The Five Highest Unclimbed Mountains in the World. #3: Apsarasas Kangri I

In this series, we look at the world’s five highest unclimbed mountains, based on Eberhard Jurgalski’s list from 8, We will cover each peak’s modest climbing history and consider why no one has summited them yet.

Note that this series covers independent mountains — those that are not just secondary bumps on higher main peaks. The debate about subsidiary peaks versus independent mountains is a recurrent headache when climbers search for the “highest unclimbed peak.” Here, we are covering those unclimbed peaks for which there is no debate.

In our first two articles, we wrote about Kangkar Punzum and Lapche Kang II. Our next peak is 7,243m Apsarasas Kangri I, the third-highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

Siachen Muztagh

The Apsararas mountains, which include Apsarasas Kangri I, lie in the Siachen Muztagh, a subrange of the eastern Karakoram. Some of the wildest mountains in the world are in this region, many of them similarly unclimbed.

China controls about 60 percent of the Siachen Muztagh, and India the other 40 percent. India also claims the Chinese areas, while Pakistan claims the territory controlled by India, as part of the Siachen conflict. Scenically, the region is stunning; politically, it’s very messy. Mountaineers have not been allowed there for some years now, which helps explain why so many peaks remain unclimbed.

Interestingly, the Sia in Siachen means “wild rose,” since this place is full of flowers. At 72km, the Siachen Glacier is the longest in the Karakoram. A line of peaks surrounds it, including Baltoro Kangri, Saltoro Kangri, Chumik, Theram Shehr, Terong, and the Apsarasas group.

Fanny Bullock Workman on the Silver Throne plateau.

Fanny Bullock Workman on the Silver Throne plateau. Photo: Wikimedia


First explorers in Siachen Muztagh


In 1909, English doctor, mountaineer, and explorer Tom George Longstaff, together with  Arthur Neve and A. M. Slingsby ascended the Siachen’s Bilafond Glacier to its head. This glacier is the main source of the Saltoro River. Longstaff and company managed to cross the Bilafond La (a.k.a. Saltoro Pass). North of the glacier, they found a group of peaks that they called Teram Kangri. At the time, this was a completely unknown place without any maps or surveys.

The Workmans

American geographer, cartographer, explorer, and mountaineer Fanny Bullock Workman and her husband, William Hunter Workman, explored the whole Siachen Glacier region in 1911 and 1912, accompanied by surveyors and alpine guides. The team explored the Teram Shehr Glacier and crossed the Sia La.

The Survey of India triangulated two of the peaks of Teram Kangri, I and III in 1911. One year later, the surveyors did the same with Teram Kangri II. Ardito Desio went to the region in 1929 as a member of the Duke of Spoleto’s expedition. He made a reconnaissance of several glaciers in the region.

The highest mountain of the Siachen Muztagh subrange is 7,441m Teram Kangri I. Its prominence is 1,682m. A large Japanese expedition from Shizuoka University made its first ascent on August 12, 1975. They went up the south ridge of Teram Kangri II, then traversed to the main peak.

map of glaciers in iachen

The surrounding glaciers. Photo: Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory


Apsarasas group

According to the informative website Blankonthemap, apsara means “fairy” and sas means “house.” So Apsarasas, which comes from Indian mythology, means something like the “domain of the fairies.”

According to Indian mountaineer Brigadier K. N. Thadani in his report for The Himalayan Club, the Apsarasas mountains lie to the north of the Teram Shehr Glacier. It consists of a large massif running east-west.

Apsarasas peaks marked with red dot.

The Apsarasas peaks, marked with a red dot. Photo: Dieter Porsche


Confusion about the Apsarasas peaks

As with Lapche Kang II, the first climbers made a bit of a mess with which peak they actually climbed. In this case, they called their peak Apsarasas Kangri I. Eberhard Jurgalski of eventually determined that they actually ascended Apsarasas Kangri II. Almost all other sources still list the peaks in the old (confused) way. The other peaks in the massif were also wrongly identified.

According to the list that Jurgalski sent ExplorersWeb, there is one independent mountain and several subpeaks in the group:

  • 7,243m Apsarasas Kangri I, an independent mountain with a prominence of 607m. Earlier, it was wrongly called Apsarasas Kangri III or simply Apsarasas III.
  • 7,166m Northeast Peak
  • 7,133m West Peak
  • 7,241m Apsarasas Kangri II. This is not an independent mountain and features a prominence of just 431m. Earlier, it was wrongly called Apsarasas I.
  • 7,204m East Peak, which was formerly known as Apsarasas II.
  • 7,124m Southwest Peak.
The Apsarasas group.

The Apsarasas group. Photo: Peakvisor


The two ascents of Apsarasas Kangri II

The subpeak 7,241m Apsarasas Kangri II was first ascended on Aug. 7, 1976, by members of an Osaka University team. The Japanese approached it from the Teram Shehr Glacier and climbed via the west ridge of the south peak. A narrow snow ridge led them to a steep ice wall. After reaching the south summit, eight climbers were stuck for a week because of bad weather. Only then, when the weather cleared, did four climbers manage to top out on Apsarasas Kangri II.

Apsarasas peaks.

The Apsarasas mountains. Photo: Cwow/Instagram


On September 18, 1980, Indian Army climbers led by Brigadier K. N. Thadani made the second ascent of Apsarasas Kangri II from the southeast. Despite the bad weather that prevailed that entire day, they summited in two groups, with seven hours between them. They traversed the Siachen Glacier from Leh in nearby Ladakh.

At the junction of the Teram Shehr, Lolofond, and Siachen Glaciers, they established their advanced base camp. The American Alpine Journal noted that it was “surprising that an Indian Army force should have crossed the Cease-Fire Line and entered into what is generally held to be Pakistan, although the Indians would dispute this.”

The Apsarasas peaks.

A ger overlooks the Apsarasas peaks. Photo: Cwow/Instagram


Apsarasas Kangri II is the only subpeak in the massif that was officially climbed even once. Meanwhile, the main peak, Apsarasas Kangri I, which spans the contentious India-China border, remains unclimbed.

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.