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Title image: Book Reviews

Travel Reading Series

Two Books about the Seven Summits

By Sara Tiffany

Anyone with any interest in mountaineering today has heard of the infamous Seven Summits – the highest point on each of the seven continents. But just 30 years ago, no one had ever heard of such a concept and only a few had even thought about it. No one had achieved the feat. By 1982 however, a number of players had joined the race for the title of the first person to climb all of the seven summits. Two of the front-runners were Dick Bass, a ski resort owner from Texas and Pat Morrow, a young mountaineer and photographer from British Columbia, Canada.

Dick Bass was the first to succeed on April 30, 1985 when he summited Everest. But his accomplishment was met with criticism from those who believed that Kosciuszko on the Australian mainland was not the true seventh summit. On May 7, 1986, Pat Morrow completed his climb of Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia which he and Reinhold Messner believed to be the seventh summit. Bass climbed the seven summits including the highest peak on the Australian continent while Morrow had climbed the same peaks with the exception of Carstensz Pyramid, the highest peak in Australasia. Today the debate about which is the true seventh summit rages on.


Seven Summits


Beyond Everest

To learn more about the seven summits debate and the climbs themselves, I read two books this month. The first is Beyond Everest: Quest for the Seven Summits written by Pat Morrow and published in 1986. The second was Seven Summits: The Quest to Reach the Highest Point on Every Continent edited by Steve Bell and published in 2000. Both books were fascinating and helped me to understand just how difficult these climbs can be. Morrow’s book is a great narrative that details his own experience on each of the mountains and includes a number of his beautiful photographs. Bell’s book includes stories and photographs from a number of different mountaineers all with unique perspectives.

Highlights of Beyond Everest include Morrow’s description of climbing in Soviet Russia and the captivating story of the first Canadian expedition on Everest in 1982. Particularly interesting are the descriptions of organizing the logistics for these large expeditions at a time when infrastructure was not in place. That said, climbing on each of these mountains has changed a great deal since the early 1980s when Morrow was first there, but this past perspective is part of what gives this book its charm.

Bell’s book is a more piecemeal portrayal of the Seven Summits. The large and colorful photographs along with the short individual stories make this a good coffee table book. Each chapter begins with a few pages dedicated to the facts and figures of the climb followed by a few short accounts from mountaineers who have climbed these peaks. It was particularly interesting to hear about the same mountain from totally different perspectives. Often the stories detail different routes or in differing conditions to show just how unpredictable mountaineering can be.

Unfortunately both books are out of print, but you can find copies on or you can try your library. If you’re a mountaineering enthusiast or have Seven Summit aspirations of your own, I highly recommend both of these books.

Climb the Seven Summits with Berg Adventures

For more information about our Seven Summits climbs, select the links below.