Ladakh, lies among some of the most magnificent mountain ranges of the world. It is located near the western extremity of the Great Himalaya where the mountain system proliferates into an astonishing complex of ranges and sub-ranges. Whenever you are traveling either to or inside Ladakh, by road or by air you will be witness to the awe inspiring spectacle of these ranges and the river valleys that divide them.
Geographically Ladakh lies bound between the crests of the Great Himalayan range, to its south, and of the Karakoram range, to its north. Overall, about 6 different mountain ranges either pass through or form the boundaries of Ladakh, making it, truly, the 'Land of the High passes'. Going from South to North, we'll encounter these ranges in order.
Great Himalayan range: Forms the southern boundary, and falls down into the Zanskar and Suru valleys.
Zanskar range : Forms northern wall of the Zanskar and Suru valleys and the southern wall of the Indus valley.
Ladakh range : Northern wall of the Indus valley and the southern wall of the Nubra and Shyok valleys. It extends down into Tibet and is known as the Kailash range there.
Pangong range: Its an impressive offshoot of the Ladakh range. Divided from the main range by the Tangste river and forms the southern boundary of the Pangong Lake. It is a more imposing chain of mountains than its parent range, with a few of its sawtooth peaks reaching over 6700m while the peaks of its parent range rarely go over 6000m.
Karakoram Range : Forms part of the northern boundary of Ladakh. Rises up and forms the northern wall of the Nubra and Shyok valleys.
Chang Chemo Range and Aksai Chin plateau: Although initially part of Ladakh, it is now under the (illegal) occupation of China. The Change Chemo range forms the northern boundary of the Pangong lake and continues into the disputed Aksai Chin plateau.
The dispute over the control of the Aksai Chin plateau is the reason for the 1962 war between India and China when India discovered that China was building a road through the Aksai Chin plateau to connect its Xinjiang region with Tibet.
About 50 million years ago, the Indian subcontinent plate drifted across the Ocean of Tethys and slammed into Asia. This squeezing of the two landmasses gave rise to some of the youngest, highest and the greatest mountain ranges the world has ever seen. The composition of these ranges tell a interesting story of their origins. The Great Himalayan range is formed of the base material from the Indian plate itself, while the Zanskar range is made of the ocean floor which was pushed up and the Ladakh range is made of granite which was created by the immense heatÂ generatedÂ by the grinding of the Indian and Asian plates. You will see evidence of this when you travel around Ladakh, especially the composition of the Ladakh range is unmistakable.