The Hindu Kush, also known as Pāriyātra Parvata or Paropamisadae, is an 800 km (500 mi) long mountain range that stretches between central Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. The highest point in the Hindu Kush is Tirich Mir (7,708 m or 25,289 ft) in Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.The Hindu Kush is the westernmost extension of the Pamir Mountains and the Karakoram Range, and it is a sub-range of the Himalayas.
The origins of the name "Hindu Kush" are uncertain, with multiple theories being propounded by different scholars and writers. Hindu Kūh and Kūh-e Hind are usually applied to the entire range separating the basins of the Kabul and Helmand rivers from that of the Amu River (ancient Oxus) or more specifically to that part of the range, northwest of the Afghan capital Kabul. Sanskrit documents refer to the Hindu Kush as Pāriyātra Parvata.
The mountain range was called "Paropamisadae" by Greeks in the late first millennium BC.In the time of Alexander the Great, they were further referred to as the Caucasus Indicus or "Indian Caucasus" (as opposed to the Iberian Caucasus range), which past authors have additionally considered as a possible derivation of the name "Hindu Kush".The Persian-English dictionary indicates that the word 'Kush' is derived from the verb Kushtan, meaning to kill.
The mountains of the Hindu Kush system diminish in height as they stretch westward: Toward the middle, near Kabul, they extend from 4,500 to 6,000 meters (14,700 feet to 19,100 feet); in the west, they attain heights of 3,500 to 4,000 meters (11,500 feet to 13,000 feet). The average altitude of the Hindu Kush is 4,500 meters (14,700 feet). The Hindu Kush system stretches about 966 kilometres (600 mi) laterally, and its median north-south measurement is about 240 kilometres (150 mi). Only about 600 kilometres (370 mi) of the Hindu Kush system is called the Hindu Kush mountains.
The rest of the system consists of numerous smaller mountain ranges including the Koh-e Baba, Salang, Koh-e Paghman, Spin Ghar (also called the eastern Safēd Kōh), Suleiman Range, Siah Koh, Koh-e Khwaja Mohammad and Selseleh-e Band-e Turkestan. The western Safid Koh, the Malmand, Chalap Dalan, Siah Band and Doshakh are commonly referred to as the Paropamise by western scholars, though that name has been slowly falling out of use over the last few decades.Rivers that flow from the mountain system include the Helmand River, the Hari River and the Kabul River, watersheds for the Sistan Basin.Numerous high passes ("kotal") transect the mountains, forming a strategically important network for the transit of caravans.
The most important mountain pass is the Salang Pass (Kotal-e Salang) (3,878 m); it links Kabul and points south of it to northern Afghanistan. The completion of a tunnel within this pass in 1964 reduced travel time between Kabul and the north to a few hours. Previously access to the north through the Kotal-e Shibar (3,260 m) took three days. The Salang tunnel at 3,363 m and the extensive network of galleries on the approach roads were constructed with Soviet financial and technological assistance and involved drilling 1.7 miles through the heart of the Hindu Kush.
Eastern Hindu Kush
The Eastern Hindu Kush range, also known as the High Hindu Kush range, is mostly located in northern Pakistan and the Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan. The Chitral District of Pakistan is home to Tirich Mir, Noshaq, and Istoro Nal, the highest peaks in the Hindu Kush. The range also extends into Ghizar, Yasin Valley, and Ishkoman in Pakistan's Northern Areas.
Chitral is considered to be the pinnacle of the Hindu Kush region. The highest peaks, as well as countless passes and massive glaciers, are located in this region. The Chiantar, Kurambar, and Terich glaciers are amongst the most extensive in the Hindu Kush and the meltwater from these glaciers form the Kunar River, which eventually flows south into Afghanistan and joins the Bashgal, Panjsher, and eventually the much smaller Kabul River.