Mintaka Pass

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Mintaka Pass
Mintaka pass pakistan map (1990 version).jpg
Mintaka Pass between Pakistan and China
Elevation 4,709 m (15,449 ft)
Location ChinaPakistan border
Range Karakorum Mountains
Coordinates 36°56′45″N 74°53′06″E / 36.94583°N 74.88500°E / 36.94583; 74.88500Coordinates: 36°56′45″N 74°53′06″E / 36.94583°N 74.88500°E / 36.94583; 74.88500
Summit of Mintaka Pass. 1918.

The Mintaka Pass or Mingteke Pass[1] (simplified Chinese: 明铁盖达坂; traditional Chinese: 明鐵蓋達坂; pinyin: Míngtiěgě Dábǎn)[2] is a mountain pass in the Karakorum Mountains, between Pakistan and Xinjiang in China. In ancient times, the Mintaka Pass and the nearby Kilik Pass (4,827 m or 15,837 ft high; 37°05′N 74°41′E / 37.083°N 74.683°E / 37.083; 74.683), 30 km (19 mi) to the west, were the two main access points into the Upper Hunza Valley from the north. The Hunza Valley is a mountainous valley near Gilgit in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

These were the shortest and quickest ways into northern India from the Tarim Basin and were usually open all year, but extremely dangerous and only suited for travellers on foot. From Tashkurgan one travelled just over 70 km (43 mi) south to the junction of the Minteke River. Heading some 80 km (50 mi) west up this valley one reached the Mintaka Pass, (and 30 km further, the alternative Kilik Pass), which both led into upper Hunza, from where one could travel over the infamous rafiqs or "hanging passages" to Gilgit and, from there, on to either to Kashmir, or the Gandharan plains.

Laden animals could be taken over the Mintaka and Kilik passes into upper Hunza (both open all year), but then loads would have to be carried by coolie (porters) to Gilgit (an expensive and dangerous operation). From there, cargoes could be reloaded onto pack animals again and taken either east to Kashmir and then on to Taxila (a long route), or west to Chitral which provided relatively easy access to either Jalalabad, or Peshawar via Swat.

The Mintaka Pass was the main one used in ancient times until the fairly recent advance of glacier ice. After the glaciation of the Mintaka Pass, the Kilik Pass was favoured by caravans coming from China and Afghanistan as it is wider, free of glaciers and provided enough pasture for caravan animals.[3]

The new Karakoram Highway heads further south, and then west over the Khunjerab Pass (4,934 m or 16,188 ft; 36°51′N 75°32′E / 36.850°N 75.533°E / 36.850; 75.533).