Climbers to Settle Dispute over Tallest Mountain in Southeast Asia

By San Yamin Aung 8 September 2017

YANGON — Three climbers from the Myanmar Hiking and Mountaineering Federation will attempt to summit Mt. Hkakabo Razi in Kachin State next August, in hopes of settling a dispute over whether it is Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain.

The remote mountain, which is part of the eastern range of the Himalayas, has long been officially regarded as the tallest mountain in the country, measured at 19,296 feet (5,881 meters) above sea level, also making it the highest peak in Southeast Asia.

The question of whether Gamlang Razi, also in Kachin State, is taller was raised after a Myanmar-US team climbed it in 2013 and recorded a height of 19,258 feet (5,870 meters) above sea level. The team claimed that the mountain was actually the highest in the country, and that the earlier estimate overstated Hkakabo Razi’s height, which their digital estimations found could be less than 5,800 meters (19,028 feet).

In the latest attempt to end the dispute, a team comprised of all men in their 30s: Ko Pyae Phyo Aung, Ko Aung Khaing Myint and Ko Zaw Zin Khaing, will begin their ascent in the first week of August 2018 to scientifically prove the height.

Ko Pyae Phyo Aung was one of first of two climbers from Myanmar who reached the summit of Mt. Everest in May of last year, and planted a Myanmar flag.

At the end of October, they will train at Ama Dablam Mountain in Nepal, which is higher than Hkakabo Razi at 6,812 meters above sea level.

The trip will be sponsored primarily by the Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic branch of Burmese tycoon Tay Za’s sprawling business conglomerate. The foundation donated US$35,000 for the Nepalese training trip on Sept. 6.

Chairman of the Myanmar Hiking and Mountaineering Federation Dr. Nay Soe Maung told The Irrawaddy that the trio has about 10 years of experience in mountaineering and that they will be prepared for their ascent next summer.

In 2014, an eight-member team from the Universities Hiking and Mountaineering Association and the Invitation of Nature (ION) Foundation made the ascent, however, only two climbers reached the ice-capped peak, becoming the first Myanmar climbers to do so, but they went missing on the descent.