• Photo: tsaiproject/Flickr

    Spider Rock

    There's nothing as alluring as what you can't have. Whether for religious, conservation, or safety reasons, these five peaks are off-limits to climbers (though that hasn't stopped some from trying). Click through and keep dreaming.
  • Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr

    Spider Rock

    Located on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, Spider Rock is one of the tallest freestanding spires in the world, an 800-foot tower that rises dramatically from the floor of Canyon de Chelly. The tribe, whose mythology holds that Spider Rock is the home of the creator god Spider Grandmother, currently prohibits climbing on the formation. Climbers Don Wilson, Jerry Gallwas, and Mark Powell made the first ascent of the tower in 1956 after a three-day push.
  • Photo: bowiesnodgrass/Flickr


    Geologically, 1,583-foot Shiprock is a volcanic plug, a giant mass of breccia that formed when the volcano around it weathered away millions of years ago. The rock, located on the Navajo reservation in northwestern New Mexico, is probably the most sought-after peak on this list. While the tribe banned climbing on the formation in 1970, some climbers, Navajo and otherwise, continue to make clandestine ascents.
  • Photo: Vijay Kiran


    While several western expeditions reconnoitered Mount Kailash before the Chinese government banned climbing there in 2001, the 21,778-foot peak has never seen an ascent. Locate in Tibet, Kailash is sacred to several religions including Hinduism, which considers the mountain to be the abode of Shiva.
  • Photo: Fanny Shertzer

    Ball's Pyramid

    Located 12 miles off Australia's Lord Howe Island, Ball's Pyramid is a stack, the last remnant of a now-eroded volcanic caldera. The rugged, 1,844-foot formation was first summitted in 1965 by a team from the Sydney Rock Climbing Club, who warded off swarms of biting centipedes en route to the summit. The New South Wales government tightly restricts access to the island, which is home to the endangered Lord Howe Island stick insect; while not prohibited outright, expeditions rarely obtain the necessary permission to climb Ball's Pyramid.
  • Photo: Rhion

    Gangkhar Puensum

    Located on Bhutan's border with China, Gangkhar Puensum is the highest unclimbed mountain in the world at 24,386 feet--a distinction which it is likely to keep for the foreseeable future, since the Bhutanese government banned climbing on peaks higher than 6,000 meters in 1994. In 1998, the Chinese government gave a Japanese team permission to climb the peak, but changed its mind following friction with Bhutan; the expedition ended up making the first ascent of a subsidiary summit of the mountain.
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