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Meaning "a mountain with white birches" in Mongolian language, running from southwest to northeast, Altun Shan lies between the Tarim Basin and Qaidam Bain in northwest China. Following the Kulun Shan in the west and joining Qilian Shan and extending east to Dangjian Shan Pass, it is 700 kilometers long and some 200 kilometers wide and consists of 6 parallel mountains and stretches across Qinghai Province, Gansu Province and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The highest peak in the west section, Sulamutag Feng of 6295 meters above sea level, is located on the main ridge line of Sulamutag Shan which is in the south of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. On the main ridge line of the middle section of Yusupu Alektetag Shan, a nameless virgin peak stands firmly at an altitude of 6055 meters above sea level. The highest peak in the middle section is also named Altun Shan, which is 5798 meters in height and lies at 93.3°E and 39.3°N, towering in the Subei (North Gangsu) Monggolian Autonomous County in Gansu Province.
On August 19, 1989, four persons from the Sino-Japan Friendship Mountaineering Team of the cities of Lanzhou and Akita made the successful ascent of the Altun Shan summit.