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.
Main Himalaya Ranges
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 Himalaya is the 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 Himalaya include the North Sonarmarg, Kolahoi and Amarnath ranges.
Further east, the Himalaya 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 Himalaya. 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.
Pir Panjal Range
The Pir Panjal Range lies south of the main Himalaya at an average elevation of 5,000m. From Gulmarg in the North west 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 south-east 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.
Dhaula Dhar Range
The Dhaula Dhar range lies to the south of the Pir Panjal. It is easily recognised 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 Largi 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 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 pases 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 Zanskar range lies to the North of the main Himalaya. 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 Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau, which includes Kamet, the second highest peak in India. The range finally peters out North east 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 North east of Leh is at present the only pass open to trekkers.
East Korakoram 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 - Teram Kargri, 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.