Abstract The human dimension of development processes in high mountain regions regularly escapes appropriate assessment due to a lack of applicable methods. Comparative data are lacking, and it is difficult to substantiate the position of mountain societies within nation-states. In view of the International Year of Mountains, consideration should be given to the focus of research and the need for comparative approaches. Using examples from case studies in South Asian high mountain regions, this article introduces an approach that applies widely known human development indicators to different regional levels. Evaluating the results and interpreting the dimensions of these indicators reveal pressing problems in mountain research as well as fields for further investigation.