Facts About Mountains

An educational look at mountains. Facts including the tallest, timberlines, ranges, elevations, and the five different types of mountains that exist.

The dictionary defines a mountain as that which is "˜higher than a hill'. Generally, mountains are those pieces of land that rise above 2000 feet. Mountains exist on every continent and even beneath our great oceans. Formed through varying causes, there are several distinct types of mountains.

Dome Mountains

Fold Mountains

Fault-block Mountains

Volcanic Mountains

Plateau Mountains

While facts are behind much of what is known about mountain and mountain formation, some information is based on theory. One such theory is the "˜Continental Drift Theory'. This is based on the belief that at one time all the continents were one. After breaking apart, they shifted and caused multiple land formations, mountains being one of them.

These different types of mountain names not only distinguish the physical characteristics of the mountains, but how they were formed.

Volcanic Mountain

Volcanoes form volcanic mountains and these mountains are then shaped by further eruptions, lava flows, and collapses. One mountain that comes to mind that is both a volcanic mountain and has been altered in modern day by an eruption is Mount St. Helen in Washington USA. On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helen, which is part of the Cascade Range, erupted in one of the most violent eruptions ever to be recorded. The whole North Slope disintegrated, forever altering the view of this mountain. So explosive was this eruption, that it also altered the height of the mountain by nearly 1,300 feet.

Other major Volcanic Mountains in North America include Mount Rainier, Washington, with an elevation of 14,410 feet, making it the highest peak of the Cascade Mountain Range. Mount Shasta, California, with an elevation of 14, 162. Also in the USA is Mount Hood, Oregon, with an elevation of 11, 235 feet, and Mount Spurr, Alaska, with an elevation of 11, 067 feet.

Dome Mountain

As their name states, Dome Mountains have a characteristic "˜dome' top. In the USA, the Black Hills of South Dakota offer excellent examples of dome topped mountains. Erosion is believed to be a major factor in the shaping of most dome formations.

Fold Mountain

Again, the name tells a lot. As one would take an article of clothing and fold it, so has the earth taken pieces of itself, and through time has, with great force, pushed pieces of earth upward and folded them over onto themselves. Example of Fold Mountains includes the Appalachian Mountains.

Fault-Block Mountain

As in "˜Fold' mountains, great force is behind the Fault-Block Mountains. What differs is that instead of the earth folding over, the earth fractures and blocks are stacked.

Plateau Mountain

To appreciate this type of mountain, one only has to look at the Catskills of New York. The dictionary describes these as large areas of "˜high levels' of flat land.

More Mountain Facts

* The Himalayas are the world's overall tallest mountains.

* The Andes, which runs more than 4,900 miles, is the longest mountain range in the world.

* Mauna Kea, Hawaii, with an elevation of 13,796 feet, is actually 32,000 feet tall from its start on the sea floor, making it the world's highest island peak from base to tip.

* Mount Everest, part of the Himalayas, is the highest point on earth, with a height of 29,023 feet. What many don't realize is that Mount Everest is only one in this range of over 30 peaks that rise to over 24,000 feet. Also in this range is Kanchenjunga at 28,208 feet, Makalu at 27,766 feet, and Dhaulagiri at 26,810 feet.

Compare these heights to some other "˜tallest' mountains.

* Mount Mitchell is the Appalachians highest peak at 6,684 feet.

* High Knob, in the Pocono Mountains is only 2,162 feet tall.

* The well known Pikes Peak Mountain, part of the Great Rocky Mountains, is an astounding 14,110 feet high, but even this is no where close to the height of the great Himalayas.

What is a Timberline?

It is where timber growth no longer occurs on a mountain, also referred to as the "˜tree line'. Depending on the mountain range, the height of the actual timberline varies greatly. In part, this is due to the area where the mountain is located, or the normal climate of this surrounding area. Soil also has a great affect, as does the latitude of the mountain range. In the Alps, the timberline is at about 5,500 feet. Compare this to the Himalayas, where growth still exists at 15,000 feet.


The higher you go the thinner the air. The thinner the air, the less oxygen there is in the air. The first time I was at any elevation worth mentioning was when I took the train to the top of Pikes Peak, in Colorado. At the top of the mountain a fellow traveler tried, very unsuccessfully, to light a match to light a cigarette. Needless to say, he was not able to. Simply because, at the elevation that we were at, just over 14,000 feet, there did not exist enough oxygen in the air for him to "˜light up'.

Mountains in Perspective

From Mount Olympus of Greek Mythology, 9,750 feet, to Taum Saulk Mountain, in the state of Missouri and only 1,772 feet; each mountain is a distinct part of the landscape. All of these mountains and mountain ranges are as unique as any land-mass you will encounter on our great planet!

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