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Three-thousanders [1] are mountains with a height of between 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), but less than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level. Similar terms are commonly used for mountains of other height brackets e. g. four-thousanders or eight-thousanders. In Britain, the term may refer to mountains above 3,000 feet (910 m). [2]


Climatological significance

In temperate latitudes three-thousanders play an important role, because even in summer they lie below the zero degree line for weeks. Thus the chains of three-thousanders always form important climatic divides and support glaciation - in the Alps the 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) contour is roughly the general limit of the "nival step"; only a few glaciated mountains are under 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) (the Dachstein, the easternmost glaciated mountain in the Alps, is, at 2,995 metres (9,826 ft), not a three-thousander). In the Mediterranean, however, the three-thousanders remain free of ice and, in the tropics, they are almost insignificant from a climatic perspective; here the snow line lies at around 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft), and in the dry continental areas (Trans-Himalayas, Andes) it may be up to 6,500 metres (21,300 ft) high.


The designation "three-thousander" is often used for touristic reasons where only a few individual summits exceed this height – e. g. in the Southern Alps, in the eastern part of Austria, in the Limestone Alps, in the Pyrenees or the rest of Europe. For example, the Parseierspitze in the Lechtal Alps at 3,036 metres (9,961 ft) is the only three-thousander in the Northern Limestone Alps.

In the Alps or Pyrenees, expeditions to areas of over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), with their often steep mountainsides and sudden changes in weather conditions, require mountaineers to have considerable experience and weatherproof equipment, which distinguishes them from ascents of many two-thousanders.

The term "easy three-thousander" (Leichte Dreitausender) [3] or "Hikable three-thousander" (Wanderdreitausender) describes mountains above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) with routes that do not pose any particular challenges. Typical "easy" three-thousanders, for example, include the Piz Boe (3,152 metres (10,341 ft)) in South Tyrol, which is an hour's walk from the Pordoi Cable Car, or the 3,033 metres (9,951 ft) high Piz Umbrail, accessible from the Umbrail Pass. Amongst the highest easy three-thousanders in the Alps are the Üsser Barrhorn (3,620 metres (11,880 ft)) in the Wallis Alps and the Monte Vioz (3,645 metres (11,959 ft), southern Ortler Alps). [4] For ascents of these mountains the main risk is the lack of acclimatisation at these heights. The highest technically accessible three-thousanders in the Alps (and also the highest cable cars in Europe) are the Klein Matterhorn (3,883 metres (12,740 ft)) near Zermatt and the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 metres (12,605 ft)) on Mont Blanc.


Silvretta panorama with peaks between 3,000 and 3,400 metres (9,800 and 11,200 ft) Silvretta Panorama wiki mg-k.jpg
Silvretta panorama with peaks between 3,000 and 3,400 metres (9,800 and 11,200 ft)

The easternmost three-thousanders in the Alps are in the Hafner Group in the east of the High Tauern (from west to east: Großer Hafner 3,076 metres (10,092 ft), Lanischhafner 3,018 metres (9,902 ft), Lanischeck 3,022 metres (9,915 ft), Großer or Malteiner Sonnblick 3,030 metres (9,940 ft), and Mittlerer Sonnblick 3,000 metres (9,800 ft)). The northernmost 3,000ers are in the northern chains of the High Tauern, Zillertal, Ötztal, and Stubai Alps (as well as the Parseierspitze in the Lechtal Alps). The southernmost 3,000ers are on the main chain of the Maritime Alps (Argentara Group), the Mercantour and the Pelat Group with about a dozen main peaks over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level. [5] In the eastern Alps the southern boundary lies in the Bergamo Alps (3 main summits), [6] of the Adamello–Presanella Group (about a dozen) [7] and the Dolomites (about 50 peaks). [8] So the ranges of the Alps that contain mountains over the 3,000 m mark comprise roughly two thirds of the area, the 3,000er zone in the Western Alps coming much closer to the edge of the Alpin region than in the Eastern Alps with their extensive system of foothills. The easternmost 3,000er is over 200 kilometres (120 mi) from the Pannonian Alpine perimeter, the westernmost only about 60 kilometres (37 mi) from the Rhone valley. A large part of this sensitive, high Alpine region is protected by conservation areas, but it also forms the touristic heart of the Alps.

Easternmost three-thousander in the Alps: Mittlerer Sonnblick 3,000 mAustria 47°03′12.8″N13°25′54.9″E / 47.053556°N 13.431917°E / 47.053556; 13.431917 (Mittlerer Sonnblick)
Westernmost three-thousander in the Alps: Le Rochail 3,023 mFrance 44°58′51.0″N6°01′41.0″E / 44.980833°N 6.028056°E / 44.980833; 6.028056 (Le Rochail)
Northernmost three-thousander in the Alps: Kempsenkopf 3,090 mAustria 47°11′43.2″N12°44′52.5″E / 47.195333°N 12.747917°E / 47.195333; 12.747917 (Kempsenkopf)
Southernmost three-thousander in the Alps: Mont Clapier 3,045 mItaly/France 44°06′52.7″N7°25′11.1″E / 44.114639°N 7.419750°E / 44.114639; 7.419750 (Mont Clapier)

Switzerland, France, Austria, and Italy have many hundreds of Alpine peaks over 3,000 metres. Germany's Zugspitze, at 2,964 metres (9,724 ft), just falls below the line, whilst Slovenia's Triglav is well under it. Liechtenstein, despite being the only country lying entirely within the Alps, has no 3,000ers on its territory.

Rest of Europe

Apart from the Alps, the dominant range in Europe – if one excludes the Caucasus, which otherwise, in Mount Elbrus (5,642 m), would have the highest mountain in the continent – only the following ranges have three-thousanders:

Musala at 2,925 m, the highest mountain in southern Europe (i.e. excluding the Iberian Peninsula), does not come close to the mark. The Dinaric Alps, Carpathian Mountains and Sistema Central are less than 2,700 m high, and the other ranges in Europe are below 2,500 m.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Central Eastern Alps central-eastern parts of the Alps mountain range

The Central Eastern Alps, also referred to as Austrian Central Alps or just Central Alps comprise the main chain of the Eastern Alps in Austria and the adjacent regions of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy and Slovenia.

High Tauern A mountain range of the eastern Alps

The High Tauern are a mountain range on the main chain of the Central Eastern Alps, comprising the highest peaks east of the Brenner Pass. The crest forms the southern border of the Austrian states of Salzburg, Carinthia and East Tyrol, with a small part in the southwest belongs to the Italian province of South Tyrol. The range includes Austria's highest mountain, the Grossglockner at 3,798 metres (12,461 ft) above the Adriatic.

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, in the Engadin valley, and north of Valmalenco, in the Valtellina valley of 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.

Parseierspitze mountain in the Lechtal Alps in Tyrol

Parseierspitze is, at 3,036 m (9,961 ft) tall, the highest mountain and the only three-thousander of the Northern Limestone Alps. It is the main peak of the Lechtal Alps, located in the Austrian state of Tyrol, northwest of Landeck.

Lechtal Alps mountain range

The Lechtal Alps are a mountain-range in western Austria, and part of the greater Northern Limestone Alps range. Named for the Lech River which drains them north-ward into Germany, the Lechtal Alps occupy the Austrian states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg and are known for their diverse rock structure.

Schober group mountain range

The Schober Group is a sub-range of the Hohe Tauern mountains in the Central Eastern Alps, on the border between the Austrian states of Tyrol and Carinthia. Most of the range is located inside Hohe Tauern national park. It is named after Mt. Hochschober, 3,242 metres (10,636 ft), though its highest peak is Mt. Petzeck at 3,283 metres (10,771 ft).

SOIUSA proposal for a new classification system of the Alps

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Alpine Club classification of the Eastern Alps mountain range

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Granatspitze Group mountain range of the Austrian Alps

The Granatspitze Group, sometimes also the Granatspitz Group, is a sub-group of the Central Alps within the Eastern Alps. Together with the Ankogel Group, the Goldberg Group, the Glockner Group, the Schober Group, the Kreuzeck Group, the Venediger Group, the Villgraten Mountains and the Rieserferner Group, the Granatspitze Group forms the main range known as the High Tauern. The Granatspitze Group is located in Austria in the federal states of Salzburg and Tyrol. Its highest summit is the Großer Muntanitz, 3,232 m (AA)

Stelvio Pass mountain pass

The Stelvio Pass is a mountain pass in northern Italy bordering Switzerland at an elevation of 2,757 m (9,045 ft) above sea level. It is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps, 7 m (23 ft) below France's Col de l'Iseran.

Mittlerer Sonnblick mountain

The Mittlerer Sonnblick is a 3,000 metre high sub-peak of the Großer Sonnblick to which it is linked by a knife-edge ridge. It is a border peak between the two Austrian federal states of Carinthia and Salzburg. It lies within the Ankogel Group of mountains, a sub-group of the High Tauern.

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).

Ankogel Group mountain range

The Ankogel Group is a sub-group of the Central Eastern Alps. Together with the Goldberg Group, the Glockner Group, the Schober Group, the Kreuzeck Group, the Granatspitze Group, the Venediger Group, the Villgraten Mountains and the Rieserferner Group it forms the mountain range of the Hohe Tauern.

Goldberg Group mountain range

The Goldberg Group is a sub-group of the Hohe Tauern mountain range within the Central Eastern Alps. It is located in Austria, in the states of Salzburg and Carinthia. Its highest peak is the Hocharn, 3,254 m (AA). Other well known summits are the Hoher Sonnblick, with its observatory at 3,106 m above sea level (AA), and the Schareck at 3,123 m above sea level (AA)

Großer Hafner

Großer Hafner is a 3,076 m (10,092 ft) high partly-glaciated mountain of the Ankogel Group in the High Tauern range, located at the border between the Austrian states of Carinthia and Salzburg. It is the easternmost three-thousander peak of the range, and also in the entire Alps.

Roter Knopf mountain in the Schobergroup at the border Carinthia / East Tyrol

The Rote Knopf is the second highest mountain in the Schober Group within the High Tauern in the Austrian Alps. It is only two metres short of the Petzeck, the highest summit in the Schober. Nevertheless, this peak is far less well known that the Hochschober or the Glödis. This is probably because the mountain is not visible from the valleys of the Kalser Tal or the anterior Debanttal.

Vorderseespitze mountain

The Vorderseespitze is a mountain in the Lechtal Alps, Tyrol, Austria. At 2,889 m (AA) it is the eighth highest peak in the Lechtal Alps. The Lech Valley Ridgeway runs over its southeastern flank from Kaiserjochhaus to the Ansbacher Hut. According to the literature it was first climbed in 1855 by locals from Kaisers in the Lech Valley.

Geography of Lombardy

Lombardy is an administrative region of Italy that is split into four geographic regions — mountains, alpine forest, and the upper and lower plains south of the Po river. These are crossed and dotted by dozens of rivers and lakes, the latter of which include some of the largest in Italy. The territory is the fourth largest in Italy by surface area with 24,000 square kilometres (9,300 sq mi).


  1. English sources for this term are numerous and include: Mountain Walking in Austria by Cecil Davies (2001); Rough Guide to the Pyrenees by Marc Dubin (2004); The Alpine Journal, Vol 61 by The Alpine Club (1956) and The Ultimate Challenge by Chris Bonington (1973).
  2. Nuttall, John and Nuttall, Anne (2008). The Mountains of England and Wales, Vol. 2, 3rd ed., Cicerone, p. 92. ISBN   978-1-85284-589-6
  3. Dieter Seibert, Leichte Dreitausender. Die 99 schönsten Touren mit Weg (in German), Bruckmann-Verlag, ISBN   3-7654-3677-1
  4. Matthias Kehle (19 September 2009), "Dreitausendersammeln" (Webrepro,, Badisches Tagblatt (in German), retrieved 2011-04-14
  5. Zusammenstellung in Vanoise Groups and Haute Provence Groups , both at
  6. Alpi Orobie: Vette, Italian Wikipedia
  7. Gruppo dell'Adamello: Cime principali, Italian Wikipedia
  8. Dolomiti: Le vette più alte, Italian Wikipedia
  9. Pyrenäen, Vuelta Rad- und Wandertouren (
  10. Ski-Durchquerung Sierra Nevada-Nationalpark, Abanico Individuell Reisen (