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Climbing The 7 Summits

Can You Afford It?


Denali, the highest mountain in North America, reflects in Wonder Lake, Alaska.

It's going to cost a bundle of cash to climb all of The Seven Summits.

Photograph © Steve Bly/Getty Images

You too, if you’re rich enough, can join the exclusive Seven Summits club—those folks, like the great Italian alpinist Reinhold Messner, who have climbed the highest mountains on the seven continents.

Forget about paying your dues and apprenticing yourself to a master mountaineer. If you did that you would spend a lot of time and energy, years in fact, slogging up behind him on all kinds of peaks like Mount Rainier but, of course, you would learn all kinds of essential mountain skills like how to self-arrest, avoid crevasses, take a pee in a tent, anchor and ascend a fixed rope, chop steps, front point up ice faces with crampons, melt snow for water, and the other important skills that you need to stay alive in the high mountains.

No, these days you don’t have to do all that busy work if you’re some dot.com millionaire and you don’t want to put in the time and effort to develop the mountaineering skills and judgment to safely climb and descend the Seven Summits on your own or with your buddies. Instead you can decide, “Wow, it would be so cool to climb the Seven Summits!” and plunk down a fat wad of cash to join a commercial expedition that just might safely short-rope you up and down all of the mountains.

If this sounds like something you—Mr. Rich Guy—wants to do for the bragging rights, then here is a break-down of your basic expenses.

Climbing Guide Fees

    Kilimanjaro, Africa $3,150 (8 days from Moshi, Tanzania)
    Aconcagua, South America $3,700 (20 days from Mendoza, Argentina)
    Mount Elbrus, Europe $4,300 (14 days from Moscow, Russia)
    Denali AKA Mount McKinley $4,800 (22 days from Anchorage, Alaska)
    Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia $18,300 (21 days from Bali, Indonesia)
    Mount Vinson, Antarctica $31,500 (17 days from Puntas Arenas, Chile)
    Mount Everest, Asia $65,000 (71 days from Kathmandu, Nepal)

Total Guide Fees Cost: $130,750

Gear and Clothing

You’re going to need a lot of specialized gear like crampons and ice axe, as well as lots of warm clothes to protect you from extremely cold temperatures that can dip as low as -70 degrees F. In other words, you’re not going to get by with three pairs of shorts, two Hawaiian shirts, a Patagonia rain coat, and a pair of hiking boots from Kohls. Check your guide service for a complete list of your personal gear. I made a basic list of what you'll need and then looked for the best equipment and clothing, budget be damned. Don't skimp on your gear. Remember, you're worth it.

Total Gear Cost: $13,000

Basic Training Courses

Okay, the guides are not going to carry you up any of the mountains so before you go you’re going to have to acquire some basic mountaineering skills and learn how to use all the tools like an ice axe, crampons, and ascenders. The best thing is to take a series of comprehensive courses, which will cost you some serious cash. Again, don't skimp and think you know it all. If you do, better ask yourself how much your life is worth.

Total Training Costs: $5,000

Airfare to Seven Summits

You’re not going to be able to drive to any of the Seven Summits from the United States. Well, maybe you can drive within walking distance of Denali, but for the rest, you’re going to have to fly. And the flights are not going to be cheap since you’re going to fly to your jumping-off point at some of the world's most remote places like Punta Arenas and Kathmandu.

The air prices depend, of course, on how savvy a traveler you are at finding bargain basement airfares; when you’re traveling; and where you’re leaving from. For the sake of expediency, I picked average round-trip airfares to your seven destinations from New York City. The most expensive flights are to Katmandu, Nepal, while the cheapest ones are to Anchorage, Alaska. Most of the fares are between $1,000 and $2,000 and are economy class. Since you’re Mr. Rich Guy though, you probably don’t care what the air cost is and you’re planning on traveling first-class all the way with champagne, pre-cooked chicken dinners, and personal stewardesses. Gotta get all the perks because it isn’t going to be so plush on the mountains.

Total Airfare Costs: $21,500

The Grand Total

So what’s it going to cost you to climb all Seven Summits?

Grand Total Cost: $170,250

Of course, that figure doesn’t include all the other money you’ll be spending on celebratory dinners, trinkets for the kids and wife back home, satellite calls when you’re homesick, taxi rides, hotel rooms, and those oh-so-important tips for your guides. Good luck. Let us know how it all works out for you and where we can cut the budget!

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