(CNN) – In 1986, American businessman Richard Bass hit the record books when he became the first person to climb the “Seven Summits”, the highest peaks on every continent. On that list are some of the most famous mountains in the world: Denali in Alaska, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and of course, Mount Everest.
But mountaineers aren’t the kind of people who let records linger. For many mountaineers, the Seven Second Summits—also known as the second highest peak on every continent—is an even more significant achievement.
However, the rest are just household names.
Ojos de Salado (“Salty Eyes”) on the border between Chile and Argentina is the highest volcano on the planet. Climbing Mount Tyree in Antarctica is relatively easy by mountaineering standards, but the challenges of getting to the White Continent and dealing with weather conditions mean that only about a dozen climbers make it to the summit.
Only one person has officially climbed all of the second seven summits, but there is a hot person on their heels to complete the set. And she’s not what most people think she’s a mountaineer—she’s a mother of seven who lives in Utah and didn’t start climbing until she was in her thirties.
Meet Jane Drummond. Drummond has always been an athlete and loves a challenge.
With her 40th birthday on the horizon in 2020, she’s decided to take her hiking skills to the next level.
That year, I hired a mountaineering instructor, with the goal of summarizing Mount Ama Dablam in Nepal.
But after that was done, the coach presented a new challenge – the second Seven Summits. “He said, ‘You have seven children, there are seven continents,'” she recalls.
But mountain climbing requires more than just physical training. Covid has thrown the whole world into chaos – suddenly, Drummond has had to homeschool her children, and the closure of international borders has made travel impossible.
So far, I’ve climbed Dich-Tau, Mount Kenya, Mount Terry and most recently Mount Logan in Canada. K2 is planned for the summer of 2022.
Drummond’s quest to climb the second Seven Summits has turned into a slightly longer project due to some disagreement over which summits are official.
If you consider only the continent as the country of Australia itself, then the second peak there is Mount Townsend in the state of New South Wales.
But for geographers who consider Australia and Oceania to be part of the continent, the second peak is Sumantri in Indonesia’s West Papua Province. To make sure her record is unquestioned, Drummond plans to climb both.
Drummond climbs Mount Kenya.
Because it is there
In an anecdotal story, someone once asked explorer George Mallory why he was so desperate to get to the top of Mount Everest, the mountain that ultimately took his life.
He replied, “Because it exists.”
Although it’s not clear if Mallory actually uttered those words, they have long been a touchstone for other climbers struggling to explain why they risked their lives and limbs to climb the world’s most challenging mountains.
Drummond agrees. She loves to climb mountains for the sake of action. But she also knows that records mean something.
“If I had a Guinness World Record, my kids would think I was cool,” she laughs.
She also wants to address some of the disparities that exist in the small, blunt world of mountaineering. For years, the image of a mountaineer was someone like Reinhold Messner or Edmund Hillary – bearded, serious white men wearing ice axes from Europe or North America.
Mountain climbing can be very dangerous. People can die from altitude sickness, falls, and cold. But it is not only the mountains that present the challenges.
At the Sumantri base, two rival tribes are at war over who has the right to mine there. The ongoing conflict in Russia has caused many airlines to stop flights into the country, which means getting to Dykh-Tau is a challenge.
It is also expensive and time consuming.
Just getting a permit to hike Mount Everest costs $11,000. This does not include airfare, local transportation, gear, and guide fees.
Additionally, it may take weeks or even months to scale some of the world’s highest peaks due to the acclimatization process.
For Drummond, being a woman on a mountain is an advantage, not a weakness.
“There are definitely people who come close to the mountains like me versus the mountain,” she says.
“For me, it’s so much more the experience of living with a mountain. If you go to Everest and you’re in the Himalayas, this mountain range is in my opinion very feminine. It’s so loving. Life. They pray before they climb the mountain.”
Her climb also became a way to bond with her children, who are between the ages of 9 and 15. Some join her in climbing, while others prefer lounging on the low ground.
But they were all watching their mother pursue her goal. Drummond used her mission as a way to motivate children in their own lives.
She told them during the homework session, “We’re going to take a look at Mount Everest, but first you have to do your math.”