Nakamura: Steward of Unclimbed Peaks

Posted on: May 7, 2008

Tamotsu Nakamura, the most prolific explorer of unclimbed peaks in eastern Tibet and western China. Nakamura has taken thirty expeditions to the area's various ranges over the past eighteen years; from those he has produced detailed maps and photographs. His work, beyond winning numerous awards, has provided information and inspiration to mountaineers seeking bold, virgin peaks. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

With the advent of GIS, satellite images and other advanced cartographic applications, it seems the world is growing smaller by the minute. But long-time Alpinist contributor Tamotsu Nakamura—though he began his explorations after the Golden Age of Mountaineering ended—begs to differ.

"Some convince themselves that veiled mountains in the greater ranges are an experience of the past," Nakamura says. "But Tibet has an incredibly vast and complex topography that holds countless unclimbed summits, and beckons a lifetime's search. The peaks there are stunning and magnificent, and many of them will remain enigmas for generations."

Stunning indeed. His thirty expeditions over the past eighteen years have revealed—in many cases for the first time—the 250+ unclimbed peaks above 6000 meters in the various ranges of eastern Tibet and western Sichuan. These peaks are climbers' ultimate objects of desire: never-before-seen gullies, untouched ridges, virgin summits.


"A quest to reach these unfrequented peaks and the mysterious gorge country of the great five rivers in Asia: Upper Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy and Brahmaptura, began as a voyage of discovery to the alluring borderland of West China in 1990, and then to the 'Alps of Tibet,'" Nakamura says. "Of particular satisfaction have been the extensive explorations and unveiling of unknown peaks and glaciers in the Nyainqentanglha East range, Kangri Garpo range and Deep Gorge Country (so-called Three Rivers Gorges of the Yangtze, Mekong and Salween) in Eastern Tibet, Yunnan and west Sichuan."

All of the peaks photographed below are unclimbed; many have not been attempted; still others were never discovered, mapped or photographed before Nakamura. It is the novelty of these peaks—summits that never were known to the collective consciousness, let alone climbed—that so excites climbing's upper ranks. Nakamura is aware: "The British climbers are paying keen attention."

A result of Nakamura's extensive explorations in eastern Tibet, this map notes geological features, including major peaks, from Nyainqentanglha East to the Hengduan Mountains. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

The areas of eastern Tibet and western China where Nakamura has explored contain more than 250 peaks above 6000 meters that remain unclimbed. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Find a sample of Nakamura's wild peaks from his 2006 and 2007 expeditions below. Many of these images will become available throughout May 2008 as high-res downloads at Alpinist Wallpaper. To learn more about Nakamura check out his many contributions to Alpinist:

Biography: Alpinist Photographer of the Month, May 2008

Alpinist Wallpaper: Unclimbed Peaks, May 2008

Alpinist NewsWire: December 5, 2007

Alpinist 20: Summer 2007

Alpinist NewsWire: April 10, 2007

Alpinist High Camp: February 2007

Alpinist 17: Autumn 2006

Alpinist 4: Autumn 2003

The general route of Nakamura's explorations in Autumn 2007. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Autumn 2007: Southeastern Tibet

All peaks below are located in southeastern Tibet and remain unclimbed; some of the peaks were shown to the world for the first time in the fall of 2007.

The south-southwest face of unclimbed Holy Damyon (6324m), Nu Shan, Mekong-Wi Qu Divide. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

An unclimbed peak of ca. 5700 meters in the Geuzong. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

Ca. 5700-meter unclimbed peak on the Yu (Wi) Qu Salween Divide. After muleteers refused passage to the upper Salween, Nakamura's team was forced to choose a route along this tributary of the Salween, where Nakamura had explored previously. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

An unclimbed peak of ca. 5800m in the Geuzong. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

An unclimbed peak located south of Holy Damyon, Nu Shan, Mekong-Wi Qu Divide. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

A 6005-meter unclimbed peak on the Mukong Xueshan massif, Baxoila Ling, Salween-Irrawaddy Divide. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

An unclimbed peak (5900m) on the Mukong Xueshan massif, Baxoila Ling, Salween-Irrawaddy Divide. [Photo] Tamotsu Nakamura

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