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The Langkofel Group with the clearly visible Langkofel Col (Langkofelscharte) left of centre Saslonch.jpg
The Langkofel Group with the clearly visible Langkofel Col (Langkofelscharte) left of centre
Breche de Roland in the Pyrenees Brecha rolando.jpg
Brèche de Roland in the Pyrenees
The Peuterey Ridge. From left to right Aiguille Noire de Peuterey (3773 m), Breche-sud (3429 m), the Dames Anglaises (3601 m), Breche-central, L'Isolee, Breche-nord (3491 m), Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey (4112 m) and Col de Peuterey (3934 m) Aiguilles de Peuterey 001.JPG
The Peuterey Ridge. From left to right Aiguille Noire de Peuterey (3773 m), Brèche-sud (3429 m), the Dames Anglaises (3601 m), Brèche-central, L'Isolée, Brèche-nord (3491 m), Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey (4112 m) and Col de Peuterey (3934 m)

In geomorphology, a col is the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks. [1] It may also be called a gap. [1] Particularly rugged and forbidding cols in the terrain are usually referred to as notches. They are generally unsuitable as mountain passes, but are occasionally crossed by mule tracks or climbers' routes. The term col tends to be associated more with mountain rather than hill ranges. [2]

Geomorphology The scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them

Geomorphology is the scientific study of the origin and evolution of topographic and bathymetric features created by physical, chemical or biological processes operating at or near the Earth's surface. Geomorphologists seek to understand why landscapes look the way they do, to understand landform history and dynamics and to predict changes through a combination of field observations, physical experiments and numerical modeling. Geomorphologists work within disciplines such as physical geography, geology, geodesy, engineering geology, archaeology, climatology and geotechnical engineering. This broad base of interests contributes to many research styles and interests within the field.

Ridge A geological feature consisting of a chain of mountains or hills that form a continuous elevated crest for some distance

A ridge or a mountain ridge is a geological feature consisting of a chain of mountains or hills that form a continuous elevated crest for some distance. The sides of the ridge slope away from narrow top on either side.The line along the crest formed by the highest points, with the terrain dropping down on either side, is called the ridgeline. Ridges are usually termed hills or mountains as well, depending on size.

Summit A point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it, in topography

A summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. The topographic terms acme, apex, peak, and zenith are synonymous.


The height of a summit above its highest col (called the key col) is effectively a measure of a mountain's topographic prominence. Cols lie on the line of the watershed between two mountains, often on a prominent ridge or arête. For example, the highest col in Austria, the Obere Glocknerscharte ("Upper Glockner Col", 3,766  m (AA) ), lies between the Kleinglockner (3,783 m above sea level (AA)) and Großglockner (3,798 m above sea level (AA)) mountains, giving the Kleinglockner a minimum prominence of 17 metres. [3]

In topography, prominence measures the height of a mountain or hill's summit relative to the lowest contour line encircling it but containing no higher summit within it. It is a measure of the independence of a summit. A peak's key col is a unique point on this contour line and the parent peak is some higher mountain, selected according to various objective criteria.

Drainage divide Elevated terrain that separates neighbouring drainage basins

A drainage divide, water divide, divide, ridgeline,, watershed, water parting or height of land is elevated terrain that separates neighbouring drainage basins. On rugged land, the divide lies along topographical ridges, and may be in the form of a single range of hills or mountains, known as a dividing range. On flat terrain, especially where the ground is marshy, the divide may be harder to discern.

Mountain A large landform that rises fairly steeply above the surrounding land over a limited area

A mountain is a large landform that rises above the surrounding land in a limited area, usually in the form of a peak. A mountain is generally steeper than a hill. Mountains are formed through tectonic forces or volcanism. These forces can locally raise the surface of the earth. Mountains erode slowly through the action of rivers, weather conditions, and glaciers. A few mountains are isolated summits, but most occur in huge mountain ranges.

The majority of cols are unnamed and are either never transited or only crossed in the course of negotiating a ridge line. Many double summits are separated by prominent cols. The distinction with other names for breaks in mountain ridges such as saddle, wind gap or notch is not sharply defined and may vary from place to place.

Double summit

A double summit, double peak, twin summit or twin peak refers to a mountain or hill that has two summits, separated by a col or saddle.

Wind gap terrain feature

A wind gap is a gap through which a waterway once flowed that is now dry as a result of stream capture. A water gap is a similar feature, but one in which a waterway still flows. Water gaps and wind gaps often provide routes which, due to their gently inclined profile, are suitable for trails, roads, and railroads through mountainous terrain.

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Mountain pass Route through a mountain range or over a ridge

A mountain pass is a navigable route through a mountain range or over a ridge. Since many of the world's mountain ranges have presented formidable barriers to travel, passes have played a key role in trade, war, and both human and animal migration throughout Earth's history. At lower elevations it may be called a hill pass. The highest vehicle-accessible pass in the world appears to be Mana Pass, located in the Himalayas on the border between India and Tibet, China.

Grossglockner The highest mountain in Austria

The Grossglockner is, at 3,798 metres above the Adriatic (12,461 ft), the highest mountain in Austria and the highest mountain in the Alps east of the Brenner Pass. It is part of the larger Glockner Group of the Hohe Tauern range, situated along the main ridge of the Central Eastern Alps and the Alpine divide. The Pasterze, Austria's most extended glacier, lies on the Grossglockner's eastern slope.

Piz Bernina mountain of the Eastern Alps

Piz Bernina or Pizzo Bernina is the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps, the highest point of the Bernina Range, and the highest peak in the Rhaetian Alps. It rises 4,048.6 m and is located south of Pontresina and near the major Alpine resort of St. Moritz, in the Engadin valley with the massif partially in Italy. It is also the most easterly mountain higher than 4,000 m (13,000 ft) in the Alps, the highest point of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, and the fifth-most prominent peak in the Alps. The minor summit known as La Spedla is the highest point in the Italian Lombardy region.

A peak's line parent is the closest higher peak on the highest ridge leading away from the peak's "key col". A col is the lowest point on the ridge between two summits and is synonymous with pass, gap, saddle and notch. A peak's "key col" is the lowest point on the ridge which connects the peak and a higher peak. If there is more than one ridge which can be followed to a higher peak then the line parent is the peak closest to the key col. Usually, a line parent must meet some prominence criteria, which might vary depending on the author and the location of the peak.

North Mountain (Virginia-West Virginia) mountain in West Virginia, United States of America

North Mountain is a mountain ridge within the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians in the U.S. states of Virginia and West Virginia.

Glockner Group mountain range

The Glockner Group is a sub-group of the Austrian Central Alps in the Eastern Alps, and is located in the centre section of the High Tauern on the main chain of the Alps.

Kleinglockner mountain

At the height of 3,770 metres (12,370 ft) the Kleinglockner is the third highest mountain in Austria. However, with a prominence of only 17 metres it is arguable whether it can be counted as an independent mountain, or just as a subpeak of the Großglockner. It lies in the Glockner Group of Austria's Central Alps, the middle section of the Hohe Tauern. Geographically and geologically speaking, it is viewed a secondary summit of the neighbouring Großglockner, but in the literature, in view of its importance to mountaineering, it is in some cases treated as separate. Its peak forms part of the Glockner crest or ridge (Glocknerkamm) and lies exactly on the border between the Austrian state of Carinthia and Lienz District in the East Tyrol. The Kleinglockner has the shape of a sharp edge, covered with the so-called Glockner Cornice (Glocknerwechte) and, depending on the conditions, can make the ascent of the mountain dangerous to almost impossible. The climbing history of the Kleinglockner is closely linked to that of the Großglockner, because the first climbers, coming from the south and east, had to cross it.

Großer Sonnblick mountain

The Großer Sonnblick or Malteiner Sonnblick, a mountain with a height of 3,030 m (AA), is a peak in the Ankogel Group of the Hohe Tauern range in Austria. It is the easternmost peak of the Alps with a prominence over 100 metres that exceeds a height of 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).

Villgraten Mountains mountain range

The Villgraten Mountains or Deferegg Alps, also called the Defreggen Mountains are a subgroup of the Austrian Central Alps within the Eastern Alps of Europe. Together with the Ankogel Group, the Goldberg Group, the Glockner Group, the Schober Group, the Kreuzeck Group, the Granatspitze Group, the Venediger Group and the Rieserferner Group, the Villgraten Mountains are part of the major mountain range, the High Tauern. Their highest summit is the Weiße Spitze with a height of 2,962 m above sea level (AA).

Saddle (landform) landform

The saddle between two hills is the region surrounding the highest point of the lowest point on the line tracing the drainage divide connecting the peaks. When, and if, the saddle is navigable, even if only on foot, the saddle of a (optimal) pass between the two massifs, is the area generally found around the lowest route on which one could pass between the two summits, which includes that point which is a mathematically when graphed a relative high along one axis, and a relative low in the athwart axis, simultaneously; that point being by definition the col of the saddle.

Jochköpfl mountain in Austria

The Jochköpfl is a mountain, 3,143 m (AA), on the Windach-Brunnenkogel-Kamm, a subgroup of the Stubai Alps in Austria.


The Küchlspitze is a three-thousander in the Verwall between the valley of Stanzer Tal and Paznaun in the western North Tyrol in Austria.

Elberfelder Hut building in Heiligenblut, Austria

The Elberfelder Hut is a mountain hut belonging to the German Alpine Club in the Schober Group within the Austrian Alps.

Plöckenstein mountain

The Plöckenstein is a mountain, 1,379 m (AA) high, in the Bohemian Forest on the Austro-Czech border. Its summit is the highest point in the Bohemian Forest in both countries, and also the highest point in the regions of Mühlviertel and South Bohemia. It is well known as a result of stories by Adalbert Stifter.


  1. 1 2 Whittow, John (1984). Dictionary of Physical Geography. London: Penguin, 1984, p. 103. ISBN   0-14-051094-X.
  2. Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, Allied.
  3. Willi End, Hubert Peterka: Alpenvereinsführer Glockner- und Granatspitzgruppe, Bergverlag Rudolf Rother, Munich, 1990. ISBN   3-7633-1258-7