz Pyramid, the highest mountain in Australasia . . . was a true mountaineer's objective."

SEVEN SUMMIT LEGENDS

First Australian

When Victorian Brigitte Muir, then 38, became the first Australian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1997 , Muir, pictured, also became the 34th person and the first Australian to complete the Seven Summits. Her first peak was Mount McKinley in 1988.

Oldest

Ramon Blanco, born in Spain in 1933, was 42 when he climbed the first of his Seven Summits, Aconcagua, in 1975. He reached his final summit, Kosciuszko, in 2003, aged 70, becoming the 85th person on the Seven Summits list.

Youngest

Aged 15, Jordan Romero became the youngest person to scale the Seven Summits when he conquered Mount Vinson in December last year. That put him 234th on the list. The year before, aged 13, he became the youngest person to climb Everest. Romero, from Big Bear Lake, California, also became the youngest person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro - the first of his Seven Summits - aged 10 in 2006.

First

Dick Bass, an American, became the first person in the world to complete the Seven Summits. Born in 1929, he climbed his first peak, Aconcagua, in 1983 and finished with Everest in 1985, when he became the oldest man to stand on the top of the world.

Fastest

Henrik Kristiansen, born in Denmark in 1964, did the Seven Summits in 136 days in 2008. He reached the top of his first peak, Vinson, on January 21 and his last, McKinley, on June 5.

Slowest

Sherman Bull began with Kilimanjaro in 1959 and finished with Everest in 2001.

Going down

In 2006, Davo Karnicar from Slovenia became the first person to ski down the Seven Summits.

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