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Karakoram Mountains

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Karakoram Mountains

This article is about the mountain range. For the city in Mongolia, see Karakorum.
Not to be confused with Karakum.

Template:Infobox mountain range The Karakoram, or Karakorum (simplified Chinese: 喀喇昆仑山脉; traditional Chinese: 喀喇崑崙山脈; pinyin: Kālǎkūnlún Shānmài; Hindi: काराकोरम, Kārākōrama; Urdu: سلسلہ کوہ قراقرم‎), is a large mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, India and China, located in the regions of Gilgit–Baltistan (Pakistan), Ladakh (India), and Xinjiang region, (China). It is one of the Greater Ranges of Asia.

The Karakoram is home to the highest concentration of peaks over 8000m in height to be found anywhere on earth,[1] including K2, the second highest peak of the world 8,611 m (28,251 ft).

The range is about 500 km (311 mi) in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier at 70 kilometres (43 mi) and the Biafo Glacier at 63 kilometres (39 mi) rank as the world's second and third longest glaciers outside the polar regions.[2] Some of the debris-covered Karakoram glaciers are found to be expanding but other ones are retreating.

The Karakoram is bounded on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and on the north by the Pamir Mountains. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed, west to east, by the Gilgit, Indus, and Shyok Rivers, which separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalaya range proper as these rivers converge southwestward towards the plains of Pakistan.

The Tashkurghan National Nature Reserve and the Pamir Wetlands National Nature Reserve in the Karalorun and Pamir mountains have been nominated for inclusion in UNESCO in 2010 by the National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO and has tentatively been added to the list.[3]

Name

Karakoram is a Turkic term meaning black gravel. The name was first applied by local traders to the Karakoram Pass.[4] Early European travellers, including William Moorcroft and George Hayward, started using the term for the range of mountains west of the pass, although they also used the term Muztagh for the range now known as Karakoram.[4][5] Later terminology was influenced by the Survey of India, whose surveyor Thomas Montgomerie in the 1850s gave the labels K1 to K6 (K for Karakoram) to six high mountains visible from his station at Mount Haramukh in Kashmir.

Exploration

Due to its altitude and ruggedness, the Karakoram is much less inhabited than parts of the Himalayas further east. European explorers first visited early in the 19th century, followed by British surveyors starting in 1856.

The Muztagh Pass was crossed in 1887 by the expedition of Colonel Francis Younghusband[6] and the valleys above the Hunza River were explored by General Sir George K. Cockerill in 1892. Explorations in the 1910s and 1920s established most of the geography of the region.

The name Karakoram was used in the early 20th century, for example by Kenneth Mason,[4] for the range now known as the Baltoro Muztagh. The term is now used to refer to the entire range from the Batura Muztagh above Hunza in the west to the Saser Muztagh in the bend of the Shyok River in the east.

Geology and glaciers

The Karakoram is in one of the world's most geologically active areas, at the boundary between two colliding continents.

A significant part, 28-50% of the Karakoram Range is glaciated, compared to the Himalaya (8-12%) and Alps (2.2%).[7] Mountain glaciers may serve as an indicator of climate change, advancing and receding with long-term changes in temperature and precipitation.[8] Karakoram glaciers are mostly stagnating or enlarging,[9][10] because, unlike in the Himalayas, many Karakoram glaciers are covered in a layer of rubble which insulates the ice from the warmth of the sun. Where there is no such insulation, the rate of retreat is high.[11]

The Karakoram during the Ice Age

In the last ice age, a connected series of glaciers stretched from western Tibet to Nanga Parbat, and from the Tarim basin to the Gilgit District.[12][13][14] To the south, the Indus glacier was the main valley glacier, which flowed 120 kilometres (75 mi) down from Nanga Parbat massif to 870 metres (2,850 ft) elevation.[12][15] In the north, the Karakoram glaciers joined those from the Kunlun Mountains and flowed down to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) in the Tarim basin.[14][16]

While the current valley glaciers in the Karakorum reach a maximum length of 70 kilometres (43 mi), several of the ice-age valley glacier branches and main valley glaciers, had lengths up to 700 kilometres (430 mi). During the Ice age, the glacier snowline was about 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) lower than today.[14][15]

Highest peaks


The notable peaks of the Karakoram are:

The majority of the highest peaks are in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan. Baltistan has more than 100 mountain peaks exceeding 6,100 metres (20,000 ft) height from sea level.

K-names

Subranges

The naming and division of the various subranges of the Karakoram is not universally agreed upon. However, the following is a list of the most important subranges, following Jerzy Wala.[17] The ranges are listed roughly west to east.

Passes

From west to east

The Khunjerab Pass is the only motorable pass across the range. The Shimshal Pass (which does not cross an international border) is the only other pass still in regular use.

Cultural references

The Karakoram mountain range has been referred to in a number of novels and movies. Rudyard Kipling refers to the Karakorum mountain range in his novel Kim, which was first published in 1900. Marcel Ichac made a film titled Karakoram, chronicling a French expedition to the range in 1936. The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival of 1937. Greg Mortenson details the Karakoram, and specifically K2 and the Balti, extensively in his book Three Cups of Tea, about his quest to build schools for girls in the region. In the Gatchaman TV series, the Karakoram range houses Galactor's headquarters.

See also

Notes

References

External links

  • Blankonthemap The Northern Kashmir Website
  • Pakistan's Northern Areas dilemma
  • Great Karakorams
  • Karakorams.com : Travel and Trekking in the karakorams

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