Islamabad’s Hiking Scene

Islamabad.jpgIslamabad is one of those few lucky cities of Pakistan that has been blessed with great outdoors. Although many of the residents take advantage of this opportunity and regularly hike up and down trail-3 or at the most go bush walking, yet most of the youth are reluctant to explore more of it. There are many other tracks distributed in the Margalla hills waiting to be pitched. I just hope that the youth of Islamabad engage themselves more in venturing out through these courses. Follows some details on Islmabad’s topography that might spawn interest among more of us.

The plain on which Islamabad has been built belongs to the Potwar Plateau which extends as rolling country from the Margalla Hills all the way south to the Salt Range, where one faces down towards the wide, flat and fertile plain of Indus. The division between the hills and the Islamabad plain is sharp. The Margallas are part of a hilly region which extends to the north and the northeast as far as Abbotabad (Muree Hills and Hazara).

The average elevation of Islamabad is just under 2000 feet (approx 600 meters), while the highest point of Margalla Hills is 5264 feet (1604 meters)

During the past years, hikers have given names to certain topographical features. The ridge on which the Pir sohawa road is located is generally known as the ‘First Ridge’, separated by a deep valley (the Nilan Nullah) to the north from the so-called ‘Second Ridge’. Some of the ravines or valleys which rise from the Islamabad plain to the First Ridge were also given English names. On the index maps both the local and informal English names are given.
All these ravines drain water towards the Islamabad plain and the Soan river, a tributary of Indus. The border between the Islamabad Capital Territory and the NWFP runs just north of Pir Sohawa.

Geologically, the whole area around Islamabad was strongly affected by the movements of the earth’s crust which resulted from the collision of the Eurasian continent with the Indian continent. The Margalla Hills belong to the Himalayan foothills which were several times intensively folded and uplifted during the past 30 million years. The most common rocks you will notice in the hills are greenish/brown shale which on the surface disintegrate into small, splintery pieces, and limestone rocks which are massive and greyish/blue. These limestone rocks are deposited in the marine environment. Fossils are very common especially the remnants of very small unicellular animals, the so-called foraminifera. You can see them in the rock with naked eye, but with a hard lens you can distinguish he beautifully organized internal structures of these creatures.

Most of these rocks were formed during the Paleocene and Eocene periods, about 40-60 million years ago. Only in a few places older rocks from the Jurassic and the Cretaceous periods (65-190 million years old) are exposed at the surface.

Later, about 30 million years ago, these rocks were uplifted and folded. Again later, during the Miocene period (5-25 million years ago) thick layers of red sandstone and the shale were deposited by rivers across the whole area. The reddish layers belong to the so-called ‘Muree’ formation and can be seen all over the plain, for example, in and around Diplomatic Enclave.

Fairly recently (geologically speaking !) approximately 2 million years ago, the whole are was gain uplifted and folded. An important fault zone developed which runs along the foot of the Margalla Hills. This fault is generally know as the Hazara fault and can be traced all the way to the village of Muree.

(Note: Reposting from some of my older “guest” posts because the older ones had to be deleted as per ISB MB policy)

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