Gangkhar Puensum, which means "White Peak of the Three Spiritual Brothers", is the highest mountain in Bhutan at an elevation of 7,570 metres (24,836 ft).
The elevation of Gangkhar Puensum was first measured in 1922 but maps of the region were all inaccurate, showing the mountain at different locations and with markedly different heights. Due to the inadequate mapping, the first team to attempt the summit was unable to find the mountain. The book of the 1986 British expedition gives the mountain's height as 24,770 feet (7,550 m).
Situated on the border of Tibet, it is one of the unclimbed mountains in the world. After Bhutan was opened for mountaineering in 1983, four expeditions took place, all which resulted in failed summit attempts. Since 1994, climbing of mountains in Bhutan higher than 6,000 metres has been prohibited out of respect for local spiritual beliefs, and since 2003 mountaineering has been forbidden completely. This kind of prohibition is common for most of the Himalayan peaks whether situated in Bhutan, Nepal, or Sikkim. Mt Khangchedzonga, the 3rd highest peak in the world and also part of the Himalayan range is also off limits for mountaineering due to the religious beliefs of Sikkim’s main communities.
Nonetheless, expedition teams are constantly in pursuit of gaining access to these peaks. In 1998a 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expedition secured permission from the Chinese Mountaineering Association to climb the mountain, but permission was withdrawn because of a political issue with Bhutan.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), separated from the main peak by a 2 km long ridge. 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, described as "the highest peak in Bhutan," at 7,570 metres. This elevation is supported by Japanese sources, in turn based on Chinese sources. It has not been surveyed by Bhutan.