The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The Alps is the collective name for one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria in the east, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany, through to France in the west. The word Alps means mountains. The highest mountain in the Alps is Mont Blanc at 4810 meters on the French-Italian border.


Ranges, Peaks and Passes of the Alps

The European Alps from space in May 2002. Click on the picture for a large annotated version
The European Alps from space in May 2002. Click on the picture for a large annotated version

Western Alps

The Western Alps are located west of the line between Lake Constance along the Rhine to Lake Como.

Maritime Alps - Cottian Alps - Dauphine Alps - Graian Alps - Pennine Alps - most of the Swiss Alps, including North-Eastern Swiss Alps - Bernese Oberland - Lepontine Alps - Tödi Range -

Eastern Alps

The Eastern Alps are the part of the Alps east of the line between Lake Constance along the Rhine to Lake Como. They are lower and less rough than the Western Alps, with lower passes.

The highest peak in the Eastern Alps is Piz Bernina, at 4052 m the only peak above 4000 meters.

Parts of the Eastern Alps are located in the following countries:

The Eastern Alps are commonly subdivided according to the different geological composition of the more central parts of the Alps and the groups at its northern and southern fringes:

(See those pages for detailed lists of ranges, peaks and passes.)

The border between the Central Alps and the Southern Limestone Alps is the so-called Periadriatic Seam . The Northern Limestone Alps are separated from the Central Alps by the Grauwacken Zone .


Many writers take the growth of grain as the characteristic of the mountain region; but so many varieties of all the common species are in cultivation, and these have such different climatal requirements, that they do not afford a factory criterion.

A more natural limit is afforded by the presence of the chief deciduous trees -- oak, beech, ash and sycamore maple. These do not reach exactly to the same elevation, nor are they often found growing together; but their upper limit corresponds accurately enough to the change from a temperate to a colder climate that is further proved by a change in the wild herbaceous vegetation. This limit usually lies about 1200 m above the sea on the north side of the Alps, but on the southern slopes it often rises to 1500 m, sometimes even to 1700 m.

It must not be supposed that this region is always marked by the presence of the characteristic trees. The interference of man has in many districts almost extirpated them, and, excepting the beech forests of the Austrian Alps, a considerable wood of deciduous trees is scarcely anywhere to be found. In many districts where such woods once existed, their place has been occupied by the Scots pine and Norway spruce, which suffer less from the ravages of goats, the worst enemies of tree vegetation. The mean annual temperature of this region differs little from that of the British Islands; but the climatal conditions are widely different. Here snow usually lies for several months, till it gives place to a spring and summer considerably warmer than the average of British seasons.

See also

The Alps are a range of mountains located within the Moon's Mare Imbrium, formed in the impact that created the Imbrium Basin.

The Southern Alps is a mountain range which runs along the western side of the South Island of New Zealand.

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