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Karakoram is a large mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistanmarker, Indiamarker and Chinamarker, located in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistanmarker (Pakistanmarker), Ladakhmarker (Indiamarker), and Xinjiang (Chinamarker). It is one of the Greater Ranges of Asia, a part of the greater Himalayamarker while north of the actual Himalaya Rangemarker.

The Karakoram is home to more than sixty peaks above , including K2marker, the second highest peak of the world ( ). K2 is just smaller than the tall Mount Everestmarker. The range is about in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside of the polar regions. The Siachen Glaciermarker at 70 km and the Biafo Glaciermarker at 63 km rank as the world's second and third longest glaciers outside the polar regions.

The Karakoram is bounded on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan Plateaumarker, and on the north by the Pamir Mountainsmarker. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed, west to east, by the Gilgit, Indusmarker, 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 Pakistanmarker.

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 Rivermarker were explored by George Cockerill in 1892. Explorations in the 1910s and 1920s established most of the geography of the region.

Marcel Ichac made a film entitled "Karakoram", chronicling a French expedition to the range in 1936. The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice film festival of 1937.

Geological importance

The Karakoram and the Himalayasmarker are important to Earth scientists for several reasons. They are one of the world's most geologically active areas, at the boundary between two colliding continents. Therefore, they are important in the study of plate tectonics. Mountain glaciers may serve as an indicator of climate change, advancing and receding with long-term changes in temperature and precipitation. These extensive ranges may have even caused climate change when they were formed over 40 million years ago. The large amounts of rock exposed to the atmosphere are weathered (broken down) by carbon dioxide. This process removes the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, and could have caused the global climate to cool, triggering an ongoing series of ice ages.

Highest peaks

The Notable Peaks of the Karakorammarker are:

The majority of the highest peaks are either in the Gilgit-Baltistan or Ladakh regions of Indiamarker/Pakistanmarker. Baltistan has more than 100 mountain peaks exceeding height from sea level.


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. The ranges are listed roughly west to east.

See also


  1. Tajikistan's Fedchenko Glacier is 77 km long. Baltoro and Batura Glaciers in the Karakoram are 57 km long, as is Bruggen or Pio XI Glacier in southern Chile. Measurements are from recent imagery, generally supplemented with Russian 1:200,000 scale topographic mapping as well as Jerzy Wala,Orographical Sketch Map: Karakoram: Sheets 1 & 2, Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, Zurich, 1990.
  2. Jerzy Wala, Orographical Sketch Map of the Karakoram, Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, Zurich, 1990.


  • Curzon, George Nathaniel. 1896. The Pamirs and the Source of the Oxus. Royal Geographical Society, London. Reprint: Elibron Classics Series, Adamant Media Corporation. 2005. ISBN 1-4021-5983-8 (pbk); ISBN 1-4021-3090-2 (hbk).
  • Mortenson, Greg and Relin, David Oliver. 2008. Three Cups of Tea. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0141034263 (pbk); Viking Books ISBN 978-0670034826 (hbk); Tantor Media ISBN 978-1400152513 (MP3 CD).

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