Born in the collision of land masses far beneath the Earth’s surface and persisting for thousands of years, the great mountains of the world rise from the landscape and into our imaginations. They influence climate and rainfall, providing fresh drinking water to billions. They sustain mighty forests housing an incredible diversity of wildlife on their lower flanks, and delicate alpine habitats with ancient tree-shrubs, wildflowers, and a surprising number of pollinators closer to their peaks.
Even in our lifetimes, some change dramatically with the advent of a sudden pyroclastic blast or a gentle sustained flow of ever-cooling lava. Here, we introduce nine of the most beautiful mountains that evoke deep feelings through their sheer beauty, majesty, and profound cultural impact.
9. Matterhorn, Switzerland — Elevation: 14,692 feet
The Matterhorn sits atop a watershed on the Italian and Swiss border and is part of the Pennine Alps. Surrounded by glaciers, it resembles a pyramid with four steep faces that align with the points of a compass. The nearby Theodul Pass connects the north and south valleys and has been used as a trade route since Roman times.
Many early attempts to climb the Matterhorn ended in well-publicized tragedies. Four of the first seven climbers to successfully reach the summit fell to their deaths during their descent, and more than 500 people have died since the first successful ascension in 1865. It was not until 1962 that the highest face to the west was successfully climbed.
8. Denali, Alaska — Elevation: 20,310 feet
Formerly known as Mount McKinley, Denali is the highest mountain in North America. It is an example of a mountain formed by the subduction of one plate, in this case the Pacific plate, beneath another, the North American plate. Denali sits atop a seismically active zone that produces deep earthquakes in the Alaskan sea and wilderness. The mountain lends its name to Denali National Park and Preserve, a protected wildlife refuge that is the natural habitat for many species, including brown and black bears, moose, caribou, and foxes.
The mountain creates its own weather system, presenting challenges to climbers due to the possibility of avalanches and the extreme cold. Weather stations at 19,00 feet have recorded low temperatures of -22.9 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and winter temperatures, factoring windchill, as low as -100 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Damavand, Iran — Elevation (prominence): 15,312 feet
Ancient Persian literature and mythology celebrate Damavand as a symbol of Persian resistance to oppression and despotic rulers during its early history. Damavand is an example of a stratovolcano, characterized by a steep cone due to the viscosity of its lava flow. It is the highest volcano in Asia. Damavand’s last eruption occurred around 5300 B.C., but volcanologists classify it as potentially active.
The mountain’s fiery origins are evident in sulfur-spewing fumaroles and high temperatures very close to the surface. In modern times, it has become a mecca for its thermal hot springs which bathers believe heal chronic wounds and skin conditions.
Click ‘next’ to see the magnificence of these mountains from Iceland and Nepal
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