Kumaon region consists of a large Himalayan tract, together with
two submontane strips called the Terai and the Bhabhar. The submontane
strips were up to 1850 an almost impenetrable forest, given up to
wild animals; but after 1850 the numerous clearings attracted a
large population from the hills, who cultivated the rich soil during
the hot and cold seasons, returning to the hills in the rains. The
rest of Kumaon is a maze of mountains, part of the Himalaya range,
some of which are among the loftiest known. In a tract not more
than 225 km in length and 65 km in breadth there are over thirty
peaks rising to elevations exceeding 5500 m. The rivers like Gori,
Dhauli , Kali etc rise chiefly in the southern slope of the Tibetan
watershed north of the loftiest peaks, amongst which they make their
way down valleys'of rapid declivity and extraordinary depth. The
principal are the Sharda (Kali), the Pindari and Kailganga, whose
waters join the Alaknanda. The river Sharda (Kali) forms the international
boundary between India and Nepal. The pilgrim route currently used
to visit Kailash-Mansarovar, goes along this river and crosses into
Tibet at Lipu Lekh pass.
The chief trees are the Chir Pine, Himalayan Cypress, Pindrow Fir,
alder, sal or iron-wood, and saindan. Limestone, sandstone, slate,
gneiss and granite constitute the principal geological formations.
Mines of iron, copper, gypsum, lead and asbestos exist; but they
are not thoroughly worked. Except in the submontane strips and deep
valleys the climate is mild. The rainfall of the outer Himalayan
range, which is first struck by the monsoon, is double that of the
central hills, in the average proportion of 2000 mm to 1000 mm.
No winter passes without snow on the higher ridges, and in some
years it is universal throughout the mountain tract. Frosts, especially
in the valleys, are often severe.