The cordillera serves as a natural border between Ferelden and Orlais. The dwarves of the kingdom of Orzammar, which lies under the roots of the Frostbacks, call them the Frozen Teeth, and with good reason as their many dangers chew upand spit out the unwary. The bulk of the range is forever snow-capped with only a single route, Gherlen’s Pass, considered safe for year-round travel. Early spring travellers to the Frostbacks will experience a constant biting chill that will not lessen until the short and brisk summer comes to the heights. They should count their blessings for winter is far worse. Sheathed metal weapons, such as swords, frequently stick within their scabbards due to frost, which is one of the reasons Avvars favour axes and spears. Moreover, with great plumes of visible breath constantly rising into the air and the crunch of snow underfoot, remaining unnoticed while travelling the Frosbacks is exceedingly difficult.
The heights of the Frostbacks are treeless masses of rock and year-round ice famous for one of their recurring phenomena: ice bridges. These odd ice formations stretch between different peaks, allowing otherwise impossible travel. There are a number that occurin the same places year after year, but many are unpredictable at best. Ice bridges form in the early winter each year and crumble in the spring, falling away to smash into the valleys below.
The middle and lower slopes are heavily forested with coniferous trees: larch, fir, spruce, and a great deal of pine. Nestled among the evergreens are a few solitary broadleaves such as birch, rowan, willow, and aspen. The ground is covered with an assortment of mosses clinging to rocks and the trees themselves. Few plants other than a variety of lichens and some of the hardier mosses can grow in the soil of the forest floor, which is highly acidic. The middle and lower slopes are frequently wet, but the water is often frozen, leaving patches of snow on the ground for eight months of most years. In late spring, and through the summer, the air becomes warm and humid. Farmers among the Avvars take swift advantage of the brief planting season by moving down from their stone-walled holds and into the foothills to grow crops, which they tend in nomadic fashion as they herd their flocks of goats and keep wary of lowlanders.
Many rodent species live in the Frostbacks: marmots, hares, squirrels, and countless mice scurry about. Lynxes, foxes, weasels, and predatory birds feed on the rodents. Raptors such as eagles, owls, and hardier falcons are common, and the Avvars have a special relationship with them. Herds of elk, deer, mountain goats, and the occasional moose wander through the woods. What travellers have to really watch out for, though, are the larger predator species that do not fear men: crag wolves, wild brontos, cavern bears, red lions, and dragons.