Shipton's Arch

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View from the base of the rubble pile

Shipton's Arch, (Uyghur: تۆشۈك تاغ‎, ULY: töshük tagh; or Hole Mountain in Uyghur) and (simplified Chinese: 天门; traditional Chinese: 天門; pinyin: Tiānmén; Wade–Giles: Tianmen), meaning Heavenly Gate in Chinese, is a conglomerate natural arch, located to the West-northwest of Kashgar, near the village of Artush in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

It is likely the world's tallest natural arch. Though long familiar to locals, it was famously visited in 1947 by English mountaineer Eric Shipton, while he was traveling between Tashkent and Kashgar - and made known to the West in his book Mountains of Tartary. The arch once figured in the Guinness Book of Records for its exceptional height, but editors of the book could not verify the location of the arch exactly, so the listing was dropped.

It was only as recently as May 2000 that an expedition sponsored by National Geographic rediscovered the arch for foreigners. Today, several companies operating out of Kashgar offer day trips to the arch for tourists. The arch is about a two- to three-hour drive from Kashgar, half of which is off-road. Ladders have been placed to make the scramble to the base of the arch easier, and evidence of other travelers is visible at the site. The Gobi March 2008, an international stage race, took competitors to the top of the arch during its seven-day, 250 kilometer footrace.

The height of the arch is estimated to be 1,200 feet, about the height of the Empire State Building. The span of the arch is roughly 180 feet. The "true" height of the arch is debatable: viewing the arch from the east (normal approach route) it appears to be 200 feet tall from the top of the 100 foot rubble pile; from the west side (approachable via a technical canyon ascent), the height is closer to the estimated 1,200 feet. The height depends upon what constitutes the base of the arch, which is either the base of the rubble pile (which is partially under the arch and where the span achieves its maximum width) or the floor of the west side canyon head, 900 feet lower.

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Coordinates: 39°39′37.80″N 75°31′24.80″E / 39.6605000°N 75.5235556°E / 39.6605000; 75.5235556.