What Are The Himalayan Mountains?

By Victoria Simpson on August 26 2020 in Geography

The Himalayan mountain range. Image credit: anjalig04/Shutterstock
The Himalayan mountain range. Image credit: anjalig04/Shutterstock
  • The Himalayas are a massive mountain range that traverses portions of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Afghanistan.
  • Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain peak, resides in these majestic mountains.
  • Both areas that are home to permanent snow and sub-tropical forests can be found among these mountains.

Mountain ranges exist all over the world, and some of the most stunning can be found in India. The Himalayan mountain range separates the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau, which sits to its north.  The Himalayas were formed about 40 to 50 million years ago when the Indian tectonic plate collided with the Eurasian plate. Both of these plates are made from rock of about the same density, and so when they met, instead of one plate being pushed under the other, both plates stood their ground and pushed upwards at their edges, forming the Himalayan mountains. 

The Himalayas are still being formed today as the two tectonic plates are still colliding together as you read this. These mountains are rising at over 1 cm per year, which does not sound like much, but when every bit is added together it amounts to about 10 km in one million years. Impressive! It is estimated that about 700,000 tourists visit these majestic mountains each year. Some come to climb its famous peaks, and others just to bask in their glory from a distance. Their scope and natural beauty can make for unforgettable memories. 

A forest in a valley of the Himalayas. Image credit: raimond klavins/Shutterstock

Size

The Himalayan mountains are made of more than 110 peaks in total. These rise to heights of 24,000 feet (7,300 metres) or even more above sea level, and some are so high they sit in a region of the Earth’s atmosphere that has perpetual, year-round snow. These massive mountains cover almost 230,000 square miles (595,000 square km), travelling largely through northeastern India, but also Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Afghanistan. 

Notable Features, Flora and Fauna

Rather surprisingly to some, the Himalayas are home to the biggest deposit of ice and snow on Earth after those found at both poles. Amazingly, these mountains have about 15,000 glaciers within their ranges. The Yangtze, Indus, and Ganga-Brahmaputra rivers all begin in the Himalayas. Alpine shrubs, meadows, rhododendrons, conifer forests, broadleaf forests, and subtropical broadleaf forests can all be found here, as well as many species of animals including the snow leopard, musk deer, pikas, tigers, Asian elephants, red pandas, Himalayan tahr, and takins. 

Ranges

While some refer to the Himalayas as “a mountain range” there are actually three parallel longitudinal mountain belts that form this group. These include the Outer or Sub Himalayas (Siwalik Range), the Lesser or Lower Himalayas, the Great Himalayas Range. The mountains are also divided from west to east into three regions, the western, central, and eastern Himalayas.  

Mount Everest. Image credit: Vixit/Shutterstock

Mount Everest

Mount Everest is part of the Himalayas and holds the distinction of being the highest mountain in the world. It rises to 29,029 ft (8,848 m). Each year hundreds of people try to summit this famous peak. It is a dangerous feat to attempt, and over the years, close to 300 people have died trying to get to the top and then back down. Other famous peaks in these ranges include K2, Kanchenjunga, Kailash, Nanga Parbat, Manaslu, and Annapurna. 

The name Himalaya comes from Sanskrit. Hima means “snow” and alaya means “abode”. These stunning mountains have wowed and inspired people for thousands of years, and will no doubt continue to do so for years to come. 

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