November 28, 2012 3:33 am

The name Himalaya means “home of snow” in the ancient language of Sanskrit. It’s a fitting name. The Himalayas are the highest mountains on Earth. Snow and ice cover much of this impressive mountain range year round.
The Himalayas rise in southern Asia—the world’s biggest continent. They form a chain that stretches nearly 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers). The mountains separate the plains of northern India from the high plateau of Tibet, in China.
The Himalayas contain nine of the world’s ten highest peaks. One of these, Mount Everest, is the highest mountain on Earth. It rises to a height of 29,035 feet (8,850 meters).
The world’s second highest mountain, K2 (also called Mount Godwin Austen), also stands in the Himalayas. So does the world’s third highest peak, Mount Kanchenjunga. Other noted Himalayan peaks include Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat, and Annapurna 1.
The rugged Himalayas lure mountain climbers and tourists from around the world. The steep mountain slopes are very dangerous. Many climbers have died trying to reach the top of Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks.
The Himalayan range is made up of three mountain zones that run side by side. The highest zone is to the north. It’s called the Great Himalayas, and it holds many of the Himalayas’ tallest peaks, including Mount Everest.
The Himalayas form a great natural barrier. The high mountains are difficult to cross. There are few developed roads, and many trails are open only during summer months. Some parts of the range are up to 250 miles (400 kilometers) wide!
Several kinds of animals live or travel high on the mountains, where only shrubs and grasses grow. They include the snow leopard, which hunts wild goats, and the yak. A yak is a large, long-haired ox. Some Himalayan people keep yaks as pack animals and for their milk and meat.
According to ancient legend, a beast called the Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, lives high on the slopes of the Himalayas. But no proof of the creature’s existence has been found.
The lower slopes of the Himalayas are home to animals such as deer, wolves, and the Himalayan black bear. Tigers, leopards, rhinoceroses, and elephants once lived in the forested foothills. However, people have cut down many of the lowland forests for timber and farmland, and few of these large animals remain.
Most of the people who live in the Himalayas settle in high valleys. There they farm and graze animals. Some Himalayan people, such as the Sherpa of Nepal, serve as guides for mountaineers and tourists.
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