In August 2011, Americans Steve Swenson, Freddie Wilkinson, and Mark Richey reached the summit of 7518-meter Saser Kangri II, then the second-highest unclimbed peak in the world. The Saser Kangri II climb left only three of the world’s highest 100 mountains left to await first ascents – but the big mountains of the world are far from climbed out. Plenty of big, scary summits remain, some named, some unnamed, some too close to neighboring summits to catch the attention of mountaineers.
Here are just the really tall ones – maybe illegal, maybe too dangerous, maybe never tried, and one that’s hardly even been seen:
1. Gangkhar Puensum, 7570 meters
Unless Bhutan changes its mind about mountaineering, Gangkhar Puensum, above, is likely to stay the world’s highest unclimbed mountain for a long time. Bhutan banned climbing on mountains higher than 6000 meters in 1994 respect to local spiritual beliefs, and then banned mountain climbing completely in 2003. A Japanese team climbing nearby in 1998 claimed that the summit of Gangkhar Puensem actually lies on the border of Tibet and Bhutan, which would be news to the Bhutan government.
2. Muchu Chhish, 7543 meters
The six summits of Batura in the Western Karakoram form a 35-kilometer ridge, all of which is above 6100 meters. One of the peaks, Muchu Chhish, has never been climbed, and has only been attempted once, by a Spanish team in 1999. A team won a Shipton-Tilman grant for an expedition in 2011, but it was canceled because of a health issue in the months leading up to the trip. The route to the summit likely involves a long, committing traverse above 7000 meters.
3. Kabru North Summit, 7394 meters
The Kabru Massif sits in the Himalaya on the India-Nepal border, south of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Kabru’s lower south summit was climbed 77 years ago, solo, by Conrad Cooke, but the higher northern summit is still unclimbed. Avalanches forced a 2004 Serbian expedition to retreat.
4. Labuche Kang III, 7250 meters
The main summit of this Tibetan peak, at 7367 meters, was climbed by a Japanese team in 1987 and it remains the only successful summit. American alpinist Joe Puryear was killed on an attempt on the peak in 2010. The east peak of the massif, Labuche Kang III, has never been climbed, or attempted.
5. Karjiang, 7221 meters
The most recent attempt to climb Karjian was in 2001, when a Dutch group aiming for the summit encountered bad weather and turned their sights to the 6820-meter Karjian III, which they summited. Terrain near Karjiang’s summit is extremely technical, and there is a high risk of avalanches. Joe Puryear and David Gottlieb were awarded a grant to attempt Karjiang in 2010, but failed to secure the permit, so they headed to Labuche Kang instead.
6. Tongshanjiabu, 7207 meters
Almost no information is known about this peak on the disputed border between Tibet and Bhutan. A Korean team climbed a nearby peak and mentioned Tongshanjiabu in their trip report in the 2003 Japanese Alpine News, and that mention and a single photo is all that’s publicly known about the mountain.