[This section of the website on the Volcanic Seven Summits remains under development.]
It is clear that the challenge of climbing all of the Volcanic Seven Summits is becoming more popular. No-one had climbed them all before 2011. Even as of January 2019 when I first created this page, only 19 people had claimed to have done so. However, the numbers attempting the challenge are growing and I anticipate ever increasing numbers. There are now 28 claimants.
You can no longer be the first. The increasing popularity of this challenge is therefore shown by those who now claim to be the “oldest” or the “youngest” to have completed the Volcanic Seven Summits, or the oldest or youngest to have completed the Seven Summits/Volcanic Seven Summits combo, or even the first twins. Expect also to see those who have skied to the North and South Poles and completed other challenges.
With increasing tensions surrounding relationships between some countries and Iran together with the current Ukraine/Russia conflict, the growth in numbers of V7S completers may well reduce going forward. That is if they have not already climbed Damavand or Elbrus. Time will tell.
The Volcanic Seven Summits
Other parts of this website contain blogs on the seven volcanoes that are regarded as the highest on each of the seven continents.
They are listed here in the order that I climbed them.
Kilimanjaro – Africa (5895m/19341ft).
Kilimanjaro is probably the best known of the volcanoes. Every year thousands climb it and, overall, is probably the easiest even though it is the second highest of the seven. It is also the fourth most topographically prominent peak in the world and one of the Seven Summits.
There are no technical difficulties with most routes to the summit. But at only just over 100m below 6000m it is a high mountain. Altitude is probably the factor that defeats most who do not manage to summit. Around 35% of climbers fail.
There are six or seven routes commonly used which take between five and nine days. On my climb I went on the Lemosho Glades route and spent seven nights on the mountain, including one on the descent.
The mountain contains three volcanic cones – Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo. Kibo is now the highest and the high point, Uluru, is situated on its south west side. There are no recorded historical eruptions. But Kilimanjaro is not extinct. Indeed, within the Kibo crater there are fumaroles and an ash pit which is new in geological terms. The ash pit has a diameter of around 400m and is around 150m deep.
Mount Giluwe – Australasia/Oceania (4368m/14331ft).
I climbed Mount Giluwe in 2014 in the middle of a holiday in Australia. At the time I could find only one (Australian) commercial outfitter who could organise the trip. They wanted too much money for the privilege, so I organised it myself.
My local guide told me that only between 10 and 20 climb the mountain each year. With the increasing popularity of the V7S there will now be more ascents. And commercial operators are now in on the act. But it will still be the second least climbed mountain of the seven.
It is still quite easy to organise independently and can be made into quite a cultural experience. It vies with Kilimanjaro for being the easiest of the volcanoes to climb, though the logistics are less straightforward.
Giluwe is the only one of the seven volcanoes that is a shield volcano albeit this was formed over the remnants of an even older strato-volcano. Being in the tropics, the mountain has an annual rainfall of around 2.5m. It is also only one of three tropical volcanoes that has experienced sub-glacial eruptions. The other two are Kilimanjaro and Mauna Kea.
The last eruptions occurred between 220,000 to 300,000 years ago.
Pico de Orizaba – North America (5636m/18491ft).
Orizaba is the third highest mountain in North America. It is almost the classically shaped strato-volcano and is the seventh most topographically prominent peak in the world.
It is quite a popular climb with the usual route going from the Piedre Grande Hut via the Jamapa glacier. Summit day can be made a little easier by camping 300m to 400m higher (as I did) where there are some tent platforms cleared in amongst the rubble.
The summit has a spectacular crater. The last major eruption was in 1846.
Ojos del Salado – South America (6893m/22615ft).
The highest of the seven, the second highest mountain outside Asia and the 44th most prominent peak in the world. This is a massive strato-volcano on the Argentine-Chilean border and in the Atacama desert.
Most ascents are tackled from the Chilean side. This is largely because you can drive to base camp at 5255m and, in certain conditions, up to top camp by the Tejos Refuge at 5825m. The approach from the Argentinian side requires a multi-day trek carrying tent and provisions, with potable water not always easy to find.
Acclimatisation is the key to this climb. Other than a low key rock climb up on to the summit block, the ascent above the Tejos Refuge is normally a slog up interminable scree.
The mountain is now climbed regularly. Other than the altitude, it is the winds that tend to defeat climbers.
There are no records of major eruptions. However, there is some evidence of recent minor activity and an unconfirmed report of a minor gas and ash eruption in 1993. The last major event seems to have occurred around 1,000 to 1,500 years ago.
Damavand – Asia (5610m/18406ft).
Damavand is a beautiful strato-volcano located within sight of Tehran and, on a clear day, the Caspian Sea. As with four of the other volcanoes it has significant prominence. It is the 12th most prominent peak in the world. Like Elbrus, Damavand stands proud of a surrounding non-volcanic mountain range, in this case the Alborz mountains
It is a very popular climb for Iranians. Again it is not a technically difficult climb. The summit has a small crater and there is a large active fumarole near the summit. On the most popular, southern approach gases seep from the ground on the approach to the top. I remember the gases swirling around my lower legs at times.
The height is sometimes given as 5670m on local maps.
No historically recorded eruptions have happened at Damavand despite the fumarole. The last eruption occurred around 5300BC.
Elbrus – Europe (5642m/18510ft).
Elbrus is a massive double topped strato-volcano that rises just to the north of the main Caucuses chain. It is the highest volcano in the northern hemisphere – though see the discussion below – and the 10th most prominent peak in the world. Most ascents occur on the south side where cable cars and/or chairlifts can lift you to almost 4000m. And, if desired, a snowcat can take you up to just over 5000m.
The north side is a completely different experience being more remote. It involves stays at three camps and a 1700m summit day.
The climb is not overly difficult if you are familiar with the use of ice axe and crampons, though the summit day on the north side is a long, hard one due to the elevation gain and altitude. The weather can be fickle at any time of the year.
It last erupted around 50AD.
Mount Sidley – Antarctica (4285m/14058ft).
Mount Sidley is one of the most remote mountains on earth. It is located in the Executive Committee range of Mary Byrd Land and was only first climbed in 1990.
The only feasible way to reach its base is to use the services of ALE, or to be a part of a scientific expedition that happens to be passing.
As with any Antarctic mountain this is a cold climb and is subject to the vagaries of the weather. Technically it is not too difficult a climb though there is some crevasse risk. But it is necessary to set up an intermediate camp. This will require either a load carry or hauling supplies behind you on a sled.
It last erupted around 4.7 million years ago. There is more information on Mount Sidley in the blog here.
What is a volcano?
The answer to this question is not obvious.
The Smithsonian Institute (for a link see below) has the following definition:
“a volcano is an accumulation of explosively or effusively erupted materials originating from single or multiple vents or fissures at the surface of the Earth…”
It goes on to describe “features [that] range from individual vents (measured in meters) through volcanic edifices (measured in kilometers or tens of kilometers) to volcanic fields (measured in hundreds of kilometers)”.
That guidance would include as a volcano sites of volcanic activity that have no or little prominence. If one accepts this guidance, then Damavand would not be the highest volcano in Asia. Instead, the title would go to Ka-er-daxi (also known as Vulkan) at around 5810m that is located within the Kunlun volcanic field on the Tibetan plateau. The issue here is that this feature has a prominence only of about 120m.
So convention has developed that “volcanic summits” must refer to volcanic mountains, rather than minor eminences from the surrounding land form.
The other question that has vexed me is the classification of a mountain that once would have been properly called a volcano but where passage of time has eroded away all of the volcanic matter so that you are back to the original land form. Can a volcano cease to be a volcano? I ask this question in this blog.
The Australasia/Australia debate
So what is a continent? With the Seven Summits there has been a healthy debate as to whether Carstensz Pyramid or Mount Kosciuszko should be included. It all depends up your definition of “continent” I suppose.
If you view the landmass of Australia as your continent, what would replace Mount Giluwe? I looked at this question in this blog. And the answer? Well you will have to read the blog.
What is a continent?
To continue the theme, how do you define your continent?
Strictly speaking Iceland in the west to the Kamchatka peninsula in the east are on the same Eurasian tectonic plate. If the major tectonic plates are to define continents, then Elbrus (or possibly Ka-er-daxi/Vulkan) is the volcanic summit and one would knock Damavand off the list.
North and South America are all part of the same landmass. So do we lose Pico de Orizaba? It would be a shame if we did.
There is a cogent view that (assuming one regards Europe and Asia as two continents) one should not regard the traditional dividing line along the Urals watershed as where the two continents meet. After all the divisions between the Americas and between Africa/Asia are at low points and not along the spine of mountain ranges.
Instead the Kuma-Manych depression to the west of the Urals is, arguably, the more logical division line. If that were adopted, Elbrus would now be in Asia and Asia’s highest volcanic mountain.
And where would that leave Europe? Mount Etna at 3323m would become Europe’s highest volcanic mountain.
I have blogged about this here. There are 11 mountains that have a claim to inclusion in a list of the Volcanic Seven Summits.
One of the first people to highlight the Volcanic Seven Summits and the challenge was Amar Andalkar in 1999. He has a good website here (although he has not updated it for many years). It is well worth a read for historical context.
Wikipedia has a page on the Volcanic Seven Summits here. And for those who would like a lot more detail on volcanoes more generally the Smithsonian Institute runs a Global Volcanism Program site here.
In March 2021 Alan Arnette interviewed Dave Roskelley about his experiences climbing both the Seven Summits and the Volcanic Seven Summits with an emphasis on the latter:
For a media savvy volcanologist, take a look at Janine Krippner’s website. There’s a lot of good information there.
A book by Adrian Rohnfelder contains some stunning photography of the Volcanic Seven Summits – see here.
My last blog about V7S completers as at May 2022 is here. However, there is one further completer as of September 2022 and I set out the updated table of completers below. I am anticipating further completers imminently.
Note that in placing names in my list of completers I take claims on trust. I started the list as a mere matter of interest because of my clear interest in the V7S project. However, as the only public source of information on V7S completers (so far as I am aware), the project has taken on a bit of a life of its own. As far as I am concerned nothing particularly rides on the appearance of any individual in the list. I do not seek to monetise the information and, if listed individuals seek to do so, then that is a matter for them.
I do not have contacts with a good proportion of the people in the list and I do not ask for photographic, GPS or witness evidence of ascents of each summit unlike, say, Guinness World Records. Where I have had doubts I have indicated this subtly (perhaps too subtly) via the links associated with the names in the list. For the moment I will continue with this practice.
|Climber, nationality and age at completion||Date of Final Summit||Final summit|
|1.||Mario Trimeri (Italy) (58)||24th January 2011||Mount Sidley|
|Crina "Coco" Popescu (Romania) (16)||24th January 2011||Mount Sidley|
|3.||Vyechaslav Adrov (Russia) (50)||18th January 2013||Mount Sidley|
|4.||Aleks Abramov (Russia) (47)||13th September 2013||Mount Giluwe|
|5.||Olga Rumyantseva (Russia) (36)||9th December 2013||Ojos del Salado|
|6.||Vitaliy Simonovic (Russia) (42)||19th December 2013||Ojos del Salado|
|7.||Francois Bernard (Fr) (49)||17th January 2014||Mount Sidley|
|8.||Sophie Cairns (UK) (32)||10th June 2014||Elbrus|
|9.||Paul Nicholson (Canada) (54)||5th December 2014||Ojos del Salado|
|10.||Liana Chabdarova (Russia) (28)||12th January 2015||Ojos del Salado|
|11.||Andrey Filkov (Russia) (49)||16th September 2015||Damavand|
|12.||James Stone (UK) (59)||14th January 2017||Mount Sidley|
|13.||Daniel Bull (Australia) (36)||27th April 2017||Ojos del Salado|
|14.||Katie Sarah (Australia) (49)||14th January 2018||Mount Sidley|
|15.||David Hamilton (UK) (56)||10th February 2018||Ojos del Salado|
|16.||Theodore (Ted) Fairhurst (Canada) (71)||9th December 2018||Ojos del Salado|
|17.||Vladislav Lachkaryev (Russia) (42)||15th January 2019||Mount Sidley|
|Satyarup Siddhanta (India) (35)||15th January 2019||Mount Sidley|
|Sándor (Sanya) Tóth (Hungary) (41)||15th January 2019||Mount Sidley|
|20.||Vaughan de la Harpe (South Africa) (63)||18th January 2020||Mount Sidley|
|Arthur Marsden (South Africa) (58)||18th January 2020||Mount Sidley|
|Oleg Mezentsev (Russia) (39)||18th January 2020||Mount Sidley|
|David Roskelley (USA) (51)||18th January 2020||Mount Sidley|
|24.||Yousef Al Refaie (Kuwait) (24)||22nd December 2021||Mount Sidley|
|25.||Jarryd Commerford (USA/UK/IRE) (35)||9th January 2022||Ojos del Salado|
|Robbi Malandreniotis (UK) (44)||9th January 2022||Ojos del Salado|
|27||Delia Zanoschi (Romania) (33)||29th May 2022||Damavand|
|Iulia Zanoschi (Romania) (33)||29th May 2022||Damavand|
|29||Fahd Abu Aisha (Egypt, of Palestinian heritage) (32)||13th September 2022||Mount Giluwe|
|30||James Allen (Australia/NZ/UK) (49)||21st September 2022||Mount Giluwe|
Finally, the website explorersweb.com published in January 2020 a short piece on the Volcanic Seven Summits:
I have written a blog on the costs (as at May 2020) of attempting the V7S challenge which you can read here.
More on volcanoes
I have created two lists.
The first is a list of the top 50 highest volcanoes in the world. You can find that via this link.
The second is a list of the 50 most prominent volcanoes in the world. You can find that list via this link.
So when I find a moment I will update this page and consider:
- other volcano challenges.
- any other issues that readers of this page (if any!) may have.
And for some amusement I did a blog on the British volcanic seven summits which is here.