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The White Cliffs of Dover White Cliffs of Dover 02.JPG
The White Cliffs of Dover
The Trango Towers in Pakistan. Their vertical faces are the world's tallest cliffs. Trango Tower center; Trango Monk center left; Trango II far left; Great Trango right. Trango Towers 2.jpg
The Trango Towers in Pakistan. Their vertical faces are the world's tallest cliffs. Trango Tower center; Trango Monk center left; Trango II far left; Great Trango right.
Europe's highest cliff, Troll Wall in Norway, a famous BASE jumping location for jumpers from around the world. Troll Wall in shadow.jpg
Europe's highest cliff, Troll Wall in Norway, a famous BASE jumping location for jumpers from around the world.

In geography and geology, a cliff is an area of rock which has a general angle defined by the vertical, or nearly vertical. Cliffs are formed by the processes of weathering and erosion, with the effect of gravity. Cliffs are common on coasts, in mountainous areas, escarpments and along rivers. Cliffs are usually composed of rock that is resistant to weathering and erosion. The sedimentary rocks that are most likely to form cliffs include sandstone, limestone, chalk, and dolomite. Igneous rocks such as granite and basalt also often form cliffs.


An escarpment (or scarp) is a type of cliff formed by the movement of a geologic fault, a landslide, or sometimes by rock slides or falling rocks which change the differential erosion of the rock layers.

Most cliffs have some form of scree slope at their base. In arid areas or under high cliffs, they are generally exposed jumbles of fallen rock. In areas of higher moisture, a soil slope may obscure the talus. Many cliffs also feature tributary waterfalls or rock shelters. Sometimes a cliff peters out at the end of a ridge, with mushroom rocks or other types of rock columns remaining. Coastal erosion may lead to the formation of sea cliffs along a receding coastline.

The Ordnance Survey distinguishes between around most cliffs (continuous line along the topper edge with projections down the face) and outcrops (continuous lines along lower edge).

The far southwestern aspect of Nanga Parbat's Rupal face, highest cliff (rock wall/mountain face) in the world. The steepest part of the face is 2 km to the northeast. Northern Areas 40.jpg
The far southwestern aspect of Nanga Parbat's Rupal face, highest cliff (rock wall/mountain face) in the world. The steepest part of the face is 2 km to the northeast.


Cliff comes from the Old English word clif of essentially the same meaning, cognate with Dutch, Low German, and Old Norse klif 'cliff'. [1] These may in turn all be from a Romance loanword into Primitive Germanic that has its origins in the Latin forms clivus / clevus ("slope" or "hillside"). [2] [3]

Large and famous cliffs

Vihren's 460 m north face seen from Golemiya Kazan, Pirin Mountain, Bulgaria Vihren North face.JPG
Vihren’s 460 m north face seen from Golemiya Kazan, Pirin Mountain, Bulgaria
Cliffs along the north shore of Isfjord, Svalbard, Norway. TalusConesIsfjorden.jpg
Cliffs along the north shore of Isfjord, Svalbard, Norway.
Kaliakra cape cliffs, Bulgaria Nos Kaliakra.jpg
Kaliakra cape cliffs, Bulgaria
The Matengai in Oki Islands, Japan Matengai of Kuniga Coast in Oki Island Shimane pref600.jpg
The Matengai in Oki Islands, Japan
The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland Ireland cliffs of moher2.jpg
The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
Cliffs on the western shoreline of Sam Ford Fjord, Canada Baffin Island Northeast Coast 1997-08-07.jpg
Cliffs on the western shoreline of Sam Ford Fjord, Canada
Cliffs near Sortavala, Russia Ruskeala park.jpg
Cliffs near Sortavala, Russia
Close-up view of Verona Rupes, a 20 km high fault scarp on Miranda, a moon of Uranus. Miranda scarp.jpg
Close-up view of Verona Rupes, a 20 km high fault scarp on Miranda, a moon of Uranus.
Vratsata gorge, Vrachanski Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria Vratsata gorge.JPG
Vratsata gorge, Vrachanski Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria

Given that a cliff does not need to be exactly vertical, there can be ambiguity about whether a given slope is a cliff or not and also about how much of a certain slope to count as a cliff. For example, given a truly vertical rock wall above a very steep slope, one could count just the rock wall or the combination. Listings of cliffs are thus inherently uncertain.

Some of the largest cliffs on Earth are found underwater. For example, an 8,000 m drop over a 4,250 m span can be found at a ridge sitting inside the Kermadec Trench.

According to some sources, the highest cliff in the world, about 1,340 m high, is the east face of Great Trango in the Karakoram mountains of northern Pakistan. This uses a fairly stringent notion of cliff, as the 1,340 m figure refers to a nearly vertical headwall of two stacked pillars; adding in a very steep approach brings the total drop from the East Face precipice to the nearby Dunge Glacier to nearly 2,000 m.

The location of the world's highest sea cliffs depends also on the definition of 'cliff' that is used. Guinness World Records states it is Kalaupapa, Hawaii, [5] at 1,010 m high. Another contender is the north face of Mitre Peak, which drops 1,683 m to Milford Sound, New Zealand. [6] These are subject to a less stringent definition, as the average slope of these cliffs at Kaulapapa is about 1.7, corresponding to an angle of 60 degrees, and Mitre Peak is similar. A more vertical drop into the sea can be found at Maujit Qaqarssuasia (also known as the 'Thumbnail') which is situated in the Torssukátak fjord area at the very tip of South Greenland and drops 1,560 m near-vertically. [7]

Considering a truly vertical drop, Mount Thor on Baffin Island in Arctic Canada is often considered the highest at 1370 m (4500 ft) high in total (the top 480 m (1600 ft) is overhanging), and is said to give it the longest vertical drop on Earth at 1,250 m (4,100 ft). However, other cliffs on Baffin Island, such as Polar Sun Spire in the Sam Ford Fjord, or others in remote areas of Greenland may be higher.

The highest cliff in the solar system may be Verona Rupes, an approximately 20 km (12 mi) high fault scarp on Miranda, a moon of Uranus.


The following is an incomplete list of cliffs of the world.


Above Sea

Above Land



Mount Thor, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, commonly regarded as the highest vertical drop on Earth Mount Thor.jpg
Mount Thor, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, commonly regarded as the highest vertical drop on Earth
Southwest face of El Capitan from Yosemite Valley Yosemite El Capitan.jpg
Southwest face of El Capitan from Yosemite Valley
The face of Notch Peak at sunset NotchPeakSunset.JPG
The face of Notch Peak at sunset
Ketil's west face in Tasermiut, Greenland Ketil West.JPG
Ketil's west face in Tasermiut, Greenland

Several big granite faces in the Arctic region vie for the title of 'highest vertical drop on Earth', but reliable measurements are not always available. The possible contenders include (measurements are approximate):

Mount Thor, Baffin Island, Canada; 1,370 m (4,500 ft) total; top 480 m (1600 ft) is overhanging. This is commonly regarded as being the largest vertical drop on Earth [2] [ citation needed ]ot:leapyear at 1,250 m (4,100 ft).

  1. The sheer north face of Polar Sun Spire, in the §74:MTAtoFa

    of Baffin Island, rises 4,300 ft above the flat frozen fjord, although the lower portion of the face breaks from the vertical wall with a series of ledges and buttresses. [8]

    1. Ketil's and its neighbor Ulamertorsuaq's west faces in Tasermiut, Greenland have been reported as over 1,000 m high. [9] [10] [11] Another relevant cliff in Greenland is Agdlerussakasit's Thumbnail. [12]

    Other notable cliffs include:


    Salto Angel from Isla Raton, Venezuela. Salto Angel from Raton.JPG
    Salto Angel from Isla Ratón, Venezuela.


    Above Sea

    Above Land


    Above Sea

    Above Land



    Above Sea

    Above Land

    As habitat

    Cliff landforms provide unique habitat niches to a variety of plants and animals, whose preferences and needs are suited by the vertical geometry of this landform type. For example, a number of birds have decided affinities for choosing cliff locations for nesting, [20] often driven by the defensibility of these locations as well as absence of certain predators.


    The population of the rare Borderea chouardii , during 2012, existed only on two cliff habitats within western Europe. [21]

    See also

    Related Research Articles

    K2 2nd-highest mountain on Earth

    K2, at 8,611 metres (28,251 ft) above sea level, is the second-highest mountain on Earth, after Mount Everest. It lies in the Karakoram range, partially in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and partially in a China-administered territory of the Kashmir region included in the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang.

    Karakoram Major mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, China, and India

    The Karakoram is a mountain range in Kashmir spanning the borders of Pakistan, China, and India, with the northwest extremity of the range extending to Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Most of Karakorum mountain range falls under jurisdiction of Gilgit-Baltistan which is controlled by Pakistan. Its highest peak, K2, is located in Gilgit-Baltistan. It begins in the Wakhan Corridor (Afghanistan) in the west, encompasses the majority of Gilgit-Baltistan, and extends into Ladakh and Aksai Chin. It is the second highest mountain range in the world and part of the complex of ranges including the Pamir Mountains, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayan Mountains. The Karakoram has eighteen summits over 7,500 m (24,600 ft) height, with four of them exceeding 8,000 m (26,000 ft): K2, the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II.

    Masherbrum Mountain in Pakistan

    Masherbrum is a mountain located in the Ghanche District, Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan. At 7,821 metres (25,659 ft), it is the 22nd highest mountain in the world and the 9th highest in Pakistan. It was the first mapped peak in the Karakoram mountain range, hence the designation "K1".

    Rakaposhi Mountain in Pakistan

    Rakaposhi is a mountain in the Karakoram mountain range in the Gilgit-Baltistan territory of Pakistan.

    Chogolisa Mountain in Pakistan

    Chogolisa is a trapezoidal mountain in the Karakoram range in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. It lies near the Baltoro Glacier in the Concordia region, which is home to some of the highest peaks in the world. Chogolisa has several peaks: the highest, on the southwest face, rises to 7,668 metres (25,157 ft); the second-highest at 7,654 metres on the northeast side was named Bride Peak by Martin Conway in 1892.

    Baltistan Region of Pakistani-administered Kashmir

    Baltistan, also known as Baltiyul or Little Tibet, is a mountainous region in the Pakistani-administered territory of Gilgit–Baltistan. It is located near the Karakoram and borders Gilgit to the west, China's Xinjiang to the north, Indian-administered Ladakh to the southeast, and the Indian-administered Kashmir Valley to the southwest. The average altitude of the region is over 3,350 metres (10,990 ft). Baltistan is largely administered under the Baltistan Division.

    Karakoram Highway International highway running through Pakistan and China

    The Karakoram Highway is a 1,300 km (810 mi) national highway which extends from Hasan Abdal in the Punjab province of Pakistan to the Khunjerab Pass in Gilgit-Baltistan, where it crosses into China and becomes China National Highway 314. The highway connects the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa plus Gilgit-Baltistan with China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The highway is a popular tourist attraction and is one of the highest paved roads in the world, passing through the Karakoram mountain range, at 36°51′00″N75°25′40″E at maximum elevation of 4,714 m (15,466 ft) near Khunjerab Pass. Due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions under which it was constructed, it is often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The highway is also a part of the Asian Highway AH4.

    Skardu City in Gilgit−Baltistan, Pakistan

    Skardu is a city located in Gilgit−Baltistan, Pakistan, and serves as the capital of Skardu District and the Baltistan Division. Skardu is situated at an elevation of nearly 2,500 metres in the Skardu Valley, at the confluence of the Indus and Shigar Rivers. The city is an important gateway to the eight-thousanders of the nearby Karakoram mountain range. The Indus River running through the region separates the Karakoram from the Himalayas.

    Trango Towers Granite spires in mountains in Pakistan

    The Trango Towers are a family of rock towers situated in Gilgit-Baltistan, in the north of Pakistan. The Towers offer some of the largest cliffs and most challenging rock climbing in the world, and every year a number of expeditions from all corners of the globe visit Karakoram to climb the difficult granite. They are located north of Baltoro Glacier, and are part of the Baltoro Muztagh, a sub-range of the Karakoram range. The highest point in the group is the summit of Great Trango Tower at 6,286 m (20,623 ft), the east face of which features the world's greatest nearly vertical drop.

    Baltoro Glacier Glacier in Pakistan

    The Baltoro Glacier, at 63 km (39 mi) in length, is one of the longest glaciers outside the polar regions.

    Shispare Mountain in Pakistan

    Shispare is one of the high mountain peaks of the Batura Muztagh, the westernmost subrange of the Karakoram range in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

    Baltoro Muztagh Mountain range in Pakistan/China

    The Baltoro Muztagh is a subrange of the Karakoram mountain range, in Baltistan region of the Gilgit-Baltistan, northernmost political entity of Pakistan; and in Xinjiang, China. The crest of the range forms part of the Pakistan-China border.


    Askole, Askoli, or Askoly and is a small town located in Shigar Valley, in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan. Askole is located in a remote region of the Karakoram mountains 3040 meters above sea level. It is notable for being the final settlement before one enters the wilderness of the high Karakorams.

    Trango Glacier Glacier in Pakistan

    Trango Glacier is a glacier in the Baltoro Muztagh range of the Karakoram in Baltistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

    Central Karakoram National Park National Park

    Central Karakoram National Park is a national park located in Skardu district of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. It encompasses some of the world’s highest peaks and largest glaciers. Internationally renowned for mountaineering, rock climbing and trekking opportunities, it covers an area of about 10,000 sq. km and contains the greatest concentration of high mountains on earth. It has four peaks over 8,000 m including K2 (8611 m), Gasherbrum-I (8068 m), Gasherbrum-II (8035 m) and Broad Peak (8051 m), and sixty peaks higher than 7,000 m. The park was placed on the World Heritage Site Tentative List in 2016.

    <i>Safar Hai Shart</i>

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    Tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan, a dependent territory of Pakistan, focuses on the mountains.


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