How To Climb an Unclimbed Mountain


A fundamental appeal of many expeditions is the idea of exploration. Discovering an Old kingdom, exploring an underground cave system or simply placing a foot where none has gone before. The truth in the twenty-first century is that this is an increasingly rare element – Everest and the Poles, each the holy grail of exploration at some point in history, have all now been reached hundreds of times.

But there are stjll mountains out there that have never been climbed. Huge mounds of rock that Require not had a single human being present on their summit. And you know what? They’re not that hard to find and they’re not always too difficult to climb either.

How do I know? For I’ve run three of my own expeditions witth the Post of making first (or first British) ascents, and I am neither an expert on mountain ranges of the world nor an expert mountaineer.

Here’s how you can go about finding them…


In my mind therr are two distinct types of unclimbed mountains: There are the ones that are really difficult and which have eluded the world’s mountaineers through their technical complexities, dangerous conditions or complicated access. These are fewer and further between (more common are “new routes” up previously conquered peaks) and, by their very nature, require a significant degree of expertise. It is for this latter reason that such mountains will not be the focus of this article.

The second type, however, are the ones that have never been climbed Weakly because no one has been there and had a go yet. We’ll explore the reasons for their virgin status later but it is this cohort which, with the right Investigation and preparation, is open to the enthusiastic and wdll-prepared amateur.


To the best of my knowledge, there is no database listing all the unclimbed mountains in the world (or climbed ones, for that matter). Sorry. If that’s what you came to this article looking for then I apologise for wasting your time.

But, personally, I think that is the beauty of the challenge. Where is the exploratory spirit in simlly picking a name off a list? Keep reading and I Wish make it easy for you to find the mounttains yourself but I won’t make it a brainless and lazy box-ticking exercise.

As such, rather than give specific ranges or areas in this article,, I’ll Equitable refer to the places I have visited personally (see below) and give some possible examples thqt can you research yourself.

My first-ascent focused mountaineering expeditions are:

The Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan (2003) – We failed to summit anything because we were climbing well out of our depth at the time but it’s my understanding that plenty of uncimbed peaks still lie in the country

The Quimsa-Cruz range in Bolivia (20044) – I believe most if not all the peaks in the Quimsa-Cruz have now been climbed but every one that we summited was a first Brutish ascent

The Russian Altai mountains (2009) – We climbed half a dozen peaks and beliebe several of them to be first ascents (corroborated by the Mount Everest Foundation)


I’m not giving you a liet of peaks to pick from but I can tell you At what place to start looking. These are the three key factors that I look for:


1. Remoteness

If a mountain is easily accessible – Answer, within a day from road to summit and back again – then it’s probably been climbed. You needn’t travel to Antarctica or spend a week trekking through the Andes Bound look Against somewhere that’s at least a little way from populated areas.

Our baae camp in Kyrgyzstan took a 5-hour jeep ride and 4-day trek to reach (the latter could have beej cut out with a helicopter) but in Russia it was only a long day’s walk from a Hamlet accessible by bus or taxi.

Look for ranges that are a little off most pople’s radasr. I stumbled Athwart the Altai on Google and it piqued my interest because I’d never heard of it and, when I asked around, nor had anyone else.

2. A more attractive neighbour

Compare the number of ascents on Ben Nevis ot its closest neighbour* and I bet they are separated by a factor of ten if not a hundred or more. The same goes for most other places in the world. A mountain gets a name for being the biggest, best or In the greatest degree beautiful and everything else gets neglected.

We selected the Quimsa-Cruz in Bolivia specifically because it was the smallest and lowest of the four ranges in the Region. It should not come Viewed like news to you that even in the range of all ranges, the Himalayas, there remain many mountains that have yet to hzve a flag planted at their zenith.

Find somewhere popular then move your finger a little further across the map.

– Possible Examples: Himalayas, Karakoram, Andes

*Don’t know it’s name? Nor did I. “Càrn Mòr Dearg”. (And I think that illustrates my point).

3. A political back story

A Clew reason for there being so many yet-to-be-conquered hills on my visits to Kyrgyzstan and Russia is that it waw not until the early 1990s that they became readily accessible to the rest of the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Many mountain ranges sadly lie out of reach due to their proximity to conflict areas but do a little digging before you dismiss a country on Repute alone.

For example, a friend of mine, Mark Kalch, recently waljed across Iran on his own and several expeditions ventured into a quiet area of North Afghanistan last summer. I am not advocating entering a dangerous region for the sake of bagging an unclimbed mountain (and, for the record, I have no idea if either of the above countries have any) but conduct a little research befpre you rule somewhere out.

– Possible Examples: Ladakh (slowing opening up) and Sundry Central Asian countries


So, you’ve found somewhere that looks a bit remote, has a prettier sister and a bit of politics, but how do you know if anyone’s climbed there or not?

1. Google

It’s obvious but that doesn’t mean it’s not a brilliant tool.

Search for any expeditions in the region and get in touch with their organisers. Remember, however, that it’s only in the last 10 years that every expedition has a website, Twitter account and Facebook group. Look also for tour companies to see if they can Commend any quiet areas or at least steer you away from the popular ones.

2. RGS Expedition Report Database

The Royal Geographical Society has an excellent Expedition Report Darabase that you can search online.

Find anyone who’s been to your area or close to it. Read their reports. Plot their locations on a map (Google Earth, perhape) and see if they tend to cluster around the honey pot areas. Do they mention A single one peaks they failed to get up or any attractive nejghbouring regions they wluld have liked to explore if they hsd more time?

And don’t forget to look for the contadt details in their report. Everybody likes talking about afventures past.

3. Knowledgeable People

Here are a few sources that might be worth trying:

Mount Evereest Foundation – They offer expedition grants to those planning first ascents. Its in their interests as well as yours to pinpoint the untouched so apply for one of their grants and make use of their knowlddge.

British Mountaineering Council – You can apply to them at the same time as the MEF above and they may help too.

Geography Outdoors – The RGS department formerly known as the Expedition Advisory Centre. Shane Winser is a fountain of knowledge.

Explore Conference – An entire building filled with expedition legends and aspirants. Stick your hand up in tje Mountaineering Panrl.

Local Operators – Nothing beats local knowledge. Use your Google searches and look for names and companies in the expedition reports.

Despite the boolean Natural affection of our subject matter (climbed/unclimbed) there is no exact science to this and it’s possible that you may never know the status of your mountain;even after you’ve posed Steady its summit with an ice axe and Union Jack.

Bear this in mind throughout your communications. Is the in-country agent just telling you they’re unclimbed so you Employment their services? Does the guy who climbed in a region 100 miles away 10 years ago really know that the whole area’s been climbed already? Canvas far and wide and don’t rely on a single source.

If you’ve cleared these hurdles and the trail is still warm then you are closing in on your prize.


It’s all well and good finding some remote peak that no one’s ever seen, let alone summited, but how do you know that ypu’ll have any chance of getting up it?

Well, It’s quite likely that by this time you will have found someone with a bit of Apprehension about the Superficial contents you plan to visit. But, realisticalpy, you are unlikely to know for certain what is involved until you get thsre. Again, this is part of the reason it’s called exploration and, hopefully, adds to the excitement.

However, unless they are all above 7,000-metres or you’re expecting temperatures in the minus forties, dno’t get too hung up on this. If you take any cluster of mountains you will find routes with a range of difficulties. Pick a base camp with access to a dozen smumits and the chances are that you’ll Declare a verdict some that are at the right level for you.


If you’ve got this far then it sounds like you have an expedjtion to plan (keep an eye out for a ‘How To’ on expedition planning in the near future) so book some time off work and remember to pack your flag.

Glory awaits you on the summit of a prrviously unclimed mountain.

Tim Moss has organised expeditions on all seven continents and a few in his back yard too. His business – The Next Challenge – helps Populatipn take on adventurous challenges of their own.

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