Chris Weidner is a climber and a columnist with the Boulder Daily Camera. Recently he wrote a thought-provoking column that touched on the goal of climbing the “Seven Summits” — the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. That goal was first accomplished by mountaineer Richard Bass in 1985 (not all that long ago). Since then, over 300 other people have done it.
What is perhaps more impressive, but which got very little notoriety when it was accomplished, was climbing all seven “Second Summits” (the second-highest mountain on each continent). It was only in 2012 that someone managed to get that done — Italian climber Hans Kammerlander. It is generally acknowledged among alpinists that this second group of peaks is much more challenging to climb. K2, for example, the second highest mountain in the world after Mt. Everest, has claimed a far higher percentage of lives than Everest among those who have attempted it. Only 306 people have summited K2, whereas Everest has been successfully climbed by over 5,600 people (as of summer, 2013).
You might never have heard of Mount Logan, a remote peak in northwestern Canada. It is the second-highest mountain in North America. It is no cakewalk to climb — the coldest temperature ever recorded outside of Antarctica was recorded on Mt. Logan: 106.6° F below zero.
Either way, whether it’s the famous Seven Summits or the little-known but more difficult Second Seven, getting to the top of these mountains under your own power constitutes a badass goal.
In his column, Weidner used this mountaineering ambition as a jumping-off place to examine his own Seven-Summit-caliber aspirations. For example, he would like to write a book. But he second-guesses his own writing ability and discourages himself with the view that his book probably won’t sell. So the book remains unwritten.
Our personal badass goal, whatever it might be, will always contain resistance. What makes a goal worthwhile, after all? Our most heartfelt goals include a measure of risk and challenge. The bottom line is not how many other people would be impressed if you accomplished your goal, but how you would feel about getting it done — in other words, how much you would impress yourself. Those sorts of goals, individual as they are, will make any of us feel excited, nervous, audacious, and restless.
What I want to point out here, and what Weidner touches on, is to not let the internal resistance stop you from pursuing your goal. The external resistance will take care of itself. That is, the outer obstacles and difficulties will be clear to see and you can overcome them step by step, just like climbing a mountain. In that respect, the next step to take is usually pretty obvious to you, if you just look at it squarely.
But it is the internal resistance that can prevent you from even trying to figure out what you need to do. It is like a mountaineer who wants to climb the Seven Summits, or even the highest mountain in his state, who refuses to sit down and lace up his boots because he’s afraid he might not get the knot right. Or he’s afraid that his wife will criticize his ambition.
It is never worth it to listen to the fearful voice that tries to dissuade you from going for your dreams. Unfortunately, most people do listen to that voice. They never attempt their Seven Summits. And their lives never go beyond tepid as a result.
In case you’re curious (or if you even want to add this to your life list), here are the Seven Summits:
The Seven Summits
- Mount Everest, 29,035 feet, Asia
- Kilimanjaro, 19,340 feet, Africa
- Carstensz Pyramid (aka Puncak Jaya), 16,023 feet, Oceania (which includes Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Australia, and the Malay Archipelago)
- Mount Elbrus, 18,510 feet, Europe
- Aconcagua, 22,841 feet, South America
- Denali (Mt. McKinley), 20,320 feet, North America
- Vinson Massif, 16,067 feet, Antarctica
And here are the Second Seven Summits, the second-highest mountain on each continent:
Second Seven Summits
- K2, 28,251 feet, Asia
- Mount Kenya (Batian), 17,057 feet, Africa
- Sumantri, 15,978 feet, Oceania
- Dykh-Tau, 17,077 feet, Europe
- Ojos del Salado, 22,615 feet, South America
- Mount Logan, 19,551 feet, North America
- Mount Tyree, 15,919 feet, Antarctica
You most likely know what you need to do to begin accomplishing your major goal(s). It’s just a matter of starting. Like writing a book, sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Once you’re putting some words on the page — one foot in front of the other — it gets a lot more straightforward.
And if you’re a climber, try shopping for the gear you need at Climb High. After all, that’s what most humans want to do — climb higher. Metaphorically or literally.