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A Brief History and Introduction to the Karakorams

While exploration of the Karakoram only started in the 19th century, the ranges of this area have an old and fascinating history, one that is only completely understood when surrounded by the awesome power of the Karakoram. From Alexander the Great in 327 BC to Changhiz Khan, the Karakoram has been influenced by the experiences, traditions, beliefs, languages, and culture of some of the most powerful and legendary rulers and empires. And through this process it has become a legend of its own.

Silk and species traveled from China and India to the West on the Silk Route, an essential route for trade in Central Asia. This is now the Karakoram Highway (KKH), and links Islamabad to China’s legendary city of Kashgar. This road is 1300 km long and has opened up an ancient world for the curious traveler. This awe-inspiring highway, which opened in 1986, took over twenty years to complete and cost both Pakistan and China over a thousand lives in the process.

The Karakoram can be traced from the Ishkoman River and along Pakistan’s border with China into India. On the west of the Karakoram is the Hindukush and on the east the Himalayas. The most number of peaks over 7,000 meters can be found here – all situated in South and Central Asia. Among them, the ever famous and ever daunting K2. This is not only the second highest peak in the world, but also the most feared.

Pakistan’s trekking areas are in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) and the Northern Areas of the country. Chitral is NWFP’s main trekking area while the Northern areas have Ghizar, Gilgit, Diamir, Skardu, and Ghanche. The Karkoram offers the highest peaks, rolling valleys, and the worlds biggest glaciers outside of the poles.

These ranges are tough and demand the most out of the traveler. Trekking here requires survival instincts, self-reliance, ability to work with others, and above all a great deal of fitness, even more so than the Himalayas

Brief History of Baltistan

Balti-pa, the people of Baltistan, refer to their land as Balti-yu. Known as the Kingdom of Great Balur, Balti-yu can trace its roots all the way back to the 8th century when the region was predominately Buddhist. Islam was brought to the region in 1400 AD.

Three were three main kingdoms – Shigar, Khapalu, and Skardu. The most powerful kingdom was Skardu, under the Maqpon Dynasty around the early 14th century. Today Skardu is one of the main trekking areas of this region.

Skardu grew in importance and power as Ali Sher Anchan, the greatest Maqpon Emperor, formed an alliance with the Moghul Empire. However, fighting within the kingdom decreased Skardu’s power in the region, and in 1841 the Sikhs – who at this point controlled Kashmir and most of the Moghul Empire – conquered Skardu and Khapalu. Baltistan came under Pakistan during partition, adding to the richness of the Karakoram Range.

Brief Histroy of the Gilgit and Diamer Area

Much of Gilgit and Diamir’s history can be traced back through rock carvings – carvings that can still be found in these areas today.

Gilgit and Chilas, Diamir’s administrative head, were central for trade and travel. Between 5th and 8th centuries, they were also central for Buddhism in this area. This was all due much to the Silk Route.

Gilgit was highly influenced by Chinese and Tibetan rule and was thrown in constant power struggle. It was under the rule of the Trakhan Dynasty from the 12th to the 19th century, and when the rulers of Chitral threatened it in the 17th century, the Sikh armies from Kashmir were asked to help fight the threat. This led to an eventual power struggle with Kashmir. Gilgit rebelled under Kashmiri and British control until it finally joined Pakistan partition.

Brief History of the Hunza and Nagyr Area

The only river to cut through the Karkoram range is the Hunza River. Gojal, Hunza, and Nagyr surround this river. Hunza and Nagyr were thrown into battle by the king of Gilgit, Ra. He gave Hunza to one son and Nagyr to the other. The brothers fought and Moglot, the ruler of Nagyr, killed his brother, ruler of Hunza. The rivalry remained between the two sides.

Hunza created ties with China and Russia and remained independent due much to its trading and dealing with its neighbors as it was located in a very key point for all those surrounding it. In 1891 Hunza and Nagyr were forced to come under British rule. The rule of the Mirs, or rulers of Hunza and Nagyr, came to an end in 1974 and the districts’ transformation into Pakistan was complete


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