Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Baltistan Geography

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Baltistan lies in the extreme northeast of Pakistan between the 35th and 36th parallel of latitude north of the equator and the 75th and 77th parallel of longitude. The Sindhu River enters it from Ladakh in the east via Kharmang sub-division and cuts across the country on a north-westerly bearing dividing Baltistan from, first, Kargil in India and then the Deosai Plateau to the south. The swathe cut by the Sindhu in its traversing of Baltistan varies in height from 2750 metres at its entry in the east to just about 1700 metres near Shengus as it exits into Gilgit district.

The two major tributaries of the Sindhu in Baltistan are the Shyok, only marginally less significant than the Sindhu, and the Shigar. While the former drains the elongated Nubra Valley (held by India) leading up to the Karakoram Pass, an ancient crossing place on the Asiatic Divide, the latter drains the Haramosh Range to the north and to the northeast the great mass of K-2 and its satellite mountains. Besides these, a few dozen minor streams also run into the Sindhu all draining the scores of peaks that tower well above the 6000-metre mark. The distinction of being home to the highest peak in Pakistan together with its complement of lesser mountains makes Baltistan foremost in the entire country in terms of average height above sea level.

The northern edge of Baltistan is virtually an interminable mass of glaciers, high peaks and permafrost. Indeed, it boasts of the longest glaciers outside of the polar regions. It was therefore not without good reason that Askole, lying at the foot of the Baltoro Glacier that drains K-2, was known to early explorers as ‘World’s End.’ Beyond lay nothing but an ice-world devoid of human habitation. These glaciers above Askole separate Baltistan from Shimshal to the north and Hunza and Nagar to the northwest. Across the Deosai Plateau to the south, lies Kashmir.

While the civil administration of the rest of the country was altered in the year 2001, the Northern Areas (including Baltistan) continue to function under the old arrangement of the Deputy Commissioner’s office with its normal chain of command. The two Deputy Commissioners in Baltistan are headquartered in Skardu and Khaplu (for Ghanche district).

Excerpted from DEOSAI: THE LAND OF THE GIANT by Salman Rashid, with photographs by Nadeem Khawar, (Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore, 2013), pp. 176. Price Rs 2,000

Related: Deosai Truths - Book Review by F. S. Aijazuddin, Deosai - Book Review by S A J Shirazi, Special Deosai talk on BBC Radio

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 14 April 2014 at 05:13, Blogger Unknown said...

Travelling along the Shyok river, we entered Nubra valley just when a storm was brewing up. Here are some pictures of the Nubra Valley that I captured in the storm.

At 25 November 2015 at 12:15, Anonymous Mehr said...

Amardeep Singh.....lovely shots......i visited there last year and was pleasantly surprised..!!Sandstorms blew all afternoon and the shyok river is majestic.

At 25 November 2015 at 13:13, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

I've seen some magical sandstorms on the Indus near Skardu.


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days