Summit of Gangkhar Puensum
|Elevation||7,570 m (24,840 ft)
|Prominence||2,995 m (9,826 ft)
|Listing||Country high point
Gangkhar Puensum (Tibetan: གངས་དཀར་སྤུན་གསུམ་, Wylie: gangs dkar spun gsum, ZYPY: Kanggarbünsum, alternatively, Gangkar Punsum or Gankar Punzum), is the highest mountain in Bhutan and a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world with an elevation of 7,570 metres (24,836 ft) and a prominence of 2,995 metres (9,826 ft). Its name means "White Peak of the Three Spiritual Brothers". It lies on the border with China (however, see below for disputes about its exact location). After Bhutan was opened for mountaineering in 1983 there were four expeditions that made failed summit attempts in 1985 and 1986. However, in 1998, a team successfully climbed a subsidiary peak of the mountain from Tibet.
The elevation of Gangkhar Puensum was first measured in 1922 but, until recent years, maps of the region were not at all accurate and the mountain was shown in different locations and with markedly different heights. Indeed, because of inadequate mapping, the first team to attempt the summit was unable to find the mountain at all.
The book of the 1986 British expedition gives the mountain's height as 24,770 feet (7,550 m) and states that Gangkhar Puensum is completely inside Bhutan, whereas the nearby Kula Kangri is completely inside Tibet. Kula Kangri, 7,554 metres, is a separate mountain 30 km to the northeast which was first climbed in 1986. It is variously mapped and described as being in Tibet or Bhutan.
Since 1994 climbing of mountains in Bhutan higher than 6,000 metres has been prohibited out of respect for local spiritual beliefs, and since 2003 mountaineering has been forbidden completely. Gangkhar Puensum may keep its unique status for some time: any higher unclimbed peaks in the world are likely to be subsidiary tops, not separate mountains.
In 1998 a Japanese expedition secured permission from the Chinese Mountaineering Association to climb the mountain, but permission was withdrawn because of a political issue with Bhutan. Instead, in 1999, the team set off from Tibet and successfully climbed the 7,535 metre subsidiary peak Liankang Kangri (also known as Gangkhar Puensum North). Unlike most maps, the expedition's report shows this summit as being in Tibet and the Tibet–Bhutan border is shown crossing the summit of Gangkhar Puensum, described as "the highest peak in Bhutan," at 7,570 metres. This elevation is supported by Japanese sources, in turn based on Chinese sources. It has not been surveyed by Bhutan.
- "High Asia II: Himalaya of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and adjoining region of Tibet". Peaklist.org. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- Berry, S.K. (1988). "Kingdom Of The Thunder Dragon". Himalayan Journal 44. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- Detailed discussion of location and heights of Gangkhar Puensum and Kula Kangri
- Berry, Steven K. (1988). The Thunder Dragon Kingdom : A Mountaineering Expedition To Bhutan. Wiltshire: Crowood Press. ISBN 0-938567-07-1.
- Itami, Tsuguyasu (October 2001). "Gankarpunzum & First Ascent Of Liankang Kangri Mountain In Dispute On China-Bhutan Border" (PDF). Japanese Alpine News 1. Retrieved 18 September 2014.