The Karakoram Mountain Ranges
The Karakoram, or the Karakoram, is a large mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, India, and China, located in the regions of Gilgit–Baltistan, Ladakh, and Xinjiang region. It is one of the Greater Ranges of Asia and is considered to be a subrange of the Himalayas.
The Karakoram is home to the highest concentration of peaks over 8000m in height to be found anywhere on earth, including K2, the second highest peak in the world 8,611 m. The range is about 500 km in length and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the Polar Regions.
The Siachen Glacier at 70 kilometers and the Biafo Glacier at 63 kilometers rank as the world’s second and third longest glaciers outside the Polar Regions. Some of the debris-covered Karakoram glaciers are found to be expanding but other ones are retreating. About 28-50% of the mountains are glaciated.
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 Karakorum 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.
Name the Karakoram is a Turkic term meaning black gravel. The name was first applied by local traders to the Karakoram Pass. Early European travelers, 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 the Karakoram. Later terminology was influenced by the Survey of India, whose surveyor Thomas Montgomerie in the 1850s gave the labels K1 to K6 to six high mountains visible from his station at Mount Haramukh in Kashmir.
Exploration of the Karakorom Ranges
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 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, 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 Humza in the west to the Saser Muztagh in the bend of the Shyok River in the east.
Karakoram 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 and Alps. Mountain glaciers may serve as an indicator of climate change, advancing and receding with long-term changes in temperature and precipitation. Karakoram glaciers are mostly stagnating or enlarging, 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.
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. To the south, the Indus glacier was the main valley glacier, which flowed 120 kilometers down from Nanga Parbat massif to 870 meters elevation. In the north, the Karakoram glaciers joined those from the Kunlun Mountains and flowed down to 2,000 meters in the Tarim basin.
While the current valley glaciers in the Karakorum reach a maximum length of 76 kilometers, several of the ice-age valley glacier branches and main valley glaciers had lengths up to 700 kilometers. During the Ice age, the glacier snowline was about 1,300 meters lower than today.
Karakoram Highest peaks
The notable peaks of the Karakoram are:
K2 — 8,611 meters, Gasherbrum I — 8,080 meters,
Broad Peak — 8,051 metres ,
Gasherbrum II — 8,035 metres ,
Gasherbrum III — 7,952 metres ,
Gasherbrum IV — 7,925 metres ,
Rakaposhi Peak — 7,788 metres,
Distaghil Sar — 7,885 metres
Kunyang Chhish — 7,852 metres,
Masherbrum I — 7,821 metres,
Batura I — 7,795 metres,
Batura II — 7,762 metres,
Kanjut Sar — 7,760 metres,
Saltoro Kangri — 7,742 metres,
Batura III — 7,729 metres,
Saser Kangri — 7,672 metres,
Chogolisa — 7,665 metres,
Haramosh Peak — 7,397 metres,
Momhil Sar — 7,343 metres,
Baintha Brakk — 7,285 metres,
Muztagh Tower — 7,273 metres.
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 height from sea level.
K-names, K1: Masherbrum, K2, K3: Broad Peak, K4: Gasherbrum II, K5: Gasherbrum I, K6: Baltistan Peak, K7: 6,934 m peak near Charakusa Valley, K9: approx. 7,000 m peak near Trango Towers, K10: Saltoro Kangri I, K11: Saltoro Kangri II, K12: subsidiary peak of Saltoro Kangri, K22: Saser Kangri I Subranges
The naming and division of the various subranges of the Karakoram are not universally agreed upon. However, the following is a list of the most important subranges, following Jerzy Wala. The ranges are listed roughly west to east.
Batura Muztagh, Rakaposhi-Haramosh Mountains, Spantik-Sosbun Mountains, Hispar Muztagh, South Ghujerab Mountains, Panmah Muztagh, West Mountains, Masherbrum Mountains, Baltoro Muztagh, Saltoro Mountains, Siachen Muztagh, Rimo Muztagh, Saser Muztagh, Passes From west to east Kilik Pass, Mintaka Pass, Khunjerab Pass), Shimshal Pass, Mustagh Pass, Karakoram Pass, Sasser Pass
The Khunjerab Pass is the only motorable pass across the range. The Shimshal Pass 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 the 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 children in the region. In the Gatchaman TV series, the Karakoram range houses Galactor’s headquarters.