Karakoram (or Karakorum) is a large mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, India and China, located in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan), Ladakh (India), and Xinjiang region, (China). It is one of the Greater Ranges of Asia, a part of the greater Himalaya while north of the actual Himalaya Range.
The Karakoram is home to the highest concentration of peaks over five miles in height to be found anywhere on earth, including K2, the second highest peak of the world (8,611 m/28,251 ft). K2 is just 237 m (778 ft) lower than the 8,848 m (29,029 ft) tall Mount Everest.
The range is about 500 km (311 mi) in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier at 70 km and the Biafo Glacier at 63 km rank as the world's second and third longest glaciers outside the polar regions.
The Karakoram is bounded on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and on the north by the Pamir Mountains. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed, west to east, by the Gilgit, Indus, and Shyok Rivers, which separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalaya range proper as these rivers converge southwestward towards the plains of Pakistan.
The Karakoram and the Himalayas are important to Earth scientists for several reasons. They are one of the world's most geologically active areas, at the boundary between two colliding continents. Therefore, they are important in the study of plate tectonics. Mountain glaciers may serve as an indicator of climate change, advancing and receding with long-term changes in temperature and precipitation. These extensive ranges may have even caused climate change when they were formed over 40 million years ago. The large amounts of rock exposed to the atmosphere are weathered (broken down) by dioxide. This process removes the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, and could have caused the global climate to cool, triggering an ongoing series of ice ages.
The notable peaks of the Karakoram are:
K2 (8,611 m)
Gasherbrum I (8,068 m)
Broad Peak (Phalchen Kangri) (8,047 m)
Gasherbrum II (8,035 m)
Gasherbrum III (7,952 m)
Gasherbrum IV (7,925 m)
Distaghil Sar (7,885 m)
Kunyang Chhish (7,852 m)
Masherbrum I (7,821 m)
Batura I (7,795 m)
Rakaposhi (7,788 m)
Batura II (7,762 m)
Kanjut Sar (7,760 m)
Saltoro Kangri (7,742 m)
Batura III (7,729 m)
Saser Kangri (7,672 m)
Haramosh Peak (7,397 m)
Baintha Brakk (7,285 m)
Muztagh Tower (7,273 m)
The majority of the highest peaks are in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. Baltistan has more than 100 mountain peaks exceeding 6,100 metres (20,000 ft) height from sea level.
The Karakoram mountain range has been referred to in a number of novels and movies.
Rudyard Kipling refers to the Karakorum mountain range in his novel Kim, which was first published in 1900.
Marcel Ichac made a film titled Karakoram, chronicling a French expedition to the range in 1936. The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice film festival of 1937.
Greg Mortenson details the Karakoram, and specifically K2 and the Balti, extensively in his book Three Cups of Tea, about his quest to build schools for girls in the region.
In the Gatchaman TV series, the Karakoram range houses Galactor's headquarters.