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Pakistan's Nanga Parbat, the world's 9th highest mountain
and westernmost point of the Himalayas by some reckonings
The Himalayas as most everyone knows are the highest mountains in the world, with 50 mountains over 24,000 feet (7,315 meters) and ten of the world's 14 peaks over 8000 meters (26,247 feet). The highest mountains in Europe, North and South America barely top 20,000 feet (6096 meters). The word Himalaya is Sanskrit for "abode of the snow" and a Himal is a massif of mountains. Technically Himalaya is the plural of Himal and there should be no such word as Himalayas.

The Himalayas and its sister range the Karakoram contain about 100 peaks exceeding 7,200 meters (23,600 feet) in elevation, including all fourteen 8,000-meter peaks and the world's 32 highest mountains. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia (Aconcagua, in the Andes) is 6,961 meters (22,838 feet) tall. The Himalaya-Karakoram range contains 96 of the world's 109 peaks over 24,000 feet. If the Karakorum, Pamir, Tian Shan and Hindu Kush ranges and Tibet — which are extensions of the Himalayas into Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Central Asia — are including in the Himalayas then the 66 highest mountains in the world are in the Himalayas. The 67th highest is Aconcagua in Argentina and Chile

The Himalayas extend for about 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) roughly from west to east. The westernmost point of the Himalays is Nanga Parbat, which lies just south of the northernmost bend of the Indus river in Pakistan. At the eastern end is Namcha Barwa, which is in eastern Tibet just west of the great bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River. Himalayan range is bordered by the Karakoram range to the northwest; and the Hindu Kush ranges; and the very low Indo-Gangetic Plain to the south. To the north, separating the Himalayas from the Tibetan Plateau, is the Indus-Tsangpo Suture, a 50–60 kilometers (31–37 miles) wide tectonic valley. The range varies in width from 350 kilometers (220 miles) in the west in Pakistan to 150 kilometers (93 miles) in the east in Arunachal Pradesh, India and Tibet, China.

The Himalayas are inhabited by 52.7 million people, and are spread across five countries: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. The Hindu Kush range in Afghanistan and Hkakabo Razi in Myanmar are normally not included, but they are both (with the addition of Bangladesh) part of the greater Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) river system. The mountain kingdoms of Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal are all contained within the range. The southern side of the Himalayas are like a huge climatic wall. During the summer monsoon winds push massive rain clouds against the mountains squeezing out rain onto some of the wettest places on earth. On the leeward, rain-blocked side of the range, on the Tibetan plateau, are some of the driest and most barren places on the planet.

Several of the greatest rivers in the world — the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers — originate in either the Himalayas or the Tibetan plateau. Some people live in valleys nestled between Himalayan ridges but few people actually live on the slopes of the mountains.

Websites and Sources: China Trekking China Trekking ; Summit Climb Summit Climb ; Trekking Tibet Trekking Tibet ; ; Himalayas Wikipedia article on the Himalayas Wikipedia ; Mt. Everest : Wikipedia Wikipedia ;Summit Post Summit Post ; Glaciers: All About Glaciers nsidc.org ; Wikipedia article on Glaciers Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Avalanches Wikipedia

Greater Himalayas, Lesser Himalayas, and Outer Himalayas

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. The Greater Himalayas, or northern range, average approximately 6,000 meters in height and contain the three highest mountains on earth: Mt. Everest (8,796 meters) on the China-Nepal border; B.C. (8,611 meters, also known as Mount Godwin-Austen, and in China as Qogir Feng) in an area claimed by India, Pakistan, and China; and Kanchenjunga (8,598 meters) on the India-Nepal border. Many major mountains are located entirely within India, such as Nanda Devi (7,817 meters) in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The snow line averages 4,500 to 6,000 meters on the southern side of the Greater Himalayas and 5,500 to 6,000 on the northern side. Because of climatic conditions, the snow line in the eastern Himalayas averages 4,300 meters, while in the western Himalayas it averages 5,800 meters. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The Lesser Himalayas, located in northwestern India in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, in north-central India in the state of Sikkim, and in northeastern India in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, range from 1,500 to 5,000 meters in height. Located in the Lesser Himalayas are the hill stations of Shimla (Simla) and Darjiling (Darjeeling). During the colonial period, these and other hill stations were used by the British as summer retreats to escape the intense heat of the plains. It is in this transitional vegetation zone that the contrasts between the bare southern slopes and the forested northern slopes become most noticeable. *

The Outer or Southern Himalayas, averaging 900 to 1,200 meters in elevation, lie between the Lesser Himalayas and the Indo-Gangetic Plain. In Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, this southernmost range is often referred to as the Siwalik Hills. It is possible to identify a fourth, and northernmost range, known as the Trans-Himalaya. This range is located entirely on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, north of the great west-to-east trending valley of the Yarlung Zangbo River. Although the Trans-Himalaya Range is divided from the Great Himalayan Range for most of its length, it merges with the Great Himalayan Range in the western section — the Karakoram Range — where India, Pakistan, and China meet. *

Geology of the Himalayas

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Annapurna, world's 10th highest mountain, with Fang

The Himalayas are not just one range of mountains but a series of three parallel ranges that rise up from the plains of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Between the massifs and peaks are eroded river gorges, some of the deepest valleys in the world, and massive, slowly-creeping glaciers.The southernmost range, the Siwalik Hills, barely tops 5000 feet. The Lesser Himalayas, in the middle, vary in altitude between 7,000 and 15,000 feet, and are indented with valleys like the Kathmandu Valley. The third range is known as the Great Himalayas and this is where all the world's biggest peaks are found.

The Himalayan range is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world. It consists mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Because of this they experience frequent landslides and rapid erosion, creating precipitous topography with sharp peaks and V-shaped ravines rather than alluvial valleys or lakes. Wind, rain, run off and snow continue shaping the mountains today. The mountains remain about the same height because the rate of erosion is about the same as the amount of uplift. The amount of snow also varies considerably. The greatest depths are recorded in the summer when the monsoons dump large amounts of snow on the higher elevation of the Himalayas. In the winter, high wind scour the landscape and blow snow away.

During the last ice age — from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago — an ice stream of glaciers ran all the way between Kangchenjunga in the east and Nanga Parbat in the west — a distance of about 1,500 kilometers. In the west, the glaciers joined the Karakoram ice stream network. In the north, they joined an inland ice sheet that formed in Tibet. To the south, outflow glaciers petered out below an elevation of 1,000–2,000 meters (3,300–6,600 feet). Today’s valley glaciers in the Himalaya at most reach 20 to 32 kilometers (12 to 20 miles) in length, Back in the last ice several of the main valley glaciers were 60 to 112 kilometers (37 to 70 miles) long. The glacier snowline (the altitude where accumulation and ablation of a glacier are balanced) was about 1,400–1,660 meters (4,590–5,450 feet) lower than today and the climate was at least 7.0 to 8.3 °C (12.6 to 14.9 °F) colder than it is today. [Source: Wikipedia]

Himalayas and Plate Tectonics

The Himalayas began to form between 40 and 50 million years ago when the Indian subcontinent climaxed a 30 million year journey across the Indian Ocean with a collision into Asia. The force and pressure of the collision between the Asian plate and India, pushed massive folds of sedimentary rock up from out of the earth. The pressure and heat of the mountain building forces turned some of rock into metamorphic rocks such schists and gneisses. Wind, rain, run off and glacial ice created the awesome Alpine shapes you see today.Much of the rock pushed upwards by the mountain building activity is limestone and sandstone that was once at the bottom of the ocean. It is possible to find fossils of sea creatures in the Himalayas at an elevation of four kilometers above sea level.

The Himalayas began to when two large landmasses, India and Eurasia, driven by plate movement, collided. Because both these continental landmasses have about the same rock density, one plate could not be subducted under the other. The pressure of the impinging plates could only be relieved by thrusting skyward, contorting the collision zone, and forming the jagged Himalayan peaks. Plate tectonic continues to push the Indian subcontinent under Nepal and China, which sit on the Eurasian Plate, forcing Tibet and the entire Himalayan range to rise about 10 millimeters a year and move towards China at a rate if about five centimeters a year. Before it was pushed upwards Tibet was a well watered plain. As the Himalayas were pushed up they deprived Tibet of rain, turning it into a dry plateau. [Source: USGS]

At present, the movement of India continues to put enormous pressure on the Asian continent, and Tibet in turn presses on the landmass to the north that is hemming it in. The net effect of plate-tectonics forces acting on this geologically complicated region is to squeeze parts of Asia eastward toward the Pacific Ocean. One serious consequence of these processes is a deadly "domino" effect: tremendous stresses build up within the Earth's crust, which are relieved periodically by earthquakes along the numerous faults that scar the landscape. Some of the world's most destructive earthquakes in history are related to continuing tectonic processes that began some 50 million years ago when the Indian and Eurasian continents first met.

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau to the north have risen very rapidly. In just 50 million years, peaks such as Mt. Everest have risen to heights of more than 9 km. The impinging of the two landmasses has yet to end. The Himalayas continue to rise more than 1 cm a year — a growth rate of 10 km in a million years! If that is so, why aren't the Himalayas even higher? Scientists believe that the Eurasian Plate may now be stretching out rather than thrusting up, and such stretching would result in some subsidence due to gravity.

The Indian Plate is moving northeastward at a rate of 1.7 inches a year relative to the Eurasian Plate which embraces most of Asia and Europe. A great amount of energy drives the collision and is released at the boundaries of the plates, which explains partly why India, Nepal , Tibet and China experience sometimes experience devastating earthquakes.

Indian Subcontinent Plate and the Creation of the Himalayas

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Dhaulagiri, world's 7th highest mountain

The Indian subcontinent floated across the Indian Oceanand rammed into southern Asia about 40 to 50 million years ago. The force of the impact created the Himalayas, which are still rising. Almost the entire Indian subcontinent sits on the Indian Plate, which is moving northeastward at a rate of about four centimeters (1.7 inches) a year relative to the Eurasian Plate which sits to north and east and embraces most of Asia and Europe. To the west is the Arabian Plate The collision of Indian plate and the Eurasian plate continues to push up the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau. A great amount of energy drives the collision and is released at the boundaries of the plates, which explains partly why India experience some devastating earthquakes.

About 225 million years ago, India was a large island still situated off the Australian coast, and a vast ocean (called Tethys Sea) separated India from the Asian continent. When Pangaea broke apart about 200 million years ago, India began to forge northward. By studying the history — and ultimately the closing — of the Tethys, scientists have reconstructed India's northward journey. About 80 million years ago, India was located roughly 6,400 km south of the Asian continent, moving northward at a rate of about 9 meters a century. When India rammed into Asia about 40 to 50 million years ago, its northward advance slowed by about half. The collision and associated decrease in the rate of plate movement are interpreted to mark the beginning of the rapid uplift of the Himalayas.

According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, its formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary (Main Himalayan Thrust) between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. 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. [Source: Wikipedia]

During the Upper Cretaceous, about 70 million years ago, the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate (which has subsequently broken into the Indian Plate and the Australian Plate) was moving at about 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) per year. 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 both plates were composed of low density continental crust, they were thrust faulted and folded into mountain ranges rather than subducting into the mantle along an oceanic trench. An often-cited fact used to illustrate this process is that the summit of Mt. Everest is made of marine limestone from this ancient ocean.

Today, the Indian plate continues to be driven horizontally at the Tibetan Plateau, which forces the plateau to continue to move upwards. The Indian plate is still moving at 67 millimeters per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) into Asia. About 20 millimeters 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 millimeters 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.

Mt. Everest consists of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks that have been faulted southward over continental crust composed of Archean granulites of the Indian Plate during the Cenozoic collision of India with Asia. The main rock formations consist of marine sediments that accumulated within the continental shelf of the northern passive continental margin of India before it collided with Asia. The Cenozoic collision of India with Asia subsequently deformed and metamorphosed these strata as it thrust them southward and upward. The formation at the base of Everest consists of a sequence of high-grade metamorphic and granitic rocks that were derived from the alteration of high-grade metasedimentary rocks. During the collision of India with Asia, these rocks were thrust downward and to the north as they were overridden by other strata; heated, metamorphosed, and partially melted at depths of over 15 to 20 kilometers (9.3 to 12.4 miles) below sea level; and then forced upward to surface by thrusting towards the south between two major detachments. The Himalayas are rising by about 5 mm (0.2 inches) per year.

Magnetism of Rocks Reveals the Himalayas Complex Tectonic History

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Cho Oyu, world's 6th highest mountain
Fifty kilometers north of Lhasa (the capital of Tibet), scientists found layers of pink sandstone containing grains of magnetic minerals (magnetite) that have recorded the pattern of the Earth's flip-flopping magnetic field. These sandstones also contain plant and animal fossils that were deposited when the Tethys Sea periodically flooded the region. The study of these fossils has revealed not only their geologic age but also the type of environment and climate in which they formed. For example, such studies indicate that the fossils lived under a relatively mild, wet environment about 105 million years ago, when Tibet was closer to the equator. Today, Tibet's climate is much more arid, reflecting the region's uplift and northward shift of nearly 2,000 km. Fossils found in the sandstone layers offer dramatic evidence of the climate change in the Tibetan region due to plate movement over the past 100 million years.

Himalayan rocks hold magnetic clues about their origins. Reporting from the Khardung-La road area in Ladakh, India, near long-disputed borders between India, Pakistan and China, MIT’s Craig Robert Martin wrote in the Conversation, This area contains “a narrow sinuous geological structure that stretches along the length of the Himalayan mountain range. Known as a suture zone, it’s only a few kilometers wide and consists of slivers of different types of rocks all sliced together by fault zones. It marks the boundary where two tectonic plates fused together and an ancient ocean disappeared. Our team of geologists traveled here to collect rocks that erupted as lava more than 60 million years ago. By decoding the magnetic records preserved inside them, we hoped to reconstruct the geography of ancient landmasses – and revise the story of the creation of the Himalayas. [Source: Craig Robert Martin, Ph.D. Student in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Conversation, November 3, 2020]

“Geologists generally thought that the Himalayas formed 55 million years ago in a single continental collision – when the Neotethys Ocean plate subducted under the southern edge of Eurasia and the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates collided.But by measuring the magnetism of rocks from northwest India’s remote and mountainous Ladakh region, our team has shown that the tectonic collision that formed the world’s largest mountain range was actually a complex, multi-stage process involving at least two subduction zones.

“Constant movement of our planet’s metallic outer core creates electric currents which in turn generate Earth’s magnetic field. It’s oriented differently depending where in the world you are. The magnetic field always points toward the magnetic north or the south, which is why your compass works, and averaged over thousands of years it points toward the geographic pole. But it also slopes downward into the ground at an angle which varies depending on how far you are from the equator.

“When lava erupts and cools to form rock, the magnetic minerals inside lock in the direction of the magnetic field of that location. So by measuring the magnetization of volcanic rocks, scientists like me can determine what latitude they came from. Essentially, this method allows us to unwind millions of years of plate tectonic motions and create maps of the world at different times throughout geologic history.

“Over multiple expeditions to the Ladakh Himalayas, our team collected hundreds of 1-inch diameter rock core samples. These rocks originally formed on a volcano active between 66 and 61 million years ago, around the time that the first stages of collision began. We used a hand-held electric drill with a specially designed diamond coring bit to drill approximately 10 centimeters down into the bedrock. We then carefully marked these cylindrical cores with their original orientation before chiseling them out of the rock with nonmagnetic tools. The aim was to reconstruct where these rocks originally formed, before they were sandwiched between India and Eurasia and uplifted into the high Himalayas. Keeping track of the orientation of the samples as well as the rock layers they came from is essential to calculating which way the ancient magnetic field pointed relative to the surface of the ground as it was over 60 million years ago. We brought our samples back to the MIT Paleomagnetism Laboratory and, inside a special room that’s shielded from the modern-day magnetic field, we heated them in increments up to 1,256 degrees Fahrenheit (680 degrees Celsius) to slowly remove the magnetization.

“Different mineral populations acquire their magnetization at different temperatures. Incrementally heating and then measuring the samples in this way enables us to extract the original magnetic direction by removing more recent overprints that might hide it. Using the average magnetic direction of the whole suite of samples we can calculate their ancient latitude, which we refer to as the paleolatitude.

“The original single-stage collision model for the Himalaya predicts that these rocks would have formed close to Eurasia at a latitude of around 20 degrees north, but our data shows that these rocks did not form on either the Indian or the Eurasian continents. Instead, they formed on a chain of volcanic islands, out in the open Neotethys Ocean at a latitude of about 8 degrees north, thousands of kilometers south of where Eurasia was located at the time.

“This finding can be explained only if there were two subduction zones pulling India rapidly toward Eurasia, rather than just one. During a geologic time period known as the Paleocene, India caught up with the volcanic island chain and collided with it, scraping up the rocks we eventually sampled onto the northern edge of India. India then continued northward before ramming into Eurasia around 40 to 45 million years ago – 10 to 15 million years later than was generally thought. This final continental collision raised the volcanic islands from sea level up over 4,000 meters to their present-day location, where they form jagged outcrops along a spectacular Himalayan mountain pass.

Himalayas in Nepal

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Gasherbrum I, world's 11th highest mountain
Of the world’s 10 highest mountains eight are in Nepal. Seven stand between Nepal and Tibet, including Mt. Everest. One — Kanchenjunga, the world's third tallest mountain — is on the border with India. Altogether there are 13 peaks more than 8,000 meters (26,242 feet) high in Nepal. Eighteen exceed 7135 meters (24,000) feet, and more than 200 peaks exceed 6,400 meters (21,000 feet). This area often experiences intense geological activity, with nearly 50 major earthquakes between 1870 to 1996, and a devastating one in 2015.

The eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains in Nepal
1) Everest: Nepal/Tibet — 29,035 feet (8,850 meters)
3) Kanchenjunga: India/Nepal — 28,169 feet (8,586 meters)
4) Lhotse I: Nepal/Tibet — 27,940 feet (8,516 meters)
5) Makalu I: Nepal/Tibet — 27,766 feet (8,463 meters)
6) Cho Oyu: Nepal/Tibet — 26,906 feet (8,201 meters)
7) Dhaulagiri: Nepal — 26,795 feet (8,167 meters)
8) Manaslu I: Nepal — 26,781 feet (8,163 meters)
10) Annapurna: Nepal — 26,545 feet (8,091 meters)

The Mountain Region (called Parbat in Nepali) is situated at 4,000 meters or more above sea level to the north of the Hill Region. The Mountain Region constitutes the central portion of the Himalayan range originating in the Pamirs, a high altitude region of Central Asia. Its natural landscape is legendary habitat of the mythical creature, the yeti, or abominable snowman.In general, the snow line occurs between 5,000 and 5,500 meters. The region is characterized by inclement climatic and rugged topographic conditions, and human habitation and economic activities are extremely limited and arduous. Indeed, the region is sparsely populated, and whatever farming activity exists is mostly confined to the low-lying valleys and the river basins, such as the upper Kali Gandaki Valley. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

The Himalayan Region covers nearly 35 percent of the total of Nepal, and is formed by the Mahabharat, Churia, and Himalayan mountain ranges (from east to west), whose altitude increases as one moves north, culminating with at the Tibetan border with Mt. Everest. . In the early 1990s, pastoralism and trading were common economic activities among mountain dwellers. Because of their heavy dependence on herding and trading, transhumance was widely practiced. While the herders moved their goths (temporary animal shelters) in accordance with the seasonal climatic rhythms, traders also migrated seasonally between highlands and lowlands, buying and selling goods and commodities in order to generate muchneeded income and to secure food supplies.

The Mountain Region is one about 50 kilometers (30 miles) wide. Three principal rivers originate from glaciers and snow-fed lakes of the Himalayas. They flow southward through deep Himalayan gorges, and enter, respectively, the Karnali, Gandak, and Kosi basins. They eventually reach India, where they become tributaries — as is the case of all Nepalese rivers — of the Ganges.

Highest Mountains in the World in Nepal

Highest mountains in the world in the Himalayas on the Nepal-Tibet border:
1) Everest — 29,035 feet (8,850 meters)
4) Lhotse I — 27,940 feet (8,516 meters)
5) Makalu I — 27,766 feet (8,463 meters)
6) Cho Oyu — 26,906 feet (8,201 meters)
54) Gauri Sankar — 23,440 feet (7,145 meters)

Highest mountain in the world in the Himalayas on the Nepal-India border:
3) Kanchenjunga — India-Nepal — 28,169 feet (8,586 meters)

Highest mountains in the world in the Himalayas solely in Nepal:
7) Dhaulagiri — 26,795 feet (8,167 meters)
8) Manaslu I — 26,781 feet (8,163 meters)
10) Annapurna — 26,545 feet (8,091 meters)
15) Annapurna II — 26,041 feet (7,937 meters)
16) Gyachung Kang — 25,910 feet (7,897 meters)
18) Himalchuli — 25,801 feet (7,864 meters)
19) Nuptse — 25,726 feet (7,841 meters)
31) Makalu II — 25,120 feet (7,657 meters)
38) Jongsong Peak — 24,472 feet (7,459 meters)
43) Tent Peak — 24,165 feet (7,365 meters)
45) Chamlang — 24,012 feet (7,319 meters)
46) Kabru — 24,002 feet (7,316 meters)
51) Baruntse — 23,688 feet (7,220 meters)
52) Nepal Peak — 23,500 feet (7,163 meters)
58) Pyramid — 23,400 feet (7,132 meters)
59) Api — 23,399 feet (7,132 meters)

Himalayas in India

The southern slopes of each of the Himalayan ranges are too steep to accumulate snow or support much tree life; the northern slopes generally are forested below the snow line. Between the ranges are extensive high plateaus, deep gorges, and fertile valleys, such as the vales of Kashmir and Kulu. The Himalayas serve a very important purpose. They provide a physical screen within which the monsoon system operates and are the source of the great river systems that water the alluvial plains below. As a result of erosion, the rivers coming from the mountains carry vast quantities of silt that enrich the plains. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The area of northeastern India adjacent to Burma and Bangladesh consists of numerous hill tracts, averaging between 1,000 and 2,000 meters in elevation, that are not associated with the eastern part of the Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh. The Naga Hills, rising to heights of more than 3,000 meters, form the watershed between India and Burma. The Mizo Hills are the southern part of the northeastern ranges in India. The Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia hills are centered in the state of Meghalaya and, isolated from the northeastern ranges, divide the Assam Valley from Bangladesh to the south and west. *

The highest settlement in world, 19,650-foot-high Basasi, is located on the Indian-Tibetan border. It is only 9,384 feet lower than Mt. Everest. According to the World Wildlife Fun (WWF), India has 5,243 glaciers that cover 37,958 square kilometers and have an ice volume of 143 square kilometers.

Highest mountains in the world in the Himalayas in India:
3) Kanchenjunga — India-Nepal — 28,169 feet (8,586 meters)
24) Kamet — India-Tibet: 25,446 feet (7,756 meters)
20) Nanda Devi — 25,663 feet (7,824 meters)
50) Mana — 23,860 feet (7,273 meters)
55) Badrinath — 23,420 feet (7,138 meters)
60) Pauhunri — India-China: 23,385 feet (7,128 meters)
61) Trisul — 23,360 feet (7,120 meters)
65) Trisuli — 23,210 feet (7,074 meters)
66) Dunagiri — 23,184 feet (7,066 meters)

Highest mountains in the world in the Himalayas in Kashmir:
40) Sia Kangri — 24,350 feet (7,422 meters)
36) Skyang Kangri — 24,750 feet (7,544 meters)
48) Baltoro Kangri — 23,990 feet (7,312 meters)
56) Nunkun — 23,410 feet (7,135 meters)

Himalayas in Tibet

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Broad Peak, world's 12th highest mountain

Tibet is separated from Nepal, India, Bhutan and Myanmar by the Himalayas, which include Mt. Everest. Four of the world’s six highest mountains are on the Nepal-Tibet (China) border.

Highest mountains in the world in the Himalayas on the Nepal-Tibet border:
1) Everest — 29,035 feet (8,850 meters)
4) Lhotse I — 27,940 feet (8,516 meters)
5) Makalu I — 27,766 feet (8,463 meters)
6) Cho Oyu — 26,906 feet (8,201 meters)
54) Gauri Sankar — 23,440 feet (7,145 meters)

You can see them all in one stunning view on the top of a ridge on the way to the Everest Base Camp in Tibet. After the turnoff on the dirt road it was a long climb to the top of a large hill which offered the first view of 8,848-meter-high (29,029-foot-high) Everest — and what a stunning view it was too. There was Everest: the king of a massif — the Mahalangur Himal — that also includes 8,516-meter-high (27,040-foot-high) Lhotse, the world’s forth highest mountain, 8,485-meter-high (27,838-foot-high) Makalu, the world’s fifth highest mountain, and 8,188-meter-high (26,864) Cho Oyo, the world’s sixth highest mountain. From our vantage point their glacier-covered slopes stretched across the mid-part of the horizon, glistening in the mid-day sun, looking like they had been painted with vanilla ice cream that had been repeatedly melted and refrozen..

The Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas contains Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu — four of Earth's six highest peaks. On the Tibetan side the sub-range is drained by the Rongbuk and Kangshung Glaciers. On the Nepali side it is drained by Barun, Ngojumba and Khumbu Glaciers and a few others. All are tributaries to the Koshi River via the Arun River to the north and east, and Dudh Kosi to the south. The Koshi Rivers flows through Tibet, Nepal and India and winds near Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain through one of the deepest gorges in the world and eventually makes its way to rivers that empty into the Ganges. The Khumbu region of Nepal is the best known part of the Mahalangurs as it contains the most popular trekking and mountaineering (the South Col route) routes to Everest. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Mahalangur Himal can be divided into three subsections: 1) Makalu nearest the Arun River and along the Nepal-China border, with Makalu (8463 meters, 27,765 feet), Chomo Lonzo (7790 meters, 25,557 feet) south of the Kama valley in Tibet, Kangchungtse or Makalu II (7678 meters, 25,190 feet), Peak 7199 and some ten others over 6000 meters;
2) Barun inside Nepal and south of the Makalu section, with Chamlang (7319 meters, 24,012 feet) and Chamlang East (7235 meters, 23,736 feet), Peak 7316, Baruntse (7129 meters, 23,389 feet), Ama Dablam (6812 meters, 22349 feet) and about 17 others over 6000 meters.
3) Khumbu along the international border west of the Makalu section, with the Everest massif: Everest (8848 meters, 29,029 feet), Lhotse (8516 meters, 27,940 feet), Nuptse (7855 meters, 25,771 feet) and Changtse (7580 meters, 25,755 feet). West of Everest are Pumori (7161 meters, 23,494 feet) and Cho Oyu (8201 meters, 26,906 feet) with around 20 others over 7000 meters and 36 over 6000 meters.

Highest mountains in the world in the Himalayas solely in Tibet:
14) Shishma Pangma (Gosainthan) — 26,289 feet (8,013 meters)
25) Namcha Barwa — 25,445 feet (7,756 meters)
26) Gurla Mandhata — 25,355 feet (7,728 meters)
34) Chang-tzu — 24,780 feet (7,553 meters)
47) Alung Gangri — 24,000 feet (7,315 meters)
63) Kangto — 23,260 feet (7,090 meters)

Earthquakes in the Himalayan Region

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Gasherbrum 2, world's
13th highest mountain
The movement of the Indian plate into the Eurasian plate in the Himalayan region, making the region seismically active and prone to occasional severe earthquakes. There were nearly 50 major earthquakes in the area between 1870 to 1996, and a devastating 7.8-magnitude one in April 2015 that killed 9,000 people and injured 22,000 in Nepal and caused massive avalanches at Mt. Everest.

Geological evidence seems to indicate more is so to come. Brooks Hays of UPI wrote: “The 2015 Nepal earthquake didn't break the surface. In the days following the quake, there was little evidence of afterslip movement. A new study suggests the Gorkha earthquake was incomplete and much tension remains in the region's system of faults. [Source: Brooks Hays, UPI, June 13, 2016]

“In the wake of the deadly earthquake, an international team of scientists used GPS and radar to monitor post-quake movements. The afterslip was small. Researchers measured surface movement of 2.75 inches to the north of the fault rupture and 1 inch to the south. “There was a clear lack of afterslip," David Mencin, a geologist with the University of Colorado Boulder, said. "That has implications for future great earthquakes, which can tap into this stored strain." Mencin and his colleagues believe more than 11 feet of strain remains locked in the segment of the fault running beneath Nepal.

“As the Indian plate slowly slips under the Eurasian plate, pieces of the crustal plates grab at each other and form fault lines. An analysis of prior earthquakes show major fault slips in 1803, 1833, 1905 and 1947 also failed to rupture the surface or produce significant afterslip. The findings, detailed in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggest a significant amount of strain is built up within the region's fault system. “There's no evidence that it will spontaneously rupture in another damaging earthquake," said Roger Bilham, a professor of geological sciences at Boulder. "But the strain may fuel a future earthquake starting nearby." “The entire Himalayan arc may host dozens of pockets of strain energy awaiting release in future great earthquakes," Billham added.

Climate of the Himalayas

For every 500 meters climbed in the Himalayas the temperature drops 3̊C (about 4.5̊F). At the summits of high mountains winds can kick up to 135 kilometers per hour (90 miles per hour) and temperatures can drop many degrees below zero. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Mt. Everest was -42̊C (-44̊ F) in December 2004. Above 7,925 meters (26,000 feet) jet stream winds can blow at speeds of 190 kilometers per hour (118 miles per hour). Because of the location near the Tropic of Cancer, the permanent snow line is among the highest in the world at around 5,500 meters (18,000 feet). Oddly enough, this is even higher than high mountains near equator — in New Guinea, the Rwenzoris in Uganda and Colombia — which a have a snow line 900 meters (2,950 feet) lower.

In some parts of Tibet and the rain shadow side of the Himalayas the air is so dry that grain can be stored for 50 years. The extremes of hot and cold, coupled with the thin air and high altitude sunshine, are enough to break granite mountains into sand, and generate fierce winds, stinging hailstorms, and blinding dust storms. Bad weather can come up fast and furious in the Himalayas. I camped outside once and set up tent on what I thought was a calm night. When I climbed out of my tent to relieve myself a huge gust of wind came out of nowhere and collapsed my tent and carried it away. Then, while walking around with one shoe looking for some shelter, the wind stopped as quickly as it began. To forecast the weather some Himalayan people throw salt into the air and then toss it onto a fire. If it crackles it means a storm is far away if it stays silent it means a storm in near.

The huge altitude range, vast area and complex topography of the Himalayas translates to a wide range of climates, from rainy subtropical in the foothills of the south to the cold, dry deserts of the Tibetan plateau. Most of the southern side of Himalayas is influenced by southwest monsoon, with heavy rain from June to September. During the monsoon season transport by road and air can be difficult and roads are often blocked by landslides and mud. The trekking and mountaineering season are before and after monsoon in April-May and October-November (autumn). The Nepalese and Sikkimese describe five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn ( post-monsoon), winter and spring. [Source: Wikipedia]

The lower elevations of the Himalayas are classified as having a humid subtropical climate with often heavy monsoon rains and dry winters. Higher up, most of the Himalayas have a subtropical highland climate. In the western Himalayas, in Kashmir valley and the Indus valley area, the monsoon is weak and and most precipitation falls in the spring. Kashmir receives about half the rainfall of the Kathmandu Valley and the wettest months are March and April. The northern side of the Himalayas, also known as the Tibetan Himalaya, is dry, cold and windy, particularly in the west which has a cold desert climate. The vegetation is sparse and stunted and the winters can bitterly cold. Much of the precipitation falls in the form of snow during late winter and spring months.

There are many local variations and microclimates in the Himalayas. Temperatures fall by 0.2 to 1.2 °C for every 100 meters (330 feet) rise in altitude. As one ascends on a trek one can pass through tropical rain forests in the foothills through deciduous and coniferous before reaching tundra and permanent ice and snow in the higher elevations. Climate can also be affected by topography: The exposed, windward sides of the mountains slopes, facing India, can get heavy rainfall while the leeward side, facing Tibet, in the rain shadow of large mountains, can receive much less rain, producing the desert-like conditions found in Mustang, Nepal, which is blocked from the monsoon rains by the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs and has annual precipitation of only around 30 centimeters (12 inches). Pokhara on the southern side of the same massifs, bu contrast, receives 390 centimeters (150 inches) a year.

The Himalayas also play an important role in the climate of the Indian subcontinent, the Tibetan Plateau and the Asian continent as a whole.. They prevent frigid, dry winds from blowing south from Tibet into India, which makes South Asia much warmer than places found in the same latitudes in other continents. The Himalayas also form a barrier for the monsoon winds, keeping them from traveling northwards, and causing them heaving amounts of rainfall in the Terai region of Nepal, Bangladesh and parts of northeast India, which are the rainiest places on earth. The Himalayas also have on impact on places far away, creating climate conditions that are believed to have played an important part in the formation of the Taklamakan, Gobi and Central Asian deserts.

Ganges and its tributaries: dependent on Himalayan glacier water

Climate Change Damage in the Himalayas

Reporting from a high Himalayan plateau in Nepal,Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz wrote in the New York Times: “Climate change is remaking the Himalayan region, putting at risk millions of South Asians who depend on its water resources and pushing mountain dwellers in northern Nepal, home to the world’s highest peaks, to build new settlements at lower altitudes. Glacial melt has accelerated in the 1,500-mile-long Himalayas. Land once used for growing vegetables has become barren. Yak herders say they are struggling to find grazing patches for their animals. Scientists have found that rising temperatures could spread malaria and dengue to new areas of the Himalayas, where mosquitoes have started to appear in the highlands. [Source: Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz, New York Times, April 5, 2020]

“Around the world, tens of millions of people have already been displaced as a result of a warming planet” as a result of “natural disasters, droughts or other calamities...South Asians are among the most vulnerable. Last year, Extreme heat is making people sicker and poorer, and could sharply diminish the living standards of 800 million people in the region if goals for mitigating climate change are not met.

“Warmer Himalayas could have disastrous consequences for the subcontinent.” In 2019, “in one of the most complete studies on mountain warming, scientists warned that even if the world’s most ambitious climate change targets were met, at least one-third of Himalayan glaciers would melt by the end of the century. If global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the region could lose two-thirds of its glaciers by 2100, according to the report, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment. “In the long term, the impacts will be profound for hundreds of millions of people in the plains,” said David Molden, the director general of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu. “If we overlay significantly changed rain and river flow patterns, it will be a mess for people depending on Asia’s big rivers for irrigation and drinking water.”“

In Nepal “where nearly 70 percent of people work in agriculture, an acceleration in extreme weather may “reverse and undermine decades of development gains and potentially undermine all our efforts to eradicate poverty,” said Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labé, the United Nations Development Program’s representative for Nepal. “Nepal is ground zero for the impacts of climate change,” she said. “As a country with one of the most fragile ecosystems — the Himalayas — and an economy that is heavily reliant on favorable climate conditions, Nepal is probably one of the most exposed.”

“Glimpses of a warmer future are everywhere. In 2016, Nepal’s army drained a lake near Mt. Everest after rapid glacial melting threatened to cause a catastrophic flood downstream. A study released” in 2019 “found that the size of ponds on top of glaciers in the region — which can both signal melting and accelerate it — had rapidly increased over the past three years, far outpacing the rate of change from the first decade and a half of the 2000s.

Himalayas Climate Change Migrants in Nepal

Most people in the Himalayan village of Dhye, Nepal, have left in recent due to a drought and lack of food blamed on global warming. Reporting from there, Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz wrote in the New York Times: “High in the Himalayas, on a rugged plateau dotted with empty mud huts, an exodus has begun...Crops are stubby, dead stalks. Water is scarce. The only school closed a few years ago. With dwindling food, most families have packed their belongings and left, driven out by a faceless, man-made enemy.They are Nepal’s climate-change migrants, and there will be more. “I love this village,” said Sonam Chhiring Gurung, 76, one of the final holdouts, “but I can’t survive here much longer.” [Source: Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz, New York Times, April 5, 2020]

“The number of climate change migrants in Nepal’s Himalayas is unknown, though local officials in mountain towns estimate it to be in the thousands. Min Bahadur Shahi, a member of the government’s commission for development work, said officials planned to track the impact of warming temperatures for the first time through coming census questions. “Our first priority should be helping those displaced from the climate crisis,” he said.

“Take the case of Dhye, in the remote Mustang region of Nepal, about 12,000 feet above sea level. More than a decade ago, the village’s families gathered for a meeting to ponder a heavy question: Should they stay? They looked around their landscape, a brown, dehydrated expanse that could barely sustain barley anymore. They weighed soil degradation, newly erratic rainfall and fears of starvation against centuries of lived history — the huts they had built with their hands, the pockets of earth where parents had buried each newborn’s umbilical cord.

“By the end of the meeting, 17 of 26 families, about 90 people, vowed to leave. “I couldn’t stay,” said Tsering Lamke Gurung, 54, a village leader and father of eight, four of whom have died. “My children and I were not able to survive from crop failure.” The leavers have trickled out of Dhye in groups over the past few years. They strapped bundles of food and clothing to their backs and hiked nearly a mile down to the banks of a still-flowing stream. They called their new community Dhye Khola, a local name for the water body.

Struggling to Survive in Climate-Damaged Himalayas

People who left Dhye resettled more than a kilometers mile downhill, near a stream that was still flowing. Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz wrote in the New York Times: ““There were some moments of triumph. One resident sent pictures of the uncultivated land to a French aid agency, which agreed to plant fruit trees in the village and help build sturdier concrete homes for families.But the longer-term settlement process was fraught, illustrating the challenges migrants face in procuring resources for unrecognized villages where residents have no legal right to the land. Mr. Gurung, who took the lead in building Dhye Khola, said he approached a former prime minister of Nepal for guidance and aid. He met prominent lawmakers, a Nepal-based leader of the World Wildlife Fund and representatives from foreign embassies. “They didn’t support us,” Mr. Gurung said. “They wouldn’t help us get a land ownership certificate.” [Source: Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz, New York Times, April 5, 2020]

“When a government conservation group backed away from its promise of providing apple seedlings for Dhye Khola, Mr. Gurung said he marched into its office and threatened to burn it down. He said the group eventually relented and sent about 275 seedlings. “To those who say climate change is fake and criticize us for occupying public land, I ask them to come visit our village,” Mr. Gurung said. “I am a victim of climate change.”

“Some wondered how long it would take before their next move, pointing out that broader warming trends were impossible to escape.To protect against flooding during the summer monsoon, residents of Dhye Khola have started building embankments near the stream. They strategized about what to do if their apple orchards were marauded by locals from other struggling villages.

“Tsering Bitik Gurung, 52, a farm laborer with a sun-creased face, said the stress was getting to her. Ms. Gurung, who is not related to Tsering Lamke Gurung, agonized over the recent death of her husband from cancer and her diminishing money. The well near her home has gone dry. She cursed local police officers who prevented her from selling wild herbs in one of the bigger cities — retribution, she said, for villagers’ persistent efforts to get Dhye Khola recognized. Sitting next to her stove, Ms. Gurung sighed. The apple orchards are bountiful for now, she said, but “our future is dark.” “We came here after hardship, not for fun,” she said. “I pray that God will save us.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons; Except Everest climbing routes, Luca Galuzzi and Alan Arnette, Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Nepal Tourism Board (ntb.gov.np), Nepal Government National Portal (nepal.gov.np), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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