Building Middle Earth - The Misty Mountains

category image The cloud-topped mountain range known as the Misty Mountains is possibly the most formidable barrier to cross in all of Middle-earth. The 700 mile long chain has peaks that average 10,000-12,000 feet and are snow-capped throughout the year. These mountains were formed by Morgoth before the coming of Elves as a barrier to the riding of the Vala Oromë across Middleearth. They are young compared to some of the other mountain ranges and generally have very jagged peaks. Over the last three Ages, the mountains have weathered somewhat but the sharpness
of the peaks has changed little. The Mountains reach their maximum height near the middle of its range at the triple peaks of Celebdil (Silvertine), Caradhras (Redhorn), and Fanuidhol(Cloudyhead). South of these spines the mountain range decreases in average height until very near the southern tip where the peaks are very high. Methedras (S. "Last Peak") is a very wide mountain capping off the range at the height of 15,987 ft. The southern part of the range is typical of the whole range; the western side of the range decreases slowly in height in a series of plateaus and broken hills until it reaches the plains of the Gwathló basin. The eastern side, on the other hand, drops off steeply to the Anduin Plain, which is relatively flat. The rock types of this lower part of the range are very diverse. While the northern range is known for its vast cavern complexes (because of its limestone deposits), the features exist in the south in smaller proportions. The bases for most of the volcanic southern mountains are crystalline, which means that mines in the area (much like those of Moria) have rich veins of gems and precious metals as well as iron and copper. The upper vales and peaks of the Misty Mountains are quite rocky and prone to avalanches. While the mountains are passable to those who know the way, not many people use that route due to the inaccessibility of the gap and the danger that lurks in the mountains. Higher up, above the permanent snow line (11,500 feet), there are glaciers and heavy build-ups of snow. These precipitate occasional avalanches that thunder down the mountainsides burying anything in their path under 10-30 feet of snow. Mountain streams, fed by the melting snow, are common throughout the area. They drain into the Nimrodel, the Limlight, and the Entwash on the east side, and the Glanduin, the Gwathló, and the Isen on the west. These waters are very pure and cold, but at lower altitudes they are well stocked with fish (a staple food of the bear population). Other water sources in the area include a multitude of small lakes and ponds trapped in the mountain valleys. These meres are usually ice covered in the winter and can be invigorating bath sites.

The weather in the southern Misty Mountains is somewhat milder than the climate in the northern part of the range. Overall, they follow the same pattern; the winters are very cold (bone chilling in the higher altitudes) and the summers are mild to warm. Spring and Fall are sudden in onset and short in duration. The weather patterns in these mountains are dependent on the conflicting air masses that converge over the western border of the Misty Mountains. The warm winds from the Great Sea to the south and west meet with violent reactions the cooler air that follow the mountains down from the north. This impaction of air masses can result in very sudden thunderstorms and driving rains or snow in the colder months and at higher altitudes. Overall these storms are not as violent as those in the north because the temperature gradient is not as great (the cooler air from the north has time to warm before reaching this latitude). The only times that the storms reach savage fury are in late Summer and early Fall, during the hurricane season.

Fangorn Forest runs high into the mountains on the eastern side of the Southern Misty Mountains at this latitude. Here, the higher mountainsides and valleys are lined with coniferous forests, with more broadleaf trees occurring as one progresses downslope. Above the tree line travellers find only small scrub bushes, lichen, and some short grasses. After these fade out, the slope becomes barren and rocky; only a few plants persist in cold temperatures. The tree line this end of the mountain range is significantly higher in elevation (9000-9500 feet depending on the location) than that of the mountains that tower above the Trollshaws (4000-5000 feet). This is caused by differences in average yearly temperatures at these heights (and more specifically the influence of the Witchking of Angmar on the climate of the area). In addition, the tree line in the south is higher because the topsoil in the area is richer. Due to the volcanic nature of the Region, several sought after herbs thrive at higher altitudes.

The southern Misty Mountains are alive with animal life. The mountain streams are replete with several varieties of fish. The forests are inhabited by many kinds of smaller animal life including rabbits, muskrats, raccoons, squirrels, and many others. Beavers are common on the western side of the mountains. Their dams are built across small streams in the mountains valleys and expand the ecosystem of the area, making the land more fertile. Larger animals also inhabit this area. The higher slopes are populated by Mountain Goats and Horn-sheep, along with a longhaired mountain bovine called Calluks by the locals. The predators of these mountains are not without representation either. Bears of all types roam the area during the spring, summer, and fall, hibernating in caves during the winter. Wolves can also be seen throughout the lower elevations of the mountains. For the most part, these are Grey Wolves that will not attack men unless very hungry or provoked. Only in the lairs of the Orcs and Trolls of the area are the more vicious Wolves and Wargs found.

cover image This article shows how to make various mountain and cavern pieces that can be used for battleing in the Misty Mounatins and Moria.