The basics of the following text and systematics were first written in 2001 and published in 2004 in the book "Wissenschaftliche Alpenvereinshefte Nr. 39 - Die Gebirgsgruppen der Alpen", published by the German and Austrian Alpine Clubs. Therefore the systematics and the included new terms are copyrighted by the author! The rarely used and new terms are explained in the Glossary.

The Development of a new Separation System

Yet there are also different meanings for the “prominence“ (P) of a mountain. For example Mount Mitchell’s prominence is 1856 m at 2037 m altitude, making it the highest mountain of the Appalachian mountain complex. On the other hand, a mountain in High Asia with the same prominence (e.g. Baintha Brakk aka “The Ogre” in the Karakoram, 1878 m prominence / 7285 m above sea level) is just the supreme mountain of a mountain range. Accordingly, the author introduced altitude classes (AC) and a proportional prominence, which he named orometrical dominance (D). D is calculated easily but fittingly: (P/Alt) x 100. Thus, it indicates the percentage of independence for every elevation, no matter what the altitude, prominence or mountain type it is. From a scientific point of view, altitude could be seen as the thesis, prominence as the antithesis, whereas dominance would be the synthesis.

At first, mountain range and peak units (elevation units / EU) were determined. In order to distinguish peaks from simple elevations on ridges (e.g. Stecknadelhorn / P = 25 m) and from shoulders (e.g. Montblanc de Courmayeur / P = 18 m), a basic unit would be needed. The author decided in 1991 to use the classic alpine rope length of 30 m at heights above 4000 m altitude. Fortunately, Richard Goedeke had listed all notch depths of mountains with a height above 4000 m in his repeatedly reprinted book “The Alpine 4000m Peaks by the Classic Routes”, which therefore could be used as preliminary work.

All points with a notch depth greater than 30 m were thus considered as “minor sub peaks”(peak unit C2; e.g. Aiguille du Jardin; P = 37 m). If the notch depth exceeded 60 m or two classic rope lenghts, the term “major sub peak” was used (peak unit C1; e.g. Hohberghorn; P = 77 m), whereas peaks with notch depths greater than 90 m (corresponding to three classic rope lengths) were considered to be “minor main peaks” (peak unit B2; e.g. Lauteraarhorn; P = 128 m). A peak with a notch depth of at least 180 m would be a “major main peak” (peak unit B1; e.g. Pollux; P = 247 m) and from ten classic rope lengths (300 m) on the peak would undoubtedly match the definition of an independent mountain (peak unit A2). Therefore, for mountains with an absolute altitude above 4000 m, 7,5 % D were the borderline for a mountain. A mountain was considered as a group or massif high point (supreme mountain unit SMD1) if the notch depth would be double the borderline. (Due to later comparisons, the definite borderline was later determined to be 7 % D).

The author deemed it to be an interesting coincidence when he realised that he had intuitively used the highest numbers of the first ranks of Pascal’s triangle (1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 20). In other words, the highest number in the sixth rank of this pyramid, which is normally used for completely different mathematical calculations, is a 20. Later, this scheme was deliberately applied to the mountain range units (the highest numbers in the next ranks of Pascal’s Triangle are 35, 70, 126). For these, finding adequate guiding principles and nomenclature was considerably more difficult. At first, all mountains dominating a greater mountain unit were called “supreme mountains” (SM). In order to avoid terms like “super-“, “mega-“, “ultra-“ or “giga-“ the author named the SM-units simply A-D in equivalence with the peak units A-D. Terms used in the systematic table are “Triangle Line” (TL) and “Multiplier” (M).

The largest conglomerates of mountains on the earth can be called complexes. These huge complexes (e.g. Alps, Andes, entire High Asia = SMA) can be subdivided into several systems. These systems (= SMB) have many mountain ranges, and these ranges (= SMC) break down into several groups and massifs (= SMD). Worldwide one can find many bewildering or even misleading denotations which are used to describe the different units: region, section, division, zone etc. The consistent orological denotations we use here can prevent misunderstandings. Here, too, the advanced comparative systematics resulted in subunits, which were placed in the middle between standard multipliers (e.g. subgroup/5.5 TL is noted as SMD2, so at 10,5 % D the Supreme Mountains begin).

After years of comparative studies of mountain ranges all over the world and after numerous determinations of orometrical prominences, the following orological mountain units were chosen: