Karakoram

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This article is about the mountain range. For the ancient city in Mongolia, see Karakorum. For for the highway, see Karakoram Highway.
Not to be confused with Karakum.
Karakoram
Baltoro glacier from air.jpg
Baltoro glacier in the central Karakoram with 8000ers, Gasherbrum I & II.
Highest point
Peak K2
Elevation 8,611 m (28,251 ft)
Coordinates 35°52′57″N 76°30′48″E / 35.88250°N 76.51333°E / 35.88250; 76.51333
Geography
Baltoro region from space annotated.png
Highest Karakoram peaks as seen from International Space Station
Countries Pakistan, India and China
States/Provinces Gilgit–Baltistan, Ladakh and Xinjiang
Range coordinates 36°N 76°E / 36°N 76°E / 36; 76Coordinates: 36°N 76°E / 36°N 76°E / 36; 76
Borders on Ladakh Range, Pamirs and Hindu Raj (Hindu Kush)

The Karakoram, or Karakorum (Sanskrit: काराकोरम् ; simplified Chinese: 喀喇昆仑山脉; traditional Chinese: 喀喇崑崙山脈; pinyin: Kālǎkūnlún Shānmài; Hindi: काराकोरम, Kārākōram; Urdu: سلسلہ کوہ قراقرم‎; Balti: ཁརན ཨ ཀུརམ Kharan-a-Kuram Uyghur: كاراكورم), 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 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,[1] including K2, the second highest peak in 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. 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 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Relief map of the Karakoram

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[edit]

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 76 kilometres (47 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[edit]

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[edit]

View from the top of K2

Subranges[edit]

View of the moon over Karakoram Range in Pakistan

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[edit]

Chinese and Pakistani border guards at Khunjerab Pass

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[edit]

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 children in the region. In the Gatchaman TV series, the Karakoram range houses Galactor's headquarters.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ BBC, Planet Earth, "Mountains", Part Three
  2. ^ Tajikistan's Fedchenko Glacier is 77 kilometres (48 mi) long. Baltoro and Batura Glaciers in the Karakoram are 57 kilometres (35 mi) 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.
  3. ^ "Karakorum-Pamir". unesco. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Mason, Kenneth (1928). Exploration of the Shaksgam Valley and Aghil ranges, 1926. pp. 72ff. ISBN 9788120617940. 
  5. ^ Close C, Burrard S, Younghusband F et al. (1930). "Nomenclature in the Karakoram: Discussion". The Geographical Journal (Blackwell Publishing) 76 (2): 148–158. doi:10.2307/1783980. JSTOR 1783980. 
  6. ^ French, Patrick. (1994). Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer, pp. 53, 56-60. HarperCollinsPublishers, London. Reprint (1995): Flamingo. London. ISBN 0-00-637601-0.
  7. ^ Gansser (1975). Geology of the Himalayas. London: Interscience Publishers. 
  8. ^ Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2013. "Pamir Alpine Desert and Tundra." Robert Warren Howarth (ed.), Biomes & Ecosystems, Vol. 3. Ipswich, MA: Salem Press, pp. 978-980.
  9. ^ Gallessich, Gail (2011). "Debris on certain Himalayan glaciers may prevent melting". sciencedaily.com. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  10. ^ Collins, Nick. "Himalayan glaciers growing despite global warming". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  11. ^ Veettil, B.K. (2012). "A Remote sensing approach for monitoring debris-covered glaciers in the high altitude Karakoram Himalayas". International Journal of Geomatics and Geosciences 2 (3): 833–841. 
  12. ^ a b Kuhle, M. (1988). "The Pleistocene Glaciation of Tibet and the Onset of Ice Ages- An Autocycle Hypothesis.Tibet and High Asia. Results of the Sino-German Joint Expeditions (I)". GeoJournal 17 (4): 581–596. doi:10.1007/BF00209444. 
  13. ^ Kuhle, M. (2006). "The Past Hunza Glacier in Connection with a Pleistocene Karakorum Ice Stream Network during the Last Ice Age (Würm)". In Kreutzmann, H.; Saijid, A. Karakoram in Transition. Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press. pp. 24–48. 
  14. ^ a b c Kuhle, M. (2011). "The High Glacial (Last Ice Age and Last Glacial Maximum) Ice Cover of High and Central Asia, with a Critical Review of Some Recent OSL and TCN Dates". In Ehlers, J.; Gibbard, P.L.; Hughes, P.D. Quaternary Glaciation - Extent and Chronology, A Closer Look. Amsterdam: Elsevier BV. pp. 943–965.  (glacier maps downloadable)
  15. ^ a b Kuhle, M. (2001). The maximum Ice Age (LGM) glaciation of the Central- and South Karakorum: an investigation of the heights of its glacier levels and ice thickness as well as lowest prehistoric ice margin positions in the Hindukush, Himalaya and in East-Tibet on the Minya Konka-massif. "Tibet and High Asia (VI): Glaciogeomorphology and Prehistoric Glaciation in the Karakoram and Himalaya". GeoJournal 54 (1–4): 109–396. doi:10.1023/A:1021307330169. 
  16. ^ Kuhle, M. (1994). "Present and Pleistocene Glaciation on the North-Western Margin of Tibet between the Karakoram Main Ridge and the Tarim Basin Supporting the Evidence of a Pleistocene Inland Glaciation in Tibet. Tibet and High Asia. Results of the Sino-German and Russian-German Joint Expeditions (III)". GeoJournal (Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluwer) 33 (2/3): 133–272. doi:10.1007/BF00812877. 
  17. ^ Jerzy Wala, Orographical Sketch Map of the Karakoram, Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, Zurich, 1990.

References[edit]

External links[edit]