Gongbu joined the People's Liberation Army in 1956, and joined a mountaineering team in 1958, consisting of both Chinese and Soviet mountaineers. For the next two years, the Chinese government planned a climb of Everest: Gongbu was assigned to logistics and road-building. One Chinese team failed to summit after reaching 8,300 metres (27,200 ft), Gongbu was assigned to the next team.
Finally, in May 1960, the Chinese team with Gongbu managed to perform the first climb of Everest from the north side. Prior expeditions turned back at the Second Step, but Gongbu's team used technical methods to overcome the challenge.