The Andes Mountain Range: Rugged and Stunning

Andes Mountains, also called the Andes, Spanish Cordillera de los Andes or Los Andes, is a mountain system of South America and one of the great natural features of the Earth.

The Andes consist of a vast series of extremely high plateaus surmounted by even higher peaks that form an unbroken rampart over a distance of some 5,500 miles (8,900 kilometres)—from the southern tip of South America to the continent’s northernmost coast on the Caribbean. They separate a narrow western coastal area from the rest of the continent, affecting deeply the conditions of life within the ranges themselves and in surrounding areas. The Andes contain the highest peaks in the Western Hemisphere. The highest of them is Mount Aconcagua (22,831 feet [6,959 metres]) on the border of Argentina and Chile.

 

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The Andes are not a single line of formidable peaks but rather a succession of parallel and transverse mountain ranges, or cordilleras, and of intervening plateaus and depressions. Distinct eastern and western ranges—respectively named the Cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera Occidental—are characteristic of most of the system. The directional trend of both the cordilleras generally is north-south, but in several places the Cordillera Oriental bulges eastward to form either isolated peninsula-like ranges or such high intermontane plateau regions as the Altiplano (Spanish: “High Plateau”), occupying adjoining parts of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru.

 

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Volcano in Chile

 

The Andean mountain system is the result of global plate-tectonic forces during the Cenozoic Era (roughly the past 65 million years) that built upon earlier geologic activity. About 250 million years ago the crustal plates constituting the Earth’s landmass were joined together into the supercontinent Pangaea. The subsequent breakup of Pangaea and of its southern portion, Gondwana, dispersed these plates outward, where they began to take the form and position of the present-day continents. The collision (or convergence) of two of these plates—the continental South American Plate and the oceanic Nazca Plate—gave rise to the orogenic (mountain-building) activity that produced the Andes.

 

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Bolivia

 

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Patagonia region of Chile

 

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Santiago, Chile

 

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Crazy staircase at Machu Picchu, Peru

 

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Space Shuttle passes over The Andes

 

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Argentina

 

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Peru

 

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