(DailyExpertNews) — In 1986, American businessman Richard Bass entered the record books by being the first to climb the “seven peaks,” the highest peaks on any continent. On that list are some of the most iconic mountains in the world: Denali in Alaska, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and, of course, Mount Everest.
But mountaineers aren’t the kind of people who just let records rest. For many mountaineers, it’s the seven second peaks — sometimes referred to as the second-highest peak on any continent — that are considered a more significant achievement.
The rest, however, are anything but household names.
Ojos de Salado (“Salty Eyes”) on the border between Chile and Argentina is the highest volcano in the world. Mount Tyree in Antarctica is relatively easy to climb by mountaineering standards, but the challenges of getting to the White Continent and coping with weather conditions mean only a dozen climbers have ever made it to the top.
Only one person has officially climbed all seven of the second peaks, but there’s someone close behind to complete the set. And she’s not what most people think a rock climber looks like — she’s a mother of seven who lives in Utah and didn’t start climbing until she was in her thirties.
Taking up the challenge
Meet Jenn Drummond. Drummond has always been athletic and loves a challenge.
With her 40th birthday coming up in 2020, she decided to take her hiking skills to the next level.
That year, she hired a climbing coach to climb Ama Dablam, a mountain in Nepal.
But after completing it, the coach suggested a new challenge: the Seven Second Summits. “He said, ‘You have seven children, there are seven continents,’ she recalls.
But climbing mountains requires much more than physical training. Covid messed up the whole world — suddenly Drummond had to homeschool her kids, and international border closures made travel impossible.
So far she has climbed Dykh-Tau, Mount Kenya, Mount Tyree and most recently Mount Logan in Canada. K2 is scheduled for summer 2022.
Drummond’s quest to climb the seven-second peaks has become a slightly longer project due to disagreements over which peaks count as the official seven.
If you only think of the continent as the country of Australia itself, the second peak there is Mount Townsend in the state of New South Wales.
But for geographers who consider Australasia and Oceania part of the continent, the second peak is Sumantri in the Indonesian province of West Papua. To make sure her record is unquestionable, Drummond plans to climb both.
Drummond in action climbing Mount Kenya.
because it is there
In an anecdotal story, someone once asked explorer George Mallory why he was so desperate to climb Mount Everest, the mountain that eventually claimed his life.
“Because it is there,” he replied.
While it’s not clear whether Mallory actually uttered those words, they have long been a touchstone for other climbers who struggle to explain why they risk life and limb to climb the world’s most challenging mountains.
Drummond agrees. She likes to climb mountains for the sake of the act. But she also knows that records mean something.
“If I had a Guinness World Record, my kids would think I’m really cool,” she laughs.
She also wants to address some of the inequalities that exist in the small, tenuous world of mountaineering. For years, the image of a mountaineer was someone like Reinhold Messner or Edmund Hillary – bearded, serious, ice-axing white men from Europe or North America.
Mountaineering can be extremely dangerous. People can die from altitude sickness, falls and cold. But it’s not just the mountains themselves that pose challenges.
At the foot of Sumantri, two rival tribes are at war over who owns the rights to the mine there. And the ongoing conflict in Russia has resulted in many airlines suspending flights to the country, meaning Dykh-Tau is difficult to reach.
It is also expensive and time consuming.
Simply getting a permit to climb Everest costs $11,000. That does not include airfare, local transportation, equipment and guide fees.
In addition, it can take weeks or even months to climb some of the world’s highest peaks due to the acclimation process.
For Drummond, a woman on a mountain is an asset, not a weakness.
“There are definitely people who approach the mountains as me versus the mountain,” she says.
“For me it’s so much more of an experience to be with the mountain. When you go into Everest and you’re in the Himalayas, that mountain range is very feminine in my opinion. It’s very loving. It’s huge. It’s beautiful. The people are incredible. They honor life. They pray before they climb the mountain.”
Her climbs have also become a way of bonding with her children, who range in age from 9 to 15. Some have joined her on climbs, while others prefer to hang out on lower ground.
But they have all seen their mother pursue her goal. Drummond has used her mission to motivate the kids in their own lives.
“We’re going to look at Mount Everest,” she says during a homework session, “but first you’re going to do your math.”