8/28/13 - Austrian mountaineer and runner Christian Stangl has pushed international high-point climbing to a new level, completing not just the famed Seven Summits but now the first-, second-, and third-highest peaks on each continent. On August 23, Stangl, 47, summited 17,037-foot Shkhara in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, the third-highest mountain in Europe, to complete his quest.
Stangl finished the Seven Summits in 2007, and after having climbed some of the second and third sevens, he realized that no one had completed either list. Even the Seven Summits are open to interpretation (most disputed: whether 16,024-foot Carstenz Pyramid in Indonesia is the high point of a broader Australian continent or lowly Mt. Kosciuszko, 7,310 feet, on mainland Australia, ought to be counted). Figuring out the second- and third-highest peaks was even trickier, and Stangl eventually climbed 30 high peaks to round out his list and assure that no one could second-guess his accomplishment.
The Second Seven Summits have long been regarded as a much more difficult goal than the highest seven, with objectives such as K2 and Mt. Tyree (Antarctica) more challenging and rarely climbed than the higher Everest and Vinson. The original Seven Summits challenge was dreamed up by American Richard Bass and completed in 1985. In January 2012, Italian Hans Kammerlander became the first person to complete the Second Seven Summits, though his peak selection has been challenged. The Third Seven includes even more obscure and difficult peaks, ranging from 28,169-foot Kangchenjunga (which Stangl climbed after biking and trekking to base camp from sea level in India) to 15,646-foot Puncak Mandala in Indonesia.
Stangl's efforts have not been without controversy. In 2010, he claimed to have climbed K2 in an extremely fast two-day push from base camp—the only ascent claimed that season—and later admitted that he had faked his summit photos and had not climbed the mountain. He returned in 2011 and 2012, and reached K2's peak via the Abruzzi Route in 2012.
Date of ascent: August 23, 2013