The Highest Mountain Range

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The Himalaya Range or Himalayas for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. By extension, it is also the name of a massive mountain system which includes the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and a host of minor ranges extending from the Pamir Knot. The name comes from the Sanskrit word, himā-laya, a tatpurusa compound meaning "the abode of snow" (from himá "snow", and ālaya "abode"; see also Himavat). As words, the expression "Himalaya Range" is similar to the expression Sierra Nevada.

Together, the Himalayan mountain system is the planet's highest and home to the world's highest peaks: the Eight-thousanders, including Mount Everest (Nepal/Tibet) and K2 (Pakistan's Northern Areas). To comprehend the enormous scale of this mountain range consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6,962 m, is the highest peak outside Asia, while the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7,200 meters. However, one should keep in mind that this range rises from a plateau which is itself many thousand feet above sea level. Thus its actual prominence is not quite as dominant as would otherwise appear.

The Himalayan system, which includes outlying subranges, stretches across six countries: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are the source of three of the world's major river systems, the Indus, the Ganga-Brahmaputra, and the Yangtze. Approximately 1.3 billion people live in the drainage basin of the Himalayan rivers.

The range proper runs west to east, from the Indus river valley to the Brahmaputra river valley, thereby forming an arc 2,400 km long, which varies in width from 400 km in the western Kashmir-Xinjiang region to 150 km in the eastern Tibet-Arunachal Pradesh region. The Himalaya chain consists of three parallel ranges, with the northern-most range known as the Great or Inner Himalayas.

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