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Asia's Mountain Regions: People, Resources & Struggles

Instructor: Lauren Coleman

Lauren has a B.A in English, Secondary Education, and a Masters' Certification in English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL). She has two teaching degrees and has taught K-12th grade. She also wrote content for Shmoop.com.

There are hundreds of ethnic groups living in the mountains of Asia; from Siberia to Nepal. In this lesson, learn about some of greater mountain regions of Asia and the resources, challenges, and connections of the communities who live in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Life in Asia's Foothills

Imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning in the shadow of the world's tallest mountains. Can you picture never leaving your small village? Or perhaps migrating every few weeks to a brand new spot with herds of goats or sheep?

Due to the comfort and convenience of western life, many people are completely unaware of the numerous cultures that exist in remote mountain regions. They are even less aware of the struggles they face on a daily basis, or the resources available to them.

The vast diversity of mountain life is especially prominent in Asia. Let's explore some of the differences, challenges, and resources of these peoples.

Ranges From West to East

Caucasus Mountains

There are several large mountain ranges across Asia. The westernmost range is the Caucasus Mountains, which unite western Europe, the northern Middle East, and the beginning of Asia. The people of the Caucasus are diverse, with some ethnic groups hailing more from European roots, whereas others are Iranian or Turkish in descent.

Ural Mountains

Halfway across the continent are the Ural Mountains, which are definitely not the highest range around, but have an important cultural barrier. This region relies heavily on mining mineral resources as income. This Siberian range literally divides Russia into two parts:

  • the West, which identifies more with Europe
  • the East, which has more cultural characteristics of Asia

Pamirs

Nearing the exact center of Asia are the Pamirs, known as the 'Roof of the World', as it contains some of the world's tallest peaks. This range unites some of the various Russian-Middle Eastern-Asian cultures and language groups. Many of the people living here speak languages like Uzbek, Kyrgyz, and Tajik.

Himalayas

It is impossible to forget the crown jewel of the continent's mountains. The intimidating Himalayas lie along the northern Indian border and are the most well-known mountain range in the world, primarily because they include the incredibly popular Mt. Everest.

Mt. Everest is in the Himalayas.
Mount Everest

Tourism Funds Himalayan Life

Life under the forbidding, ever-watching Himalayan peaks is unlike any other lifestyle on Earth in many ways. Just the summit on Everest alone hits nearly 30,000 feet above sea level, and oxygen is much thinner here than in other world regions, which makes it difficult to grow food. As a result, only certain life paths are possible for the individuals who call these foothills home.

Tourism is crucial to community survival in many of Asia's mountain ranges. The people of the Himalayas have taken advantage of the huge eco-tourism and adventure industries that bring thousands of visitors to their region to climb the mountains, especially Mount Everest. The Sherpa are a local people who frequently act as paid guides to lead visitors up Mount Everest as safely as possible.

Tourism has greatly helped the local Nepalese, Pakistani, and Indian communities that surround the base camps of the different Himalayan peaks. Many of these remote, treacherous-to-reach villages would rarely see visitors if it weren't for these adrenaline-inducing mountain ranges.

Some members of the 150,000-strong Sherpa community prefer to stay further south in the foothills and work on perfecting climbing routes or delivering supplies to the tour groups, but many are hired as actual climbing guides.

Pastoralism

One of the toughest issues facing villages of the Himalayas is the climate. High winds, bracing cold, low oxygen levels at such high altitudes, and extremely short summers can make for a difficult lifestyle for even multi-generational communities in this region.

This is not a rich farming region due to the amount of cold weather and snow. Instead, there are instances of pastoralism, which is a form of small-scale farming that involves raising livestock, such as shepherding. It is a huge part of living in the hills of mountains of Asia.

There are few modern job opportunities in regions like these, so many of the working roles seem to take a step back in time to a simpler (although more physically demanding) time period. For example, the Gaddi are people living near the Himalayan foothills who tend to flocks of sheep and goats and travel only seasonally with their animals to pasture.

Another group, the Gajari, are frequent migratory communities who are almost always on the move with their own flocks of livestock.

A Sherpa near an Everest base camp.
Sherpa

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