The Highest Unclimbed Mountain

By Anupum Pant

Gangkhar Puensum, meaning three mountain siblings, is the tallest mountain in Bhutan with an elevation of 7,570 meters. Since the 80s several attempts have been made to climb this mountain – a part of which lies in Bhutan and the other part in Tibet. None of the attempts have ever been successful.

However in the year 1999, a team of climbers from Japan, after a protracted attempt to get a permit, were able to reach the top of one of the three peaks – Liankang Kangri – from the Chinese side of the mountain. Later, protests from local people in Bhutan made them stop.

So technically, the highest peak has never been climbed by anyone till date. Gangkhar Puensum remains the highest unclimbed mountain. The reason mostly is because obtaining a permit to climb it is almost impossible. It is prohibited by the government of Bhutan.

The prohibition by the government has mostly to do with the lack of rescue services at that place, and due to the local belief which considers the peak sacred – a home to holy spirits.

Gangkhar Puensum is certainly one of the uncharted mysterious places in the world where no one has gone and probably never will.

The 52 Year Old Fire

By Anupum Pant

Centralia, a small town in Pennsylvania sits on massive deposits of an A-class quality of coal – Under the town, in every direction, the coal veins span across several miles (50-80 miles long). In the 50s it used to be a bustling little town of about 2000 people, and yet the population of this town has dwindled to 10 now.

Some it has to do with the fact that Centralia has a fire burning underneath. A massive fire that accidentally started more than 50 years ago, and it still continues to burn, even today.

In May 1962, five volunteers were hired to clean up the landfill for Memorial day celebrations. Unlike every other time, when landfills were located at some other places and were set to fire to clean up, this time they were on an abandoned strip-mine pit next to the Odd Fellows Cemetery. Like the fire used to die off all the time, the fire set on that day (May 27th, 1962) never got extinguished. And then entered the labyrinth of abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia. The fire still burns…

Today, Centralia is no more than a ghost town. Several places here have huge cracks in the ground spewing hot steam.

centralia coal fire

By many, the fire is believed to be the sole factor in converting this bustling 50s town into a ghost town. However there’s much more to it than just the fire. Radiolab gives a great insight on it…

Although there is a 1 hour-long documentary on Youtube about this, do not forget to have a look at this short documentary about the town. “The Unknown Cameraman”, an urban explorer presents..

The Coldest Place on Earth

By Anupum Pant

A couple of days back I wrote about the hottest place on earth. That made me think of how cold the coldest place would be. I was sure it’d be somewhere in one of the poles, but I wasn’t sure where exactly it was.

This is what Google said:

Aerial photograph of Vostok Station, the coldest directly observed location on Earth. The lowest natural temperature ever directly recorded at ground level on Earth is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K), at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica, on July 21, 1983.

After a little more digging, I found that his was the old record. Turns out, the coldest place on earth now, not counting the laboratories, is still in the high ridges of the East Antarctic plateau close to Vostok station. It’s called the Dome B. And the coldest times happen when all the conditions are perfect.

When the conditions are right, the temperatures during winters can reach minus 92 degrees Celsius!