Mountain Day


My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of valour, the country of worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands, forever I love.

Farewell to the mountains high cover’d with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Robert Burns

Mont Blanc
The statue of Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard pointing at Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France

December 11 is the International Mountain Day. It was designed to call for worldwide attention to the importance of mountain ecosystems all over the world. Living in megapolises far from massive towering peaks it is easy to forget how vital the mountains are in our life.

Mountains are the guardians of biodiversity of flora and fauna, a major source of freshwater from the glaciers, renewable energy providers, spiritual journey for a great number of people, and simply spectacular landscapes. Despite colossal sizes, mountainous ecosystems are fragile. They are one of the first to suffer the brunt of global warming. The glaciers are shrinking at a frightening speed. Some gloom-and-doom models predict that the glaciers might be gone from the Glacier National Park in the US by 2030!

Unsurprisingly, most national parks of the USA and many other countries are located in mountainous areas and those nations make mountains their brand. See the flag of Nepal, for example - it is Everest. You can find out about mountains on flags here. Or think about Swiss Matterhorn - forever the sweet symbol of Toblerone chocolate. Mont Blanс is another trickster - located in France, it has excited a German manufacturer of premium pens and watches so much, kind of expropriated it that made it its own private peak. There are many more such examples of brands inspired by mountains. Mountains are even present on the banknotes of different countries.

Origins of the Day

International Mountain Day has its roots in the document “Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development”, adopted in 1992 as part of the action plan at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Ten years later with the increasing attention to the importance of mountains, the UN declared 2002 as the UN International Year of Mountains. December 11, the following year, International Mountain Day was celebrated for the first time.

Mountains in Numbers

Here are some numbers and interesting facts about the mountains:

  • There are more than a million named mountains on the Earth. However, if we count unnamed peaks as well, the amount will easily tenfold in the least.
  • Mountains cover more than ¼ of the Earth's surface. To compare, water covers 70% of the Earth.
  • More than a billion people live in mountainous areas.

Mountain Day in Japan

While International Public Day is only raising awareness worldwide, Japan has gone much further. Known as 'Yama no hi' is the public holiday of Japan which celebrates mountains every August 11th since 2016. The Mountain Day provides “opportunities to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessings from mountains". This is a great occasion to explore the wild of 100 Japanese Famous Mountains or go to the lesser-known and much wilder regions such as the Shikoku Mountains

Yama no hi!

The World of Mountains

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

What people describe by the word “mountain” varies a lot in different parts of the world. There are Iceland volcanoes, rolling Tuscany hills, Avatar movie pillars in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China, the Alps in Europe, the Rockies and the Appalachians in the US, the Himalaya and Tibet - the rooftop of the Earth, the most deadly mountains etc. Mountains are the places where people instantly feel the grandeur of the planet we live on. Those peaks are mesmerizing, chilling to the bone, but never dull.

Mountains of Heaven

Tian Shan

You don’t need to be the biggest to be called the best or the paradise or any of those super names. Take the example of The Tian Shan, the name means the Mountains of Heaven, it is a large system of mountain ranges located in Central Asia (primarily Kyrgyzstan). The highest peak of the Tian Shan Mountains is Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 metres high. Or, have a look at Pilatus, a dragon mountain in Switzerland that is not about the famous traitor. There is so much in the names that remains hidden for a common onlooker. E.g. mountains with double naming, or with similar names like Sex vs. Scex or when Siri fails to help.

Mountains and Warfare

a WWI Cross in the Dolomites
A cross in the Dolomites

Make peace, not war might be a slogan for many mountains. The elements kill you faster than the enemies. Yet, it was the mountains that inspired many great generals to change the art of warfare. Some sad remnants of fierce battles can still be found aplenty in the mountains across the world. Here is a long read on that.

Sacred Mountains

There are many holy mountains in the world. Some of them are prohibited to scale like Mount Kailash in the Tibet, others are the destinations for a spiritual pilgrimage like Mount Catherine in Egypt, or sacred mountains of Japan. There are mountains associated with specially devised routes to test your salt, courage and stamina like those in the Caucasus, let alone that 7-summit challenge covering Mont Blanc, Elbrus, Everest, Denali, Aconcagua, Vinson, Kilimanjaro, Puncak Jaya, and Kosciuszko that many brave-heart men undertake. There are UNESCO Sacred Mountains of northern Italy, the Five Sacred Mountains in China, as well as many others in different parts of the world.

Happy International Mountain Day!

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