Highest unclimbed mountain

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The highest unclimbed mountain in a particular region or in the world is often a matter of controversy. In some parts of the world surveying and mapping are still not reliable, and there are not comprehensive records of the routes of explorers, mountaineers and local inhabitants.

A virgin peak is a mountain that has not yet been climbed by any mountaineer so far. Many virgin peaks exist due to the mountain being unreachable, through political instability or geographic isolation.[1]

Challenges in definition[edit]

Definition of a mountain[edit]

Any particular mountain, in addition to its highest point, will also have subsidiary "tops". Generally, a subjective view is taken of what is a mountain and what is a top. The horizontal distance between main peak and top, the difference in height, the topographic prominence of the top, as well as the general topography, all come into consideration. Although objective criteria have been proposed for distinguishing "peaks" from "tops" (a prominence of 610 m, 2,000 feet is one definition), there is no widely agreed standard.

The Peakware World Mountain Encyclopedia has a list of unclimbed 7000 m Himalayan peaks which includes tops.[2] The list is somewhat out-of-date: for example Lhotse Middle, 8430 m, was first climbed in spring 2001. Another list is provided on the Explorersweb website using a prominence cutoff of 500 m.[3]

Verification of unclimbed status[edit]

It is difficult to determine whether or not a peak has been climbed. Archaeological excavations in the Andes have shown that humans have travelled up to 6,739 metres (22,110 ft) in pre-historic time[4] . As such, it is impossible to absolutely ascertain whether any peak is truly unclimbed. However, it is possible to make a good guess, especially since some high peaks in the Greater Ranges are so remote that they were unknown to local inhabitants when first sighted by European explorers. Machhapuchhare (6,993 metres) is a big mountain that has not verifiably been climbed to the highest point as it is off limits for religious reasons.

Gangkhar Puensum[edit]

Summit of Gangkhar Puensum from Gophu La pass, Bhutan

The mountain most widely claimed to be the highest unclimbed mountain in the world in terms of elevation is Gangkhar Puensum, 7570 m (24,836 feet).[5] It is in Bhutan, on or near the border with China. In Bhutan, the climbing of mountains higher than 6,000 metres has been prohibited since 1994. The rationale is based on a combination of:

  1. The Bhutanese government and people's respect for local customs that consider this and similar peaks to be the sacred homes of protective deities and spirits, and
  2. The lack of high-altitude rescue resources from any locale closer than India.

Since 2003, no mountaineering of any kind has been allowed within Bhutan.

Highest unclimbed non-prohibited peak[edit]

It is unclear which is the highest unclimbed non-prohibited mountain. This depends greatly on the prominence cutoff. Labuche Kang III/East (7250 m(?), prominence 570 m(?)), near Cho Oyu, is reportedly unclimbed, but its status is difficult to verify and it lacks significant prominence. The former highest unclimbed non-prohibited mountain, Saser Kangri II East (7,513 m, prominence 1,450 m), was first climbed on 24 August 2011.[6]

Most prominent unclimbed peak[edit]

Unclimbed candidates with high topographic prominence are by definition independent mountains, but some have relatively modest elevations. With such peaks exist the greater possibility of undocumented ascents, perhaps occurring long ago.

Sauyr Zhotasy (3840 m, prominence 3252 m) and Mount Siple (3110 m, prominence 3110 m) have no record of successful ascents, but the unclimbed status of each of these peaks is difficult to confirm. Finisterre Range HP (4150 m, prominence 3709 m) was climbed on 25 June 2014.[7]

The world's highest unclimbed mountain, Gangkhar Puensum, is also a highly prominent mountain (2995 m), and there is a reasonable degree of certainty regarding its unclimbed status.

List of virgin peaks[edit]

This is a list encompassing all of the known virgin peaks globally.

Mountain Height Location Reference
Gangkhar Puensum 7570m Bhutan [1][8]
Muchu Chhish 7452m Pakistan [1][8]
Kabru North Summit 7394m Nepal [8]
Labuche Kang III 7250m Tibet, China [8]
Karjiang 7221 Tibet, China [8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Nuwer, Rachel. "The mountains we have never climbed". BBC. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  2. ^ Simon Perritaz. "Highest Unclimbed Peaks". Peakware World Mountain Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 2008-05-06. 
  3. ^ Janne Corax (2007). "The pleasure of being the first". Explorersweb. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  4. ^ Reinhard, Johan; Ceruti, Constanza (2010). Inca Rituals and Sacred Mountains: A Study of the World's Highest Archaeological Sites. Institute of Archaeology Press. ISBN 9781931745765. 
  5. ^ Tsuguyasu Itami (October 2001). "Gankarpunzum & First Ascent Of Liankang Kangri" (PDF). Japanese Alpine News. 1. Retrieved 7 November 2015. 
  6. ^ First Ascent of Saser Kangri II - American Alpine Club
  7. ^ Bjørstad, Petter. "Mount Boising". Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "The 5 highest unclimbed mountains in the world". The Adventure Playbook. 2015-10-23. Retrieved 2017-01-21.