The Geography of The Rugged Karakoram

The Karakoram is a mountain range traversing the borders of China, India and Pakistan, with the northwest extremity of the ranges even extending as far as Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The ranges begin in Afghanistan’s  Wakhan Corridor in the west, encompasses the majority of Gilgit-Baltistan, also known as PoK(Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and extends into Ladakh in India and the disputed Aksai Chin region(controlled by China). They are the second highest mountain range in the world.


The name ‘Karakoram’, comes from the local Turkic language. ‘Kara’ meaning Black and ‘Koram’ meaning Gravel. The early European travellers also used the term ‘Muztagh’ which meant “Ice Mountain” for the range now known as Karakoram. The word is still used in the names of the peaks of the range. In traditional Indian geography the range was known as ‘Krishnagiri'(black mountains).


The range is about 500 km(311 miles) in length and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the polar regions.

The Karakoram is bounded on the east by the Aksai Chin plateau, on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan(Xizang) Plateau and on the north by the river valleys of the Yarkand and Karakash rivers of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region beyond which lie the Kunlun Mountains. At the northwest corner lie the Pamir Mountains

The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed, west to east, by the Gilgit, Indus and the Shyok Rivers, which then separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalayas proper. These rivers flow northwest before making an abrupt turn southwestward towards the plains of Pakistan. At the middle of the Karakoram range is the famous Karakoram Pass, which used to be a part of the historic trade route between Ladakh and Yarkand, which connected to the Silk Road from East Asia to Europe, that is now inactive.

Highest Peaks of the Range

  • K2
  • Gasherbrum I
  • Broad Peak
  • Gasherbrum II
  • Gasherbrum III


  • Kilik Pass
  • Khunjerab Pass
  • Karakoram Pass
  • Shimshal Pass

Categories: Culture and History, World