The Five Highest Unclimbed Mountains in the World. # 5: Tongshanjiabu

In this series, we look at the world’s five highest unclimbed mountains, based on Eberhard Jurgalski’s list from 8, We 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 four articles, we wrote about Kangkar PunzumLapche Kang II, Apsarasas Kangri I, and Karjiang I. Our last peak is 7,207m Tongshanjiabu, the fifth-highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

#5 unclimbed, #100 overall

Tongshanjiabu (also called Gyalbu Kangri) has a prominence of 1,757m and is the 100th highest mountain in the world. It lies on the disputed border of Bhutan and Tibet. It’s not clear if it’s even possible to secure a climbing permit for this mountain; it’s not likely.

Tongshanjiabu has almost no mention in the annals of climbing. There have been no direct attempts on it. Even photos of it are rare.

In 2000, Kinichi Yamamori and his team from the Himalayan Association of Japan explored some unclimbed peaks in a little-known area of Tibet. They failed to reach one peak because rains had washed away the roads, tried another unsuccessfully, made the first ascent of a third, and failed on a fourth because of avalanche danger.

Tongshanjiabu marked with red dot.

Tongshanjiabu, marked with a red dot. Photo:


First photos of Tongshanjiabu

After this energetic expedition, two members, H. Iwazaki and Kinichi Yamamori, went on horseback to explore. From Chucou, the two alpinists went to Lozaxiong Chu, then Nai, then north over several passes, finally reaching Tse La at 5,275m. On their way down from the pass, Iwazaki and Yamamori took the first photos of the north faces of some unclimbed 7,000’ers, including Tongshanjiabu, Teri Kang (a subpeak of Tongshanjiabu), Kangphu Kang, and Jejekangphu Kang.

a satellite photo of Kangphu Kang I and nearby Tongshanjiabu

Kangphu Kang I, climbed by the South Koreans in 2002, and nearby Tongshanjiabu.


In 2002, a South Korean team made the first ascent of 7,204m Kangphu Kang I (also called Shimokangri I), near Tongshanjiabu. Their success had implications for peaks in that politically delicate border zone. The fact that the Koreans got a climbing permit for Kangphu Kang suggested that other border peaks might be available for climbing in the future. The Himalayan Association of Japan even applied for a permit for 7,207m Tongshanjiabu, although it remains unclear if an attempt was made or even if the permit was granted.

In 2014, Tamotsu Nakamura and some partners went to explore this little-known region. They reached a lake called Puma Yumco, which we also mentioned in the Karjiang I piece. From the lakeside, Nakamura wrote:

“A grand panorama of Kula Kangri and mountains ranging to the southwest on the Bhutan border inspired us. We glimpsed the north face of Kangkar Punzum. The view also included the forbidden mountain Tongshanjiabu, far west along the Bhutan border.”

Tongshanjiabu, the fifth-highest mountain in the world, remains unclimbed and unattempted. Tantalizingly, it’s doubtful that any mountaineer has even set foot on its steep slopes.

Tongshanjiabu from the south.

Tongshanjiabu from the south. Photo: Google Earth


Final thoughts

Admittedly, it’s somewhat arbitrary to stop this series at the fifth-highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The Greater Ranges contain many, many other beautiful, intriguing, and unclimbed peaks. Many of them have unclimbed secondary peaks that are equally challenging, all awaiting a first ascent.

While researching this series, we discovered that a summary of these unclimbed peaks, with their conflicting names, confusing subpeaks, and obscure history had never been done before.

We couldn’t have written this series without the help of Eberhard Jurgalski and his team at After they helped clarify which peaks or subpeaks of these five mountains had been climbed, we compared this with the expedition reports published in the American Alpine Journal. We would like to thank everyone involved.

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.