The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains, and since Victorian times, they have been known as the "Roof of the World", presumably a translation from the Persian.
In other languages they are called: Kyrgyz Памир тоолору; Persian: رشته کوه های پامیر Reshte Kūh-hāye Pāmīr; Tajik: Кӯҳҳои Помир; Pashto: د پامير غرونه; Uyghur: پامىر ئېگىزلىكى; Urdu: پامیر کوهستان; Hindi: पामीर पर्वतमाला; simplified Chinese: 葱岭; traditional Chinese: 蔥嶺; pinyin: Cōnglǐng; Wade–Giles: Ts'ung-ling or "Onion Range" (after the wild onions growing in the region). The name "Pamir" is used more commonly in Modern Chinese and loaned as simplified Chinese: 帕米尔; traditional Chinese: 帕米爾; pinyin: Pàmǐ'ěr.
The precise extent of the Pamir Mountains is debatable. They lie mostly in Gorno-Badakhshan province, Tajikistan and Badakshan Province, Afghanistan. To the north they join the Tian Shan mountains along the Alay Valley of Kyrgyzstan. To the south they join the Hindu Kush mountains along the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan and Gilgit–Baltistan in Pakistan. To the east they may end on the Chinese border or extend to the range that includes Kongur Tagh which is sometimes included in the Kunlun Mountains.Paleoclimatology: The East-Pamir during the Ice Age
The East-Pamir, in the centre of which the massifs of Mustagh Ata (7620 m) and Kongur Tagh (Qungur Shan, 7578, 7628 or 7830 m) are situated, shows from the W-margin of the Tarim Basin an East-West extension of c. 200 km. Its North-South extension from King Ata Tagh up to the North-West Kuenlun foothills amounts to c.170 km. Whilst the up to 21 km long current valley glaciers are restricted to mountain massifs exceeding 5600 m in height, during the Last Glacial Period the glacier ice has covered the high plateau with its set-up highland relief, continuing west of Mustagh Ata and Kongur. From this glacier area an outlet glacier has flowed down to the north-east through the Gez valley up to c.1850 m asl and thus as far as to the margin of the Tarim basin. This outlet glacier received inflow from the Kaiayayilak glacier from the Kongur-north-flank. From the north-adjacent Kara Bak Tor (Chakragil, c. 6800 or 6694 m)-massif the Oytag valley glacier in the same exposition flowed also down up to c. 1850 m asl. At glacial times the glacier snowline (ELA) as altitude limit between glacier nourishing area and ablation zone, was lowered about 820 to 1250 altitude metres against today. Under the condition of comparable proportions of precipitation there results from this a glacial depression of temperature of at least 5 to 7.5°C.
Coal is mined in the west, though sheep herding in upper meadowlands are the primary source of income for the region.
- This section is based on the book by R. Middleton and H. Thomas
The lapis lazuli found in Egyptian tombs is thought to come from the Pamir area in Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. About 138 BC Zhang Qian reached the Fergana Valley northwest of the Pamirs. Ptolemy vaguely describes a trade route though the area. From about 600 AD, Buddhist pilgrims travelled on both sides of the Pamirs to reach India from China. In 747 a Tang army was on the Wakhan River. There are various Arab and Chinese reports. Marco Polo may have travelled along the Panj River. In 1602 Bento de Goes travelled from Kabul to Yarkand and left a meager report on the Pamirs. In 1838 Lieutenant John Wood reached the headwaters of the Pamir River. From about 1868 to 1880, a number of Indians in the British service secretly explored the Panj area. In 1873 the British and Russians agreed to an Afghan frontier along the Panj River. From 1871 to around 1893 several Russian military-scientific expeditions mapped out most of the Pamirs (Alexei Pavlovich Fedchenko, Nikolai Severtzov, Captain Putyata and others. Later came Nikolai Korzhenevskiy). Several local groups asked for Russian protection from Afghan raiders. The Russians were followed by a number of non-Russians including Ney Elias, George Littledale, the Earl of Dunmore, Wilhelm Filchner and Lord Curzon who was probably the first to reach the Wakhan source of the Oxus River. In 1891 the Russians informed Francis Younghusband that he was on their territory and later escorted a Lieutenant Davidson out of the area ('Pamir Incident'). In 1892 a battalion of Russians under Mikhail Ionov entered the area and camped near the present Murghab. In 1893 they built a proper fort there (Pamirskiy Post). In 1895 their base was moved to Khorog facing the Afghans.
In 1928 the last blank areas around the Fedchenko Glacier were mapped out by a German-Soviet expedition under Willi Rickmer Rickmers.
According to Middleton and Thomas, "pamir" is also a geological term. A pamir is a flat plateau or U-shaped valley surrounded by mountains. It forms when a glacier or ice field melts leaving a rocky plain. A pamir lasts until erosion forms soil and cuts down normal valleys. This type of terrain is found in the east and north of the Wakhan, and the east and south of Gorno-Badakhshan, as opposed to the valleys and gorges of the west. Pamirs are used for summer pasture.
The Great Pamir is around Lake Zorkul. The Little Pamir is east of this in the far east of Wakhan. The Taghdumbash Pamir is between Tashkurgan and the Wakhan west of the Karakoram Highway. The Alichur Pamir is around Yashil Kul on the Gunt River. The Sarez Pamir is around the town of Murghab. The Khargush Pamir is south of Lake Karakul. There are several others.
The Pamir River is in the south-west of the Pamirs.