The Himalaya Range, or the Himalayas, is a mountain range in Asia separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. 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. The Himalayan mountain system is the planet's highest and is home to the world's highest peaks, the eight-thousanders, which include Mount Everest and K2. The main Himalaya range runs, west to east, from the Indus river valley to the Brahmaputra river valley, forming an arc 2,400 km long, which varies in width from 400 km in the western Kashmir-Xinjiang region to 150 km in the eastern Tibet-Arunachal Pradesh region.
The Pakistani Himalayas are located south and east of the Indus River, which originates close to the holy mountain of Kailash in western Tibet, marking the range's true western frontier. The river enters Pakistan from India, flowing northwest to Skardu. It then continues on this bearing and is joined by the Hunza River south of Gilgit. From here it flows south and west, eventually flowing from the Himalayan foothills onto the Indian planes. The Himalayas are a totally separate range from the Karakoram, which run parallel to the north. The Himalayas in Pakistan are green and fertile as compared
to the arid Karakoram and Hindu Kush further north. The Himalayas have a considerably higher precipitation level during the monsoon months, creating an environment for rich pine forests and grassy meadows that more closely resemble Canada or Kyrgyzstan than the Karakoram Mountains. The Himalayas are spread across three of Pakistan's provinces. The northern area encompasses the Nanga Parbat massif and its surrounding valleys, Azad Jammu, and Kashmir. The extreme southeast corner of the North-West Frontier Province (Pakhtoonkhawa) includes portions of the Lesser Himalayas, also known as the Middle Himalayas. As with the rest of the country, the region has a strong Muslim identity. Most residents are Sunnis, with some Shi'as in the Astor Valley's upper tributaries. Languages spoken include Shina, Pashto, Hindko, and Kohistani; however, nearly everybody also speaks Urdu. The region south of the Gilgit represents diverse ethnicities and cultures, making it interesting to visit for this reason alone (Fig. 1.1).
The Lesser Himalayas are a prominent range 2,000-3,000 m (6,600-9,800 ft) high formed along the Main Boundary Thrust fault zone, with a steep southern face and gentler northern slopes. These Himalayas lie north of the Sub-Himalayan Range or Siwalik Range and south of the Great Himalayas. They are nearly continuous except for river gorges, where rivers from the north gather like candelabra in a handful of places to break through the range. In Pakistan these mountains lie just north of Rawalpindi district, covering the districts of Batagram, Mansehra, and Abbottabad as well as Pakistan Administered Kashmir. These mountains are also home to Pakistan's important hill stations, including Murree, Ghora Gali, and Nathia Gali. It snows during a few months of the year, but no glaciers are found in this region.
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