Situated between Central and Southern Asia, Pakistan stretches from the golden beaches of the Arabian Sea to the formidably high mountains of Central Asia. With a population of nearly 130 million people, it is three times the size of Great Britain (covering an area of 891,940 sq. km) and is bordered by China, Iran, Afghanistan and India.
Mountain Ranges of Pakistan
Very few places in the world can match the awesome splendor of the mountain ranges of Pakistan. Some of the famous mountain ranges; stretched from northern to western highlands of Pakistan are Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Sulaiman, Toba Kakar, Kirthar and Salt range. The Northern and Western Highlands cover most of Balochistan, NWFP, Northern Areas (Gilgit Agency) and parts of the Punjab. These can be divided into five physiographic entities:
- Mountainous North
- Koh-e-Safaid and Waziristan Hills
- Sulaiman and Kirthar Mountains
- Balochistan Plateau
- Potohar Plateau and the Salt Ranges
The Mountainous North covers the northern parts of Pakistan and comprises parallel mountain ranges intervened by narrow and deep river valleys. East of the Indus River, the mountain ranges in general run from east to west. To its west - from north to south - run the following important mountain ranges:
- The Himalayas
- The Karakorams
- The Hindu Kush
- The Himalayas are spread across five countries including Nepal, India, Pakistan, China and Bhutan. The western Himalayas is located between valley of Kashmir in the east to Indus River in the north and west and Nanga Parbat chain is dominating it. Highest peak of this chain stands at 8125m. The range includes Kashmir, Kaghan, Kohistan, Deosai and Chitral regions. Deosai plains existing at an altitude of about 4500m also dominate this range. These plains are full of flowers blossoming in the summer months, offering very charming scenery.
- The Karakoram Rangehouses the largest collection of very high pinnacles and mountains in the world stretched for 400 kms. Four summits above 8000 meters i.e., K-2, Gasherbrum I and II as well as Broad Peak exist in Karakoram in an area of only 20 kms encircling the reputed glacial junction. This region has variable snow line ranging between 4200 to 4500 meters during the summer season. The temperatures in the area are extremely varied with large difference between lowest and highest mercury in a day. There is no penetration of Monsoons in this area. From May till end of September, each year is the most viable season to go for climbing in Karakoram.
- The Hindu Kush Mountains take off the western side of the Pamir Plateau that is located to the west of the Karakorams. Hindu Kush is an 800-kilometre-long mountain rangethat stretches near the Afghan-Pakistan border, from central Afghanistan to northern Pakistan. The Hindu Kush range has numerous high snow-capped peaks, with the highest point in the Hindu Kush being Tirich Mir or Terichmir at 7,708 metres (25,289 ft) in the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. To the north, near its northeastern end, the Hindu Kush buttresses the Pamir Mountains near the point where the borders of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet, after which it runs southwest through Pakistan and into Afghanistan near their border. The eastern end of the Hindu Kush in the north merges with the Karakoram Range. Towards its southern end, it connects with the Spin Ghar Range near the Kabul River.
Koh-e-Safaid and Waziristan Hills
The Safed Koh or White Mountain range lies at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Koh-e-Safaid Ranges have an east-west trend and rise to an average height of 3,600m. They are commonly covered with snow. Sikeram, the highest peak in Koh-e-Safaid Ranges rises to 4,760 m. Similarly, the elevation of Waziristan Hills ranges from 1,500 and 3,000 m. The mountains and hills form a rampart between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The average height of the Waziristan hills is 1,500–2,500 metres (4,900–8,200 ft) above sea level. The important ranges in the Waziristan hills are Derwesta, Laran, Vezda, Shoidar and Shawal etc.
Suleiman and Kirthar Mountains
The Suleiman-Kirthar Mountain Ranges extending from south of Gomal River, lie between Baluchistan Plateau and the Indus Plains. On reaching the Murre-Bugti Hills, they turn northward and extend up to Quetta. Further south, they meet the Kirthar Mountains, which merge in to the Kohistan area of Sindh. The Suleiman Mountains rise to an average height of 600 m that decreases southward. Takht-e-Suleiman (3,487 m) and Takatu (3,470m) are the highest peaks of the Suleiman Ranges.
The Baluchistan Plateau is located west of the Suleiman-Kirthar Mountains. Its western part is dominated by a number of sub-parallel ranges: the Makran Coast Range (600 m), and the Central Makran Range (900 - 1200 m). The highest peak Ras Koh, attains a height of 3010 m.
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Potohar Plateau and the Salt Ranges
The Potohar Plateau and the Salt Range region are located to the south of the mountainous north and lie between the Indus River on the west and the Jhelum River on the east. Its northern boundary is formed by the Kala Chitta Ranges and the Margalla Hills and the southern boundary by the Salt Ranges. The Kala Chitta Range rises to an average height of 450 - 900 m and extends for about 72 km. The main Potwar Plateau extends north of the Salt Range. It is an undulating area 300 - 600 m high. The Salt Ranges have a steep face towards the south and slope gently into the Potwar Plateau in the north. They extend from Jhelum River up to Kalabagh where they cross the Indus River and enter the Bannu district and rise to an average height of 750 – 900m. Sakesar Peak (1,527 m) is the highest point of the Salt Ranges.