The Himalayas is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world. Its revolution can be traced to the Jurassic Era (80 million years ago) when the world’s landmasses were split into two: Laurasia in the Northern hemisphere, and Gondwanaland in the southern hemisphere. The landmass which is now India broke away from Gondwanaland and floated across the earth’s surface until it collided with Asia.
The hard volcanic rocks of India were thrust against the soft sedimentary crust of Asia, creating the highest mountain range in the world. Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.
By extension, it is also the name of a massive mountain system that includes the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other, lesser, ranges that extend out from the Pamir Knot.
Together, the Himalayan mountain system is the planet’s highest, and home to the world’s highest peaks, the Eight-thousanders, which include Mount Everest and K2.
To comprehend the enormous scale of this mountain range, consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6,962 meters (22,841 ft) is the highest peak outside Asia, whereas the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7,200 m (23,600 ft).
The main Himalayan range runs west to east, from the Indus river valley to the Brahmaputra river valley, forming an arc 2,400 km (1,500 mi) long, which varies in width from 400 km (250 mi) in the western Kashmir-Xinjiang region to 150 km (93 mi) in the easternTibet-Arunachal Pradesh region.
The range consists of three coextensive sub-ranges, with the northernmost, and highest, known as the Great or Inner Himalayas. Some of the world’s major river systems arise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 3 billion people (almost half of Earth’s population) in 18 countries.
The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Geologically, the origin of the Himalayas is the impact of the Indian tectonic plate travelling northward at 15 cm per year to impact the Eurasian continent, about 40-50 million years ago.
The formation of the Himalayan arc resulted since the lighter rock of the seabeds of that time was easily uplifted into mountains. An often-cited fact used to illustrate this process is that the summit of Mount Everest is made of marine limestone
On the Indo-Gangetic plain at the base of the mountains, an alluvial plain drained by the Indus and Ganges-Brahmaputra river systems, vegetation varies from west to east with rainfall. The xeric Northwestern thorn scrub forests occupy the plains of Pakistan and the Indian Punjab. Further east lies the Upper Gangetic plains moist deciduous forests of Uttarakhand and Uttar
Pradesh and Lower Gangetic plains moist deciduous forests of Bihar and West Bengal. These are monsoon forests, with drought-deciduous trees that lose their leaves during the dry season. The moister Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests occupy the plains of Assam.
The Terai belt
Above the alluvial plain lies the Terai strip, a seasonally marshy zone of sand and clay soils. The Terai has higher rainfall than the plains, and the downward-rushing rivers of the Himalayas slow down and spread out in the flatter Terai zone, depositing fertile silt during the monsoon season and receding in the dry season. The Terai has a high water table due to groundwater percolating down from the adjacent zone.
The central part of the Terai belt is occupied by the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands, a mosaic of grasslands, savannas, and deciduous and evergreen forests that includes some of the world’s tallest grasslands. The grasslands of the Terai belt are home to the Indian rhinoceros(Rhinoceros unicornis).
Above the Terai belt is an upland zone known as the Bhabhar, a zone of porous and rocky soils made up of debris washed down from the higher ranges. The Bhabhar and the lower Shiwalik ranges have a subtropical climate. The Himalayan subtropical pine forests occupy the western end of the subtropical belt, with forests dominated by Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii).
The central part of the range is home to the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, dominated by the sal tree (Shorea robusta). They are at the foot of the Himalayas where the Himalayan streams descend onto the plains.
Also called Churia or Margalla Hills, Sivalik Hills is an intermittent outermost range of foothills extending across the Himalayan region through Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bhutan. This region consists of many sub-ranges. Summits are generally 600 to 1,200 meters (2,000 to 3,900 ft). Steeper southern slopes form along a fault zone called Himalayan Frontal Thrust (HFT); northern slopes are gentler.
Permeable conglomerates and other rocks allow rainwater to percolate downslope into the Bhabhar and Terai, supporting only scrubby forests upslope. The Himalayan subtropical pine and broadleaf forests continue here.
Inner Terai or Dun Valleys
The Inner Terai valleys are open valleys north of Shiwalik Hills or nestled between the Shiwalik subranges. Examples include Dehra Dun in India and Chitwan in Nepal. Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests grow here.
Himalayas from Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh.
Also called Mahabharat Range, the Lesser Himalayas is a prominent range 2,000 to 3,000 meters (6,600 to 9,800 ft) high formed along the Main Boundary Thrust fault zone, with a steep southern face and gentler northern slopes.
They are nearly continuous except for river gorges, where rivers from to the north gather like candelabra in a handful of places to break through the range.
At these elevations and above the biogeography of the Himalayas is generally divided by the Kali Gandaki Gorge in central Nepal, one of the deepest canyons in the world.
At the middle elevations of the range, the subtropical forests yield a belt of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests growing between 1,500 and 3,000 meters (4,900 and 9,800 ft), with the western Himalayan broadleaf forests to the west of the Gandaki River, and the eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests to the east.
The western broadleaf forests stretch from the Kashmir Valley, across Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and through western Nepal. The eastern broadleaf forests stretch across eastern Nepal, through Sikkim and Bhutan, and much of Arunachal Pradesh Midlands .
This ‘hilly’ region (Pahad), averaging about 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) immediately north of the Mahabharat Range, rises over about 100 kilometres (330,000 ft) to about 4,000 meters (13,000 ft) at the Main Central Thrust fault zone, where the Greater Himalaya begins. Above the broadleaf forests, between 3,000 and 4,000 meters (9,800 and 13,000 ft), are temperate coniferous forests, likewise split by the Gandaki River.
The western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests are found below treeline in northern Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and western Nepal. The eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests are found in eastern Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh.
Along the border between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, the eastern subalpine conifer forests mix with the northeastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. East Himalayan Fir, West Himalayan Spruce, and Himalayan Hemlock are some important trees in these forests. Rhododendrons are exceptionally diverse here, with over 60 species recorded in the northeastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests.
North of the Main Central Thrust, the highest ranges rise abruptly as much as 4,000 meters (13,000 ft) into the realm of perpetual snow and ice. As the Himalayan system becomes wider from east to west, the number of parallel high ranges increases.
For example, the Kagmara and Kanjiroba range both reach well over 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) north of the Dhaulagiri Himalaya in central Nepal. Montane grasslands and shrublands grow above the treeline.
The northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows are found in the high elevations of northern Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh. To the east, the western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows cover extensive areas along the Tibetan border with Uttarakhand and western Nepal.
The eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows grow above the eastern and northeastern subalpine conifer forests, along the Tibetan border with eastern Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh. The shrublands are composed of junipers as well as a wide variety of rhododendrons.
They also possess a remarkable variety of wildflowers: Valley of Flowers National Park in the western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows contains hundreds of species. The upper limit of the grasslands increases from west to east, rising from 3,500 meters (11,500 ft) to 5,500 meters (18,000 ft). The grasslands are the summer habitat of the endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia).
The watershed between rivers flowing south into the Ganges or Indus and rivers flowing north into the Brahmaputra or mainstem Indus that flow around the ends of the entire range often follows somewhat lower, less rugged mountains tens of kilometres north of the highest ranges. South-flowing rivers form valleys in this region, often semi-arid due to rainshadow effects. These valleys hold some of the highest permanent villages on earth.
Origins and growth
The 6,000 km-plus journey of the Indian landmass (Indian Plate) before its collision with Asia (Eurasian Plate) was about 40 to 50 million years ago.
Geology of the Himalayas
The Himalayas are among the youngest mountain ranges on the planet and consist mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, their formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate.
This is referred to as a fold mountain. The collision began in the Upper Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago, when the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate, moving at about 15 cm per year, collided with the Eurasian Plate. About 50 million years ago,
this fast-moving Indo-Australian plate had completely closed the Tethys Ocean, the existence of which has been determined by sedimentary rocks settled on the ocean floor, and the volcanoes that fringed its edges.
Since these sediments were light, they crumpled into mountain ranges rather than sinking to the floor. The Indo-Australian plate continues to be driven horizontally below the Tibetan plateau, which forces the plateau to move upwards. Arakan Yoma highlands in Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal were also formed as a result of this collision.
The Indo-Australian plate is still moving at 67 mm per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500 km into Asia. About 20 mm per year of the India-Asia convergence is absorbed by thrusting along the Himalayan southern front.
This leads to the Himalayas rising by about 5 mm per year, making them geologically active. The movement of the Indian plate into the Asian plate also makes this region seismically active, leading to earthquakes from time to time.
Glaciers and river systems
The Himalayan range encompasses about 15,000 glaciers, which store about 12,000 km3 of freshwater. The 70 km-long Siachen Glacier at the India-Pakistan border is the second-longest glacier in the world outside the polar region. Some of the other more famous glaciers include the Gangotri and Yamunotri (Uttarakhand), Nubra, Biafo, and Baltoro (Karakoram region), Zemu(Sikkim), and Khumbu glaciers (Mount Everest region).
The higher regions of the Himalayas are snowbound throughout the year, despite their proximity to the tropics, and they form the sources for several large perennial rivers, most of which combine into two large river systems: The western rivers combine into the Indus Basin, of which the Indus River is the largest. The Indus begins in Tibet at the confluence of the Sengge and Gar rivers and flows southwest through India and then through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.
It is fed by the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, and the Sutlej rivers, among others.
Most of the other Himalayan rivers drain the Ganges-Brahmaputra Basin. Its two main rivers are the Ganges and the Brahmaputra and the Yamuna, among other tributaries. The Brahmaputra originates as the Yarlung Tsangpo River in western Tibet and flows east through Tibet and west through the plains of Assam.
The Ganges and the Brahmaputra meet in Bangladesh and drain into the Bay of Bengal through the world’s largest river delta. The easternmost Himalayan rivers feed the Ayeyarwady River, which originates in eastern Tibet and flows south through Myanmar to drain into the Andaman Sea.
The Salween, Mekong, Yangtze, and Huang He (Yellow River) all originate from parts of the Tibetan plateau that are geologically distinct from the Himalayan mountains and are therefore not considered true Himalayan rivers.
Some geologists refer to all the rivers collectively as the circum-Himalayan rivers. In recent years, scientists have monitored a notable increase in the rate of glacier retreat across the region as a result of global climate change.
Although the effect of this will not be known for many years, it potentially could mean disaster for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on the glaciers to feed the rivers of northern India during the dry seasons. The Himalayan region is dotted with hundreds of lakes.
Most lakes are found at altitudes of less than 5,000 m, with the size of the lakes diminishing with altitude. Pangong Tso, which is spread across the border between India and China, and Yamdrok Tso, located in central Tibet, are amongst the largest with surface areas of 700 km², and 638 km², respectively.
Other notable lakes include Gurudogmar lake in North Sikkim, Tsongmo lake, near the Indo-China border in Sikkim, and Tilicho lake in Nepal in the Annapurna massif. The mountain lakes are known to geographers as tarns if they are caused by glacial activity. Tarns are found mostly in the upper reaches of the Himalayas, above 5,500 meters. Impact on climate
Pass in Ladakh with the typical Buddhist prayer flags and chorten . The Himalayas have a profound effect on the climate of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau. They prevent frigid, dry Arctic winds from blowing south into the subcontinent, which keeps South Asia much warmer than corresponding temperate regions in the other continents. It also forms a barrier for the monsoon winds, keeping them from travelling northwards, and causing heavy rainfall in the Terai region.
The Himalayas are also believed to play an important part in the formation of Central Asian deserts, such as the Taklamakan and Gobi. The mountain ranges also prevent western winter disturbances in Iran from travelling further, resulting in the snow in Kashmir and rainfall in parts of Punjab and northern India.
Despite being a barrier to the cold, northern winter winds, the Brahmaputra valley receives part of the frigid winds, thus lowering the temperature in North East India and Bangladesh. The Himalayas, which are often called “The Roof of the World”, contain the greatest area of glaciers and permafrost outside of the poles.
Ten of Asia’s largest rivers flow from here, and more than a billion people’s livelihoods depend on them. To complicate matters, temperatures are rising more rapidly here than the global average. In Nepal, the temperature has risen 0.6 degrees C over the last decade, whereas global warming has been around 0.7 degrees C over the last hundred years.
The Himalayan range at Yumesongdong in Sikkim, in the Yumthang River valley
The rugged terrain makes few routes through the mountains possible. Some of these routes include Banihal an important pass connecting the hill areas of Jammu to the Kashmir Valley.
Zoji La lies between the vale of Kashmir and the Kargil district and is the only Western entrance to the highlands of Ladakh. Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh, India. Mohan Pass is the principal pass in the Siwalik Hills, the southernmost and geologically youngest foothills running parallel to the main Himalayas in Sikkim.
Kora La at 4,594 meters (15,072 ft) elevation on the Nepal-Tibet border at the upper end of Mustang. The Kali Gandaki Gorge (a graben), transects the main Himalaya and Trans Himalayan ranges. Kora La is the lowest pass through both ranges between K2 and Everest, but some 300 meters (980 ft) higher than Nathula and Jelepla pass further east between Sikkim and Tibet.
Arniko Rajmarg/Friendship Highway route from Kathmandu, Nepal crossing into Tibet at Kodari/Zhangmu, to Nyalam, Lalung-La pass (5,050m/16,570′), Tingri, Xêgar, Lakpa La pass (5,250m/17,225′), to Lhatse on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River about 460 road kilometres west of Lhasa. Gangtok in Sikkim to Lhasa in Tibet, via the Nathula Pass and Jelepla Passes (offshoots of the ancient Silk Road).
Impact on politics and culture
Mountain sheds like these are used by the rural populace as a shelter for cattle in the summer months as they take them for grazing in higher altitudes.
Some of the world’s major rivers, the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Red River (Asia), Xinjiang, Chao Phraya, Irrawaddy River, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Tarim River, and Yellow River, arise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 3 billion people (almost half of Earth population) in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, People’s Republic of China, India (almost half of the population of India live within 500 km of the Himalayan range), Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Pakistan.
The Himalayas, due to their large size and expanse, has been a natural barrier to the movement of people for tens of thousands of years. In particular, this has prevented the intermingling of people from the Indian subcontinent with people from China and Mongolia, causing significantly different languages and customs between these regions.
The Himalayas have also hindered trade routes and prevented military expeditions across its expanse. For instance, Genghis Khan could not expand his empire south of the Himalayas into the subcontinent
The River System
It was a collision that formed mountain ranges right across Asia, including the Karakoram, the Pamirs, the Hindukush, the Tien Shan, and the Kun Lun. The Himalayan mountains, at the front of this continental collision, are still being formed, rising and assuming complex profiles. For the ancient geographer, the complexities of this vast mountain range were a constant source of speculation.
From the earliest accounts, Mt. Kailash was believed to be the centre of the universe with the River systems of the Indus, the Brahmaputra, and the Sutlej all flowing from its snowy ridges and maintaining the courses which they had followed before the forming of the Himalaya.
The Sutlej was able to maintain its course flowing directly from Tibet through the main Himalaya range to the Indian subcontinent, while the huge gorges on both flanks of the Himalayas reflect the ability of the Indus and the Brahmaputra to follow their original courses.
The Indus flows west until it rounds the Himalayas by the Nanga Parbat Massif, while the Brahmaputra flows eastwards for nearly 1000 km around the Assam Himalayas and descends to the Bay of Bengal.
It was not surprising, therefore, that 19th-century geographers experienced formidable difficulties n tracing the River systems and defining the various mountain ranges that constitute the Himalayas. Even today, with the advent of satellite pictures and state-of-the-art ordnance maps, it is still difficult to appreciate the form and extent of some of the ranges that constitute the Himalayas.
Main Himalaya Range
This is the principal mountain range dividing the Indian subcontinent from Nanga Parbat in the west, the range stretches for over 2,000 km to the mountains bordering Sikkim and Bhutan in the east. The west Himalayas is part of this range that divides Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh from Ladakh. The highest mountains here are Nun and Kun. In Kashmir, the subsidiary ridges of the Himalayas include the North Sonarmarg, Kolahoi, and Amarnath ranges.
Further east, the Himalayas extends across to the Baralacha range in Himachal Pradesh before merging with the Parbati range to the east of the Kullu valley. It then extends across Kinnaur Kailas to the swargarohini and Bandarpunch ranges in Uttaranchal.
Further east it is defined by the snow-capped range North of the Gangotri glacier and by the huge peaks in the vicinity of Nanda Devi, the highest mountain in the Indian Himalayas. In Western Nepal, the range is equally prominent across the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs, while in Eastern Nepal the main ridgeline frequently coincides with the political boundary between Nepal and Tibet.
The major passes over the main Himalaya range include the Zoji la, at the head of the Sindh valley; the Boktol pass, at the head of the Warvan valley; the Umasi la in the Kishtwar region; and Thekang la and the Shingo la between Lahaul and the Zanskar region of Ladakh. It also includes the Pin Parbati pass between Lahaul and the Zanskar region of Ladakh.
It also includes the Pin Parbati pass between the Kullu valley and Spiti, while in Kinnaur it is traversed when crossing the charming la in the Kinnaur Kailash range.
In Uttaranchal, roads are being constructed to the main places of pilgrimage in the heart of the Himalayas. These include Yamunotri and the source of the Yamuna River, Gangotri at the head of the Bhagirathi valley, Kedarnath at the head of the Mandakini valley, and Badrinath in the Alaknanda valley. There are, however, many trekking possibilities across the mountain ridges and glacial valleys including those bordering the Nanda Devi sanctuary.
The main Himalaya range extends east across central Sikkim from the huge Kangchenjunga massif, which includes Kangchenjunga I, the world’s third-highest peak. The east Himalaya is breached by the headwaters of the Tista River, which forms the geographical divide between the verdant alpine valleys to the south and the more arid regions that extend North to Tibet.
Trekking possibilities are at present confined to the vicinity of the Singali ridge, an impressive range that extends south from the main Himalaya and forms the border between India and Nepal.
In Darjeeling, the treks include the route along the southern extremity of the Singali range, while in Sikkim the trails out of Yuksom explore the ridges and valleys to the south to the Kangchenjunga massif.
Pir Panjal Range
The Pir Panjal Range lies south of the main Himalayas at an average elevation of 5,000m. From Gulmarg in the Northwest, it follows the southern rim of the Kashmir valley to the Banihal pass. Here the Pir Panjal meets the ridgeline separating the Kashmir valley from the Warvan valley.
From Banihal the Pir Panjal sweeps southeast to Kishtwar, where the combined waters of the Warvan and Chandra Rivers meet to form the Chenab River, one of the main tributaries of the Indus.
Passes In Pir Panjal
The main passes over the Pir Panjal include the pir manual pass due west of Srinagar, the Banihal pass which lies at the head of the Jhelum River at the southern end of the Kashmir valley, and the pass linking Kashmir with Kishtwar.
In Himachal Pradesh, the main passes are the Sach which links the Ravi and the Chandra valleys, and the Rohtang, which links the Beas and Kullu valleys with the upper Chandra valley and Lahaul. Roads are constructed over all these passes.
The Banihal is now tunnelled and another road has been made over the Sythen pass in Kashmir and the Sach pass in Himachal Pradesh. For trekkers there is still the attraction of the Kugti, Kalicho and Chobia passes between the Ravi valley and Lahaul, and the Hampta pass links the Kullu valley with Lahaul.
Dhaula Dhar Range
The Dhaula Dhar range lies to the south of the Pir Panjal. It is easily recognized as the snow-capped ridge behind Dharamsala where it forms the divide between the Ravi and the Beas valleys. To the west, it provides the divide between the Chenab valley below Kishtwar and the Tawi valley which twists south to Jammu.
This is the range crossed at Patnitop on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. To the east, it extends across Himachal Pradesh forming the high ridges of the Large gorge and extending south of the Pin Parvati valley before forming the impressive ridgeline east of the Sutlej River.
Thereon it forms the snow-capped divide between the Sangla valley and the upper tons catchment area in Uttaranchal, including the Har Ki Dun Valley. Beyond the Bhagirathi River, it forms the range between Gangotri and Kedarnath before merging with the main Himalaya at the head of the Gangotri glacier.
There are many attractive trekking places over the Dhaula Dhar. These include the Indrahar Pass North of Dharamsala: and in Kinnaur, the Borasu pass linking the Sangla valley to Har-ki-Dun in Uttaranchal.
The Siwalik Hills, also known as Shiwalik Hills, lie to the south of the Dhaula Dhar, with an average elevation of 1,500 to 2,000m. They are the first range of hills encountered en route from the plains and are geologically separate from the Himalayas.
They include the Jammu hills and Vaishno Devi and extend to Kangra and further east to the range south of Mandi. In Uttaranchal, they extend from Dehra Dun to Almora before heading across the southern borders of Nepal. Most of the range is crossed by a network of roads, linking the Northern Indian plains with Kangra, the Kullu valley, Shimla and Dehradun.
The Zanskar range lies to the North of the main Himalayas. It forms the backbone of Ladakh south of the Indus River, stretching from the ridges beyond Lamayuru in the west across the Zanskar region, where it is divided from the main Himalaya by the Stod and Tsarap valleys, the populated districts of the Zanskar valley. The Zanskar range is breached where the Zanskar River flows North, creating awesome gorges until it reaches the Indus River just below Leh.
To the east of the Zanskar region, the range continues through Lahaul & Spiti, providing a complex buffer zone between the main Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau.
It continues across the North of Kinnaur before extending west across Uttaranchal, where it again forms the intermediary range between the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau, which includes Kamet, the second-highest peak in India. The range finally peters out Northeast of the Kali River – close to the border between India and Nepal.
On the Zanskar range, the Fatu La, on the Leh-Srinagar road, is considered the most easterly pass; while the Singge La, the Cha Cha La, and the Rubrang La are the main trekking passes into the Zanskar valley. For the hardy Ladakh trader, the main route in winter between the Zanskar valley and Leh is down the icebound Zanskar River gorges.
Further to the east, many of the Zanskar range passes to the North of Spiti and Kinnaur are close to the India-Tibet border, and are closed to Trekkers
The Ladakh range lies to the North of Leh and is an integral part of the Trans-Himalayan range that merges with the Kailash range in Tibet. The passes include the famous Kardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world, while the Digar La to the Northeast of Leh is at present the only pass open to trekkers.
East Karakoram Range
The East Karakoram Range is the huge range that forms the geographical divide between India and Central Asia. It includes many high peaks including – Team Kangri, Saltoro Kangri, and Rimo, while the Karakoram Pass was the main trading link between the markets of Leh, Yarkand, and Kashgar.
At present this region is closed to trekkers, although a few foreign mountaineering groups were permitted to climb there in the last decade.
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