Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Classification of the Himalayas

The great Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, extend along the northern frontiers of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Burma. It spreads through the Continent of Asia. The Himalayan system, about 2,400 kilometers in length and varying in width from 240 to 330 kilometers, is made up of three parallel ranges--the Greater Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas, and the Outer Himalayas--sometimes collectively called the Great Himalayan Range.

"Himalaya" is a Sanskrit word which literally means "Abode of Snow" - from hima, "snow," and alaya, "abode" - a term coined by the ancient pilgrims of India who travelled in these mountains. For Tibetans, Indians, Nepalese, and many of the other inhabitants of the Himalayas, the mountains continue to be the predominant factor in their lives. The beauty of the Himalayas has lured visitors to this region since olden times. And being the world's highest mountain chain, it constitutes the greatest attraction to climbers and trekkers throughout the world. But more than anything else, the Himalayas represent the awe-inspiring power, beauty, and grandeur of Nature. Welcome to the Himalayas - Where Earth Meets Sky!

Gurudogmar Lake at 17,200ft
in the Trans Himalayan region
of Sikkim, India.
Destination Himalayas - Where Earth Meets Sky offers an exploration of the Himalayas by region. It will take you across the vast Himalayas from one region to the next, exploring the unique beauty of each region.

Classification of the HimalayasFor a proper study, it is necessary to classify the vast area covered by the mountains into smaller sub-sections. Throughout our website, references will be made to these classifications.
The Himalayas can be classified in a variety of ways. From south to north, the mountains can be grouped into four parallel, longitudinal mountain belts, each with its unique features and distinctive geological history.

From west to east the Himalayas are divided broadly into three mountainous regions - the Western Himalayas, the Central Himalayas and the Eastern Himalayas.
Possibly the most important divisions of the Himalayas these days are the ones based on political boundaries. For anyone exploring the mountains, knowledge of the political boundaries is very important nowadays because most of the Himalayas lie very close to sensitive international border regions, many of which are disputed territories. Special permission is often required to visit certain areas close to the borders which are under military control due to their strategic importance. Based on international political boundaries, the Himalayas are divided into
Indian Himalayas

The arc-shaped Himalayas extend along the entire northern boundary of India and carve just as far across the Indian subcontinent as they do deeply into the life around them.

The term "Himalaya" -- a Sanskrit word meaning "the Abode of Snow" -- was coined by the Indian pilgrims who traveled in these mountains in ancient times. For centuries, the inhabitants of India have been fascinated by this mountain chain. The feeling is a mixture of admiration, awe and fear; and for the Hindus of India, the Himalayas are also "the Abode of God". There are numerous pilgrim routes that have brought the Hindu pilgrims to these mountains since time immemorial.

Extet of the Indian Himalayas
Extent of the Indian Himalayas.
Credit: Debangsu Sengupta

View Detailed Maps
Himalayan States  Himalayan Divisions

The Indian Himalayas cover a vast area along the northern frontiers of the country and span five Indian States -- Jammu and Kashmir , Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh -- from west to east. For the mountain people living in these states, the Himalayas continue to be the predominant factor in their lives.

Having acted as a natural and political barrier for centuries, the Himalayas have isolated a number of communities, cultures and customs.

The Indian Himalayas mark the crossroads of Asia's three main religions. Kashmir -- formerly a paradise on earth -- is largely influenced by Islam.
The foothills of Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh form the northern boundary of Hinduism. The entire Trans Himalayan region, from Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) through Tibet and onto the eastern state of Sikkim, has seen a dominating influence of Buddhism.

Nepalese Himalayas
Containing nine of the world's fourteen highest mountain peaks, Nepal is a true Himalayan kingdom. The Himalayas cover three fourths of the land in Nepal. It is home to some of the highest, remotest, most rugged and most difficult terrain in the world.

The loftiest peak in the world -- Mount Everest -- and other high peaks like Lhotse, Nuptse, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Manaslu, plus the presence of some exquisitely beautiful trekking routes, attract hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world to this lovely Himalayan destination.
The country of Nepal can be divided into three parallel bands running from the northeast towards the southwest.

Along the north of Nepal runs the Great Himalayan Range, the highest mountain range in the Himalayan system. This range has an average altitude of about 4,570 m (about 15,000 ft) and remains perpetually snow-covered. On this range rise some of the loftiest mountain peaks in the world -- Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Annapurna.

Further south runs a complex system of intermediate ranges at an altitude of 8,000-14,000 ft. Prominent ranges in this mountain system include the Mahabharat and Churia ranges. High mountain ranges are interspersed with broad inhabited river valleys. The third and southernmost region is the Terai, a swampy terrain which is the northern extension of the Indian plains.

Sunset at Nuptse. Credit: Stan Armington
Sunset at Nuptse
Stan Armington

Map of Nepal. Credit: Stan Armington

Tibetan Himalayas
Tibet is situated on the Qingzang (Qinghai-Tibet) Plateau. This is the highest plateau in the world with an average elevation of 4,875 m (more than 16,000 ft), and the Tibetan Plateau is also called the Roof of the World. In 1964, Tibet became an Autonomous Region of China. It is surrounded in the north and east by other provinces of China, in the south and west by Burma, India, Bhutan, and Nepal. The capital of Tibet is Lhasa.

Tibet is surrounded on three sides by vast mountain systems: the Kunlun mountains of Central Asia in the north, the Karakoram range in the west and the Himalayas in the south.

View from Pang La (pass) at 17,000 ft. Credit: W. Spiegelman
View from Pang La (pass) at 17,000 ft on the jeep road to the village of Kharta
in western Tibet. The panorama of the Tibetan Himalayas includes four of the
world's tallest mountains -- Makalu (far left), Everest and Lhotse (center)
and Cho Oyu (right) are all over 8,000 meters high.

W. Spiegelman

Trans Himalayas
Tibet lies in a region known as Trans Himalayas. As the term suggests, Tibet lies beyond the main Himalayan range. The Trans Himalayan region itself is an ill-defined mountain region covering an area of about 1,000 km (600 miles) and having a width ranging from 225 km (140 miles) to about 32 km (20 miles). Unlike the main Himalayas, the Trans Himalayan mountains are not divided by deep river gorges. On the Roof of the World, passes average 5,330 m (17,500 ft) in height, with the highest being the Chargoding Pass at a height of 5,885 m (19,308 ft).

The first recorded European exploration of the Trans Himalayas was carried out by the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin. Hedin explored Tibet and the Xinjiang (Sinkiang) region extensively. He identified the sources of the Brahmaputra, Indus, and Satluj rivers, and, in 1906, explored and named the Kailas Range.

Everest panorama. Credit: W. Spiegelman
Everest panorama.
From left to right are Makalu and Chomolonzo,
Lhotse, Lhotse shar, and the Kangshung face of Mt Everest,
first climbed by an American team led by Lou Reichardt.

W. Spiegelman

The southern part of Tibet falls within the Himalayan region. Some of the world's highest mountains define the southern border of Tibet. These include Mt Everest (8,848 m) -- the highest mountain in the world, Namcha Barwa (7,756 m / 25,445 ft) -- around which the Brahmaputra carves a fantastic gorge to enter India, and Gurla Mandhata (7,728 m / 25,355 ft). Running north of the main Himalayan range is the Kailas Range, named thus by Hedin.

The valley of the Tsangpo as seen from the Lhasa highway between Lhasa and Shigatse. Credit: W. Spiegelman
The valley of the Tsangpo as seen from the Lhasa highway,
between Lhasa and Shigatse. From here, the road continues
across western Tibet to the edge of the Tibetan plateau,
then drops thousands of feet down to the border with Nepal.

W. Spiegelman

Between the two ranges lies the river valley region extending for about 1,000 km from west to east. The Brahmaputra River (known in Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo) flows from west to east through most of this region. The Tibetan plateau is the source of some of the biggest rivers in the Himalayas. The Brahmaputra, Indus and Satluj are three Trans Himalayan rivers that originate in Tibet, cut across the main Himalayas making fearsome gorges and then flow towards the plains.

Map of Tibet. Tibet is officially Tibet (Chinese Xizang) Autonomous Region, China.
Map of Tibet.
Tibet is officially Tibet (Chinese Xizang) Autonomous Region, China.

No comments:

Post a Comment