Utah’s mom climbing the tallest mountains in the world

(CNN) — In 1986, American businessman Richard Bass entered the record books by becoming the first to climb the “seven peaks”, the highest peaks on each continent. On this list are some of the most iconic mountains in the world: Denali in Alaska, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and of course Mount Everest.

But climbers aren’t the kind of people who just let records rest. For many climbers, it is the second seven peaks – that is, the second highest peak on each continent – that is considered a greater feat.

These mountains are less famous, less popular with beginner climbers and less commercialized. The most famous of the group is K2, located on the border of Pakistan and China in the Karakoram Range.

The others, however, are anything but household names.

Ojos de Salado (“Salty Eyes”) on the border between Chile and Argentina is the highest volcano on the planet. Mount Tyree in Antarctica is relatively easy to climb by mountaineering standards, but the challenges of getting to the white continent and dealing with its weather conditions meant that only a dozen climbers made it to the top.

Only one person has officially climbed the second seven peaks, but there is someone hot on their heels to complete the set. And she’s not what most people think a mountaineer looks like – she’s a mother of seven who lives in Utah and didn’t start climbing until she was in her 30s.

Start the challenge

Meet Jenn Drummond. Drummond has always been athletic and loves a challenge.

With her 40th birthday on the horizon in 2020, she decided to take her hiking skills to the next level.

That year, she hired a climbing coach, with the goal of climbing Ama Dablam, a mountain in Nepal.

But after completing it, the trainer presented a new challenge – the Seven Second Summits. “He said, ‘you have seven children, there are seven continents,'” she recalls.

But climbing mountains requires much more than physical training. Covid threw the whole world into disarray – suddenly Drummond had to homeschool his children and the closure of international borders made travel impossible.

So far she has climbed Dykh-Tau, Mount Kenya, Mount Tyree and most recently Mount Logan in Canada. The K2 is scheduled for summer 2022.

Drummond’s quest to climb the seven-second peaks turned into a slightly longer project due to a disagreement over which peaks count as the official seven.

If you only consider the mainland as the country of Australia itself, the second peak is Mount Townsend in the state of New South Wales.

But for geographers who consider Australasia and Oceania part of the continent, the second peak is Sumantri in the Indonesian province of West Papua. To ensure his record is indisputable, Drummond plans to climb both.

Drummond in action climbing Mount Kenya.

Dan Terpstra

Because it’s there

In an anecdotal story, explorer George Mallory was once asked why he was so desperate to climb Mount Everest, the mountain that ultimately claimed his life.

“Because it’s there,” he replied.

While it’s unclear if Mallory actually said those words, they’ve long been a touchstone for other mountaineers who struggle to explain why they’re risking their lives to climb the world’s toughest mountains.

Drummond agrees. She likes to climb mountains for the sake of the act. But she also knows that records mean something.

“If I had a Guinness World Record, my kids would think I’m cool,” she laughs.

She also wants to address some of the inequalities that exist in the small, rarefied world of mountaineering. For years, the image of a mountain climber was someone like Reinhold Messner or Edmund Hillary – bearded, serious, ice-axe-wielding white men from Europe or North America.

Organizations like Full Circle, a group of all-black climbers who summited Everest in May 2022, are showing the world that extreme activities like mountaineering are available to anyone brave enough to try.

Mountaineering can be exceptionally dangerous. People can die from altitude sickness, falls and cold. But it’s not just the mountains themselves that pose challenges.

At the base of Sumantri, two rival tribes are at war over who owns the rights to the mine. And the ongoing conflict in Russia has led many airlines to halt flights to the country, meaning Dykh-Tau is difficult to reach.

It is also expensive and time consuming.

Just getting a permit to hike Everest costs $11,000. This does not include airfare, local transport, equipment and guide fees.

Additionally, climbing some of the highest peaks in the world can take weeks or even months due to the acclimatization process.

For Drummond, being a woman on a mountain is an asset, not a weakness.

“There are definitely people who approach the mountains like me against the mountain,” she says.

“For me, it’s so much more of an experience of being with the mountain. If you’re going to Everest and you’re in the Himalayan mountain range, that mountain range in my opinion is very feminine. It’s very loving. It’s huge. It’s beautiful. The people are amazing. They honor life. They pray before they climb the mountain.

Her climbs have also become a way to connect with her children, who are between the ages of 9 and 15. Some have joined her on the climbs, while others prefer to hang out below.

But they all watched as their mother pursued her goal. Drummond used his mission as a way to motivate children in their own lives.

“We’re going to look at Mount Everest,” she tells them during a homework session, “but you’re going to do your math first.”

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