Himalayan Frontier: Traversing the Highest Mountains in Pakistan

Keen to embark on an exploration of Pakistan's highest peaks? Join us as we journey through the towering landscapes of Pakistan, home to some of the world's most majestic and challenging summits.

Travel and Exploration
14 December 2023

Mountainous terrain makes up around three fifths of the landmass of Pakistan, a country roughly three and a half times the size of the UK. These peaks are located in its north and northwest highlands, mainly split between three mountain systems, the Himalayas, the Karakorams and the Hindu Kush.

As for the highest mountains in Pakistan, these also stand out as some of the biggest on the planet and are mostly found in the Karakoram mountain range in the Gilgit–Baltistan region. And that’s where we begin our exploration of the country’s peaks, with the highest point in Pakistan.


Concordia and K2 covered in snow, Pakistan. (Credit: Art Wolfe via Getty Images)

At 28,251 feet, the biggest mountain in Pakistan is also among the tallest in the world. In fact, the only mountain that surpasses it is Everest. Part of the Karakoram range, this vast, steep pyramid of metamorphic rock straddles the border between Chinese- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Its name, K2, literally corresponds to Karakoram 2, its technical designation in the 1856 Great Trigonometrical Survey of British India. Too remote to have been previously named, this stuck. Other monikers have been attributed to K2. Some know it as Mount Godwin Austen, in honour of the geographer who first surveyed it. It also has nicknames, like the one given to it by climber George Bell. He called it “The Savage Mountain,” a reference to its extreme weather conditions and high fatality rate.

Nanga Parbat

The south side of Nanga Parbat, known as Killer Mountain. (Credit: Yasir Nisar via Getty Images)

Some 50 miles southeast of the city of Gilgit, in the Pakistani-administered sector of Kashmir, a pillar of the western Himalayas rises steeply in a series of ridges culminating in an icy peak. This is Nanga Parbat, the second tallest mountain in Pakistan and the ninth highest in the world. Its name, which derives from the Sanskrit for “naked mountain,” refers to its lack of vegetation, a hint as to the unforgiving nature of this precipitous peak. Other nicknames for Nanga Parbat do the same. The local Shina moniker of Deomir means “mountain of the Gods,” while others have simply called it the “Killer Mountain.” Indeed, Nanga Parbat is infamous for its extreme weather and a history of ill-fated climbs.

Gasherbrum I

Landscape of Passu Valley with Hunza River and Karakoram Range (Credit: Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost via Getty Images)

The tallest peak of the Gasherbrum massif is the next highest point in Pakistan. With its elevation reaching 26,510 feet above sea level, it’s also the 11th highest summit on the planet. Like its neighbour, K2, it’s part of the Karakoram range and was labelled K5 in the same 1856 survey, signifying it was the fifth mountain in the range to be surveyed. Its extreme remoteness led explorer Baron William Martin Conway to call it the”Hidden Peak.” Its official name translates from the Balti language to mean “Beautiful Mountain.”

Broad Peak

Broad peak with clouds on top, Concordia, Pakistan. (Credit: Punnawit Suwuttananun via Getty Images)

Most of the Gasherbrum Massif peaks are numbered rather than individually named. But Broad Peak is an exception, its almost mile-wide summit area earning it a renown worthy of differentiation. It was in fact the same Baron Conway who nicknamed Gasherbrum I who did so here. A member of the Karakoram range between Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan and Xinjiang in China, it rises to a maximum elevation of 26,414 feet. Not only does this make it one of Pakistan’s highest peaks, but also the 12th highest mountain in the world.

Gasherbrum II

The slopes of Gasherbrum II in the Karakoram Himalayas. Pakistan (Credit: Galen Rowell via Getty Images)

We remain, not just in the Karakoram range, but in the Gasherbrum group for the next biggest mountain in Pakistan and the 13th on a global scale. Reaching a peak of at 26,362 feet, Gasherbrum II is the third-highest in its namesake massif. It was also the fourth mountain surveyed in 1856, labelled K4.

Tirich Mir

Aerial view from the air to the Swat Valley, Tirich Mir, Pakistan. (Credit: Pavliha via Getty Images)

Rising to approximately 25,230 feet in elevation, Tirich Mir is said to be the thirteenth highest mountain in Pakistan. So, why is it next on our list? Because it’s the highest mountain in the country outside the Himalayas and Karakorams. Instead, Tirich Mir forms part of the Hindu Kush mountain system, located over 260 miles away from K2 in Pakistan’s northernmost province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan's Highest Peaks

Milky way over Mitre peak on the way to K2 base camp, Pakistan. (Credit: Kitti Boonnitrod via Getty Images)

From the iconic K2, standing as the biggest mountain in Pakistan, to the unique Broad Peak with its expansive plateau, Pakistan’s tallest peaks are a diverse and remarkable bunch. Many are remote and treacherous, several are among the planet’s highest points as well as part of the world’s most significant mountain ranges.


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