Northern Pakistan is host to three of the world’s biggest and most spectacular mountain ranges, the Himalaya, the Karakoram and the Hindukush. The convergence of these magnificent ranges, at the confluence of Indus and Gilgit rivers near Jaglot -a small town 40 Km south of Gilgit city-, create a unique geographical feature on earth.
These magnificent mountain ranges are also home to one of the densest collection of highest and most precipitous mountain peaks in the world. These include five, out of the total fourteen, above 8000 meter high peaks in the world, including the second highest mountain peak -the K-2 (8611m). Other 8000 meter peaks in Pakistan includes Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2, Broad Peak and Nanga Purbat. Nevertheless these mountain ranges also boast more than 160 peaks above 7000 meters and around 700 peaks above 6000 meters.
Due to its very high altitudes and sub-zero temperatures these mountainous regions are also one of the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the polar regions. Consisting of numerous ice glaciers including the world second and third longest glaciers i.e. the Siachen Glacier (70 km) and the Biafo Glacier (63 km).
The Karakoram Range covers the borders between Pakistan, India and China, in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan), Ladakh (India), and Xinjiang region, (China). The range is about 500 km (311 mile) in length, and 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.
The Western Himalayan Range is situated in Kashmir valley and Northern Pakistan, to the south and east of Indus River, and is dominated by Nanga Parbat massif with highest peak rising 8125 metres above the sea level, Pakistan’s 2nd and world’s 9th highest peak. Nanga Parbat peak is also famous for its unique Rupal Face which rises 4,600 meters straight above its base and the mountain is considered as one of the most difficult and dangerous to climb, nick named as Killer Mountain.
The Hindukush rises South West of Pamirs. It is considered to extend from Wakhjir pass at the junctions of the Pamirs and Karakoram to Khawak pass North of Kabul. Its first region extends from Wakhjir pass separating Hunza from Wakhan. Its second region lies beyond Dorah pass in Afghanistan. The third region lies in Pakistan and extends into Swat and Kohistan areas. On the East it is separated from Karakoram by Mighty Indus River.
Pakistan’s forth major mountain range is the Suleiman range, it emerges in the south western region of the country, mostly covering Baluchistan Province. However the mountain range is quite different in character from the Northern mountains as it is less precipitous and with medium elevations. The highest peak is Takht -i-Suleiman rising 3,487 meters above sea level.
Despite harsh geographic and climatic conditions the mountainous regions of Pakistan are heavily inhabited by huge population. Karakoram Range due to its most unfavorable living conditions is sparely inhabited among all, while lower Himalayan and Hindukush Ranges supports a great deal of population living all over. The extraordinary living conditions in these regions have given rise to specific arts, culture and traditions and life style. Nevertheless the special ecological conditions and remoteness of mountainous areas also support a unique bio-diversity of huge variety of plants and animals species. It is important to mention that 90% of Pakistan’s Natural Forests are found in some of these high hills. On the other hand these areas are also home to rare species of wild animals including snow leopards, brown bears and mountain goats etc.
The mountain regions are also been considered as a lifeline for the people of down country in Pakistan due to perpetual supply of fresh water for agricultural, domestic and industrial use. All of Pakistan’s five major rivers and its tributaries originate in these mountain regions and receives its waters from the glaciers and snow clad mountains. On the other hand these areas have an enormous potential for tourism and adventure sports. Considered as heaven for mountaineers, trackers, explorers and adventurists, every year a good deal of mountain lovers visit the area and explore wonders of nature.
Please see in below a Map of Northern Mountain Ranges of Pakistan.