Europe' Highpoints - revisited

Europe' Highpoints - revisited

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Sign the Climber's Log


John Climber earned the honor of being the first here to publish a list of European Highpoints by country:

I had commented on that previously:

Similar lists to the same topic have been published elsewhere. They all suffer from unresolvable controversies, due to the following reasons:

1) The borders of Europe are not clearly defined. Political, cultural, geographic and religious criteria do not produce a uniform picture of Europe. More on that will be found in Wikipedia. This touches the question as to which continent the Canary Islands, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Kazakhstan belong, not to mention Abkhasia and South Ossetia. The Russian part of Europe includes its highest peak, El'brus, but: do we regard the islamistic Chechnya as part of Europe? How about the buddhistic Kalmykia? Tatarstan? Bashkortostan? and so on ... In other words: Is Russia at all European? Georgia and Armenia are one of the oldest Christian strongholds, but they are situates south of the Caucasus main ridge; Azerbaijan is islamic: Do we consider the former ones as European and the latter not? Turkey: I would be tempted to say the Western half still contains some reminiscences of the old Byzanz, may therefore be included in Europe, the Eastern half, however ... If the Ural river is taken as part of the European Eastern border, a small portion of Kazakhstan falls into Europe, although it looks pretty Asian to the eye of a traveller.

2) There is doubt, occasionally, as to what makes a "country". Are the Faeroer Islands part of Denmark or have they to be regarded as independent? Same for the Azores/Portugal. What constitutes the Vatican? Is the Pope's summer residence part of the Vatican? Yes, it is, but only if civil law is applied - if one applies international law, it is on Italian soil like any holiday home owned by any foreigner in Italy. Do we regard Transnistria as a country? The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus? And what do we do with some particles that do not belong to ANYBODY, like the rock of Rockall for example? (The Brits may claim it as much as they like, international law says it does not belong to any country). How about the drilling platform of Sealand that is occupied by a Prince? How about the Principality of Seborga, recognized by San Marino? And the climax of everything: Is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta an independent state? (It has all what makes out a state, except that there is no territory).

3) Official versus public opinion versus real: Some countries' highest mountains are so flat that every time a new precise measurement is made the crown of the highest moves from one hill to the other. Examples: Denmark's "official" highpoint is Ejer Bavnehøj, surpassed by the nearby Møllehøj by a couple of centimetres. And if you ask the Danes on the street they will tell you Himmelsbjerget is the highest of Denmark, simply because it is a popular tourist destination; in fact it is by far NOT the highest. Lithuania's long recognized highpoint Juozapine has recently been beaten by the nearby Aukstojas. Luxembourg's "official" Buurgplaatz is 101 centimetres lower than Kneiff, just a few hundred metres to the SE. In Montenegro Durmitor's Bobotov Kuk is widely regarded as the country's highpoint, and still there is a higher one (by 6 m) in the Prokletije mountains at the Albanian border.

4) Artificial structures on top of a mountain would normally not be ragarded as part of the mountain. So Denmark's Yding Skovhøj with its bronze-age burial mound on top is excluded, as is the roof of John Paul XXIII study chamber in the Vatican.

5) And finally border disputes: The summit of Montblanc is France's highpoint, but is it also Italy's? The Italians would say: YES! The French would vigorously oppose and claim the entire summit calotte for France. It just happens that the border is ill-defined, leaving Montblanc de Courmayeur for Italy as a substitute. Would we need, maybe, another war in Europe to clear this issue once and forever?

What to do about it?

Very simple: GET THEM ALL.

This was my approach when I first started in 2000 to earnestly tackle my new hobby. I even went as far as to include colonies into my list: Gibraltar for example. Autonomous regions as well, but soon the question came up: What IS in fact autonomy? Within Europe we see ranges from nominal autonomy (as in Russia or Spain) to real autonomy (as with the Faeoer Islands and Gagausia/Moldavia). Other autonomies are circumscriptions for de-facto independence, as we see it in the Channel Islands, particularly on the island of Sark. Or autonomies are euphemistic camouflages of "loss of control": Svalbard is a good example, officially Norvegian, but shared with Russia. Modern examples include the Turkish part of Cyprus that styles itself as a "republic" and the smuggler-ruled Transnistria, officially a part of Moldavia.

My approach soon was: To exclude all ifs and whats I will climb the highpoint of EVERY political entity in Europe that claims some form of "independence", including tax-exempt zones, wanna-be states, theocracies, enclaves and exclaves, up to counter-enclaves, areas that swing between countries and therefore have developed a sense of "we are what we are", fantasy states and states without a territory. And then it occurred to me there are particles that do not belong to anybody: One enclave of the many around the Belgian/Dutch towns of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog has been not properly assigned to neither Belgium or Holland. Rockall still stands high in the waves of the North Atlantic and awaits resolution of its case ...

The French/Spanish border runs in some part in the bed of the Bidassoa river in the Basque territory. There is a small island inmidst the river, the Pheasants Island or Isla de los Faisanes or Île de l’hôpital, Île des Faisans or Île de la Conférence, in Basque: Faisaien uhartea or Konpantzia. Louis XIV was married there to Maria Theresia of Spain in 1659, and to commemorate the event, the sovereignty over the island fluctuates between France and Spain in a half-yearly rhythm. To which country does the island belong?


I will NOT publish an authoritative list. There is none. We all don't know what Europe really is. I hold my own list at, and if somebody wants to add something he/she is very welcome. Europe is extremely colorful, and it turns out my hobby has not so much to do with mountain climbing, it rather offers a unique chance to describe my home continent in all its colors. Therefore quickly the idea was born to write it all down: See my book and CD series.