1902 Encyclopedia > The Alps > Modern Division of the Alps into Groups

The Alps
(Part 6)


(f) Modern Division of the Alps into Groups

Actual observation of the Alpine region through the greater part of its extent, or even the careful study of accurate models, must convince any one who seeks to divide it into groups that it is not possible to do this by adhering rigidly to any single test or rule. In a general way, it is natural an desirable to include under the same name mountain masses that are not divided by a broad and deep opening; but it ism sometimes more convenient to include in one group disjoined masses that have some natural connexion will each other, rather than multiply groups to an inconvenient extent. In some cases the geological structures may supply a rational ground for preferring one arrangement to another, when the choice would otherwise be arbitrary; and in a few cases it may be well to yield something to ancient usage, based upon political or ethnological grounds. Accurate knowledge of the Alps is so recent that few attempts have been made to establish a general division of the entire region, and it cannot be said that any one arrangement has obtained such general recognition as not so be open to future modification; but there is a pretty general agreement as to the main features of that here proposed, to which a few general remarks must be premised.

Whatever may been the original caused of those disturbance of the earth’s crust to which great mountain chains owe their existence, it is generally, though not universally, true that the higher masses (formed of rocks geologically more ancient) are found towards the central part, and that these are flanked by lower ranges, composed of more recent rocks, which surround the central groups very much as an outer line entrenchment may be seen to surround a fort. In most cases it is not possible to descend continuously in a nearly direct line from the crest of a great mountain chain to the plains on either side, for there are usually intermediate valleys, running more or less parallel to the central range, which separate this from outer secondary ranges. These, in their turn, are often accompanied by external ranges, intermediate between then and the plains, and related to them as they are to the central ranges. The type of arrangement here described is more or less traceable throughout the greater part of the Alps, but is most distinctly exhibited in the eastern portion lying between the Adige and the frontier of Hungary. We have a central range, composed mainly of crystalline rock, a northern range, formed of secondary rocks, separated from the first by the great valley of the Inn, the Salza, and the Enns; a southern range, somewhat similar to the last in geological structure, divided from the central one by he Reinz, or east branch of the Adige, and the Drave. Flanking the whole, as an external entrenchment on the north side, are the outer ranges of the Bavarian Alps, of the Salzkammergut, and of Upper Austria, to which correspond on the south side the Monti Lessini, near Verona, the mountains of Recoaro, those of the Sette Communi, and the considerable masses crowned by the summits of the Grappa, the Col Vicentino, the Monte Cavallo, the Monte Matajur and Monte Nanos, Where, as in the cases above mentioned, the secondary ranges of the Alps rise to a greater altitude, and are completely separated from the neighbouring portions of the central chain, it is impossible not to distinguish them as distinct groups; but the outermost ranges, which rarely rise above the forest zone, are in all cases regarded as appendages of the adjoining groups. These outer ranges are called in German Voralpen, and in Italian Prealpi, and it is to be desired that equivalent should be introduced in other European languages. A complete catalogue of the peaks and passes of the Alps would exceed the limits of this article, but it seems desirable to append to each of the main groups in the following arrangement the names of the more conspicuous summits, with the height of each above the sea-level in English feet. No limit of absolute height has been fixed in selecting the peaks here enumerated, as the highest summits of the less lofty groups would appear insignificant in those whose average elevation is much greater. The more important passes are also enumerated, distinguishing those traversed --- (1) by carriage road, (20) by bridle-path, practicable for beast of burden, and (3) by ffotpath; and (4) snow passes, involving the necessity of crossing snow-fields or glaciers.

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