Gilgit-Baltistan is a territory of Pakistan, which was formerly known as the Northern Areas. It is the northernmost political entity within the Pakistani-controlled part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. It borders Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province to the west, Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor to the north, China to the northeast, the Pakistani-administered state of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) to the south, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast. The territory became a single administrative unit in 1970 under the name “Northern Areas” and was formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar. With its administrative center at the town of Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan covers an area of 72,971 kmÂ² (28,174 miÂ²) and has an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. Pakistan considers the territory separate from Kashmir, whereas India considers the territory as a part of the larger disputed territory of Kashmir that has been in dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947.
Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into seven districts,including the two Baltistan districts of Skardu and Ghanche, and the five Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Astore and Hunza-Nagar. The main political centres are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.
Geography of Gilgit Baltistan
Gilgit-Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China’s Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province to the west.
Mountains and ranges
Gilgi-Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.
The region is home to some of the world’s highest mountain rangesâ€”the main ranges are the Karakoram and the western Himalayas. The Pamir mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west
In 1856, Thomas George Montgomerie, a British Royal Engineers lieutenant and a member of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, sighted a group of high peaks in the Karakoram from more than 200 km away. He named five of these peaks K1, K2, K3, K4 and K5 where the K denotes Karakoram. Today, K1 is known as Masherbrum, K3 as Broad Peak, K4 as Gasherbrum II and K5 as Gasherbrum I. Only K2, the second highest mountain in the world, has kept Montgomerie’s name.
K2(second highest peak)–8,611 metres (28,251 ft)– part of the Karakoram Range, located on the border between the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China and Gilgit.
Nanga Parbat (Known as the “Killer Mountain,”9th highestÂ )–8,126 metres (26,660 ft)– lies just south of the Indus River in the Astore District.
Gasherbrum I(11thÂ highest)–8080 metres (29,509 ft)–lies in the Karakoram range of the Himalaya on the border of the Chinese Shaksgam Valley and the Gilgit-Baltistan.
- Broad Peak(12th highest)–8047 metres (26,400 ft)
- Gasherbrum II(13th highest)–8035 metres (26,360 ft)–
- Gasherbrum III–7,952 metres (26,089 ft)
- Gasherbrum IV–7,952 metres (26,089 ft)
- Masherbrum(22nd highest)–7,821 metres
- Rakaposhi(27th highest peak)–7,788 metres
- Gasherbrum V–7,147 metres (23,448 ft)
- Gasherbrum VIIâ€”6,979 metres (22,897 ft)
Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan â€” the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier.
There are, in addition, several high-altitude lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan:
- Sheosar Lake in Deosai Plains – Astore region
- Satpara Tso Lake in Skardu – Baltistan
- Katzura Tso Lake in Skardu – Baltistan
- Zharba Tso Lake in Shigar – Baltistan
- Phoroq Tso Lake in Skardu – Baltistan
- Bara Tso Lake in Gangche – Baltistan
- Byarsa Tso Lake in Gultari – Baltistan
- Borith Lake in upper Hunza – Gilgit
- Rama Lake near Astore
- Rush Lake near Nagar – Gilgit
- Kromber Lake in Ishkoman,- Ghezer
- Khalti lake in Gupisâ€”Ghezer
The Deosai Plains, are located above the tree line, and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 meters (14,500 feet)after Tibet. The plateau lies east of Astore, south of Skardu and west of Ladakh. The area was declared as a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometres. For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Astore & Baltistan in winters. The village of Deosai lies close to Chilum chokki and is connected with the Kargil district of Ladakh through an all-weather road.
The climate of Gilgit-Baltistan varies from region to region, surrounding mountain ranges creates sharp variations in weather. The eastern part has the moist zone of the western Himalayas, but going toward Karakoram and Hindu Kush the climate dries considerably.
There are towns like Gilgit and Chilas that are very hot during the day in summer, yet cold at night, and valleys like Astore, Khaplu, Yasin, Hunza, and Nagar where the temperatures are cold even in summer.