SEVEN GREATEST RISKS - Reaching the Continents’ Tallest Peaks

If you're adventurous enough -- or crazy enough -- to tackle the seven summits, here are seven hazards you can expect to encounter.
1. ALTITUDE SICKNESS: This is a problem for most of the high mountains. You need to know how to prevent, recognize and treat it. Allowing yourself to acclimate to the altitude, being fit and staying hydrated help prevent altitude sickness.
2. FALLS: There are two main fall hazards: Slipping down a sheer cliff face or falling in a crevasse. It's important to stay roped together and know how to self arrest.
3. WEATHER: Facing the elements on the mountain is always hazardous. Blizzards, high winds and freezing temperatures can come without notice. Winds have been known to rip tents apart. Ironically, even in the frigid environment, climbers are susceptible to severe sunburn as sunrays reflect off the ice and snow.
4. COLD: Frostbite and hypothermia are real threats. It's better to over-pack so you are prepared to combat the freezing temperatures.
5. AVALANCHE: You have to constantly be aware of this risk, know the conditions, and choose your routes carefully.
6. DISORIENTATION: Mountaineering means you're out in an unforgiving wilderness and it's easy to lose your bearings. Mark your trail with little flags, use GPS to mark your positions and don't forget a compass, just in case the satellites fail you. Communication devices are also key.
7. SUMMIT-ITIS: This is a phenomenon that occurs when climbers think they must reach the top of the mountain at all costs. And it causes people to make deadly decisions, such as continuing even in horrible weather or when sick or injured. So you need to tell yourself the mountain will always be there, and call a knock-it-off when necessary. You can always climb it next year.

-- Maj. Robert Marshall