One of the biggest challenges in mountaineering is to climb and reach the summit of the highest peak in each of the seven continents. How to define this magnificent seven is not universally agreed. Some people categorise the summits by tectonic continental plates, which alters things slightly and excludes Europe. But the most commonly accepted list is by continent, as is detailed here. Another variation is to include Mont Blanc (4,810 metres) in France and Mount Kosciouszk (2,228 metres) in Australia, because those are more commonly associated with Europe and Australasia than those below. We, however, will stick to their continents’ true highest peaks. Asia: Mount Everest, in Nepal and China (8,849 metres) Officially first climbed by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, the Himalayan peak of Everest is, of course, the highest mountain on Earth. As such, it is seen as a pinnacle of achievement for not only for the best climbers but for those with big pockets and the skill set required. Climbing Everest is a serious and risky task, and is most often done from the Nepali side. It can involve months of waiting and multiple attempts to summit. South America: Aconcagua, in Argentina (6,961 metres) The tallest peak outside Asia, the Aconcagua, in the Andes, was first climbed back in 1897. Although some consider it among the easiest of the seven summits (because of it being a trekking peak with no serious technical mountaineering skills required) many people come unstuck by underestimating it. This is a very physically demanding climb, and does require experience with using crampons and an ice axe – and it is essential to acclimatise. The views from this climb are jaw-dropping. North America: Denali, in the United States (6,144 metres) First climbed in 1913, Denali, in the Alaska Range, is a tough task to take on, even for the most experienced mountaineers. There are two summits, with the south summit being the highest. The climb is very technically and physically demanding, and requires a high level of ice climbing and remote expedition experience. An average of three to five weeks is required for a summit attempt. Harsh weather is a given on this climb. Africa: Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania (5,885 metres) The free-standing Kilimanjaro towers above the plains and is known as “the Roof of Africa”. There are numerous routes up the mountain, and a summit climb usually means five to eight days all in. It’s a physical rather than a technical climb, so is an ideal introduction to mountaineering, and is the most attainable of the magnificent seven. Europe: Mount Elbrus, in Russia (5,642 metres) This extinct volcano has two summits and is found in the remote and rugged Caucasus Mountains, in southern Russia close to the Georgian border. There are two main routes to the summit, with the most popular being the south route. This route has serviced huts and even a chairlift, while the north route is less developed. A typical trek to the summit can take 10 to 14 days. It requires crampons, ice axes and being roped up at times. Harsh and fast-changing weather catches out many climbers on this one. Elbrus was first climbed in 1874 and is considered one of the easier of the summits here, but it’s no walk in the park. Antarctica: Mount Vinson (4,892 metres) Its location 660 nautical miles (1,222km) from the South Pole makes Mount Vinson, in the Sentinel Range, the most remote of these seven summits. Although it’s not a technically demanding ascent in a climbing sense, Arctic survival experience is essential. The most climbed route is from the west, and it usually takes two to three weeks with guides and support. Australasia: Puncak Jaya, in New Guinea (4,884 metres) First scaled in 1962, Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid) may be the lowest of the seven summits listed, but it is actually one of the hardest to climb. Its location in the Sudirman Range, in Indonesian New Guinea, means undertaking a serious jungle expedition just to reach it – and a lot of permits. Once you make it through the jungle, a snowy, rocky and spectacular climb awaits. It requires a good deal of technical rock-climbing experience to summit, and two to three weeks is the minimum time frame.