The Volcanic Seven Summits

Many climbers like to summit volcanoes due to their prominence since they are often a lone mountain and not attached to a range; they also look more stunning with their cones giving them more picturesque appearance. Some volcanoes also have fascinating craters making the ascent even more exciting.

The volcanic seven summits include two potentially active, three dormant and two extinct volcanoes.

Ojos del Salado, South America
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Nevajo Ojos del Salado is a massive stratovolcano rising in the Andes on the border of Argentina and Chile. At 6,891 meters (22,608 ft) high, it is known as the world’s highest volcano, the second highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and the highest mountain in Chile. The volcano is situated about 600 km (370 mi) north of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.

Ojos del Salado is near the Atacama desert, thus, the mountain has very dry conditions with snow only remaining on the peak during winter.  A permanent crater lake measuring 100 m (300 ft) in diameter can also be found on the eastern side of the volcano. With an elevation of 6,390 m (20,960 ft), the lake is believed to be the highest in the world.

The name Ojos del Salado means “eyes of the salty mountain,” a name which came from the huge salt deposits that, in the form of lagoons or “eyes,” appear in its glaciers.

Kilimanjaro, Africa
Mt Kilimanjaro 1 by Tambako the Jaguar.

The highest peak in Africa is a volcano. With its three cones, namely, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira, Kilimanjaro is also known as the largest stratovolcano on earth.  The inactive volcano situated in north-eastern Tanzania is 4,600 m (15,092 ft) high from its base, and approximately 5,100 m (16,732 ft) from the plains near Moshi.

It is not known how Kilimanajaro got its name but it is believed to be a combination of the Swahili word Kilima, meaning “mountain,” and the KiChagga word Njaro meaning “whiteness,” giving its other name "White Mountain."

Elbrus, Europe
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The second member of the seven highest volcanic summits which is also a member of the seven volcanic summits is Europe’s Mount Elbrus.  Just like Africa’s famed Kilimajaro, Elbrus is also a dormant volcano. Its highest part is found on its western summit at 5,642 m (18,510 ft) high. This Russian mountain is located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, near the border of Georgia.

Pico de Orizaba, North America
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Pico de Orizaba, also called Citlaltépetl, is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America, behind Mount McKinley and Mount Logan. It is a 5,636 m (18,490 ft) above sea level high dormant stratovolcano found in the eastern end of the of the Sierra Nevada, also known as the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.

The name Volcan Pico de Orizaba means “Volcanic Peak of Orizaba,” while its Aztec name Citlaltepetl, means “Star Mountain.”

Damavand, Asia
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Mount Damāvand or Donbavand (also Demavand) is the highest point in the Middle East and the highest volcano in Asia. The 5,610 m (18,406 ft) high mountain is found near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, 66 km (41 mi) northeast of Tehran, Iran. This ultra prominent peak is the Mount Olympus in Persian mythology. Although there were no historic eruptions recorded, Damāvand is considered as a potentially active volcano as fumaroles and solforata were found near the summit crater.

The name of this snow-covered volcano means “Snowy Mountain,” from the Sanskrit himavant.

Mount Giluwe, Australia
Mt. Giluwe from NE

Rising at 4,368 m (14,331 ft), Mount Giluwe is the second highest mountain in Papua New Guinea after Mount Wilhelm and has the distinction of being the highest volcano in the Australian continent. It is a large old shield extinct volcano with vast alpine grasslands. Mount Giluwe would still remain the highest volcano even if the continent is defined as Oceania which would now include New Zealand, Polynesia and even Hawaii since it would still be higher in elevation than Mauna Kea in Hawaii or any volcano in New Zealand.

Mount Sidley, Antarctica
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Mount Sidley is the highest and most impressive of the five extinct volcanic mountains that comprise the Executive Committee Range of Marie Byrd Land in Antarctica. It is a massive, snow-covered shield volcano with a spectacular 5 km wide caldera on its southern side. Despite its high status of being a member of the volcanic seven summits, Mount Sidley is hardly known even to the mountaineering world due to its extremely remote location. The volcano’s first recorded climb was only on January 11, 1990 by New Zealander Bill Atkinson, while working in support of a USAP scientific party.