Jenn Drummond has many different titles—business owner, author, inspirational speaker, mountaineer and mom of seven. As of June 8, 2023, she is also the first woman to complete the Seven Second Summits.
The Seven Second Summits are the second-highest mountains on each continent, and they’re often considered much harder climbs than the highest seven. Mount Kenya (Africa), Mount Tyree (Antarctica), Ojos del Salado (on the border between Argentina and Chile, South America), Gora Dykh-Tau (Russia, Europe), K2 (between Pakistan and China, Asia), Mt. Townsend (New South Wales, Australia) and Mount Logan (Canada, North America) make up the daunting peaks of this long expedition. Even with an unforeseen break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Drummond still managed to summit all seven in a span of three years.
“[They are] respected amongst peers in the industry,” Drummond said when asked why she decided on this expedition. “It was important to me that it was respected amongst the industry … it hadn’t been done by a female before [and] that’s really what enticed me to do it.”
An initial move to Park City, Utah, in 2015 was part of the reason why Drummond began to take an interest in mountaineering. A hike through the Grand Teton was Drummond’s “first real mountain”—but despite “ha[ving] an amazing experience,” time was a factor of hiking that eluded her.
A car accident in 2018 completely flipped the switch, changing Drummond’s outlook on life. Since then, she’s begun to prioritize her own life by pursuing the peaks of mountains.
“I said, ‘No longer am I putting my life on hold! I’m doing this life with you guys, and I’m going to start doing things I like’.”
The skiing town that once introduced her to the magnificence of the mountains has now become much more than that—it’s become a place for her to hone her craft. To prepare for the Seven Second Summits, Drummond would “do laps up the [ski] hill at night and ski up the hill with the sled.”
Training for the task at hand became part of Drummond’s typical days. “When the kids are at school is typically when I train,” she said. “If they have a soccer game, I’ll be the mom on the sideline with a backpack doing step-ups on a 12-inch step.”
There’s one other aspect of the Seven Second Summits that connects to Drummond on a personal level. “Seven kids, seven continents, seven summits,” she joked when discussing the aspect of mental preparation for the expedition.
The Seven Second Summits provided Drummond with more than just another challenge to face. Travelling to the seven continents for this expedition provided Drummond with “a reason” to travel to these places other than for the sake of travelling. “[It] was definitely inspiring because I love to travel and meet new cultures and different people.”
Africa and Antarctica, in particular, stuck out to Drummond during her travels to the Seven Second Summits. She described experiencing Antarctica as a “world like none other” due to its position at the bottom of the globe. “It’s kind of cool to think of where you are in relation to the whole world,” she mused.
Drummond also had high praise for Kenya, noting that the diversity in culture was what amazed her. “It’s such a beautiful country [and] the people are amazing … when you’re in Kenya, there [are] people from every culture all the time."
However, even with the exciting experiences in different continents, there were still mountains to climb—and those came with their own share of challenges. Drummond cited Mount Logan as the toughest of the seven to summit.
The climb to Mount Logan’s peak was a difficult one. Getting to the starting point itself required an airplane drop-off onto a glacier, the likes of which could only be completed in perfect weather due to the lack of runways or control towers. At the starting point, Drummond recalled feeling “sensory deprived” by her surroundings.
“There’s no plants, there’s no life, there’s no nothing. You’re the only thing living. There’s no smell because it’s in the middle of nowhere … there’s no sound except for wind. There’s no colour except for the white snow, the blue sky, the yellow sun and the black rock.”
The lack of other people around them made more than just the summiting difficult. Without teahouses or rest stops along the way, Drummond and her team had to move their gear up the mountain using a sled. Moreover, when one of her teammates fell ill with frostbite, communicating to get help required using devices and having a helicopter pick him up. “It’s a rough environment,” she said about Mount Logan. “You’re on [one of] the biggest mountain[s] in the world and you’re the only two people there, and you’re an hour from an airplane landing to rescue you.”
Despite the difficulties, Drummond returned from her summits with lots of lessons learned and advice to share. “The person that sets out on the journey is not the person that returns home from the journey,” she said. “As cliché as it sounds, it’s very much the case. You really learn to respect and appreciate the journey because you train for these mountains, you go to them and spend weeks on some of them and you get to the top, and you’re only at the top for 10 minutes. So it’s a real lesson in [how] life’s about the journey, not the destination, because if you do all of that for 10 minutes—you’ve just spent hours of your life you are not going to get back. So you better enjoy the process.”
Drummond also stressed the importance of teamwork in making her summits. “It’s an individual pursuit, but it’s a team sport … you have to be smart about who is on your team, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how you work together because that’s the difference between a safe summit or not.”
In a way, Drummond connects the paths and adventures of life with the process of acclimatization—something she did lots of throughout the expedition. This refers to the ways in which mountaineers adjust their bodies to the harsh climates that inhabit the tops of the mountains they climb. Drummond used the Mount Everest climbing process as an example of acclimatization, discussing how climbers will climb to Everest’s base camp, camp one and camp two, then climb back down, which allows their bodies to experience the changes in climate before moving onto higher slopes.
“I think that’s a really big lesson in life … not everything is just this straight, linear path,” she said. “Sometimes you have to have an experience, have that experience change you or educate you or inform you, and now when you go back, you’re better prepared on how to handle [it] … I really feel like the lesson in acclimatization is for every part of your life.”
“The biggest thing is [that] you set this huge goal—set the biggest goal you can come up with,” she advised. “If it doesn’t happen, it’s still pretty frickin’ amazing that [you] tried it. Having something that big, and then break[ing] it into bite-sized bits, because a mountain is climbed one step at a time. A goal is realized one step at a time. Sometimes you have to take two steps backwards. Sometimes you go two steps forwards. Just understand that if I failed in this pursuit, and I got six of [the summits] out of seven, it’s still pretty awesome that that I got six of them out of seven, and the experiences that I had on those six were so amazing that I would never trade them in for anything. So, when you set a goal, understand [that] doors will open different paths that you can follow, but set it big because it’s awesome what shows up.”
Her next goal is to share this love of the outdoors with her kids. In September, she plans to bring two of her eldest children along to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Her book, Quit Proof: 7 Strategies for Winning Life Goals and Business Success comes out on January 16, 2024.