Mountains that Lost Attention

Mountains that Lost Attention

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An article about history and about mountains


Country highpoints draw the exceptional attention of many mountaineers. Most of these mountains are really worth the attention, while others are focused just because they are country highpoints, and there is nothing interesting about those peaks. It means that the interest for a mountain often doesn’t depend only on the beauty or peculiarity of the mountain itself, but human political decisions can support or decrease the “value” of mountains and peaks, too.

Since WWII the general political climate was moving towards democracy (despite the still existing huge defects) and as a consequence several countries and territories gained independence. The number of countries increased, and the number of country highpoints increased, too. Anybody can easily search for these country highpoints: there are several such lists there.

But a few countries also disappeared since WWII. As their highest mountains are not considered as country highpoints any more, much less information is known about these ex-country highpoints. Though these mountains are still the same as they were a few decades ago. The low attention on these peaks can be seen also in SP: hardly any of them has its page here. In the texts below I give the link in all cases when the relevant SP page is there.

There are a few cases when a country disappears, and not its highest mountain loses its significance but the highpoint of the “occupying” country will be forgotten. It happens when the highpoint of the “occupying” country is lower than that of the occupied country. I found three such cases:
· China > Tibet
· Indonesia > Netherlands New Guinea
· Malaysia > North Borneo

And now please see the disappeared countries and the mountains that once were their country highpoints. The ordered the countries in sequence of their area.

I would appreciate your advises for amending data concerning the highpoints. But I wouldn’t much like to open discussions about the summary of the history of these countries. My aim with the very short history description was really nothing else than helping you to position these countries in time and space. And not to give a detailed and exact history of these countries.


EverestMount Everest

K2 8611-MK2

The Tibetan Empire was founded in the 7th century. From the 13th century Tibet was under Mongol rule. China gained control over Tibet in the 18th century. Tibet was de facto an independent state between 1912 and 1950. Since 1950 Tibet is an integral part of China.

Area: approximately 820,000 km2 (320,000 sq mi)

Highest mountain: Mount Everest, 8850 m (29035 ft) – the highest point of the Earth. As it is also the highest mountain of China now, it means that in 1950 China actually lost its earlier country highpoint and got a new higher one. Until 1950 the country highpoint of China was K2, 8611 m (28250 ft), the highest peak of the Karakoram range.

As in the last decades there were ongoing disputes between Pakistan, India and China about the borders in the area around K2, a confirmation from from historians would be good that K2 was on the border of China before 1950, too.

And another comment: of course in case of K2 it's not fair to say that it has a minor attention. It's more valid for the peaks in the coming paragraphs.

Netherlands New Guinea

CarstenszCarstensz Peak
Kerinci craterMount Kerinci

The Netherlands retained New Guinea when Indonesia became independent in 1949. Netherlands New Guinea was an overseas territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1949 to 1962. Indonesia annexed it in 1963.

Area: 420,540 km² (162,371 sq mi)

Highest elevation: Carstensz Peak, 4884 m (16024 ft). As it is also the highest mountain of Indonesia now, it means that in 1963 Indonesia actually lost its earlier country highpoint and got a new higher one. Until 1963 the country highpoint of Indonesia was Mount Kerinci, 3805 m (12483 ft), the highest peak of Sumatra, in the Barisan Mountains.

South Yemen

The history of South Yemen as a political entity started in 1839 when the British East India Company captured the city of Aden. Until 1937 it was ruled as part of British India. In 1937 the Colony of Aden was formed and ruled separately. In 1967 Southern Yemen became an independent state as the People's Republic of South Yemen. In 1990 it unified with North Yemen.

Area: 290,274 km² (112,076 sq mi). There are sources giving different data.

Highest mountain: Ğabal Tamir, 2508 m (8228 ft).

Western Sahara

Western Sahara was established in 1884 as a Spanish colony. In 1975 Morocco occupied two-thirds of its area, and since 1979 it keeps in hand almost its entire area. Western Sahara still has disputed sovereignty, though de facto it belongs to Morocco.

Area: 266,000 km2 (103,000 sq mi)

Highest elevation: I didn’t find any reliable information about it. Different internet sources speak about summits with elevation between 463 m and 805 m. I have two maps indicating highpoints of Western Sahara. Both give the highest altitude as 823 m. But Google Map doesn’t confirm it: there I didn’t find any higher point than 570 m. What seems to be certain in all resources: this peak is unnamed.

South Vietnam

South Vietnam's origin can be traced to the French colony of Cochinchina. Cochinchina was a French colony from 1862 to 1948. The later state of South Vietnam was created in 1954 by combining Cochinchina with southern Annam. North Vienam occupied South Vietnam in 1975, and since then a single Vietnam exists.

Area: 173,809 km2 (67,108 sq mi)

Highest mountain: Ngoc Linh, 2598 m (8524 ft). It is the highest peak of the Annamite Range.


In 1841 James Brook signed a treaty with the Sultan of Brunei about governing Sarawak, and in 1842 the sultan appointed him as the Rajah of Sarawak. The independence of this state ended when the Brook’s family formally ceded the sovereignty to the British crown in 1946. Sarawak was granted independence in 1963 and was admitted into the Federation of Malaysia still in the same year.

Area: 124,450 km2 (48,050.4 sq mi)

Highest mountain: Mount Murud, 2423 m (7946 ft). There are sources indicating elevation of 2438 m, too. The mountain is the highest point of the Kelabit Highlands.

East Germany

The basis of this country was formed in 1945 as the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany. Officially the country existed between 1949 and 1990. In 1990 it joined the federal Republic of Germany.

Area: 108,333 km2 (41,828 sq mi)

Highest mountain: Fichtelberg, 1215 m (3986 ft). It is the second highest peak of Erzgebirge.

North Borneo

Gorilla FaceMount Kinabalu
The foliage on the summit is shrubby, compared to the virgin growth rainforest during the 40 km approachGunung Tahan

From 1865 North Borneo was a land leased by different entrepreneurs and companies from the Sultanate of Brunei. In 1888 North Borneo became a protectorate of the UK. In 1946 North Borneo became a British Crown Colony. North Borneo joined the Federation of Malaysia still in 1963.

Area: 76,115 km2 (29,388 sq mi)

Highest mountain: Mount Kinabalu, 4095 m (13435 ft). As it is also the highest mountain of Malaysia now, it means that in 1963 the highpoint of the Federation of Malaya, Gunung Tahan, 2187 m (7175 ft) has lost its significance as a country highpoint.


Portugal first claimed sovereignty over Cabinda in the 1885 Treaty of Simulanbuco, which gave Cabinda the status of a protectorate of the Portuguese Crown. In 1975, the Treaty of Alvor integrated Cabinda into Angola. Since then officially Cabinda is part of Angola. But please note that this treaty was rejected by all Cabindan political organizations and secessionist still reclaim independence.

Area: 7823 km2 (3020 sq mi)

Highest point: Mountain Muabi, 870 m (2850 ft). The name of the highest mountain was given by an unofficial website of the "Cabinda government". For its altitude it's written "700+". According to the topo map of Google it is approximately 870 m.

Portuguese India

In 1510 the Portuguese established their permanent settlement Velha Goa.
Beside Goa they had other possessions on the coastline of India. In 1961 India annexed the last Portuguese possessions: Goa, Daman, Diu and the territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

Area: 4,319 km2 (1,668 sq mi).

Highest mountain: Sonsogor, 1167 m (3827 ft) – one of the peaks of the Western Ghats mountain range.


In 1856 the Sultanate of Oman was divided into 2 principalities: Oman and Zanzibar. Zanzibar became a British protectorate in 1890. It gained independence in 1963: the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba was established. In the same year the former British colony Tanganyika subsumed Zanzibar. Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed as the United Republic of Tanzania.

Area: 2,643 km2 (1,020.5 sq mi)

Highest elevation: 122 m (390 ft) on the Island of Zanzibar


The territory of Sidi Ifni was ceded to Spain by Morocco in 1859, following a short war. Spain returned Ifni to Morocco in 1969.

Area: 1502 km2 (580 sq mi).

Highest point: reading Google Map, its approximate elevation is 1230 m (4035 ft) at the southwestern end of Anti Atlas


View of Tai Mo Shan from westTai Mo Shan

The British forces occupied Hong Kong island in 1841, and their occupation was reinforced by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. In 1997 sovereignty was transferred to China.

Area: 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi)

Highest mountain: Tai Mo Shan, 957 m (3140 ft)


Macau as a Portuguese settlement started to develop in the 16th century. But Macau became officially a Portuguese colony only in 1887. Though according to the treaty of 1887 Portugal got the right for perpetual occupation and government of Macau, China assumed formal sovereignty over Macau in 1999.

Area: 29.2 km2 (11.27 sq mi)

Highest point: Alto de Coloane, 171 m (560 ft)


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Viewing: 1-8 of 8

Corax - Oct 14, 2009 6:12 am - Hasn't voted

Exactly who?

Interesting page.

I find the part about China, Mt Everest and Ulugh Muztagh a bit strange and confusing though.

Tibet was de facto an independent state between 1912 and 1950. Since 1950 Tibet is an integral part of China. Highest mountain: Mount Everest, 8850 m (29035 ft) – the highest point of the Earth. As it is also the highest mountain of China now, it means that in 1950 China actually lost its earlier country highpoint and got a new higher one.


  • Tibet wasn't recognized as an independent state by any other nation.
  • China definitely didn't recognize Tibet as an independent state.
  • It's true what you state that Tibet was de facto an independent state, but in this case it was basically a matter of making their own decisions within a framework set by the Chinese. When they wanted to make decisions which weren't acknowledged by the Chinese...well, we all know what happened.
  • K2 is also located on Chinese territory. It's a border peak with Pakistan. Even if you take Everest out of the equation, K2, The Gasherbrums and Broad Peak are higher than Ulugh Muztagh, even if you use the old and wrong altitude.

    Question: Exactly who regarded Ulugh Muztagh as the highest mountain of China?

    Until 1950 the country highpoint of China was Mount Muztag, 7723 m (25338 ft), the highest peak of the Kunlun Mountains. The elevation of 7723 m is according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. According to Corax’s page of Kunlun Shan mount Muztag must be lower.

  • The mountain's name is Ulugh Muztagh. There are dozens of "Muztaghs" in those parts of China. The name means "Ice Mountain".
  • You don't even have to mention Encyclopedia Brittanica as they are dead wrong on this issue. It's their (and some other well known publications) fault the rumor of Ulugh Muztagh being that high lives on.
    See here please.
  • The ridiculously high altitude of the peak comes from erroneous measuring a very long time ago. Famous explorer Littledale miscalculated the peak's altitude over a hundred years back.
  • The peak is climbed and measured with modern technology so there's no doubt whatsoever anymore.

  • SzaniUherkovich

    SzaniUherkovich - Oct 14, 2009 9:32 am - Hasn't voted

    Re: Exactly who?

    Hi Corax,

    Thanks for reading the article and giving your comments with suggested amendments. I think that there can be long historical and political disputes about the independence or dependence of certain countries. Though the dependence of Tibet was really not acknowledged by China, as I wrote "De Facto" it was independent. This status was reinforced by the fact that there was no Chinese military presence in Tibet before 1950.

    I found contradicting information on the height of Ulu Muztagh. I made my decision between the values with the help of Encyclopedia Brittanica. Of course I didn't mention that it's "dead wrong" because for me it was not obvious that it was dead wrong. I more considered is as a reliable source. But thanks for your comments now I know the background of the different numbers and the validation of the correct number.

    Now let's see the question of K2. I have a detailed and not too old map (1998) of the area around K2. It it says that an approximately 7500 km2 are northeast of K2 is disputed between Paksitan and China. If the disputed area is considered as a Chinese area, then K2 is really on the border. If the disputed area is considered as an area belonging to Pakistan, then K2 is within the borders of Pakistan. My map says that administration is Pakistani there, so according to this finally it can't be considered as a Chinese peak. But I have no experience in K2: I have been only to Hong-Kong a few times and not at this area. How do you see: is K2 really on the Chinese border? Do you think that K2 can be considered as a Chinese peak with no doubts?


    SzaniUherkovich - Oct 14, 2009 10:44 am - Hasn't voted

    Re: Exactly who?

    In my previous reply I didn't ask the right question. The real question is not the Pakistani-Chinese dispute of the last decades about the area between K2. The real question is if the same dispute existed between British India and China before 1950 (or before 1947 in order to be correct). My maps published before 1950 are not enough detailed for that. Do you have any information about it?


    Corax - Oct 14, 2009 7:04 pm - Hasn't voted

    Re: Exactly who?

    You're absolutely right about the Tibetan-Chinese dispute and the problem in general with border disputes. It was actually kind of thoughtless of me to bring up the issue as I did. We could probably discuss the matter for ever and not get to an absolute point anyway.

    Ulugh Muztagh and its elevation. I can see your point. Usually (as far as I can judge) Encyclopedia Brittanica is a publication to trust. The Ulugh Muztagh case may be one of the few errors.

    K2 is definitely on the border. If you want to climb it from the north side you're all the time on Chinese territory. The same go for three more peaks over 8000 meters. Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II. Also the 7900 meter peaks Gasherbrum III and IV are located right at the border. I'm right now looking at an official Pakistani map.

    Concerning the historical borders I can't tell you to 100% how the case has been. The only "actively disputed" area along that border is the Aksai Chin Plateau. India claims it, but China has administrated it for a long time. There have been talks about solving that border dispute for many years now. The solution might be to give up some claims from both sides. China recognizes the claims India has on some parts of Arunachal Pradesh and India in turn should then recognize China's claims on Aksai Chin. In 1996 it was all set (it appeared) and there were a lot of friendly hand shakes. In the end the whole thing went down the drain because other claims were thrown into the discussion. I can't recall all the details, but I know Sikkim, and India's "invasion" of it was discussed and also China's official claim of Tibet.
    As far as I have understood the whole thing is that the main peaks in the Karakoram Range (mentioned above) was the crystal clear border in the area in question. I know for a fact that the borders in some places along today's borders haven't changed for a very long time. I have one of Sven Hedin's (the famous Swedish Explorer) books in front of me and he gives for example the Karakoram Pass as the border to India. Back in those times Xinjiang Province, where K2 and the other peaks are located, was called Chinese Turkestan.
    Conclusion: K2 has the same status as Everest. It's a border peak of two countries.


    Corax - Oct 14, 2009 7:06 pm - Hasn't voted

    Re: Exactly who?

    Oh, I didn't see this second message until after I had answered your first.
    See above for answers.
    What we need here is a historian, or a specialist in Asian geography :)


    SzaniUherkovich - Oct 15, 2009 4:34 am - Hasn't voted

    Re: Exactly who?

    Perhaps the chance for mistake is still smaller if K2 is mentioned as the highest peak of China mainland before 1950, rather than keeping Ulu Muztagh. So I modified the text. Thanks again for your comments


    BLong - Oct 17, 2009 12:15 am - Hasn't voted

    Very interesting

    I really enjoyed reading this. Geo-political borders certainly are funny...


    SzaniUherkovich - Oct 17, 2009 4:00 pm - Hasn't voted

    Re: Very interesting

    Thanks for your comment. Actually I also enjoyed collecting all these data

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