I want to have a mountain range in my continent that splits it into two parts, such that it is incredibly difficult for them to communicate. How could I pull this off in a plausible way without having to resort to magic?

  • $\begingroup$ Depending on the people in question, messenger birds or simply using boats will easily get around the issue of communication between two places separated by a mountain range $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Dec 17, 2021 at 10:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Lemming birds might not survive if the mountain is high enough. Boats might work, but difficulty still increases the further inland you go. For boats there might be other reasons it's difficult, like a great many pirates active or otherwise hostile nature of the seas. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Dec 17, 2021 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ btw you'd better change the title.. you can always have a mountain range bisecting a land mass.. but the question in the description refers to peoples not being able to communicate over these mountains. Maybe that question should be in the title also. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Dec 17, 2021 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ "A mountain range in my continent that splits it into two parts" . . . such as the Pyrenees separating the Iberian peninsula from the rest of Europe, the Alps separating the Italian peninsula from the rest of Europe, or the Himalayas separating the Indian subcontinent from the rest of Asia? India, OK, it is magical, but I had no idea that Spain and Italy were lands of magic. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 17, 2021 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ The Andes run pretty much the entire length of South America and is pretty high. Close enough to your situation. $\endgroup$
    – Bohemian
    Dec 17, 2021 at 23:38

3 Answers 3


Doesn't this already happen in real life?

The Urals separate Asian Russia from European Russia, the Himalaya separates the Indian subcontinent from Asia, just to cite some examples.

When two tectonic plates with continental crust collide, they will end up forming exactly what you ask: a unique continent separated by a mountain range right at the point of crash.

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    $\begingroup$ A further example might be the Brooks Range/Rocky Mountains/Sierra Nevada in North America, separating the Pacific coast from the rest of the continent. The Andes Mountains in South America can be viewed similarly. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2021 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ A future version will be Mediterranean Mountains likely to form when Africa crashes into Europe. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2021 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffZeitlin, the Sierra Nevada and Rockies are the result of uplift and extension of the North American plate, while the Andes are the result of the Pacific plate being subducted beneath the South American plate. Very different mechanisms from what's forming the Himalayas or the Urals. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Dec 18, 2021 at 3:56

Double Mountain Range, with Desert

As in the real world, simply have two large tectonic plates forcefully collide. Make the mountains as tall as the Himalayas, and as long as the Andes. Make the mountain range extend all the way to mostly uninhabitable Arctic/Antarctic regions.

A secondary up-thrust from a secondary break in the tectonic plates would make a second mountain range mostly parallel with the first. Between is a barren, dry basin like the Atacama desert, mostly devoid of habitable life.

Crazy Explorers

Only crazed, desperate explorers would be willing to travel for weeks through these extreme environments. In reality, though, people are extremely tenacious. Some adventurous nut job is going to try to cross the mountains and the desert, and eventually will succeed.

Perhaps throw in some very nasty wild monsters/aggressive mountain predators. Or, even better, some vicious parasitic creature that dwells in the deserts. The first night you sleep in the desert, it latches onto your shoes, crawls up to your leg, and then burrows into your nervous system. It injects chemicals that slowly make you lose your mind. Everyone that comes out of the desert is a raving lunatic.

Add local legends stating that evil beings reside in the mountains, and you have social reasons on top of biological reasons to shun the journey.

The Ocean Work-Around

Unless the mountain range runs across the earth, one side will still end in Ocean. By adjusting the ocean and wind currents, you could have a massive desert on one end of the continent. So desert on one side, frozen wasteland on the other. Prevailing winds circle away from either direction of a long peninsula of desert/mountain jutting out into the ocean. Without advance ship technology, no one will get past these straits of death.

To be clear, it took renaissance technology for Europeans to circle around just the northern coast of Africa. So, this is a reasonable possibility.


What you're looking at is one of two things the more likely is what we call a suture zone, these are formed when oceans close due to the subduction of the spreading centre that creates the ocean floor and thus the eventual subduction of the ocean basin and collision of the continents on either side. In the modern world the existing sutures are quite old mountain ranges; the Urals in Siberia and the Appalachians in the US being the best examples. Sutures run the full length of the old continental margins so they're highly likely to bisect the resulting combined continent entirely and quite neatly.

Less likely but still possible is a mountain range built by a continental convergence zone here we have several active examples, the Atlas range in north Africa, the Pyrenees and Alps in Europe are all the result of the collision of Africa with Europe, and the Himalaya in Asia caused by India's collision with the Asian continental plate. These mountain ranges are far more dependent on the local geography and geology in terms of extent and morphology and so are far less likely to bisect a continent entirely or neatly.


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