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Oropolitics comes from the Greek oros meaning mountain and politikos meaning citizen. In modern usage it denotes the use and abuse of mountaineering for political purposes.

The term "oropolitics" was used in the early 1980s to describe the surreptitious efforts, first by Pakistanmarker from the 1950s, and then by Indiamarker from the late 1970s, to demonstrate control and ownership of the Siachen Glaciermarker by allowing or organising mountaineering expeditions to the high peaks such as Saltoro Kangrimarker and Teram Kangrimarker flanking the glacier. The Siachen War of 1984 was the direct outcome of these 'oropolitical' activities. Another example is the Chinesemarker publication Raising the Five Star Flag on Mount Tomur, an account of the successful Chinese expedition of 1977 to the Tien Shanmarker peak better known by its Russian name as Pik Pobedymarker. The Chinese volume seems to imply a first ascent and completely ignores multiple Russian ascents.

The strangest oropolitical events must surely be the unpublicised ascents of Nanda Devimarker and Nanda Kotmarker by joint Indo-US expeditions in the 1960s to plant devices to monitor Chinese nuclear activity. The media disclosure in 1978 that an Indo-American covert expedition had planted a nuclear-fuelled monitoring device atop Nanda Kot in the 1960s, and that subsequently the device had disappeared, led to fears of radioactive contamination of the river Gangamarker, and a political brouhaha.

Recent examples of oropolitics, again from India, were the claimed ascent of Nyegyi Kangsang (7047 m) and the attempt on the nearby peak Kangto (7090 metres) by Indian teams in the 1990s. Both are remote Arunachal Pradeshmarker peaks difficult of access, located on or very close to the India-China border. These were as much sporting activities as visible demonstrations of de facto control of India over terrain claimed by China. It has been suggested that the actual summit of Nyegyi Kangsang was not reached.

The opening of Siachen peaks to foreigners in 1985, even though a war was on, was also an unsubtle display of oropolitics. India wanted foreign teams to attempt Siachenmarker peaks and thus provide neutral eyewitness accounts of Indian control over the glacier.

A simmering dispute between Chinamarker and Bhutanmarker over Kula Kangrimarker (7554? metres), which is possibly located wholly in Chinese territory, but is claimed by Bhutan to lie on the Bhutan-China border and be the highest peak of Bhutan, has clear oropolitical overtones. A Japanese team attempting nearby Gangkhar Puensummarker (7570? metres) on the Bhutan-China border in 1999 from the Chinese side stopped short of the true peak due to the King of Bhutan having prohibited ascent of the unclimbed main summit.


  1. The Telegraph - Calcutta : Nation
  2. "Oropolitics", Alpine Journal, London, 1984.
  3. SummitPost - Pik Pobeda/Tomur Feng - Climbing, Hiking & Mountaineering
  4. M.S. Kohli and K. Conboy, "Spies in the Himalayas", 2003.
  5. Articles in The Himalayan Journal, 1996, Mumbai.
  6. Kangkar Punsum and Kula Kangri

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