The 7 Summits Challenge
The 7 summits challenge will see Damian attempt to scale the highest mountain peaks on all seven continents between July 2018 to May 2020. First achieved by Richard Bass (USA) on the 30th of April, 1985, the 7 summits challenge has become noted as a mountaineering and exploration accomplishment.
Technically Damian's attempt started in June 2013 when he summited Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak however his recent commitment (May 2018) to the project will see him start this major physical and mental examination in Southern Russia in July 2018 with Mount Elbrus, Europe's highest peak and (all going to plan) finish in Nepal in May 2020, with the grandest of them all, Mount Everest.
Elbrus (July/August 2018), Europe (5642m)
Mount Elbrus is Europe's highest peak at 5642m. Located in the Caucasus mountains, an 880 km range that stretches from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, creating a natural boundary between the Russian Steppes and to the south, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The snow line is higher on Elbrus than in the Alps and the flavour of climbing is a cross between Alpine and Himalayan.
Elbrus can be climbed from the North and South sides. Damian completed the mountain from the more remote northerly side, where a long and gruelling summit day accent of close to 1900m tested the intrepid Galwegians renowned preparation.
Aconcagua(Dec 2018/Jan 2019), South America (6959m)
Aconcagua is the highest point in the Southern Hemisphere and the highest point outside of Asia on the planet, standing at 6959m. It is located in the incredible Andes mountain range in the Mendoza province, Argentina.
Aconcagua is often referred to as 'the highest trekking peak in the world', as it can be climbed by fit walkers without roped mountaineering experience. Damian will spend up to 18 days on the mountain between gradual accent, acclimation, a 3 day summit window and a rapid descent. He can expect to carry his own personal gear between camps, where his pack may weigh up to 15kgs.
Denali (May/June 2019), North America(6194m)
Denali is the highest mountain peak in North America with a summit elevation of 6194m above sea level. Formerly known as Mount McKinley, Denali is located in the Alaskan range, it is the second most difficult of the seven summits.
Damian can expect a extremely testing expedition due to the need to carry heavy loads, drag sleds full of supplies and deal with the notoriously stormy and ultra cold weather the peak attracts. Overall Denali is a big, serious mountain that must be respected and never underestimated.
Carstensz Pyramid (July/Aug 2019), Oceania (4884m)
Carstensz Pyramid or Puncak Jaya is the highest mountain peak in Oceania. Situated on the island of New Guinea (which consist of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia West Papua), it is the most mysterious of the seven summits standing at 4884m high.
Many obstacles await Damian in this infrequently visited corner of the world. Unlike the other seven summits Carstensz Pyramid is a rock climb of moderate difficulty, add to that the remoteness, government restrictions and political instability in a region where tribal warring is frequent, this could prove to be the most adventurous of challenges to overcome.
Vinson(Dec 2019/Jan 2020), Antartica (4897m)
Mount Vinson is the highest peak on the Antarctica continent at 4897m. Unparalleled in its pristine beauty, Antarctica is the explorer's final frontier, the planet's last great wilderness. Situated in the Ellsworth mountains, 600 miles from the South Pole, Vinson can not be underestimated as the combination of isolation and potentially extreme conditions makes her a very dangerous mountain.
Damian's Antarctica challenge will begin with a Russian jet powered Ilyushin-76 from Punta Arenas in Chile to the Blue Ice runway at Union Glacier. From there he'll take a twin otter aircraft to base camp on the Branscomb Glacier south of the Ellsworth mountains and the start of his climb to the top of the bottom of the Earth. What an adventure awaits!
Everest (April/May 2020), Asia(8848m)
Mount Everest is the highest mountain on Earth, standing at 8848m or 29,029ft. The international border between China (Tibet autonomous region) and Nepal runs across her summit point. Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, using the southeast ridge route. While not posing substantial technical challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers of altitude sickness, weather, winds, acute mountain sickness, as well as the significant hazards from avalanches and the Khumbu icefall.
Speaking about Mount Everest Damian said, "This is not something I ever dreamed I would attempt, simply because I didn't think I could. However my thinking has changed in recent years due in large part to my experiences and growth from pushing my standards of preparation and my physical and mental limits in recent expeditions. I want to test myself in the world's most extreme environments and I believe this will be my ultimate examination"
Kilimanjaro (Completed June 2013), Africa (5895m)
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest mountain, situated in Kilimanjaro National Park in Northern Tanzania. Damian completed this hike in June 2013, in his off season from rugby. Commenting on his experience of getting to the top of Africa Damian said, "Kili' was one of the hardest expeditions I have ever endured. I know most people say it's 'doable even easy' but I really struggled getting off the mountain after pushing really hard to summit. Weighing in at 125kgs definitely didn't help my cause to get to 5895m but it was the initial stages of AMS (acute mountain sickness) that were a real insight into the dangers and helplessness of getting into trouble at such altitudes. Thanks to a bit of good old fashioned team work between myself, my guide and two selfless porters, I managed to get down to a safer altitude and recover some strength to continue my decent of the mountain. This experience helped me reassess my preparation detail but also strangely bonded a little of me to the challenge that mountains hold and their power to question your mental and physical capacities"