Saddle (landform)

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A cross-section diagram of three hills, with two saddles marked by X. The isolation (German: Dominanz) and prominence (Schartenhöhe) of hill B is also indicated.

The saddle between two hills (or mountains) is the area around the highest point of the (optimal) pass between the two massifs, i.e. around the lowest route on which one could pass between the two summits. It is often traversed by a track, road or railway, but need not be.

The distinction between a saddle and a col is not always clear. For example, Whittow describes a saddle as "low point or col on a ridge between two summits",[1] whilst the Oxford Dictionary of English implies that a col is the lowest point on the saddle.[2] Monkhouse describes a saddle as a "broad, flat col in a ridge between two mountain summits."[3]

The term col tends to be associated more with mountain, rather than hill, ranges.[4]

The height of a summit above its highest saddle (called the key saddle) is effectively a measure of a hill's prominence, an important measure of the independence of its summit. Saddles lie on the line of the watershed between two hills.


  1. ^ Whittow, John (1984). Dictionary of Physical Geography. London: Penguin, 1984, p. 464. ISBN 0-14-051094-X.
  2. ^ Soanes, Catherine and Stevenson, Angus (ed.) (2005). Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd Ed., revised, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, p. ISBN 978-0-19-861057-1.
  3. ^ Monkhouse, FJ (1965). A Dictionary of Geography, 2nd edn.
  4. ^ Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, Allied.