Gangkhar Puensum, also spelled་ Kangkar Punsum, Gangkar Punsum or Gankar Punzum, is the highest mountain in Bhutan. Its name means White Peak of the Three Spiritual Brothers.
Gangkhar Puensum is a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. After Bhutan was opened for mountaineering in 1983 there were four expeditions that made failed attempts to reach the summit. These were in 1985 and 1986. In 1998, a team successfully climbed a subsidiary peak of the mountain from Tibet, but this was not a climb to the summit, which is 7,570 meters or 24,836 feet.
The elevation of Gangkhar Puensum was first measured in 1922, but until recently maps of the region inaccurate. Maps were so inaccurate in fact that the mountain was shown in different locations, and with differing heights. Because of the inaccurate mapping, the first team to attempt to climb Gangkhar Puensum was unable to even find the mountain.
In 1994, climbing of mountains in Bhutan higher than 6,000 meters has been prohibited out of respect for local spiritual beliefs. Since 2003 mountaineering has been forbidden completely. Thus Gangkhar Puensum may keep its unique status as the highest unclimbed peak in the world.
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expedition secured permission from the Chinese Mountaineering Association to climb the mountain, but permission was withdrawn because of a political issue with Bhutan.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.
Gangkhar Puensum is described as the highest peak in Bhutan, at 7,570 meters, and his elevation is supported by Japanese and Chinese sources. However, it has not been surveyed by Bhutan.
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