Photo Documentary – The Karakoram Highway to Pakistan
The long road to the Khunjerab Pass along the Karakoram Highway
Khunjerab Pass (elevation 4,693 metres or 15,397 feet) is a high mountain pass in the Karakoram Mountains in a strategic position on the northern border of Pakistan’s Gilgit–Baltistan region within the region of Kashmir and on the southwest border of the Xinjiang region of China. Its name is derived from Wakhi ‘Khun’ means Home and ‘Jerav’ means spring water/water falling.
The Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved international border crossing in the world and the highest point on the Karakoram Highway. The roadway across the pass was completed in 1982, and has superseded the unpaved Mintaka and Kilik Passes as the primary passage across the Karakoram Range.
On the Pakistani side, the pass is 42 km (26 mi) from the National Park station and checkpoint in Dih, 75 km (47 mi) from the customs and immigration post in Sost, 270 km (170 mi) from Gilgit, and 870 km (540 mi) from Islamabad.
On the Chinese side, the pass is 130 km (81 mi) from Tashkurgan, 420 km (260 mi) from Kashgar and some 1,890 km (1,170 mi) from Urumqi. The Chinese port of entry is located 3.5 km (2.2 mi) along the road from the pass in Tashkurgan County.
The Karakoram Highway
The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is the highest paved international road in the world. It connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range. The Karakorum Highway is known informally as the KKH, and — within Pakistan — officially as the N-35; within China, officially as China National Highway 314.
The Karakoram Highway, also known as the Friendship Highway in China, was built by the governments of Pakistan and China, it was started in 1959 and was completed in 1979 (open to the public since 1986) about 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese workers lost their lives, mostly in landslides and falls, while building the highway. The route of the KKH traces one of the many paths of the ancient Silk Road.
The highway cuts through the collision zone between the Eurasian and Indian plates, where China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan come within 250 km of each other. Owing largely to the extremely sensitive state of the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan, the Karakoram highway has strategic and military importance.
China and Pakistan are also planning to link the Karakoram Highway to the southern port of Gwadar in Balochistan through the Chinese-aided Gwadar-Dalbandin railway, which extends up to Rawalpindi.
Karakoram Highway provides the pathway to expeditions for almost all peaks in Gilgit–Baltistan, Kashmir and several peaks in Xinjiang, China. The region includes some of the world’s largest glaciers like the Baltoro Glacier. Five of the Eight-thousanders (mountains taller than 8,000m) of the world that are in Pakistan are accessible by the highway.