Tushuk Tash (Shipton's Arch)

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Tushuk Tash
Tushuk Tash (Shipton's Arch) in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China.
Photo by Gunter Welz, NABS (click image for larger version).

Big 19 Tour

For many years Guinness World Records had this listing for the highest natural arch in the world: "The highest natural arch is the sandstone arch 25 miles west-southwest of K'ashih, Sinkiang, China, estimated in 1947 to be nearly 1,000 feet tall, with a span of about 150 feet."

This listing was later dropped when Guinness editors could not locate the 1947 reference and also visited the area and could not find the arch. The arch was re-located by westerners and reported in the December 2000 issue of National Geographic in an article entitled "Journey to Shipton's Lost Arch." The arch was first reported in the west by British mountaineer Eric Shipton in his 1947 book Mountains of Tartary. The arch is not sandstone but a very crumbly conglomerate, and is located not west-southwest but west-northwest of K'ashih (Kashi, or Kashgar). The arch is called Tushuk Tash ("Pierced Rock") by locals.

Shipton estimated the height at 1000 feet and the span at 150 feet. The National Geographic team measured the arch at 1200 feet high, certainly the highest ever reported and almost certainly the highest in the world. They did not measure the span. Detailed photoanalysis indicates the span is 214 feet ± 10 feet but confirmation in the field is still needed.

Tushuk Tash
Photo by Gunter Welz

Our international arch hunter, NABS member Ray Millar, visited this arch in 2004 through Snow Lion Expeditions and took the photos below. He writes: "We got as far as the grassy hill mentioned in the National Geographic article, probably about 50 feet or so from the arch. The first view looks like any other very large arch (see photo below). After climbing up to the top of the grassy slope you then get the full effect as the opening continues down toward the bottom, which can't be seen. The top of the slope is very deceptive and drops dramatically away into the canyon. The area consists of very loose rocks so if you take more than a step or two too far from the top you could find yourself past the point of no return. No photo does this arch justice. You just have to be there."

Shipton's Arch, first view

Above: Shipton's Arch, first view.
Below: setting up ladders on the way in.
Photos by Ray Millar

Climbing to Shipton's Arch

Today, access to the arch is much easier via a maintained trail with wooden stairs. See the update on access on the NABS Blog.

Our next stop is Yunmentum Bridge, or ...

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