What defines a mountain?

– Decoding the mountains –

Not all mountains are the same. There are tall mountains and small mountains, as well as famous mountains and unknown mountains. Mountains determine our lives. They influence the places we live in and the way in which countries have been formed over time. They even influence the weather.  With the aid of infographics, we’ll explain to you what exactly a mountain is made of.

1. Geography

A mountain can be described objectively in geographical terms. The most important and defining criterion for a mountain is its height. Mountaineers often want to conquer mountains with a certain height, such as four-thousanders, seven-thousanders or eight-thousanders. The topographic prominence and isolation define a mountain in relation to its environment — the more prominent a mountain, the more it stands out from the surrounding landscape. The topographic prominence measures the height difference between the summit and the valley or col to which one has to descend in order to reach a higher summit. If the topographic prominence is fairly low, we rather speak of plateaus; otherwise, it is considered a mountain. 

You can find all information on Youtube (in German) as well.

2. Shape

The shape of a mountan can be described in merely geometrical terms. It does however define a mountain’s very own characteristics. This can often plays a role for the mountain’s name. The shape of the summit is the prime factor for a mountain’s recognition value, as is the case with the Matterhorn.

3. View of the mountain

Viewed from a distance, mountains can evoke different impressions. Solitary mountains look more impressive than a mountain surrounded by many other peaks. The Grimming is a completely isolated mountain range, whereas the Monte Argentera integrates itself almost entirely in the surrounding Maritime Alps. Another aspect influencing the perception of a mountain is the perspective from which one looks at it. Most mountains have a characteristic side that is frequently depicted. 

Prints of the mountains of the Alps and the world

We illustrated almost 200 mountains, which are available as fancy wall prints in our shop.

4. Cultural importance

There are many legends about mountains which contribute to their unique characters. These include spectacular ascents like the ascending the north face of the Eiger, or mythical creatures like the jackalope, which have fascinated people for centuries. There are endless sagas and legends, such as the tale of King Watzmann and his family, who petrified and thus form Mount Watzmann, or of the forgotten child inside the Grimming that hasn’t been found up to this date.

5. Rocks

Rocks form the core of every mountain. They describe the fusion of minerals in the earth’s crust, coming to light in mountains. Geologists research and classify the types of rock that lend the mountains their specific shapes and surfaces. Mountain ranges are often characterized by typical types of rock, such as the Dolomites, whose name is derived from the mineral dolomite, which is the predominant rock there. The variety of minerals in the alpine region is due to the different tectonic plates, whose movement has shaped the Alps over millions of years.

We summed up all information about mountains in an infographic. You can find the PDF here.

What defines a mountain

We also used all information to create our Map of the Alps with 1001 mountains.