Monday, November 22, 2010

Himalaya Mountain Range

The Himalaya Range (Sanskrit: literally, "abode of snow"), the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. By extension, it is also the name of a massive mountain system that includes the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other, lesser, ranges that extend out from the Pamir Knot.
Together, the Himalayan mountain system is the planet's highest, and home to the world's highest peaks, the Eight-thousanders, which include Mount Everest and K2. To comprehend the enormous scale of this mountain range, consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6,962 metres (22,841 ft) is the highest peak outside Asia, whereas the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7,200 m (23,622 ft).
Some of the world's major rivers, Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Red River (Asia), Xunjiang, Chao Phraya, Irrawaddy River, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Tarim River and Yellow River, rise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 3 billion people (almost half of Earth's population) in countries which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, People's Republic of China, India, Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Pakistan.
A high Himalayan lake
The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The main Himalaya range runs, west to east, from the Indus river valley to the Brahmaputra river valley, forming an arc 2,400 km (1,491 mi) long, which varies in width from 400 km (249 mi) in the western Kashmir-Xinjiang region to 150 km (93 mi) in the eastern Tibet-Arunachal Pradesh region. The range consists of three coextensive sub-ranges, with the northern-most, and highest, known as the Great or Inner Himalayas.
Himalayan landscape in Bhutan
The flora and fauna of the Himalayas varies with climate, rainfall, altitude, and soils. The climate ranges from tropical at the base of the mountains to permanent ice and snow at the highest elevations. The amount of yearly rainfall increases from west to east along the front of the range. This diversity of climate, altitude, rainfall and soil conditions generates a variety of distinct plant and animal communities.
Greater Himalaya
North of the Main Central Thrust, the highest ranges rise abruptly as much as 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) into the realm of perpetual snow and ice. As the Himalayan system becomes wider from east to west, the number of parallel high ranges increases. For example, the Kagmara and Kanjiroba ranges both reach well over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) north of the Dhaulagiri Himalaya in central Nepal.
The north face of Mount Everest
Montane grasslands and shrublands grow above treeline. The northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows are found in the high elevations of northern Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh. To the east, the western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows cover extensive areas along the Tibetan border with Uttarakhand and western Nepal. The eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows grow above the eastern and northeastern subalpine conifer forests, along the Tibetan border with eastern Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh. The shrublands are composed of junipers as well as a wide variety of rhododendrons. They also possess a remarkable variety of wildflowers: Valley of Flowers National Park in the western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows contains hundreds of species. The upper limit of the grasslands increases from west to east, rising from 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) to 5,500 metres (18,000 ft). The grasslands are the summer habitat of the endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia).
K2, on the border of Pakistan and China
The Himalayas are among the youngest mountain ranges on the planet and consist mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, their formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This is referred to as a fold mountain.
The collision began in the Upper Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago, when the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate, moving at about 15 cm per year, collided with the Eurasian Plate. About 50 million years ago, this fast moving Indo-Australian plate had completely closed the Tethys Ocean, the existence of which has been determined by sedimentary rocks settled on the ocean floor, and the volcanoes that fringed its edges. Since these sediments were light, they crumpled into mountain ranges rather than sinking to the floor. The Indo-Australian plate continues to be driven horizontally below the Tibetan plateau, which forces the plateau to move upwards. The Arakan Yoma highlands in Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal were also formed as a result of this collision.
The Indo-Australian plate is still moving at 67 mm per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500 km into Asia. About 20 mm per year of the India-Asia convergence is absorbed by thrusting along the Himalaya southern front. This leads to the Himalayas rising by about 5 mm per year, making them geologically active. The movement of the Indian plate into the Asian plate also makes this region seismically active, leading to earthquakes from time to time.

Mountain passes
The rugged terrain makes few routes through the mountains possible. Some of these routes include:
  • Banihal is an important pass connecting the hill areas of Jammu to the Kashmir Valley.
  • Zoji La lies between the vale of Kashmir and the Kargil district, and is the only Western entrance to the highlands of Ladakh.
  • Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh, India.
  • Mohan Pass is the principal pass in the Siwalik Hills, the southern most and geologically youngest foothills running parallel to the main Himalayas in Sikkim.
  • Kora La at 4,594 metres (15,072 ft) elevation on the Nepal-Tibet border at the upper end of Mustang. The Kali Gandaki Gorge (a graben), transects the main Himalaya and Transhimalayan ranges. Kora La is the lowest pass through both ranges between K2 and Everest, but some 300 metres (980 ft) higher than Nathula and Jelepla passes further east between Sikkim and Tibet.
  • Arniko Rajmarg/Friendship Highway route from Kathmandu, Nepal crossing into Tibet at Kodari/Zhangmu, to Nyalam, Lalung-La pass (5,050m/16,570'), Tingri, Xegar, Lakpa La pass (5,250m/17,225'), to Lhatse on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River about 460 road kilometers west of Lhasa.
  • Gangtok in Sikkim to Lhasa in Tibet, via the Nathula Pass and Jelepla Passes (offshoots of the ancient Silk Road).
Himalayan Range in Tibet, China
The Himalayas in art, literature, and film
  • Kim, by Rudyard Kipling, is the signature account of life in 19th century India as seen through British eyes and is based on the exploits of a young boy in the Himalayas and plains of India while engaged in the Great Game.
  • Shangri-La is a fictional utopia situated somewhere in the Himalayas, based on the legendary Shambhala. It is described in the novel Lost Horizon, written by the British writer James Hilton in 1933.
  • Tintin in Tibet is one of the series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Herge, featuring the young reporter Tintin investigating a plane crash in the Gosain Than massif in the Himalayas. (1960)
  • The Hollywood movie Vertical Limit (2000), is set in the K2 peak of the Himalayas, in Pakistan.
  • Several levels of Tomb Raider II and one level in Tomb Raider: Legend of the Tomb Raider series are situated in the Himalayas.
  • The Inheritance of Loss written by Kiran Desai is partly set in the Himalaya Mountains.
  • Rumer Godden's novel Black Narcissus (1939) is about an order of nuns who set up a convent in the Himalayas. The film, released in 1947 by Powell and Pressburger and starring Deborah Kerr, was not actually shot in the Himalayas and relied primarily on matte paintings to evoke the mountains.
  • Isabel Allende's novel, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon takes place mostly in the Forbidden Kingdom, a fictional country in the Himalayas.
  • Dragon Rider is authored by Cornelia Funke and tells the story of an epic journey that a small boy, a brownie, and a dragon take to the "Rim of Heaven," a place in the Himalayas where dragons reside.
  • Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is an elaborately themed roller coaster located at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World that takes riders through a yeti-guarded Mount Everest.
  • Seven Years in Tibet is an autobiographical travel book written by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer based on his real life experiences in Tibet between 1944 and 1951 during the Second World War and the interim period before the Communist Chinese People's Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1950. Heinrich Harrer took part in a German mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas, intending to climb Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain in the world.
  • Seven Years in Tibet (1997 film) is a 1997 film based on the book of the same name written by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer.
  • Journey of a Red Fridge (2007), directed by Lucian and Natasa Muntean (Lunam Docs), is an award-winning documentary that tells the story of child porters working in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.
  • G.I. Joe: The Movie is a 1987 animated feature in which an ancient civilization known as Cobra La has taken refuge deep within the Himalayas after the Ice Age that nearly wiped them off the face of the Earth.



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