Mountain peaks

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Summit of the Hochschober (3242 m) in Tyrol

A peak is a local, that is, within a certain environment, the highest point of a mountain or a mountain range . Within a mountain as a terrain form, the peaks form the corresponding small form.

Mountain, main and minor peaks

Typical for peaks are their own names ( oronym ) - in most cases a mountain bears the same name as its highest peak: Such lists of mountain names play an important role in cartography . Some mountains with multiple peaks do not bear the name of a highest, but instead, for example, the most striking peak seen from the valley. However, many peaks in the topographical or geodetic sense are without proper names and unmeasured, especially outside the industrialized nations. In the Alps, however, the density of named peaks is locally high: at Chamonix , for example , on the less than four kilometers from the Aiguille du Midi to the Aiguille de Trélaporte, over 50 common names are found - on average one every 80 meters.

Geodetically and topographically characteristic for an independent summit is an official Kote (survey point).

Within the dominance radius of the middle mountain B, the relief energy results from the height of the deeper, left notch relative to the summit height of B.
The relief energy of the entire section results from the depth of this notch relative to the highest peak A.

Most of the time, the highest peak of a mountain formation in absolute terms is referred to as the main peak , the other peaks as pre-peak , secondary peak or winter peak . If there are two peaks of approximately the same height, one often speaks of a double peak . Summit markings are unusual for volcanoes with summit craters. In the case of plateau peaks , only the highest point is generally awarded.

Common geographic - topographic criteria for the independence of a mountain mainly relate to how far a peak protrudes beyond its surrounding area ( relief energy and notch height ) and how far the next higher point in the terrain is ( dominance ), but other parameters can also play a role play.

When creating summit lists and in the context of mountaineering in all mountains on earth, and the enormous importance that “summit victory” has there, various criteria were drawn up to define “independent mountains” or to separate main and secondary peaks from one another. But there is no generally accepted such criterion. Some of these attempts at definition are listed below as examples:


  • In order to speak of a mountain in its own right for a summit , threshold values ​​of at least 100 to 300 meters are specified for the Alps, for example.
  • For the Himalayas , a notch height of 500 meters is a measure of the independence of a mountain. In addition to the 14 eight-thousanders , there are a number of other peaks that do not exceed the height of 8000 meters, but do not exceed this threshold. They are therefore considered secondary peaks.
  • In Scotland , according to Corbett's 80-year-old classification, independence is only considered to be given when the notch height is at least 500 feet , i.e. 152 meters - and this with relatively low summit heights of less than 1500 meters. Otherwise, such definitions of independence are hardly known for low mountain ranges.
  • In addition, other, more complicated criteria are sometimes brought into circulation, which include absolute height, notch height and dominance in a weighted form.


  • The UIAA names in their list of four thousand in the Alps , a survey often then as the summit when the saddle height is at least 30 m. In addition, it also includes other, more difficult-to-define criteria such as the morphology of the mountain and its alpine significance in its assessment.
  • In climbing, there are also much smaller-scale formulations of 'summit', for example in the Saxon Switzerland climbing area . According to the Saxon climbing rules , climbing peaks are defined as "free-standing rocks [...] which can only be climbed by climbing or by attacking, stepping over or jumping from neighboring rocks [...]". It is not allowed to climb rocks that do not meet this criterion.

Terrain formations

The type of rock and its fissures , the prevailing erosion or weathering and the tectonics (mountain formation) contribute to the abundance of forms of mountain peaks . The vegetation can also play a certain role. The geological structure of a summit can differ from its surroundings, for example different sediment banks in the limestone Alps , or the slate cover of the central crystal ( Grossglockner ), or the witness mountains and cliffs of the plains, or in the case of volcanic origin. The peaks form the summit corridor of a mountain region.


The word summit has been attested since around 1400 ( Upper German for Oswald von Wolkenstein ) and since 15/16. Century written language. Dialect forms are u. a. Gippel, Giffel, Gipf and Güpfel . According to Grimm, the latter is likely to be the more original form (see Help → Help ), while the related word Gupf today denotes rounded forms. The pre-peak is similarly old, the secondary peak is a more recent new formation.

Since around 1700 'summit' has also been used figuratively. The associated verb culminate can next to mountains, for example, clouds, trees, buildings, equipment or processes described. In plant cultivation and forestry, 'summit' also synonymously means top . The word is related to gable , the point of a roof, as well as the Kipferl (dough tip).

Mountain names after the shape of the peaks

The shape of peaks is often reflected in the basic word of their names, while the first part of the name (meaning word ) results from the locality (place or valley name, rock, color, flora, danger, weather, etc.):

  • the suffixes -berg or -gipfel / -gippel do not imply any particular form
  • Rock peaks generally stand as Fels , Stein , Klapf
  • sharp or very steep pyramid peaks are often called tip (Rätorom. Piz or, in the collective plural , pizza , roughly to be rendered as Gespitz ), Eck , Horn (e.g. Horn (summit) ) or Swiss. Gorner / Italian Corno (Latin Cornu ), Engl. Peak , also: First , Riffel
  • Massive summit , wide formations with flat summit plateau and less pronounced main summit are on Stock
  • Free-standing massifs with almost vertical breaks are called Zinne (Zinken), Nadel , Italian. Cima , French. Dent (“Tooth”) or Aiguille (from the Latin word acus, needle), with a plateau tower , Italian. Torre
  • in the case of striking rock falls with -wand , Fels , Kanzel , Fluh
  • A round summit structure is referred to in geomorphology as a kuppe , the name can be with the suffix Kuppe / Koppe (probably from Latin cuppa 'mug'), also Staff, Stauf (mhd. 'drinking cup' as in Staufen ), or Kogel / Kofel , Kopf / Köpfel , Nock , Gupf (see summit), or Kulm ( Latin culmen , 'high point' or slaw. * Chlm 'rock'), massive massifs also called dom
  • a flat summit area with altitude , alpe or chair , also sky , or with special local names such as Fluh , Eibl ( Älpl )
  • as a plateau : Table Mountain

The transition between two neighboring mountain peaks is called a saddle or a pass , in the Alps, depending on their shape and steepness, also Scharte , Joch are used in the name. In fact, it is assumed that many of the mountain names originally went from the - historically and scientifically much more important - pass crossings or altitude corridors to the forming peaks and then also to the mountain formations, as in the discussion about the Tauern and the Alps as a whole, and also at Yoke ( Hochjoch ) to be found.


In the geosciences there are many subject areas that deal with mountains and peaks, the following order tries to depict a meaningful hierarchy:

See also


  1. Jules Guex: La montagne et ses noms . Ed. Pillet, Martigny 1976, p. 99 ff . Quoted from Herbert Eisele: The charisma of the mountains in their variety of names. In: World Museum of the Mountains. Polylogistic Center for Art, Culture, Science and Society, accessed on July 24, 2017 .
  2. ^ Christian Thöni: From Schartenhöhe and dominance . In: The Alps . No. 1/2003 , January 2003 ( PDF, 0.2MB ( memento of July 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) [accessed July 3, 2007]). About Schartenhöhe and Dominanz ( Memento of the original from July 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. a b Eberhard Jurgalski on Extreme Collect : Summit lists then and now - measuring the independence of mountains by means of prominence and dominance.
  4. a b independence of peaks. In: Wolfgang Leonhard, April 4, 2009, accessed October 5, 2009 .
  5. ^ UIAA Documentation and Information Commission: The Four Thousand Mountains in the Alps - Official UIAA directory . In: UIAA bulletin . No. 145 , March 1994, p. 9 f . ( PDF ; 630 kB [accessed on May 15, 2008]).
  6. ^ The Saxon Mountaineering Association (ed.): Saxon climbing rules . Complete version. September 1, 2014, 5.1 climbing summit ( web document [accessed on May 26, 2016]). Web document ( Memento of the original from September 10, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. a b GIPFEL, m., Apex, cacumen, culmen. . In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm : German Dictionary . Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).
  8. PRE-PEAK, m., Lower, upstream of the main summit of a mountain . In: Grimm: German dictionary. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).

Web links

Commons : Mountain Top  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: mountain peaks  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations