Mike Hamill's new book, "Climbing the Seven Summits," recounts his experiences climbing the world's tallest peaks. Hamill will discuss his book Sunday at Wide World Books & Maps in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.
Mike Hamill is part of an exclusive club, one of about 350 people who have climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents.
Hamill, 35 — a Maine native now with a West Seattle home address — has stood on top of each summit at least four times: four ascents of Mount Everest (29,035 feet), nine of Alaska’s Denali (20,320 feet) and 19 ascents of Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua (22,841 feet).
Figuring he knows the territory, Hamill has written “Climbing the Seven Summits” (The Mountaineers Books, 352 pp., $29.95), which outlines the details involved in reaching each continental high point, from Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko (7,313 feet) to Antarctica’s icy 16,050-foot Vinson Massif.
Hamill actually describes eight peaks, since some argue that Indonesia’s 16,024-foot Carstensz Pyramid, 60-plus miles off Australia’s north coast (but part of the same continental shelf), is a preferred alternative to Kosciuszko. His book devotes a chapter to that debate alone.
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A guide for International Mountain Guides in Ashford, Wash., Hamill fielded a few questions in advance of his Sunday appearance at Wallingford’s Wide World Books & Maps:
Q: Which summits stand out to you?
A: The two climbs I enjoy the most are Vinson Massif and Denali. Vinson is a truly unique experience. The remoteness and vastness of the continent are like nowhere else on Earth. The Alaska Range is an incredibly beautiful place, and Denali is my excuse for getting back there each summer. The people are amazing, and there’s such an energy in the summer from the sun never setting.
Of course, there’s no feeling like walking down the Khumbu Valley in Nepal after a successful Mount Everest climb.
Q: Can you pinpoint a common trait among people drawn to this goal?
A: They’re goal-oriented, motivated people. They climb for a variety of different reasons, but the common thread is that they all enjoy working hard and attaining a goal that takes a lot of work and tenacity to reach.
Some are serious climbers, while others are people who began pursuing climbing to see the world and experience unique cultures. I’ve climbed with people from all walks of life and have had the pleasure of sharing these mountains with some of the most unique people on Earth.
Q: The hardest?
A: Mount Everest, followed by Denali, Aconcagua, Vinson, Carstensz, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro and Kosciuszko, in my opinion.
Q: How about Rainier?
A: I’ve summited Rainier 43 times and turned back high on the mountain another handful of times due to weather. Climbing Rainier is just about as hard physically as any mountain in the world. There are of course exceptions, like summit day on Mount Everest, but Rainier is a huge climb and very strenuous even for fit guides.
The big difference is that climbs like Denali, Vinson, Aconcagua and Carstensz are much longer and so the effort is sustained over weeks, not two or three days.
Q: Your best tip for anyone contemplating the quest?
A: Start small and work your way up. It’s important to get the basics down first. Safety is a big concern, so enrolling in some of the basic snow schools before attempting some of these big peaks is important. Being fit takes you a long way, even if you don’t know the skills at first. You can pick those up. Toss a pack on and run up Mount Si a bunch of times. Fitness is the base to everything in climbing.
Climb Mount Baker, Rainier and other accessible peaks. Then work up to the higher, more technical peaks such as Denali and Mount Everest by climbing the easier of the Seven Summits as well as intermediate mountains such as the Mexican volcanos, in the European Alps and in South America.