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In geology, a massif ( /mæˈsf/ or /ˈmæsɪf/ ) is a section of a planet's crust that is demarcated by faults or flexures. In the movement of the crust, a massif tends to retain its internal structure while being displaced as a whole. The term also refers to a group of mountains formed by such a structure.


In mountaineering and climbing literature, a massif is frequently used to denote the main mass of an individual mountain. The massif is a smaller structural unit of the crust than a tectonic plate and is considered the fourth largest driving force in geomorphology. [1]

The word is taken from French (in which the word also means "massive"), where it is used to refer to a large mountain mass or compact group of connected mountains forming an independent portion of a range. One of the most notable European examples of a massif is the Massif Central of the Auvergne region of France.

The Face on Mars is an example of an extraterrestrial massif. [2]

Massifs may also form underwater, as with the Atlantis Massif. [3]

List of massifs





Rila massif, Bulgaria Selo Kostenets 001.jpg
Rila massif, Bulgaria
Panorama of Pirin Mountain massif, Bulgaria Pirin panorama crop 1.JPG
Panorama of Pirin Mountain massif, Bulgaria

North America



South America


Massif du Mont-Blanc (hiver panoramique).jpg
Panoramic view of Mont Blanc massif, an example of a massif and also the highest summit in the Alps. [4]

Related Research Articles

Mount Logan Highest mountain in Canada

Mount Logan is the highest mountain in Canada, and the second-highest peak in North America after Denali. The mountain was named after Sir William Edmond Logan, a Canadian geologist and founder of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). Mount Logan is located within Kluane National Park Reserve in southwestern Yukon, less than 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of the Yukon–Alaska border. Mount Logan is the source of the Hubbard and Logan glaciers. Logan is believed to have the largest base circumference of any non-volcanic mountain on Earth, including a massif with eleven peaks over 5,000 metres (16,400 ft).

Mountain range A geographic area containing several geologically related mountains

A mountain range or hill range is a series of mountains or hills ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignment that have arisen from the same cause, usually an orogeny. Mountain ranges are formed by a variety of geological processes, but most of the significant ones on Earth are the result of plate tectonics. Mountain ranges are also found on many planetary mass objects in the Solar System and are likely a feature of most terrestrial planets.

Himalayas Mountain range in Asia

The Himalayas, or Himalaya ; Sanskrit: himá and ā-laya, is a mountain range in South and East Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The range has many of Earth's highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest, at the border between Nepal and China. The Himalayas include over fifty mountains exceeding 7,200 m (23,600 ft) in elevation, including ten of the fourteen 8,000-metre peaks. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia is 6,961 m (22,838 ft) tall.

Atlas Mountains North African mountain range

The Atlas Mountains are a mountain range in the Maghreb. It separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. It stretches around 2,500 km (1,600 mi) through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The range's highest peak is Toubkal, which is in central Morocco, with an elevation of 4,167 metres (13,671 ft). The Atlas mountains are primarily inhabited by Berber populations. The terms for 'mountain' are adrar and adras in some Berber languages. These terms are believed to be cognates of the toponym Atlas. The mountains are also home to a number of animals and plants which are mostly found within Africa but some of which can be found in Europe. Many of these species are endangered and a few are already extinct.

The Coast Mountains are a major mountain range in the Pacific Coast Ranges of western North America, extending from southwestern Yukon through the Alaska Panhandle and virtually all of the Coast of British Columbia south to the Fraser River. The mountain range's name derives from its proximity to the sea coast, and it is often referred to as the Coast Range. The range includes volcanic and non-volcanic mountains and the extensive ice fields of the Pacific and Boundary Ranges, and the northern end of the volcanic system known as the Cascade Volcanoes. The Coast Mountains are part of a larger mountain system called the Pacific Coast Ranges or the Pacific Mountain System, which includes the Cascade Range, the Insular Mountains, the Olympic Mountains, the Oregon Coast Range, the California Coast Ranges, the Saint Elias Mountains and the Chugach Mountains. The Coast Mountains are also part of the American Cordillera—a Spanish term for an extensive chain of mountain ranges—that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western backbone of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica.

Plateau area of a highland, usually of relatively flat terrain

In geology and physical geography, a plateau, also called a high plain or a tableland, is an area of a highland consisting of flat terrain, that is raised sharply above the surrounding area on at least one side. Often one or more sides have deep hills. Plateaus can be formed by a number of processes, including upwelling of volcanic magma, extrusion of lava, and erosion by water and glaciers. Plateaus are classified according to their surrounding environment as intermontane, piedmont, or continental. A few plateaus may have a small flat top while others have wide ones.

Geology of the United States national geology

The richly textured landscape of the United States is a product of the dueling forces of plate tectonics, weathering and erosion. Over the 4.5 billion-year history of our Earth, tectonic upheavals and colliding plates have raised great mountain ranges while the forces of erosion and weathering worked to tear them down. Even after many millions of years, records of Earth's great upheavals remain imprinted as textural variations and surface patterns that define distinctive landscapes or provinces.

Saint Elias Mountains Mountain range in Canada and USA

The Saint Elias Mountains are a subgroup of the Pacific Coast Ranges, located in southeastern Alaska in the United States, Southwestern Yukon and the very far northwestern part of British Columbia in Canada. The range spans Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in the United States and Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada and includes all of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. In Alaska, the range includes parts of the city/borough of Yakutat and the Hoonah-Angoon and Valdez-Cordova census areas.

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 geographical 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 lines along the crest formed by the highest points, with the terrain dropping down on either side, are called the ridgelines. Ridges are usually termed hills or mountains as well, depending on size.

Mountain formation The geological processes that underlie the formation of mountains

Mountain formation refers to the geological processes that underlie the formation of mountains. These processes are associated with large-scale movements of the Earth's crust. Folding, faulting, volcanic activity, igneous intrusion and metamorphism can all be parts of the orogenic process of mountain building. The formation of mountains is not necessarily related to the geological structures found on it.

Tripoint Geographical point where three territories borders meet

A tripoint, trijunction, triple point, or tri-border area is a geographical point at which the boundaries of three countries or subnational entities meet. There are approximately 176 international tripoints. Nearly half are situated in rivers, lakes or seas. On dry land, the exact tripoints may be indicated by markers or pillars, and occasionally by larger monuments.

Monte Rosa Massif in Switzerland and Italy

Monte Rosa is a mountain massif in the eastern part of the Pennine Alps. It is between Italy's and Switzerland's (Valais). Monte Rosa is the second highest mountain in the Alps and western Europe, after Mont Blanc.

Variscan orogeny Collision of tectonic plates resulting in the creation of mountains

The Variscan or Hercynianorogeny was a geologic mountain-building event caused by Late Paleozoic continental collision between Euramerica (Laurussia) and Gondwana to form the supercontinent of Pangaea.


Foothills or piedmont are geographically defined as gradual increases in elevation at the base of a mountain range, higher hill range or an upland area. They are a transition zone between plains and low relief hills and the adjacent topographically higher mountains, hills, and uplands. Frequently foothills consist of alluvial fans, coalesced alluvial fans and dissected plateaus.

Geology of the Pacific Northwest geology of Oregon and Washington (United States) and British Columbia (Canada)

The geology of the Pacific Northwest includes the composition, structure, physical properties and the processes that shape the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The region is part of the Ring of Fire: the subduction of the Pacific and Farallon Plates under the North American Plate is responsible for many of the area's scenic features as well as some of its hazards, such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and landslides.

This is a list of articles related to plate tectonics and tectonic plates.

Tamu Massif An extinct submarine shield volcano located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean

Tamu Massif is an extinct submarine shield volcano in the northwest Pacific Ocean, with the characteristics of a hybrid between a mid-ocean ridge and a shield volcano. On 5 September 2013, researchers announced that it could be a single volcano which, if corroborated, would make Tamu Massif the largest known volcano on Earth. Tamu Massif is located in the Shatsky Rise about 1,600 km (990 mi) east of Japan. The volcano, which comprises the entire Shatsky Rise, covers an area of about 553,000 square kilometres (214,000 sq mi). Its summit is about 1,980 m (6,500 ft) below the surface of the ocean, and its base extends to about 6.4 km (4.0 mi) deep. The volcano is about 4,460 metres (14,620 ft) tall.


  1. Allen, 2008, Time scales of tectonic landscapes and their sediment routing systems, Geol. Soc. Lon. Sp. Pub., v. 296, p. 7–28.
  2. Britt, Robert Roy (2006-09-21). "Mars Face Makeover: Controversial Formation Observed from New Angles". . Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  3. Blackman, Donna (2002). "Geology of the Atlantis Massif (Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 30°N): Implications for the evolution of an ultramafic oceanic core complex". Marine Geophysical Researches. 23 (5): 443–469. Bibcode:2002MarGR..23..443B. doi:10.1023/b:mari.0000018232.14085.75. S2CID   96459991.
  4. "The Sydney Morning Herald, November 6, 2009". 2009-11-06.