In geography and geology, a cliff is a vertical, or nearly vertical, rock exposure. Cliffs are formed as erosion landforms by the processes of weathering and erosion. Cliffs are common on coasts, in mountainous areas, escarpments and along rivers. Cliffs are usually formed by rock that is resistant to weathering and erosion. Sedimentary rocks most likely to form cliffs include sandstone, limestone, chalk, and dolomite. Igneous rocks such as granite and basalt also often form cliffs. An escarpment (or scarp) is a type of cliff, formed by the movement of a geologic fault or landslide, or by differential erosion of rock layers of differing hardness. Most cliffs have some form of scree slope at their base. In arid areas or under high cliffs, they are generally exposed jumbles of fallen rock. In areas of higher moisture, a soil slope may obscure the talus. Many cliffs also feature tributary waterfalls or rock shelters. Sometimes a cliff peters out at the end of a ridge, with tea tables or other types of rock columns remaining. Coastal erosion
Coastal erosion
may lead to the formation of sea cliffs along a receding coastline. The Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey
distinguishes between cliffs (continuous line along the top edge with projections down the face) and outcrops (continuous lines along lower edge).

The far southwestern aspect of Nanga Parbat's Rupal face, highest cliff (rock wall/mountain face) in the world. The steepest part of the face is 2 km to the northeast.


1 Etymology 2 Large and famous cliffs

2.1 Asia 2.2 Europe 2.3 North America 2.4 South America 2.5 Africa 2.6 Oceania

3 As habitat determinants 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

Etymology[edit] Cliff
comes from the Old English word clif of essentially the same meaning, cognate with Dutch, Low German, and Old Norse klif 'cliff'.[1] These may in turn all be from a Romance loanword into Primitive Germanic that has its origins in the Latin forms clivus / clevus ("slope" or "hillside").[2][3] Large and famous cliffs[edit]

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
in Ireland

Cliffs near Sortavala, Russia

The Matengai in Oki Islands, Japan

Cliffs along the north shore of Isfjord, Svalbard, Norway.

Cliffs on the western shoreline of Sam Ford Fjord, Canada

Close-up view of Verona Rupes, a 20 km high fault scarp on Miranda, a moon of Uranus.[4]

Given that a cliff does not need to be exactly vertical, there can be ambiguity about whether a given slope is a cliff or not and also about how much of a certain slope to count as a cliff. For example, given a truly vertical rock wall above a very steep slope, one could count just the rock wall or the combination. Listings of cliffs are thus inherently uncertain. Some of the largest cliffs on Earth are found underwater. For example, an 8,000 m drop over a 4,250 m span can be found at a ridge sitting inside the Kermadec Trench. One candidate for highest cliff in the world is Nanga Parbat's Rupal Face, which rises approximately 4,600 m, or 15,000 ft, above its base. According to other sources, the highest cliff in the world, about 1,340 m high, is the east face of Great Trango in the Karakoram mountains of northern Pakistan. This uses a fairly stringent notion of cliff, as the 1,340 m figure refers to a nearly vertical headwall of two stacked pillars; adding in a very steep approach brings the total drop from the East Face precipice to the nearby Dunge Glacier to nearly 2,000 m. The location of the world's highest sea cliffs depends also on the definition of 'cliff' that is used. Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records
states it is Kalaupapa, Hawaii,[5] at 1,010 m high. Another contender is the north face of Mitre Peak, which drops 1,683 m to Milford Sound, New Zealand.[6] These are subject to a less stringent definition, as the average slope of these cliffs at Kaulapapa is about 1.7, corresponding to an angle of 60 degrees, and Mitre Peak is similar. A more vertical drop into the sea can be found at Maujit Qaqarssuasia (also known as the 'Thumbnail') which is situated in the Torssukátak fjord area at the very tip of South Greenland
and drops 1,560 m near-vertically.[7] Considering a truly vertical drop, Mount Thor
Mount Thor
on Baffin Island
Baffin Island
in Arctic
Canada is often considered the highest at 1370 m (4500 ft) high in total (the top 480 m (1600 ft) is overhanging), and is said to give it the longest vertical drop on Earth at 1,250 m (4,100 ft). However, other cliffs on Baffin Island, such as Polar Sun Spire in the Sam Ford Fjord, or others in remote areas of Greenland
may be higher. The highest cliff in the solar system may be Verona Rupes, an approximately 20 km (12 mi) high fault scarp on Miranda, a moon of Uranus. The following is an incomplete list of cliffs of the world. Asia[edit] Above Sea

Ra's Sajir, Oman, 900 m (3,000 ft) above the Arabian Sea Tojinbo, Sakai, Fukui
Sakai, Fukui
prefecture, Japan 25 m above Sea of Japan Qingshui Cliff, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan averaging 800 m above Pacific Ocean. The tallest peak, Qingshui Mountain, rises 2408 m directly from the Pacific Ocean. Theoprosopon, between Chekka
and Selaata in north Lebanon jutting into the Mediterranean.

Above Land

Nanga Parbat, Rupal Face, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, 4,600 m Ultar Sar
Ultar Sar
southwest face, Karakoram, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 3,000 m Qingshui Cliff, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan averaging 800 m above Pacific Ocean. The tallest peak, Qingshui Mountain, rises 2408 meters directly from the Pacific Ocean. Trango Towers: East Face Great Trango Tower, Baltoro Muztagh, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 1,340 m (near vertical headwall), 2,100 m (very steep overall drop from East Summit to Dunge Glacier). Northwest Face drops approximately 2,200 m to the Trango Glacier below, but with a taller slab topped out with a shorter overhanging headwall of approximately 1,000 m. The Southwest "Azeem" Ridge forms the group's tallest steep rise of roughly 2,286 m (7,500 ft) from the Trango Glacier to the Southwest summit. Uli Biaho
Uli Biaho
Towers, Baltoro Glacier, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan Baintha Brakk
Baintha Brakk
(The Ogre), Panmah Muztagh, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 2,000 m The Latok
Group, Panmah Muztagh, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 1,800 m Spantik
northwest face, Karakoram, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 2,000 m Shispare Sar
Shispare Sar
southwest face, Karakoram, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 3,200 m Hunza Peak
Hunza Peak
south face, Karakoram, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 1,700 m Lhotse
south face, Mahalangur Himal, Nepal, 3200 m Lhotse
northeast face, Mahalangur Himal, Nepal, 2900m K2 west face, Karakoram, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan, 2900m Meru Peak, Uttarakhand, India, 1200 m Ramon Crater, Israel, 400 m Various cliffs in the Ak-Su Valley of Kyrgyzstan are high and steep. World's End, Horton Plains, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. It has a sheer drop of about 4000 ft (1200 m)

Europe[edit] Above Sea

Faneque, Gran Canaria, Spain, 1027 m above Atlantic Ocean Cape Enniberg, Faroe Islands, 750 m above North Atlantic Croaghaun, Achill Island, Ireland, 688 m above Atlantic Ocean Hvanndalabjarg, Ólafsfjörður, Iceland, 630 m above Atlantic Ocean Vixía Herbeira, Northern Galicia, Spain, 621 m above Atlantic Ocean Preikestolen, Norway, 604 m above Lysefjorden Slieve League, Ireland, 601 m above Atlantic Ocean Cabo Girão, Madeira, Portugal, 589 m above Atlantic Ocean Monte Solaro, Capri, Italy, 589 m above the Mediterranean Sea Jaizkibel, Spain, 547 m above the Bay
of Biscay Beinisvørð, Faroe Islands, 470 m above North Atlantic Conachair, St Kilda, Scotland
St Kilda, Scotland
427 m above Atlantic Ocean Cap Canaille, France, 394 m above Mediterranean sea is the highest sea cliff in France Hangman cliffs, Devon
318 m above Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel
is the highest sea cliff in England Benwee Head
Benwee Head
Cliffs, Erris, Co. Mayo, Ireland, 304 m above Atlantic Ocean Dingli Cliffs, Malta, 250 m above Mediterranean sea High Cliff, between Boscastle
and St Gennys, 223 m above Celtic Sea[8] Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, 217 m above Atlantic Ocean Beachy Head, England, 162 m above the English Channel Møns Klint, Denmark, 143 m above Baltic Sea Le Tréport, France, 110 m above the English Channel White cliffs of Dover, England, 100 m above the Strait
of Dover Étretat, France, 84 m above the English Channel Snake Island, Ukraine, 41 m above the Black Sea

Above Land

Troll Wall, Norway
1,100 m above base Mięguszowiecki Szczyt
Mięguszowiecki Szczyt
north face rises to 1,043 m above Morskie Oko lake level, High Tatras, Poland Kjerag, Norway
984 m. Giewont
(north face), Tatra Mountains, Poland, 852 m above Polana Strążyska glade The six great north faces of the Alps ( Cima Grande di Lavaredo
Cima Grande di Lavaredo
450 m, Eiger
1,500 m, Grandes Jorasses
Grandes Jorasses
1,100 m, Matterhorn
1,350 m, Petit Dru 1,000 m, and Piz Badile
Piz Badile
850 m)

North America[edit]

Mount Thor, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, commonly regarded as the highest vertical drop on Earth

Southwest face of El Capitan
El Capitan
from Yosemite Valley

The face of Notch Peak
Notch Peak
at sunset

Ketil's west face in Tasermiut, Greenland

Several big granite faces in the Arctic
region vie for the title of 'highest vertical drop on Earth', but reliable measurements are not always available. The possible contenders include (measurements are approximate):

Mount Thor, Baffin Island, Canada; 1,370 m (4,500 ft) total; top 480 m (1600 ft) is overhanging. This is commonly regarded as being the largest vertical drop on Earth[citation needed] at 1,250 m (4,100 ft). The sheer north face of Polar Sun Spire, in the Sam Ford fjord of Baffin Island, rises 4,300 ft above the flat frozen fjord, although the lower portion of the face breaks from the vertical wall with a series of ledges and buttresses.[9] Ketil's and its neighbor Ulamertorsuaq's west faces in Tasermiut, Greenland
have been reported as over 1,000 m high.[10][11][12] Another relevant cliff in Greenland
is Agdlerussakasit's Thumbnail.[13]

Other notable cliffs include:

Mount Asgard, Baffin Island, Canada; vertical drop of about 1,200 m (4,000 ft). El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California, United States; 900 m (3,000 ft) Toroweap (a.k.a. Tuweep), Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States; 900 m (3,000 ft) Painted Wall in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, United States; 685 m (2,250 ft) Northwest Face of Half Dome, near El Capitan; 1,444 m (4,737 ft) total, vertical portion about 610 m (2,000 ft) The west face of Notch Peak
Notch Peak
in the House Range
House Range
of southwestern Utah, U.S.; a carbonate rock pure vertical drop of about 670 m (2,200 ft), with 4,450 feet (1,356 m) from the top of the cliff to valley floor (bottom of the canyon below the notch) East face of the West Temple in Zion National Park, Utah, believed to be the tallest sandstone cliff in the world,[14] 670 m All faces of Devils Tower, Wyoming, United States, 195 m Faces of Shiprock, New Mexico, United States, 400 m Cap Éternité of Saguenay River, Quebec, Canada, 4,500 m The North Face of North Twin Peak, Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada, 1,200 m All walls of the Stawamus Chief, Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, up to 500 m Calvert Cliffs along the Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay
in Maryland, U.S. 25 m Mount Siyeh, Glacier National Park (U.S.)
Glacier National Park (U.S.)
north face, 1,270 m (4,170 ft) Longs Peak
Longs Peak
Diamond, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 400 m Royal Gorge
Royal Gorge
cliffs, Colorado, 350 m Doublet Peak, southwest face, Wind River Range, Wyoming, 370 m Big Sandy Mountain, east face buttress, Wind River Range, Wyoming, 550 m Temple Peak, east face, Wind River Range, Wyoming, 400 m East Temple Peak, north face, Wind River Range, Wyoming, 450 m Uncompahgre Peak, northeast face, San Juan Range, Colorado, 275 m (550 m rise above surrounding plateau) Grand Teton, north face Teton Range, Wyoming 760 m (2,490 ft)

South America[edit]

Salto Angel
Salto Angel
from Isla Ratón, Venezuela.

Pared Sur Cerro Aconcagua. Las Heras, Mendoza, Argentina, 2,700 m Scratched Stone (Pedra Riscada), São José do Divino/MG, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1,480 m Auyan Tepui, Venezuela, about 1,000 m (location of Angel Falls) (the falls are 979 m, the highest in the world) Pared de Gocta, Peru, 771 m Pedra Azul, Pedra Azul
Pedra Azul
State Park, Espirito Santo, Brazil, 540 m Pão de Açúcar/Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 395 m All faces of Cerro Torre, Patagonia, Chile-Argentina All faces of Cerro Chalten
Cerro Chalten
(Fitz Roy), Patagonia, Argentina-Chile, 1200 m Faces of the Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine
group, Patagonia, Chile, up to 900 m

Africa[edit] Above Sea

Kogelberg, Western Cape, South Africa, 1,289 m (4,229 ft) above False Bay, Atlantic Ocean Table Mountain, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, 1,086 m (3,563 ft) above Atlantic Ocean Karbonkelberg, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, 653 m (2,142 ft) above Hout Bay, Atlantic Ocean Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, 637 m (2,090 ft) above Atlantic Ocean Chapman's Peak, Western Cape, South Africa, 596 m (1,955 ft) above Atlantic Ocean Anaga's Cliffs, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, 592 m (1,942 ft) above Atlantic Ocean Cape Hangklip, Western Cape, South Africa, 453.1 m (1,487 ft) above False Bay, Atlantic Ocean Cape Point, Western Cape, South Africa, 249 m (817 ft) above Atlantic Ocean

Above Land

Amphitheatre, South Africa 1,200 m (3,900 ft) above base, 5 km (3.1 mi) long. The Tugela Falls, the world's second tallest waterfall, falls 948 m (3,110 ft) over the edge of the cliff face. Mount Meru, Tanzania
Mount Meru, Tanzania
Caldera Cliffs, 1,500 m (4,900 ft) Tsaranoro, Madagascar, 700 m (2,300 ft) above base Karambony, Madagascar, 380 m (1,250 ft) above base. Innumerable peaks in the Drakensberg
mountains of South Africa are considered cliff formations. The Drakensberg
Range is regarded, together with Ethiopia's Simien Mountains, as one of the two finest erosional mountain ranges on Earth. Because of their near-unique geological formation, the range has an extraordinarily high percentage of cliff faces making up its length, particularly along the highest portion of the range.[citation needed] This portion of the range is virtually uninterrupted cliff faces, ranging from 600 m (2,000 ft) to 1,200 m (3,900 ft) in height for almost 250 km (160 mi). Of all, the " Drakensberg
Amphitheatre" (mentioned above) is most well known.[citation needed] Other notable cliffs include the Trojan Wall, Cleft Peak, Injisuthi Triplets, Cathedral Peak, Monk's Cowl, Mnweni Buttress, etc. The cliff faces of the Blyde River Canyon, technically still part of the Drakensberg, may be over 800 m (2,600 ft), with the main face of the Swadini Buttress approximately 1,000 m (3,300 ft) tall.

Oceania[edit] Above Sea

Mitre Peak, New Zealand, 1,683 m above Milford Sound The Lion, New Zealand, 1,302 m above Milford Sound
Milford Sound
(drops from approx 1280m to sea level in a very short distance) The Elephant, New Zealand, has cliffs falling approx 1180m into Milford Sound, and a 900m drop in less than 300m horizontally Kalaupapa, Hawaii, 1,010 m above Pacific Ocean Great Australian Bight Zuytdorp Cliffs
Zuytdorp Cliffs
in Western Australia Ball's Pyramid, a sea stack 562m high and only 200m across at its base The Twelve Apostles (Victoria). A series of sea stacks in Australia, ranging from approximately 50 to 70 m above the Bass Strait Tasman National Park, Tasmania, has 300m dolerite sea cliffs dropping directly to the ocean in columnar form Lovers Leap, Highcliff, and The Chasm, on Otago Peninsula, New Zealand, all 200 to 300 m above the Pacific Ocean

Above Land

Mount Banks
Mount Banks
in the Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales, Australia: west of its saddle there is a 490 m fall within 100 M horizontally.[15]

As habitat determinants[edit] Cliff
landforms provide unique habitat niches to a variety of plants and animals, whose preferences and needs are suited by the vertical geometry of this landform type. For example, a number of birds have decided affinities for choosing cliff locations for nesting,[16] often driven by the defensibility of these locations as well as absence of certain predators. See also[edit]

Cliffed coast List of landforms Steilhang


^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1971 ^ Monika Buchmüller-Pfaff: Namen im Grenzland - Methoden, Aspekte und Zielsetzung in der Erforschung der lothringisch-saarländischen Toponomastik, Francia 18/1 (1991), Francia-Online: Institut historique allemand de Paris - Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris: Onlineressource Archived 2015-01-29 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Max Pfister: Altromanische Relikte in der östlichen und südlichen Galloromania, in den rheinischen Mundarten, im Alpenraum und in Oberitalien. In : Sieglinde Heinz, Ulrich Wandruszka [ed.]: Fakten und Theorien : Beitr. zur roman. u. allg. Sprachwiss.; Festschr. für Helmut Stimm zum 65. Geburtstag, Tübingen 1982, pp. 219 – 230, ISBN 3-87808-936-8 ^ "Natural world: the solar system: highest cliffs". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2006-05-21. Retrieved 2014-11-16.  ^ "Highest Cliffs". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2005-11-27. Retrieved 2006-05-02.  ^ The Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments By Michael Lück. Archived from the original on 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2009-08-01.  ^ "Planet Fear". Archived from the original on 2012-03-26. Retrieved 2009-08-04.  ^ "Home - South West Coast
Path". Archived from the original on 2011-06-11.  ^ "Polar Sun Spire". SummitPost.Org. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2008-07-31.  ^ "Climbing in Tasermiut". Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2008-09-02.  ^ "The American Alpine Journal" (PDF). 1986. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-02.  ^ The Summer 1998 Slovak Expedition to Greenland
(Jamesák International) Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Jon Roberts: Agdlerussakasit
(1750 m), east face, new route on east face; The Butler (900 m) and Mark (900 m), first ascents. American Alpine Journal (AAJ) 2004, pp. 266–267 ^ "Geology Fieldnotes". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2010-11-28.  ^ Mount Wilson 1:25000 Map. NSW Govt. May 2014.  ^ C.Michael Hogan. 2010. Abiotic factor. Encyclopedia of Earth. eds Emily Monosson and C. Cleveland. National Council for Science and the Environment Archived June 8, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.. Washington DC

External links[edit]

 "Cliff". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920. 

v t e

Coastal geography


Anchialine pool Archipelago Atoll Avulsion Ayre Barrier island Bay Baymouth bar Bight Bodden Brackish marsh Cape Channel Cliff Coast Coastal plain Coastal waterfall Continental margin Continental shelf Coral reef Cove Dune


Estuary Firth Fjard Fjord Freshwater marsh Fundus Gat Geo Gulf Gut Headland Inlet Intertidal wetland Island Islet Isthmus Lagoon Machair Marine terrace Mega delta Mouth bar Mudflat Natural arch Peninsula Reef Regressive delta Ria River delta Salt marsh Shoal Shore Skerry Sound Spit Stack Strait Strand plain Submarine canyon Tidal island Tidal marsh Tide pool Tied island Tombolo Windwatt


cusps Beach
evolution Coastal morphodynamics Beach
ridge Beachrock Pocket beach Raised beach Recession Shell beach Shingle beach Storm beach Wash margin


Blowhole Cliffed coast Coastal biogeomorphology Coastal erosion Concordant coastline Current Cuspate foreland Discordant coastline Emergent coastline Feeder bluff Fetch Flat coast Graded shoreline Headlands and bays Ingression coast Large-scale coastal behaviour Longshore drift Marine regression Marine transgression Raised shoreline Rip current Rocky shore Sea cave Sea foam Shoal Steep coast Submergent coastline Surf break Surf zone Surge channel Swash Undertow Volcanic arc Wave-cut platform Wave shoaling Wind wave Wrack zone


Accretion Coastal management Integrated coastal zone management Submersion


Bulkhead line Grain size

boulder clay cobble granule pebble sand shingle silt

Intertidal zone Littoral zone Physical oceanography Region of freshwater influence