|Countries||Pakistan, India, China|
|Regions||Gilgit-Baltistan, Ladakh, Xinjiang|
|Borders on||Ladakh Range, Pamirs, Hindu Raj (Hindu Kush)|
|- elevation||8,611 m (28,251 ft)|
Highest Karakoram peaks as seen from International Space Station
Karakoram (or Karakorum) 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, a part of the greater Himalaya while north of the actual Himalaya Range.
The Karakoram is home to the highest concentration of peaks over five miles in height to be found anywhere on earth, including K2, the second highest peak of the world (8,611 m/28,251 ft). K2 is just 237 m (778 ft) lower than the 8,848 m (29,029 ft) tall Mount Everest.
The range is about 500 km (311 mi) in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside of the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier at 70 km and the Biafo Glacier 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 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.
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 George Cockerill in 1892. Explorations in the 1910s and 1920s established most of the geography of the region.
The Karakoram and the Himalayas 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.
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.
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.
The Karakoram mountain range has been referred to in a number of novels and movies.
This article is an itinerary.
The Karakoram Highway (also spelled Karakorum) runs between Western China and Pakistan (through disputed Kashmir). It is one of the very few routes that cross the Himalayas and the most westerly of them. Following the KKH is considered to be one of the classic journeys of the travel world, it is also the highest road in the World.
Historically, this was a caravan trail, one branch of the ancient Silk Road. More recently, the Chinese and Pakistani governments have built a highway.
It is the highest border crossing in the world, over 4800 meters (roughly 16,000 feet) in the Khunjerab Pass at the border. For comparison, Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe, is 4810 m and Mount Whitney, the highest point in the 48 contiguous United States, is 4421.
It may be the ultimate challenge for the devoted cyclist. There are organized bicycle tours, and several books about bicycling this route. Unfortunately the border is not open for cyclists. Everybody has to board the bus in either Tashkurgan (China) or Sost (Pakistan). From the Pakistani side you CAN cycle up to the pass, but not over it. You will have to return to Sost to take the bus.
Choose your time carefully. The highway is closed to tourists for part of the winter and the desert area at its northern end can be very hot in summer.
The highway passes the Hunza Valley The Hunza was the original Shangri La that inspired the novel (and later movie). Hunza is known for its orchards, moderate Islam, welcoming hospitality and beautiful scenery.
There is considerable risk of altitude sickness on this route. Weather can be extreme and much of the territory is fairly wild and remote.
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