Attraction Details

Karakoram Pass

Karakoram Pass
Elevation 5540 m
Traversed by Robert Shaw (1868); Francis E. Younghusband (1889); Theodore Jr. and Kermit Roosevelt (1926).
Location China–India border
Range Karakoram Range
Coordinates view on map

The Karakoram Pass (Hindi: ; simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Kalakunlún Shankou) is a 5,540 m or 18,176 ft mountain pass between India and China in the Karakoram Range. It is the highest pass on the ancient caravan route between Leh in Ladakh and Yarkand in the Tarim Basin. 'Karakoram' literally means 'Black Gravel' in Turkic.

Historically, the high altitude of the pass and the lack of fodder were responsible for the deaths of countless pack animals while the route was notorious for the trail of bones strewn along the way. There is an almost total absence of vegetation on the approaches to the pass.

Travelling south from the pass involved three days' march across the barren Depsang Plains at about 5,300 m (17,400 ft). To the north, the country was somewhat less desolate and involved travellers crossing the relatively easy and lower Suget Dawan (or Suget Pass) before reaching the lush grazing grounds around Shahidullah or Xaidulla in the upper valley of the Karakash River.

The pass is in a saddle between two mountains and about 45 metres (148 ft) wide. There is no vegetation or icecap and it is generally free of snow due to the winds. Temperatures are low, there are often very high winds, blizzards are frequent, and the extreme altitude often took its toll. In spite of all this, the Karakoram Pass was considered a relatively easy pass due to the gradual ascent on both sides, and lack of summer snow and ice much of the year. Consequently, the pass was open throughout most of the year. There is no motorable road across the pass, and the pass currently remains closed to all traffic.

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